Broken Arrow demo | Review in 7 screenshots

Ever since Wargame: European Escalation came out and started the Cold War Gone Hot craze, the fans clamored for one thing: to push the timeline out of Cold War and into the future. And while WARNO demonstrates that Eugen isn’t quite willing to make that leap yet, Steel Balalaika is. And I got to play the Broken Arrow demo earlier than it appeared on Steam Next fest, neener.

HEY, I KNOW THAT CO- er, the Broken Arrow demo contains one mission: Baltiisk, and it’s about capturing the harbor entrance in Kaliningrad to trap the rearming Russian fleet. “Modern conflict between the US and Russia” has been the fever dream of every C&C: Generals modder (and one World in Conflict crew); finally, they’re getting their kink on the mainstream.
Now, what made me very critical of Broken Arrow is that the first gameplay video showed armored and mechanized platoons grinding each other dead in moments. It also showed the player individually controlling MMG teams. I maintain that trying to do this sort of macro and micro thing in an RTS never works out in a satisfactory way. And for what its worth, the demo at least tried to stay humble, not giving you that many units to control or ground to cover.
And criticizing the game further gets fairly dicey because it’s not just a Broken Arrow demo, it’s a demo set on the alpha version of the game. So how much of what displeased me was the result of the unfinished state, and how much of it is working as intended? Because I’m going to say that infantry and units in general are entirely too fragile for the level of customization the games touts or the micro expected of you. A tank out on a stroll will notice your Marine squad through a gap between apartment buildings a mile away and shoot them no problem. And the AI will always have the advantage when it comes to using these weird sight lines.
“Well, akshallee, this level of lethality is realis-” SHUT. UP. In “real life,” this kind of lethality is somewhat balanced out by lone tanks crews not being the best at spotting things hiding between buildings, and infantry being very good at being hidey. But Broken Arrow is either not very good at modeling that lack of spotting, or not interested in it, because the only way infantry remains hidden and protected in this game is by camping in an apartment building or the forest.
This kind of sours the whole experience. With everyone able to spot, reach out, and touch someone a mile away makes it a fairly micro intensive game for the attackers, especially if you’re expected to use infantry’s smoke and sprint abilities. And this gets in the way of appreciating the rest of it: the Regiments-type unit spam prevention, custom resupply loads, customizable artillery missions, and so on.
Now, for a complaint based entirely on taste: this might be a modern US vs. Russia game, but the arsenal has some wildly misplaced stuff. T-14 Armata, the vaporware tank (because it hasn’t materialized, not because it has been vaporized in Ukraine like other Russian tanks) rubs elbows with Sheridans and Pattons, which the US – even the USMC – ditched a long time ago. In the demo, the Marine ATGM capacity is provided by M47 Dragon III, abandoned 20 years ago. And it’s not some arsenal era thing, like it used to be in Wargame: your Marine squads are armed with M27s – no M16A4 or M4 version exists.
All in all, even accounting for massive arsenal weirdness and questionable mix of macro and micro, I am more positive about the game than I was before playing the Broken Arrow demo. If nothing else, the devs have demonstrated that they understand the importance of a good unit bark, and units ordered get back to base (be refunded) going “All right, back to REMF-land” was funny every time.

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