Tanks roll across the lush terrain in France,
hunters on the prowl. Allied soldiers crawl through the trees to the west,
keeping their total numbers hidden from the axis forces that lie just beyond
the crossroads. It is vital to control this area if the invasion at Normandy
Beach is to succeed.
Suddenly two German tanks burst from the trees, engaging
the American tanks. Machine-gun fire snaps from nests snug in the tree
line. The ground, once sparkling green, is turned into a pock-marked landscape
Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord is a turn-based strategy
game, which takes place in the latter years, 1944-45, of World War II in
the European theatre. Presented by Big Time Software, this program is long
on strategy, semi-intuitive in controls, and strong on camera angles.
Yes, other games in this genre – in particular, Close
Combat: Battle of the Bulge from SSI – are better graphically than Combat
Mission. But this game has strengths of its own which place it up there
with the aforementioned game.
For example, there are 39 pre-designed scenarios encompassing
multiple armies and areas during the final allied effort to win back Europe
from the Nazis. If you choose, you can create your own scenario with the
scenario editor included in the program. Should your tastes run more to
prolonged warfare, there are seven operations with each featuring 3-9 battles.
Graphically, this program features three-dimensional sprites
that move in a variety of ways across the battlefield. The animations are
fairly good, but the combat effects – tanks on fire, and the firing of
weapons in general – are not as sharp.
Difficulty levels are set within the scenario. You select
which side you wish to represent in the scenario, then adjust the play
balance. For example, you can give the allies (if that is the force you
are playing as) a 150% edge. That basically puts more troops at your
disposal beyond the forces configured for that particular engagement.
The program features all the bangs and explosions one
would typically find in a war game. There is the yell of soldiers on the
field, checking on orders or urging their fellows onward. Each unit
is represented by a face (repetitive images in most cases), and unit status.
A unit is not likely to move rapidly forward if advancement is over a tough
terrain and has been prolonged through several turns.
Turn play includes making all the moves you wish, then
your opponent makes moves and the entire turn is carried out simultaneously.
The game can be played in single person, hotseat, and
a chess game via e-mail or over the Internet.
Controls are somewhat intuitive. You can select multiple
units by dragging your cursor through all units you wish to include in
the movement. Then tap the space bar to bring up movement options. They
can include run, crawl, withdraw, hide, or targeting opposing forces. Line
of sight plays a big part in the game.
Camera angles really bring this program to life. You can
zoon out and view the action from high above, or zoom down to ground level,
weave through the trees and brushes to view the battlefield up close. The
latter is particularly handy to scout out the opposing forces. These forces
won’t always be revealed until you engage them, but then you can pick up
individual soldiers who have been separated from their units, but have
yet to surrender.
Game progress is measured in terms of morale, and victory
percentage. And both can turn rapidly. You can be at 83% victory on one
turn, only to see that number drop to 58% on the next.
Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord has taken specific incidents
in the latter stages of World War II and successfully turned them into
a PC chess match that will reward players with lessons in strategy. The
program may not be at the top graphically, but it delivers enough other
elements to make the session playing it enjoyable.
Install: Medium. Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord eats
347 megabytes of hard drive space in a full install. The minimum will only
consume 83 megs, and normal takes up 143 megs. There is nothing spectacular
about the install program.
Gameplay: 7. This is a turn-based strategy game, which
means all game play is planned, then executed simultaneously. While slow,
it does require strategic planning and adaptability .
Graphics: 7.5. The three-dimensional graphics are quite
well rendered. The camera controls allow the player to view the program
from either god-mode (above) or ground level.
Sound: 7. Battle sounds are quite well done, and the music
is typical of war games – featuring lots of drums. Vocal characterizations
are limited to radio chatter, on-field yells during charges and command
acceptance. The latter category is somewhat typical of the genre, but still
Difficulty: 8. Even if you stack the odds in your favor,
this is still a challenging outing.
Concept: 7. The program has the same basic feel as others
in the genre, and does not add a lot of new technology to this style of
gaming. However, the variety of missions make it a solid product.
Overall: 7.5. For fans of the war genre, this program
will provide hours of game play. The mission package, and options of
playing for either side, makes it a solid performer in the strategy field.
The graphical elements may not be quite as good as some games, but still
provide a solid feel.