The new free White War update arrives today for WW1 FPS Isonzo, bringing a new map set in and around the ‘Ice City’, an extensive network of tunnels carved into the ice of the Marmolada Glacier. Marmolada is a 10,968 ft (3,343 m) high mountain, the tallest in the Dolomites. Alongside the Marmolada map are new weapons, and a new cosmetic DLC pack, focused on improvised cold-weather gear.
In recreating parts of the Ice City and the Marmolada mountain, our team at BlackMill Games continues to work on highlighting lesser-known parts of the First World War. Conditions on the Western Front of the First World War were grim, with bloody trench warfare exacting a brutal toll on soldiers there. But other fronts of the war came with their own challenges – with cold, snow, and avalanches posing threats in the mountain regions between Italy and their foes Austria-Hungary.
The Austro-Hungarians built the Ice City after establishing combat positions on top of the Marmolada Glacier. It was difficult for them to get supplies on top of the mountain, not just because of the extreme altitude, but also because Italian troops kept a watchful eye over them from their bastion of Serauta, which overlooked the entire glacier. What started out as a simple tunnel to allow passage through the glacier while staying safe from Italian fire, quickly grew into something much larger as soldiers discovered the benefits of living in the ice: no avalanches, protection from bad weather, and cozy temperatures of 0°C (at least much better than outside!). In the end 12 km of tunnels were built, enough space to house more than 200 soldiers.
So how is this portrayed in Isonzo? The battle begins on the mountainside in the open. At this height there is snow everywhere, and if you’re playing as the Italian attackers you’ll have to advance carefully along narrow mountain trails or utilize small tunnels and gullies carved out from the rock. Your objective is a single point atop a local peak – while many of Isonzo’s battlegrounds have sectors with multiple objectives, in this first sector of Marmolada it’s all about that one point meaning there will be intense fighting. The Austro-Hungarian defenders will be emerging from the Ice City tunnels to contest the ground, and can choose to dig in around the objective itself or employ more proactive tactics to try and pin down the Italians with barbed wire and machine guns before they can close in. Remember that in Isonzo the Engineer class can build new sections of barbed wire, perfect for closing off those narrow paths and tunnels we mentioned earlier.
If the Italians can take control of the first sector, the fighting moves into the Ice City. As well as the general dangers of narrow corridors and doorways where ambushers can lurk, the attackers will also have to find routes across the many pitfalls and deep drops within the Ice City. There are bridges, but these can be sabotaged and destroyed by the Austro-Hungarians, requiring reconstruction before they can be used again – not always easy to do under fire! The ice all around can give an otherworldly feel to the action here, quite unlike anything you’ve encountered before. On the other side of the Ice City is a small base which must be captured. There are many ways in and out of the Ice City, and many routes through, so the Austro-Hungarians must be careful to try and maintain overview of the fighting and not let significant Italian forces slip through to push on the objective.
While inside the glacier, both sides will have to do without much support from the call-ins their officers would usually employ. No artillery, gas, or air bombardment will penetrate the thick ice walls. However, WW1 soldiers were already prepared for close combat due to the demands of clearing out trench networks. Many rifles come with bayonets, a number of classes can employ dedicated melee weapons like knives, clubs or ice picks – and if you want to keep a little more distance then pistols will serve you well, making up for what they lack in power at range with handiness up close and rapid fire (at least compared to bolt action rifles!). And don’t forget grenades! You’ll need to throw carefully in the tunnels where they could bounce back or fall down a chasm, but a skilful grenade can hit enemies round corners or behind fortifications!
The new map takes center stage, but it’s not all that comes with the update! Every faction in the game (Italians, Austro-Hungarians, and Germans) get a new rifle, and there is also an optional cosmetic DLC pack available for purchase – the Glacial Units Pack. If you want more visual options for yourself, Glacial Units contains a variety of uniforms and accessories that reflect the struggle of soldiers trying to keep warm without specialized clothing in the frozen mountains. There are a number of greatcoats, a sheep’s wool vest, a lot of face coverings from balaclavas and goggles to rough fabric wraps to keep out the cold. Several new facial hair choices round out the pack.
We’re hyped to see what everyone thinks of the Ice City – it’s certainly one of the most novel environments we’ve recreated so far. And remember, Marmolada is only the first stage of the White War – another new map will be coming…