Close Combat was another long-running RTS series that didn’t get the spotlight. The first game was revolutionary because it was one of the first that had real-time combat and smart AI. It also had a slick interface. RTS fans were proud of this game, but the series eventually fell into mediocrity like nearly every game series does.
Release Date: 6/30/1996 — PC
Close Combat was one of the first real-time strategy games and it had smart AI and a great interface to boot. This game won strategy gamers over, it also had an intuitive tutorial which was hard to come by back then. This game pretty pre-dated every other WWII strategy game and can be called one of the first. It’s funny to hear people freak out about giving orders as you go, but before this game CPUs weren’t powerful enough to handle everything in real-time, it was all turn-based.
Close Combat II: A Bridge Too Far
Release Date: 9/30/1997 — PC
A Bridge Too Far is as perfect as the first game. The whole “real-time” thing was still buzzing everyone’s minds, so when another game came out that had it, it was highly praised. This just goes to show that Close Combat is one of the most highly polished RTS games EVER made, yes, even more, polished than some from today. The graphics are crisp and sharp, and the map design is spot-on as well as the mission structure. Even if you hate WWII games, this is a must-play for RTS fans.
Close Combat III: Russian Front
Release Date: 12/31/1998 — PC
Some say this is the best game in the series. It was just when the 3D transition was starting (people actually complained about that surprisingly) and was one of the last 2D games. It still had great graphics, and the gameplay was spot on. It added some touches here and there, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The missions structure and map design were superb as always. However, the opposite side was saying it’s too close to the last game and needs a serious reboot.
Close Combat IV: Battle of the Bulge
Release Date: 11/30/1999 — PC
The yearly releases of Close Combat were starting to take a toll on the series. The fourth game was a solid strategy game, but it didn’t have the revolutionary stuff like it did nearly four years ago. It was pretty much the same game in a different theatre of war, some fans were okay with that.
Close Combat V: Invasion: Normandy
Release Date: 10/10/2000 — PC
This is where Close Combat really took a nosedive. The developers didn’t want to advance the series in any way. The graphics were looking really dated and the same gameplay remained with just a new part of the war. The game still had solid AI and various other qualities from past games, but fans wanted more and they were seriously tired of marching to the same tune. The developers got the message because this was the last game in the series, and not a word was heard about it for nearly 6 years.
Close Combat: Cross of Iron
Release Date: 2/12/2007 — PC
Here’s how to not reboot a series, by making it the same as 10 years ago. The devs didn’t update the graphics and didn’t learn from their mistake 7 years ago. Close Combat was once a revolutionary strategy game but is now the old man in the back of the crowd that can’t be heard. This game was so unpopular that it’s hard to dig up info on it, and its sequel. The few people who did talk about it say that it’s still the same solid RTS game in another part of the war. Long-time fans may not care, but it’s a good game to jump into for newcomers.
Close Combat: Panthers in the Fog
Release Date: 11/19/2012 — PC
15 years later and the same formula remains. The graphics just look really good but are still 2D, and a layer of gloss was just added to the whole series. Is this the devs opus? Probably not, but why make such a dated game so far long the timeline? Fans are honestly tired of this series and why these games kept getting released is beyond me. Cross of Iron sold very few copies so what was the incentive here? The devs may also be naive to the fact that the WWII genre was pretty much dead in 2012 and was long forgotten.
Close Combat is a perfect series that shows how it can be revolutionary from the start and if it doesn’t learn new tricks it will quickly be forgotten. It was one of the first RTS games ever made, but seriously, why keep it so dated almost 15 years later? Close Combat is one of the most puzzling series as well in terms of design choices later on. It’s still one of the best RTS games that can grace you hard drive, so pick it up if you can.