- Replay Value
- Sound & Music
- Replay Value
Close Combat: Panthers in the Fog review
Older strategy gamers should be well familiar with Close Combat series, and are most likely having pleasant memories connected to them. CC games are kind of a special breed; while being in real-time, they lack the twitch factor of the traditional RTS titles, and therein perhaps lies the core of their attractiveness. The series were so popular that in the past 20 years, there must have been up to some fifteen Close Combat titles with all the remakes and bundles. With Panthers in the Fog, we are coming to one of the best editions of the game. The engine may show its age, but it is still damn fun!
Strategy and tactics
Panthers in the fog splits up the action into two parts of the gameplay. It lets you first take decision on the overall strategic part of the warfare and eventually conduct the battles on the tactical scale. The missions themselves can last from 15 to 60 minutes, so you don’t have the eternity to conduct your plans and win the day. Sometimes you will attack, sometimes defend, and if there is no clear winner as the time expires, the side that made more progress (taken more victory locations and killed off more opponent) will be considered a winning side.
Graphic of Panthers in the Fog
From the very start of the missions, the graphic improvements become obvious. To be clear, strategy games such as this one will never win a beauty contest; their beauty, as the conventional wisdom goes, comes from within. However, the introduction of 32-bit graphics makes the game much prettier and, far more importantly, makes it easier to differentiate soldiers, vehicles, terrain specifics. The level of details has risen as well, so you will be able to see much nicer effects of shell holes, explosions, smoke coming from destroyed vehicles. During the night, you’ll oftentimes see yellowish glittering of tracer bullets, which adds more to the realism. Another introduction to the game is fog, which often appears in the morning periods, making things difficulties for all sides and adding even more so to the realism. Again, nothing breathtaking in comparison to modern 3D strategies such as Total War, but then again, the beauty of Close Combat games lies in their essence. One slight objection would be the lack of zoom, but players have two levels of viewing the battlefield from the bird’s point of perspective. First one is the regular display, where you can see the units and objects from the “normal”, relatively close perspective, and the other would be kind of a complete tactical overview where the player can see the entire map, and the units shrink to the icons depicting their class. A very useful feature is the ability to control and send them to desired positions in this view, which enables the player to oversee the entire map and better coordinate all the units during the mission.
The gameplay of the Close Combat: Panthers in the Fog hasn’t changed in its core essence; personally, I love it that way. It takes me back to the times of the old Close Combat titles of 15 years ago, and I am fairly certain that many of old CC veterans will love the game for the very same reason. Left click selects the unit, enabling the player to issue the “move”, “move fast” or “sneak” movement options, as well as “defend” or “ambush” options. It should be fairly obvious that different types of movement result in different levels of safety for your men, increases or lowers their vulnerability and ability to spot enemy units. The pathfinding is a bit quirky, movements something that needs to be closely monitored, because units won’t always go the route to their target the way player might expect, but will choose easier paths instead. Often, the vehicles will run into obstacles that will even disable them. Few things in this game are as frustrating as seeing your tanks busting a track while trying to go over a one meter tall stonewall, the type usually used to mark the boundaries of the fields, or getting stuck between tress while you are not paying attention because you are focused on the other part of the battlefield. Realistic? Yes, tanks are powerhouses, but they have been known to bust a track while mounting the obstacles. It stills annoys the hell out of you when it happens to your own panzer, and the experience of the crew of that said vehicle is on a veteran level.
“Come closer, see into my eye…”
The line of sight is still one of the most important things in Close Combat. If you do not have a direct, clear line of sight to the enemy, you can’t see the enemy and can’t hit the enemy. Of course, blind firing at an area is possible, but largely ineffective. All of the movement and deployment considerations should be made regarding this issue, so place your units covering wide open areas, use your tanks in such positions they can inflict the maximum damage onto an approaching enemy. Be very careful when sending your armored vehicles throughout the center of the village and hesitate to send your infantry into wide open fields of death.
To help your own chances and hinder opponents progress, you can lay down ambushes, throw smoke to obscure the enemy’s vision and order your units to defend a particular stretch of land from enemies coming from a specified direction.
Panthers in the Fog offer more than enough content for an aspiring strategy gamer, and one shouldn’t forget to mention that it is also possible to fight it out against a friend or a random stranger in multiplayer. There are more than enough campaign and missions to keep a player busy for a long while, with seven operations and four campaigns available over a large number of maps. Admittedly, maps are quite similar, in that you won’t find many of the with desert or icy features; after all, the game is taking place in rural and urban areas of France, with allied soldiers clashing against shaken Wehrmacht. However, the feeling overall is quite positive, and with some 20 units each side can deploy for a battle, ranging from small scouting infantry units to mortars, tanks and artillery.
Does Close Combat: Panthers in the Fog have that spark of the prior titles? Most definitely. Is it a strategy worth recommending? Once again, the answer is a resounding yes. Aside from small issues with pathfinding, there isn’t much to object to this game and on the positive side, it is filled with the old Close Combat spirit and will make for a nice trip down the memory lane for all those that played these games in the past 15 years. Alas, as usual, a word of warning for all those that aren’t much of strategy players – Close Combat titles, very much like hexagonal wargames and turn-based strategies, are not a twitch strategy of C&C, Starcraft or similar type. This is a whole different ballgame. Close Combat gameplay is a place where correct strategic and tactical play wins you the day, and no amount of fast clicking will save your troops from an unfavorable tactical position and poor strategic decisions.
Close Combat: Panthers in Fog manages to revive the spirit of the series and we can recommend it warmly.
You can get Close Combat: Panthers in Fog from Matrix Games for 39,99$ for Download edition as well as 49,99$ for Boxed edition.