I’m a pretty impatient person, except for when it comes to strategy games. I despise waiting in line, but will happily spend hours learning animal husbandry in a virtual Bronze age. I feel my hairs turning grey waiting for the kettle to boil. But have I also claimed victory using every single Civilization VI leader? You bet. With that, I was pretty excited to try out War Hospital, but there was a problem. I don’t own a gaming PC.
Thankfully, War Hospital is available on my PS5. It was the only way to play this you take control of a British WW1 field hospital, and all the carnage that comes with such a role. The setting is bleak, moral is low, and there’s a revolving door of soldiers at the brink of death to save (or try to, at least). Supplies are scarce, and the enemy is at the gate. It’s not the typical theme for a strategy game. Sure, WW1 has been done to death through incredible games such as The Great War: Western Front and Darkest Hour: A Hearts of Iron Game. Most strategy games focus on the combat and warfare elements of war, but War Hospital is about survival.
What’s unique about War Hospital is not just the role I take in the war effort. It’s not solely the fact that the game’s developers, Brave Lamb Studio, worked with the Imperial War Museum to inject some true to life realism in the game. It posits some difficult questions – deciding which patients can and cannot be saved mirrors real life war moral choices – and ever-changing mechanics kept me playing for hours. But for me, what makes War Hospital unique is something I didn’t expect. It actually plays well on console.
Strategy games and console have never played nice. The point and click gameplay that are the core of a good strategy game is a perfect fit for PC. You can invade nations with a simple drag and drop or keyboard input. Strategy games are already complicated enough without adding any fiddly controls. Far too often, console strategy titles are far too clunky to play, or lack the full features their PC counterparts have. And then, there’s a question of motivation. Why should developers run the risk of turning a great PC game into an average console one?
But that’s changing. Crusader Kings III, Anno 1800 and Company of Heroes 3 are all console compatible and play flawlessly. The controller has evolved too, allowing for ever-greater control and complexity. You could also argue that a game like Elden Ring requires much greater technical patience than say, Civilization VI.
For War Hospital, Brave Lamb Studio have clearly learned from the past failures of its peers. Rather than favouring complex mechanics over accessible gameplay, War Hospital emphasises simple yet rewarding gameplay for both PC and console users.
It’s not quite a classic. Some players might find it slightly too repetitive. It also lacks a greater level detail, tactical control and lore found in the likes of Crusader Kings III, something many players need to truly immerse themselves in. But War Hospital is helping to narrow the gap between console and PC strategy gaming. And I’m all in.