iPad Game Review: Combat Mission: Touch for iPad Review
Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Combat Mission Touch is the iPad version of the venerable PC wargame of the same name (minus the "touch"). This is a deeply strategic real wargame and as such, it's not for the casual gamer. If you are a wargamer and an iPad owner, however, you just got your wish.
Combat Mission Touch is a true turn-based wargame for your iPad. There's no resource collection or tricks to exploit (I'm looking at you, Zerg Rushers). Only a deep understanding of your meticulously modeled historical units (as well as the enemy's), the ability to use cover/concealment/terrain to your advantage, and sound tactical decisions will win the day. There are a variety of maps on which to play, and all of them offer such an unstructured experience that you will return to the same maps again, and again as new strategies reveal themselves to you.
The game has intuitive and responsive touch controls, and a very uncluttered interface, which I found surprising. Yes, it's a complex game filled with algorithms and numbers to crunch, but all of that occurs under the hood. You can zoom way out for a wide view of the conflict, or you can zoom all the way in to nearly a 3rd person perspective of your units as they advance, retreat, fight, and die. While a wide view is useful for deployments, I highly recommend that you zoom in when the battles unfold as you will want to know just what your troops can see and what they can't.
The game centers on the invasion of Normandy in 1944 so you will be battling across France as both the Allies and the Germans. There are no campaigns, cut-scenes, or dramatic characterizations. You pick a map, and try to achieve the objective; which usually involves capturing and holding a particular point without killing your army in the process. Speaking of your troops, as you play Combat Mission, you will become intimately familiar with the concepts of morale and fatigue; both of which can easily mean the difference between success and failure as your army will not fight tirelessly and maniacally like they do in most lighter strategy fare. In addition to a scalable yet potentially ruthless AI, you also have the option to play other humans via the internet. Both of these options are played using the WEGO system (as in: we go together). Both players (AI or human) commit their forces simultaneously in the planning phase, and then everybody moves at the same time in the execution phase. This is a brilliant way to manage turn-based play as it is infinitely more realistic than shooting at targets that sit there, waiting for their turn to fire back. It is also more difficult, however...
The only problem with Combat Mission Touch isn't really a flaw; it's simply that this type of game will not appeal to everyone. If pondering, strategizing, and historical accuracy are your proverbial cups of tea, however, having this weather-beaten and grizzled veteran wargame on your iPad is going to be a dream come true.
Combat Mission Touch features 3D graphics, that should look familiar to fans of the PC version. As 3D graphics go, they're pretty underwhelming, but this is not a game franchise that strives for style over substance. Still, the map scrolls and zooms smoothly on my 3rd generation iPad, even with the detail set to high, and I never found myself squinting to figure out what was happening.
The music is limited to the menus, for which I am thankful because there is no way to disable it. The sound effects are identical to the PC version, and are serviceable enough, even though they won't be winning any awards.
In-App Purchases (IAPs)
There are no In-App Purchases in Combat Mission Touch.
If you're an avid historical wargamer, or would like to be, Combat Mission Touch should be an essential purchase. Its accurate depiction of WWII era equipment, arms, and ballistics will keep this crowd busy for quite a while, as will the open-endedness of the scenarios. If you're a casual strategy gamer, however, or one that needs a bit more visual punch in your games, proceed cautiously.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 3 - The 3D engine gets the job done, but it's not going to win any awards. Sound: - 3 - No in-game music is a good thing in a game like this. The sound effects are decent, but you won't be reaching for your headphones. Controls: - 5 - A surprisingly uncluttered interface for a wargame of this much depth. Map zoom/scroll functions are responsive and intuitive. Gameplay: - 4 - A serious wargame for serious wargamers. May be too much for casual gamers.
Playing Hints and Tips:
The best way to learn the game is to just dive in. Deploy your troops and armor in ways that make sense to you (hide in and behind buildings, hold the high ground, take cover in trees, etc). The Combat Mission series prides itself on its real world accuracy so common sense will get you a lot farther here than in other games.