Enlisted is Gaijin Entertainment’s newest free-to-play World War II epic and it’s developer Darkflow Software has released it as an early access beta, so this Enlisted beta review is based on an unfinished game. With the current hype thanks to Gaijin’s clever, overly enthusiastic YouTuber-marketing, this game does deserve a work in progress review for sure. Anything we cover is however subject to change. With that out of the way, let’s get into it.
It’s hard to describe Enlisted without mentioning all the others in the saturated genre of historical shooters. Let’s put it this way: if Battlefield, the first three Call of Duty’s, Gaijin’s War Thunder, a tabletop RPG, a slot machine, the European Central Bank, and an actual potato had a love child, Enlisted would be the slightly haunting outcome. It’s both incredibly immersive, surprisingly rich with actual history, though needlessly tedious to actually play.
What we loved
- Epic, large-scale battles
- Commitment to historical accuracy
- Amazing sound design
- Large squads with A.I. soldiers
What needs work
- Said A.I. has about as much intelligence as your left shoe’s sole
- Currencies that make you dizzy
- Unintuitive U.I. and menu’s
- ‘Pay to not have to bother with the excruciating upgrading system’
Enlisted beta review
Enlisted is all about epic, large scale warfare set in World War II across (as of writing) two theatres of war. The player is just one of many soldiers destined to fight (and die) that day, with each player taking a squad of up to 9 A.I.-controlled soldiers into war. Battles involve asymmetrical attacking and defending, or Battlefield’s Conquest-style matches (conveniently called Conquest). Fights mostly consists of infantry versus infantry, though a few tanks, jeeps, and airplanes are also thrown into the mix.
Battles are large, bombastic, and cinematic, which is exactly where Enlisted really shines. The impeccable sound design helps to really sell that you’re fighting in a war. Weapons feel and sound punchy, aggressive, and very real. Enlisted is definitely an immersive game, particularly because of it’s innovative squad system.
Always in the action
Players take multiple squads of their choice into a round (for example, a sniper squad, a close quarters squad, and a tank). After spawning, they can switch to other squad mates at any time, even after death. While not so special at first glance, it’s actually quite a genius mechanic.
Namely because it enables players to stay in a fight for way longer. If you die, you’re not really dead, it’s just one squad mate that has fallen. With the press of a button, you take control of the next soldier, staying in the action for longer. Additionally, it ads to the sense of scale and epicness of Enlisted. A server might only house 20 players, but it feels like you’re storming the beaches of Normandy with hundreds of fellow soldiers.
Potato AI brain
Or at least, that’s what it feels like on paper. In reality, when you’ve played a few hours of Enlisted, you’ll start to notice some cracks. For starters, the NPC soldiers won’t win any medals anytime soon. Often, they’ll just stand there, yelling something random while an enemy picks them off one by one. The A.I. desperately needs some work! It doesn’t help that the controls for controlling your squad are barebones to say the least.
To be fair, this (admittedly poorly developed part of the game) works both ways though; you’ll spend a lot of time splattering potato brains all over the place like an action hero. Especially mowing down incoming squads with machine guns is uniquely satisfying. In a conventional multiplayer game, that scene would require two dozen players to come alive. Now, three or four players with a full squad are enough to give a sense of epic scale.
While thematically very immersive, the gameplay is relatively barebones too. Especially at the earlier levels of a particular campaign, bolt action rifles are the go-to weapon. You just point and shoot, which did get old after an hour or two every session. Especially when your targets are as stupid as the they are, essentially running head-first into your bullets.
War Thunder light
Helping you in your war efforts, are player-controlled vehicles. Gaijin clearly took inspiration from their own masterpiece, War Thunder. Enlisted can however only be described as War Thunder light on the vehicular front, for reasons too elaborate and detailed to go into in this review.
Let’s just say, controlling a plane is basically as elaborate in Enlisted as it is in War Thunder. However, in the former, you just don’t have a single reason to do anything with the advanced aircraft controls. In fact, most of the time there is a teammate flying a plane already, and since there is a limit of 1 plane per faction, you might not even get to use yours.
The same applies to tank combat in Enlisted. It has similar damage models and penetration simulation of War Thunder. Just none of the immediate attraction of getting in a tank. Don’t get me wrong, I prefer playing with tanks in this game. But with a maximum of two enemy tanks at a time, it’s mostly because of me wanting to mow down entire platoons with my moving fortress, not for the strategic tank battles I love from War Thunder.
One particularly frustrating feature of the game is the way it simulates different types of weapons. Bolt actions rifles shoot as straight as you’d expect. Sub machineguns are deadly at close range, but spray everywhere at longer ranges. Machine guns go brrrr. That’s basically it; it doesn’t feel like there is much skill involved in using Enlisted’s weapons.
As a side note, the tracers in this game don’t mean anything. You could see ten tracers fly straight into an enemies forehead, and you might not be awarded a single hit. Equally annoying are tank rounds. Especially early-game APC’s with automatic cannons are a joke; even ‘high explosive’ rounds literally do zero damage to infantry if you fire at their feet. Only a direct hit kills them. The sluggish movement of the tanks balances that part of the game, but it doesn’t feel right just yet.
In other words, combat is quite straight forward. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Enlisted is clearly aimed towards the more casual player, and throughout this review you’ll notice I’m personally not a fan of that. But there are plenty of people that are. So you should probably just try it out yourself. It’s free-to-play after all!
Pay to win?
Though nothing really is free in this cruel world, is it? Gaijin really won me over with War Thunder and it’s extensive customization with the option to purchase in-game currency with real-world money to progress quicker. Enlisted tries to do the same, though it feels nowhere near as refined and nonintrusive.
Don’t get me wrong, everything technically is free. But because of the convoluted, downright poorly designed RPG-elements, it really only is free for those with enough time to grind. Enlisted isn’t pay to win, but it definitely is pay to not have to bother with the excruciating upgrading system. If you just purchase Enlisted Gold, Enlisted’s premium currency, you get to pay for everything without the micromanaging hassle.
There’s also premium accounts, that award paying customers with a bunch of in-game advantages. Again, none of those advantages make you win the game by default, but you do get twice as much XP for example. It is as if the sluggish progression is tedious by design… A premium account costs about $10,- a month.
More currencies than in war-torn Europe
To illustrate the absolute excess of currencies, here’s a rundown of everything you can upgrade and what points and currencies it requires. Don’t blame me if any of these are wrong, it requires an actual rocket scientist to figure out what currency goes where (and I ain’t one, if you hadn’t noticed).
- So you’ve got two campaigns (and two more on the way) with two factions per theater of war. Each faction has it’s own progression tree (called the campaign level, structured like a battle pass, though there also is an actual battle pass). You unlock unique squads, weapons, and vehicles per faction.
- Each squad consists of multiple soldiers, that all have their own unique loadout that you can customize. Not just their gun, but their grenades, healing items, sidearm, and melee weapon too. Each soldier has their own progression tree and earns a selection of random perks you can assign to them.
- Squads overall earn squad XP, awarding squad points every time you level up. Said points go into three separate unlock trees for every individual squad.
- Then there’s scrap, crafting materials obtained by deconstructing items, used to upgrade other items and vehicles.
- There are supply points called Orders, earned through completing challenges. You’ve got Order for Weaponry in tiers bronze, silver, and gold, and the Order for Troops in tiers bronze, silver, and gold. Different items and soldiers require different tiers of those points. As you’d expect, you receive a bunch of bronze and silver points, but barely any gold.
- Lastly players can purchase invest real money in a premium account-subscription for quicker progression and in Enlisted Gold as a universal currency to replace all of the above.
Say you want to equip your solider with a simple sidearm. A conventional, simple, straightforward, plain ‘ol pistol. Well, no problem at all!
You just need to reach a certain level on the campaign battle pass with a faction of your choosing to unlock a pistol for that faction only. And the appropriate squad needs to be unlocked and upgraded to enable carrying a sidearm. And the side arm needs to be purchased with a bronze Order for Weaponry. But who wields it? A soldier, purchased with a silver Order for Troops.
It’s just silly how convoluted it is and really takes away from Enlisted’s strength as an immersive historical shooter. You’ll spend a lot of time mindlessly upgrading individual soldiers with perks that barely make any difference, while you should be on the battlefield.
I mean, it’s great that Jeff Dickerson get’s a ‘+10.5% speed of decreasing of the shot spread after quick turning of the firearm’ but I’ve got 25 other soldiers to take care of for no noticeable reason at all before I can get into battle again. And yes, that’s an actual in-game perk.
All in all, Enlisted is definitely worth a try, given that it’s free-to-play. You’ll be greeted with a bunch of menu’s, currencies, and upgrade trees. Underneath, you’ll find that a fundamentally epic, fun, casual, and immersive shooter awaits you.
The game does however need a lot of work besides the questionable design choices. Hopefully, Enlisted gets better over time, and we’ll make sure to have that reflected in this review as we go.
Image credit: Gaijin Entertainment / Darkflow Software