Review: Close Combat: Wacht am Rhein (PC)


Close Combat: Wacht am Rhein
Developer: Strategy 3 Tactics
Publisher: Matrix Games
Genre: Real-Time Strategy
Release Date: 10/28/2008


A revisit to an older series of strategy games revamped to work on newer pcs. Set during the end of World War II, you can take command of either the Allied forces or the Germans and win it for either side. But let’s see how this re-vamped and re-worked title plays out shall we?

Story/Modes:
There isn’t much story to this, other than vivid recreations of some of the bigger battles and confrontations towards the end of World War II. You can take either side, the Germans or the Allies and go from there. Modes are where this game excels.

First you have the Campaign. This is very long and drawn out, but very complex as you’re fighting for a very large territory over several weeks. Then you have Battle, a quicker one-shot mode that lets you fight in some pre-arranged battles that move very quickly, especially at first when you have no idea what you’re doing. More on that later. There is Operations which are longer than the battles but much shorter than the Campaigns.

The editing of any of these modes, and moddability of the game is quite, well staggering. A lot of the options are built into the game so that you can turn on or turn off your cheats and other options before you even get into a battle; which is a great feature within the modes, and still won’t help you win hardly at all. However when you’re tired of getting trounced by the AI of the computer, it feels really good to design a level where you surround a small group and slaughter them with your tanks.

That brings us to the Scenario editor, which gives you a broad map to lay out your troops on. You can put as many troops and tanks as you want and wherever you want on that map and just drop in a few of the enemy and go to town.

Wacht am Rhein also comes with the original Close Combat 4, which has the same modes within it.

Story/Mode Rating: Very Good

Graphics:
The game advertises having beautiful hand drawn maps of the areas, and they are very well done. The sprites for everything else seem dated, and while they work for the re-vamp of the game, there isn’t anything that spectacular here that hasn’t been done before. The menus look ok and the game does have a good visual feel, but even looking at the system requirements, you can tell you won’t need any kind of a graphic powerhouse for this game.

It’s old school visuals for an old school game. Pretty to look at but I think it’s showing its age a bit.

Graphics Rating: Decent

Sound:
Not much to go on. There’s no music during gameplay, just at the menus. The menu buttons have a bit of an annoying sound to them, but actual combat sounds great. Nothing really revolutionary, but adequate for what’s going on. Absolutely nothing here for someone who likes their games to pop.

Sound Rating: Mediocre

Control/Gameplay:
The controls and gameplay here are very straightforward and very easy to use. It’s almost all mouse, but you have the option of using hotkeys as well. Just right-click on the troops you want to move, sneak, fire or ambush, the left-click where you want them to move. Very simple and I had no problems with it. This isn’t the most advanced system I’ve ever seen but it’s very effective here.

The only gameplay issues I had were setting up the campaigns and selecting which areas I was going to move in to fight in. I didn’t really get it at first and it didn’t do that great of a job of explaining what I was doing, but once I was in on the combat end of it all went smoothly.

Control/Gameplay Score: Good

Replayability:
This game is definitely not for beginners. It has a high challenge to it. That being said, the option to create your own scenarios and the high number of varying Battles, Operations, and Campaigns could keep someone coming back to this time and again with varying success and a different outcome almost every time you play as a result. It could keep someone coming back again and again.

Replayability Score: Great

Balance:
Here’s where this game starts to really try my patience. This isn’t a game for beginners, but the tutorial makes it seem like it only has a slight learning curve, but even starting the battles where you have an insane advantage over the enemy (unless you’ve edited it to being completely unfair) you WILL get slaughtered. There is no learning curve to this game, it’s like going over Niagara Falls without the barrel until you get your bearings. The game is easy to play, but the AI doesn’t allow for the player to make any kind of mistake.

Ever.

So inexperienced players, be prepared for much cursing and shaking of fists.

Balance Rating: Very Bad

Originality:
As a revamp of a sequel of a game series, I’d say it’s pretty lacking in originality. If you load up Close Combat IV that comes bundled with it, they look practically identical. And then you get into the actual game and realize, it IS the same game! The sprites in combat have a slight update in the new game, but everything else just feels the same. It’s just that the new game has a bit more polish to it, making it shinier.

Originality Score: Dreadful

Addictiveness:
This is one of those games you’re either going to love for the challenge, or hate for the frustration. I’m guilty of both. I like the challenge in it, but the frustration level made me want to throw my mouse and keyboard. If you’re into real time strategy games, it will hold your attention for awhile and will probably keep you coming back. Most gamers though are going to get fed up with it and kick it to the curb.

Addictiveness Score: Mediocre

Appeal Factor:
Even among real-time strategy game players, this game is fairly niche. It’s a revamp of an older game that is not very inviting to starting players. Then there’s the price tag on the game. It’s awfully steep for a game that is a re-work of a sequel in a game series.

Appeal Factor Rating: Poor

Miscellaneous:
The game does flow pretty well, but there are other issues I have with it. I’m all for realism in games, and think it’s fantastic when they go that extra mile to bring that realism to a game, and they have with this, but it’s another frustration. Tanks were made to go off-road, but it seems every time you take one off the beaten path for the Allies, one of its treads pops off and then it becomes a sitting target and is essentially useless. Sure it could happen and I’m sure it happened quite a bit but with the frustration factor already at a peak with this game, this just takes it to a whole new level.

Miscellaneous Rating: Poor

The Scores
Story/Modes: Very Good
Graphics: Decent
Sound: Mediocre
Control and Gameplay: Good
Replayability: Great
Balance: Very Bad
Originality: Dreadful
Addictiveness: Mediocre
Appeal Factor: Poor
Miscellaneous: Poor
FINAL SCORE: DECENT GAME

Short Attention Span Summary
A really tough tactical real-time strategy game that retains it’s old school feel, and keeps the frustrations levels set to maximum. Only for those with some great tactical skills as any and all mistakes will ruin any battle plan you may have devised. And as it’s a rebuild of a previous game in the series, not really worth the price tag unless you really love Close Combat.

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