Holdfast: Nations At War
Game Review

What’s It Like To Play?

Hunkered down behind a small, rocky outcrop, we redcoats were surrounded, outnumbered and outgunned by the enemy. They had flanked us to the right side and were advancing from that direction. The main force was simultaneously pushing in from our front. There was no other choice but to fight and (probably) die.
The commander stood and levelled his pistol. “Present!”
I and four others who remained alive from the original force stood together, shoulder-to-shoulder, brought our muskets to bear and watched the ten French soldiers running towards us.
The commander pulled the trigger and the small pistol bucked in his hand. “Fire!”
Our muskets spoke in a staccato and a cloud of gunpowder hid the advancing French from view.
“Crouch and reload!”
I knelt and began reloading the musket, which took some twenty seconds. But when the enemy was sprinting towards you, twenty seconds could feel like an eternity.
“SCOTLAND!” a voice roared in a thick Scottish accent and a bagpiper ran past our formation, jumped up onto the rocky outcrop in front of us and made ready his bagpipes.
Where’d he come from?
I adjust my headset as the Scotsman had damn near deafened me.
The familiar tune of ‘Scotland The Brave’ peeled out over the battlefield as the bagpiper commenced playing.
“I say, you there!” the commander turns to the piper. “Get down from there man, you’ll get yourself killed.”
“SCOTLAND!”
Damn!
I adjust my headset again and turn the volume down a touch.
The deep boom of a distant cannon echoes out over the peninsula and seconds later the cannonball screeches over our heads, missing the bagpiper by a less than a finger width. The gunners need only make a fraction of an adjustment to the cannon and the next shot would take the Scotsman’s head clean off.
“You two on the right, face right for the next volley, you on the left face forward.”
I press the push-to-talk button, “no worries.”
“Present!”
I stand, move around the soldier closest to me and stop beside him, facing right. We present our muskets at the five or so Frenchmen charging our right flank and wait.
“Fire!”
With the rounds downrange there’s no longer time to reload before the enemy overrun our position.
“Charge our front! Charge!”
We jump up onto the rocky outcrop beside the bagpiper. I see the enemy in extended line, weapons presented in our direction.
Oh, sh*t!
They fire as one and a redcoat beside me slides back down the rocks, dead. The Scotsman places away the pipes and draws a sabre, before joining the charge.
I press the push-to-talk key. “Let’s have ya!”
“It’s seventeen seventy-six all over again, bitches!” an American shouts in a poor rendition of a French accent.
Then we are amongst them, slashing and stabbing. I click the left mouse button and more than a second later, the character I’m playing stabs his bayonet fixed musket, but my target has run past me. I turn to give chase and press the left mouse button again. The French soldier dodges around me and my character finally reacts to the mouse click, stabbing his bayonet again…into empty air. The Frenchman launches a bayonet attack, but I’ve darted beyond him and turn back towards him. I left click again while stepping backwards and a second later my character initiates a bayonet assault straight into the oncoming Frenchman. One dead enemy. I turn to see the French commander level his pistol at me from mere feet away and as I prepare for another bayonet assault, he fires. The round kills me.
I hear a cheesy French laugh, “haw haw HAW!” and can’t help but chuckle.
Ten seconds later and I’ve spawned back at the British spawn point along with others who’ve been killed in other fights all over the battlefield.
“Chargey chargey,” a heavy Chinese accent speaks and I see the character of a British commander nearby trying to rally troops to him.
“Come to me, we chargey chargey. Form line in front of me, chargey!”
“SCOTLAND!”
Our bagpiper has respawned and I turn the volume of my headset down a touch again.
Man, he must have been a bloody RSM in a former life!
“You come to me now, we chargey chargey.”
“No, we’re not chargey bloody chargey.” My commander has respawned.
“Yes, chargey.”
“No, NOT chargey! You soldiers there, on me, form a line, quickly now, quickly!
I know who I’d rather follow into a fight, so form up in front of my former commander along with many others, obviously with the same thought.
Soon only two soldiers are standing in front of the British officer with the heavy Chinese accent.
“You come back now, we chargey!”
“Don’t bloody listen to him, men.”
“SCOTLAND!” Then the bagpipes start playing. It’s ‘Scotland The Brave’ again.
“Piper, stop playing for a moment. I say, piper! Cut it out.”
The piper is now marching up and down our line, proudly playing the pipes.
A drummer joins in and the commander’s voice is almost drowned out.
Someone burps over their microphone.
I press the push-to-talk key, “well said.”
I get a drunken chuckle in reply.
“Bagpiper! Drummer! Silence, RIGHT NOW!” the commander roars.
That does the trick and silence returns to the column of soldiers.
“Now we have British soldiers fighting to our north, we are going to outflank the French and –”
“Chargey!”
“NO! We are not charging, for Christ sake!”
By this time I’m laughing quietly to myself.
“We’re going to advance to contact and once in a flanking position, we’ll open fire. Clear?”
“YEAH!” an American shouts.
“Yes sir!” an Englishman replies.
Drunken burp.
“Right you are, sir.” Another American says in what just passes as a British accent.
I press push-to-talk, “yup, let’s f*ck ‘em up.”
“SCOTLAND!”
“Chargey!”
“Right, let’s go! On me! Maintain formation.” The commander turns away from us and begins to run towards the distant battle.
Everyone follows suit and before long we’d be in battle once more, standing shoulder-to-shoulder, fighting for our lives.

The Game From The Developer’s Perspective

Holdfast: Nations At War is an online multiplayer first and third-person shooter focusing on a combination of teamwork and individual skill. Take part in historic clashes on land and at sea waged by the most powerful nations during the great Napoleonic Era.

Charge into battle with over 150 players per server!

The Game From My Perspective

First of all, this is an early access game launched on the Steam platform and developed by Anvil Game Studios. You can choose to fight as either the British or the French. Within each team there are an assortment of characters to play, including riflemen (much better accuracy, although they are limited to just six per side), musketeers, commanders, surgeons, carpenters (don’t ask me, I’ve no clue what they do in the game other than run around and get shot dead within moments), musicians and flag bearers (more on them later).
It’s a lot of fun, especially when you have a commander like the one I mention above. Sometimes there isn’t a commander like that around and consequently it becomes more of an individual game, which is still fun, but to a lesser extent. There isn’t a cap on the ping level (although I believe that is coming in a later update), so you can interact with players literally from all over the world. Surprisingly, this doesn’t seem to affect gameplay all that much, either. The players themselves and the interaction with them is what makes this game so much fun and sometimes, absolutely hilarious.
I haven’t had much experience with the Navy maps because I found the Army maps much more fun, to be honest. In addition, there are still a couple of bugs with the Navy maps (certainly in my case anyway), where the screen often flickers up and down constantly, or water is permanently splashed on the screen and I can’t see what’s going on. So I can’t really comment on the Navy maps. Some people report no problem with that side of the game, but I’ve had nothing but problems. The developers are working on a fix for that.
The developers have an open door policy and are open to all feedback and suggestions. They are constantly working to add content and improve the game. That aside, there will be a completely new faction in the future, with the addition of the Prussians. They’ve recently added a conquest mode where each team must capture and hold all the key points to win. It’s a heap of fun.
If you’re wanting to join a regiment where you can play alongside the same people week in and week out and form a tight team, you can join a regiment in your country. I’ve joined a regiment in Australia and we play Friday nights starting about 19:30 AEST.

What It’s Not

While this is a first or third person shooter, this is not your Battlefield 2, 3 or 4, where you run around unloading endless magazines, spraying and praying. Nor does your character automatically reload when you fire a shot. This is much more realistic than that and has great or dire consequences depending on the actions you choose to take. So think wisely before you start blindly running towards the enemy (although sometimes, that’s the only resort left). Reloading a single shot takes twenty seconds, so if you like endless ammo and firing incessantly at the enemy a mile away whilst clenching a cigar between your teeth, this isn’t the game for you. Also, unlike most all of the EA titles, this game has no micro-transactions, it isn’t pay to win and never will be.
This isn’t a child’s game. What I mean by that is that the voice chatter while playing is usually what the movie industry would rate an M+ or R, if you get my drift. When enemy combatants are close to each other, the sledging between one another can be quite brutal (and also very funny). So if you’re of a sensitive disposition and don’t like being called names, or giving back as good as you get, err, this probably isn’t for you. But having spoken and laughed with a few people from Alpha Nerds Guild in discord now, this more than likely won’t be a problem.

What It Is

It’s heavy on teamwork, so if you’re not a team player, then this isn’t for you either. That said, Alpha Nerds Guild being what it is, most of us are team players as a result of our previous or current professions. It’s also a lot of fun!

Musicians & Flag Bearer

At a glance, it may seem like these guys might seem nothing more than a nice addition to the game to create more of an authentic experience for the player. However, they do have their own roles. If you are in the range of a friendly musician or flag bearer, you’ll receive the following buffs:
Drummer, Fife & Bagpiper: increase to your reload speed.
Violinist: increase to your accuracy.
Flag Bearer: increase to your health.
So if you are in a column on the march, or in an extended line in battle and have one or all of the above with you, you stand a much greater success of victory. If you choose to play as a musician or flag bearer, you will also receive five points for each enemy combatant killed by a friendly player to whom you have given a buff.

A Major Negative

If you didn’t get the hint I dropped in the opening scene, the melee combat is probably the worst I’ve ever seen in a game, in my life. To give you an idea of how long I’ve been playing, the first console my family owned was the Atari 2600.
If you enter a bayonet assault charge upon the enemy, expect to be bayonetting the air, ground, a rock wall, a tree, empty air, a wooden fence post, thin air again and also thin air. Sometimes, if you’re lucky and time it correctly, you might strike an enemy player.
But, as I wrote earlier, the developers are very aware of this and have their lead developer spending all of his time improving this one single feature and nothing else. They promise to have it fixed with the next large update coming out in the not too distant future. So rest assured, although melee combat is utterly broken at the moment, it is undergoing a fix.

So, How Much?

Holdfast: Nations at War retails for USD$19.99, although it’s currently on sale at USD$12.99 until April 14, 2018.

Where Can I Buy It?

Right here.

Conclusion

I can only speak for myself, but I enjoy this game and like the fact that the developers haven’t just released it for early access and walked away looking to make a quick buck. They’re invested in this for the long haul. As a result, the developers of Anvil Game Studios will listen to feedback. I can testify to that first hand (because I chatted with them about the melee combat). They’ll take feedback on board and, if the feedback stands to improve the game in any way, will incorporate it. Furthermore, they have a Discord channel as well, so if you find any kind of bug or fault, you can contact the developers directly through their Discord channel.
When you are lucky enough to become embroiled in a line battle under the command of a good officer, the game steps up another level and becomes absolutely fantastic. However, most of all, if you have any formal military training (especially infantry training), standing shoulder to shoulder within plain sight of the enemy and trading shots will probably go against every instinctive fibre of your training. But it goes to show just how utterly courageous and disciplined these men would have been back in the day.
I give this game 7 out of 10.

System Requirements

MINIMUM:
OS: Windows 7 64-bit, Windows 8 64-bit or Windows 10 64-bit
Processor: 2 GHz Dual Core
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: Direct X 11 Compatible Card
DirectX: Version 11
Network: Broadband Internet connection
Storage: 8 GB available space
Additional Notes: An Intel® HD Graphics 4000 card is capable of running the game at a low framerate when playing Army based game modes on minimum graphics settings.

RECOMMENDED:
OS: Windows 7 64-bit, Windows 8 64-bit or Windows 10 64-bit
Processor: 3 GHz Quad Core
Memory: 8 GB RAM
Graphics: Nvidia GTX 970
DirectX: Version 11
Network: Broadband Internet connection
Storage: 8 GB available space

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