If you’ve never heard of the Combat Mission series, you’re probably not into turn-based World War II Real-Time-Strategy games. For those of you out there who have been fans of the series since its first title in 1999, Combat Mission’s available on your phone right now.
Combat Mission: Touch is a stripped-down series entry, simulating 7 true-to-life WWII battles. Each of the missions can be played offensively or defensively, bringing the real scenario count to 14, with several more available on the Play Store for an extra buck or so. The title also offers one-on-one online play, which did not work at all on the Droid 4 test device we used for this review.
The game offers a helpful video tutorial to get you started. It’s a little long at 15 minutes, but like any RTS, there’s a lot to cover here. At the start of each game, you’ll set your company’s starting positions, and there’s a good variety to command over, including riflemen, machine gun teams, and tanks. Once everyone’s set up, a typical turn has you choosing movement and attack routes for your soldiers to follow, while your opponent does the same. Once you’ve given out your orders, a 30-second simulation of it all going down at once plays out. The goal is for one team to defend a critical spot on the map, while the other attempts to overtake it.
You’re typically given about 20 turns, and each game can take up to an hour. It’s not easy, and it’s not for everyone, but there’s a good bit of depth to the gameplay here. Unfortunately, Combat Mission: Touch fails in a lot of other places. For starters, the visuals – let’s talk about the visuals.
What is this, 1999? Looking up screenshots from the first few series entries, I can see almost the exact same low-polygon character models and muddy surface textures. Soldiers move with stilted walks and vacant expressions. Natural lighting effects look perfectly fine, but character animations and smoke effects lack even modest realism. Pan to the edge of any map, and you’ll most likely see a lot of barren, half-rendered desert. It’s just an ugly game, and the nostalgia factor for series enthusiasts plays a huge part in any purchase recommendation.
The camera’s a chore to control, too, especially if you aren’t playing on a tablet. The camera is far too sensitive, with no option to lessen it that I could find. Since the game is basically about planning your moves out and watching them happen, I found it far easier to control and maintain a view of the action with an aerial camera, but what fun is war when it can’t be up-close and personal?
On top of all that, the sound design is almost as bad. There’s very little in-game audio besides guns, tanks and various grunts and screams, all of which are repeated over and over, and sound like they were recorded in the N64 era. Atmospheric effects like the wind blowing work better, but is that really saying anything these days?
If you’re a strategy or war gamer of the old school, and don’t mind an unwieldy camera and low-res aesthetics, you’ll no doubt find Combat Mission: Touch’s missions challenging and engaging. Burgeoning RTS fans however will probably want to try something a little more user-friendly.