First Impressions: Combat Mission: Battle For Normandy, Shock Force 2, Black Sea

For the longest time, I’ve been wanting to go back to writing about games I play, but since my long and drawn-out reviews usually require weeks of work before finally coming out, there’s no way it’s humanely possible to do that for every single game I dip my toes into, and there are quite a lot of those. For every Second Front review, there are countless other impressions that go unwritten: WaronoiSpace HavenCantataGround BranchReady or NotDome KeeperMarvel’s Midnight Suns, and Victoria 3. With Oli taking care of the weekly news, a new challenge is set: to pen the impressions for 3 games, in 3 paragraphs, after 3 days of playtime. Subscribe down below to be always up to date with the latest Strategy gaming news, reviews, and interviews.

Combat Mission: Battle For Normandy

Combat Mission: Battle for Normandy is a war game that takes players back to the historical events of World War II. As the name suggests, this game is set in Normandy, France, during the summer of 1944. Players can choose to command either Allied or Axis forces, with each side having its own unique set of units and equipment. The game offers an immersive and realistic battlefield experience, where players must use strategy, tactics, and a bit of luck to achieve their objectives. Almost every kind of scenario WW2 simmers can dream up is available, from small-scale scuffles between hastily put-together defenses and defenders to large-scale offensives comprising hundreds of units. I personally very much prefer the more focused scenario just because they’re easier to handle and I can play them in just under an hour. Larger ones can last for days.

One of the most notable features of Combat Mission: Battle for Normandy is its realistic approach to gameplay. Everything is simulated, each soldier’s actions, each bullet fired, each round struck, every inch of armor, down to the communications between squads and HQs. The game includes a wide range of historically accurate weapons, vehicles, and terrain, which makes it feel like a true-to-life representation of the events of World War II. This makes combat more challenging and engaging, as players must plan their moves carefully to avoid casualties. Every soldier lost is a soldier that cannot be used when the need arises.

Overall, Combat Mission: Battle for Normandy is an excellent choice for wargame WW2 enthusiasts who are looking for a realistic and immersive experience. The game offers a wide range of scenarios and campaigns, as well as a powerful scenario editor that allows players to create their own battles. There’s also a healthy modding community with hundreds of custom-made scenarios. While the game does have a bit of a learning curve (and the UI could really benefit a new coat of paint) it is well worth the effort for those who are willing to invest the time. With its attention to detail, historical accuracy, and engaging gameplay, Combat Mission: Battle for Normandy is one of the best wargames on the market today. It’s my personal WW2 favorite because it manages to tick just all the right boxes: realism, playability, and the Normandy hedgerow-hell setting.

Combat Mission: Shock Force 2

Combat Mission: Shock Force 2 is a wargame (Shocker! I know) that takes place in a hypothetical “modern-day” conflict in the Middle East. Players can take control of either NATO forces or Syrian forces in a variety of scenarios, ranging from small-scale skirmishes to large-scale battles. The game features a wide range of modern weaponry and equipment, as well as realistic terrain and weather conditions, making it a true-to-life representation of modern warfare in its established setting. A unique one, for sure, but one that’s severely under-represented, and despite all the commotion in the Middle East, not many strategy titles ever took root. Apart from Command and Conquer: Generals way back in the early 2000s and Syrian Warfare, no other comes to mind.

Akin to its World War counterpart, the standout feature of Combat Mission: Shock Force 2 is its attention to detail. The game includes a wide range of authentic military equipment, including tanks, IFVs, infantry weapons, and a lot of miscellaneous equipment, each faithfully recreated to simulate the strengths and weaknesses of their real-life counterparts. The game’s physics engine also adds to the realism, with bullets and shells behaving as they would in real life. It’s also the first game of the series to feature unconventional forces. Be aware if you’re planning on jumping into SF2 with the full confidence of being an experienced commander of the Second World War. Despite the base engine being the same, the way combat pans out is vastly different: weapon systems are way more accurate and lethal at longer ranges, meaning that fights will start a lot sooner, and end up way faster. There’s also a larger technological gap between the forces of NATO and Syria, making way for vastly different styles of play and experimentation.

To round things up, Combat Mission: Shock Force 2 is an excellent choice for wargame enthusiasts who are looking for a modern combat experience. The game’s attention to detail, realism, and immersive gameplay make it the go-to option for desert-inclined war simmers. The game’s complex mechanics don’t come without its learning curve, but persevere and you’ll surely enjoy it. Don’t make the mistake of assuming all Combat Mission games are the same, lest you wish to fail.

Combat Mission: Black Sea

Battlefront’s ability to predict future conflicts is a scary affair. No, Combat Mission: Black Sea was not created after the 2022 invasion of Ukraine by a fascist minion named Putin and its bunch of spineless sycophants. Black Sea was released way back in 2017 and takes place on the now not so to hypothetical battlefields of Eastern Europe. Set in a not-so-hypothetical conflict between Ukraine (Black Sea also has NATO as a major player in the War, actively fighting) and Russian forces. The game offers a unique glimpse into the deadliness of modern warfare systems: the constant presence of UAVs is a scary reminder that death is a button push away, electronic warfare can disrupt even the most prepared forces, and the advances in optics can lead to even more brutal fights than what Shock Force 2 can muster.

The game offers a wide range of units, weapons, and equipment, and players must carefully plan their actions to overcome the challenges of modern warfare with two factions that- in theory at least- are evenly matched. Even though we now know that the claws of the Russian bear were brittle, the bear had been dead for a while, and had been slowly picked up apart by vultures, back in 2017, the mighty Russian ruse was still ongoing. So expect competent, motivated, and well-armed virtual Russians, instead of the piss-poorly equipped conscripts that are instructed to use tampons to block bullet holes.

The fact that Combat Mission: Black Sea is the most “actual” of the series can be a very big incentive for wargamers looking to explore the goings-on in Eastern Europe. It’s also an excellent choice for wargame enthusiasts who are looking for a modern combat experience with all the complexity it entails. The game’s attention to detail, realism, and immersive gameplay make it one of the best wargames on the market today and the one and only one that somewhat recreates the intricacies of one of the most controversial and unfortunate events of the past 20 years.

One thought on “First Impressions: Combat Mission: Battle For Normandy, Shock Force 2, Black Sea

  1. Why don’t you just go to a trench in Bakhmut to defeat the so inept Russian soldiers, you world-saver with definitive virtue-signalling opinions?


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