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Genre: Strategy & War
Min OS X: 10.6


Combat Mission: Fortress Italy
October 30, 2012 | Steven Marx
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On The Move

Requirements:

Mac OS X: 10.6 |†CPU: 2.2 GHz Intel Core Duo | RAM: 2 GB | HD Space: 3.5 GB | Graphics:†256 MB

Review:

Fans of World War II strategy games on the Mac rejoiced last year when Battlefront returned to the Mac with the new version of Combat Mission, Combat Mission: Battle for Normandy (CM:BN). This was quickly followed with an expansion, Commonwealth Forces (CM:CW), adding new units, battles and campaigns. And now we have a new entry in the Combat Mission series, but itís not an expansion on CM:BN but an all new game covering a different front in the war. Combat Mission: Fortress Italy (CM:FI) covers, as you might expect, the Italian front starting in 1943, and if youíve never played a game covering that front, youíre in for something new. But does an all new game in the same series in such a short time justify the expense for those on a limited gaming budget? Read on to find out.

Overview

Iíll admit to being a little surprised and even disappointed when I read the announcement of this game and found it was not another expansion but a whole new game. But after spending time with the game, reading about the updated system, and thinking more about it I can understand their reasoning. CM:FI is the first game in the series to include the new combat system, dubbed CMx2 version 2.0 and this, combined with the game featuring a completely different environment justifies this being a new game rather than an expansion.

First, a quick overview of the essentials of the game (for a more detailed look, see my CM:BN review). The Combat Mission titles are NOT first person shooters or real time strategy (RTS) games. Instead, they attempt to simulate as accurately as possible battlefield conditions with the player taking the role of overall commander of forces. The original series became famous for what it called the wego system of play, where each player (or player and computer) set their moves independently for each minute of play; the computer then took both sets of orders, figured out what happened, and replayed the action for the player(s) to watch, and even rewatch, until the whole process was repeated.

This was a major improvement over the traditional board game style of each player taking a turn, which obviously is not how combat actually happens; it provided an element of realism in that you gave orders and then had no control over what happened for a minute of gameplay, sometimes watching helplessly while your units walked into ambushes, before you had a chance to give more orders. The current series of Combat Mission games have also introduced RTS gameplay for those that want it, with the ability to pause action and give orders during gameplay. The series is noted for its realistic modeling of forces, not just their weaponry but also their behavior, making it a go-to series for those who prefer their action more realistic and less arcade-y.

Gameplay

So first, the game engine changes. As is often the case, much of the change goes on under the hood and is not necessarily visible during gameplay. However, there are some new and valuable additions available for players. One is the ability to adjust waypoints after theyíre created. Finally! Iíve been waiting for this, as it existed in the original series (pre-OSX). While adjusting waypoints after units have started moving can lead to delays, itís a much needed addition. You also have a new Target Briefly command, in which the assigned unit will fire for 15 seconds before moving on to their next command. This is again a long-needed command, as otherwise you could be stuck with your unit firing a whole turn when that is not what you wanted or needed. You also get a new Target Armor Arc command, so units will only fire at armor units in the assigned arc. These are all useful new commands, giving players more and more realistic options in issuing commands.

There are additional floating icons to give you more details on both your and enemy units (once enemies are fully identified), pausable real time TCP/IP mode (if both players agree), improved Load and Save Game screens, hotkey unit groups, improved fog of war, better rendering, mapping and frame rates and improved tools for making your own scenarios and campaigns as well. This is not even an exhaustive list, but suffice it to say that the improvements are not just for show, but improve almost every aspect of the game for all types of users.

While the new game engine is nice (and will be made available at a later date as a paid upgrade for users of CM:BN), as always the real question is how good is the game? As stated above, if you havenít played WWII games involving the Italian campaign, you are definitely in for something different. CM:FI just covers the Sicily campaign, and just the American troops involved (more on that later), but even so itís a good introduction to the difficulties faced throughout the Italian campaign. Hilly terrain, entrenched Axis defenses, top rate Axis forces that still think they can win the war, these are all things youíll face in the various scenarios and campaigns included with the game, while the unique forces involved in the campaign will make your Quick Battles, Scenario and Campaign creation different than theyíve been with earlier games. So if you like CM:BN and want something different, this game is for you.

That said, this is another game in the Combat Mission franchise. If youíve played CM:BN and want something different, this game provides it and in a familiar package youíll be able to start right in with. If youíre not sure this type of game is for you, thereís a demo available. The new battlefront (get it?) definitely provides a different experience within the same gameplay environment. While the controls are largely the same, your strategy will have to be different. And isnít that what you really want from a game, something different and challenging?



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