In most squad-based games, communication is king. In Post Scriptum, that’s taken to new heights: the need for constant coordination with your team is not only necessary for success, but easily the most enjoyable aspect of this World War 2 military simulation. This formula of squad-based team cohesion on steroids would make for a worthwhile shooter were it not for the frustrating maps, overly simplistic game mode, and a few baffling design decisions that get in the way of experiencing what Post Scriptum does well.
Post Scriptum is an unforgiving game where some players are inherently more powerful than others, and a single whizzing bullet can unceremoniously end an otherwise uneventful five-minute trek through its WW2-era Netherlands maps. This may sound difficult for difficulty’s sake but this opaque environment is ultimately what drives people to work together: there’s safety in numbers. If you’re gunned down while alone you have absolutely no recourse, but with a section of soldiers (a group of anywhere from four to nine) at your back you can be avenged and revived. And while this incentive also exists in Battlefield 1, the sheer amount of waiting and running required to get back into the action of Post Scriptum makes sticking with your squad feel even more essential. As someone who loves team play, this element was immediately gratifying, but as time pressed on getting back to this baseline of cooperation proved arduous.
Medics are the glue that binds sections together, but another crucial function of a squad – identifying enemies and relaying their direction to your squadmates – is much harder than it should be. Its predecessor, Squad (from partner studio Offworld Industries) is miles ahead in this department thanks to a HUD-integrated compass which makes it easy to instinctively call out the direction of incoming fire. In Post Scriptum, that’s been replaced with a clumsy in-world compass your character holds in his hand and cannot be used on the run. The markings on this era-appropriate antique are microscopic and, most annoyingly, affected by the surrounding light to the point of total illegibility at night. The compass and its situational usability are realistic, but the tradeoffs in terms of gameplay are huge. I ended up defaulting to the immersion-breaking real-time map to orientate myself, which meant that something as frequently necessary as calling out enemy locations brought the action to a grinding halt.
I never felt incentivized to do anything other than make a beeline for the one objective, which is repetitive and one-note.
The other major detractor from team play – and gameplay in general – is the setting. I had few issues tracking down enemies in Squad’s comparatively barren forests and deserts, but the unending labyrinth of tall hedgerows that abound in all of Post Scriptum’s maps make the prospect of traveling between control points a straight-up nightmare. While these maps may be a faithful recreation of the Netherlands in the 1940s they make an abysmal arena when it comes to video game firefights. On more than one occasion, when acting as a subordinate, my commanding officer ordered that we simply ignore enemies firing at us from inside these hedgerows, since tracking them down was a laborious waste of time. This proved to be the right call, since Post Scriptum’s primary mode is a single capture-point game that’s dominated by tunnel vision.
Because objectives must be captured one at time, with occupied control points permanently changing ownership once captured, the prevailing tactic is an all-out blitz. And while that certainly sounds era-appropriate, it boils down to cramming as many players onto a single capture point as possible, as quickly as possible. I take issue with that for a number of reasons: – first and foremost, this linear mode leaves little room for improvisation or strategy. I never felt incentivized to do anything other than make a beeline for the one objective, which is repetitive and one-note. There is certainly value in finding an enemy mobile spawn point or forward operating base, but the reward – temporarily disrupting the enemy team’s spawns – was never worth the risk of leaving the capture point unprotected, as it can be permanently claimed in what seems like the blink of an eye.
Secondly, this mode does a poor job of leveraging Post Scriptum’s impressive array of multi-crewed tanks, armored cars, deployables, and soldier roles. I thought the idea of serving in a logistics section might be an interesting change of pace, but found that setting up lines of sandbags and machine gun nests simply wasn’t practical for how frequently the frontlines shifted. Similarly, I only found armored cars to be useful at the beginning of a match since transportation to the active capture point wasn’t necessary once the mobile spawn points were deployed. The prospect of piling in the back of a half-track would be infinitely more exciting if there was a reason to go literally anywhere other than the one active capture point. Some maps, like Heelsum, offer a “double” variant with two capture points available at a time, but I have yet to find a server running this version of the map that is populated enough to play.
At the same time, Post Scriptum does plenty of things quite well. The gunplay, for example, feels intuitive and impactful, and the former is no easy feat given the era’s spartan iron sights and primarily bolt-action arsenal. Unlike the rest of the weapons in Post Scriptum, hits with these rifles result in an audible click that provides a rare moment of clarity in an otherwise veiled battlefield. In spite of their modest capability, I ended up falling in love with both of the standard issue rifles: the British Lee Enfield and German Kar98K. Which is just as well, because I got stuck using them more often than not.
Post Scriptum has no problem creating interesting platforms for teamwork like tanks and sections; the issue comes in the combination and application of those disparate parts.
Roles in Post Scriptum are divvied out on a first come, first served basis. The downsides of this system are immediately apparent: the most desirable positions like snipers, machine gunners, and anti-tank infantry fill up very quickly, often leaving you feeling like fodder by handing you a bolt-action rifle on a battlefield dominated by automatic gunfire. But this asymmetrical distribution of power has the massive benefit of creating a dynamic where you and your teammates must work together to offset each others’ weaknesses. The devastating MG42 may be effective when it’s set up, but good luck hitting anything before you’ve deployed the bipod, much less when you’re on the move. In this way, assistance from less powerful but more versatile riflemen is essential for the safe relocation of said machine gunner.
Since each section of infantry gets the same number of specialists, medics, and rifleman, individual weapons don’t need to be precisely balanced against each other to make one-on-one encounters feel fair. In an ecosystem where not everyone can use an StG 44, the versatility afforded by it selective fire feels properly powerful. This squad leader-exclusive weapon may be why I first tried the position, but I stayed with it for the unique experience the leadership role offered. When a squadmate discovered a section of enemy troops garrisoned in an isolated mansion, I relayed their location to my commander who, in turn, called in an airstrike. Afterward, we cleared out the building and I got my first glimpse at what making a difference actually looks like in Post Scriptum.
Another stellar example of team play is the armored division, which in total has access to a dozen tanks including the Tiger E1 and Sherman Firefly. Since the engine and turret are operated independently, crewing a tank requires Overcooked-levels of perpetual (and sometimes very colorful) communication. While it certainly takes some getting used to. I found the hassle to be well worth the effort from both a standpoint of effectiveness and fun.