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Combat Mission: Shock Force Review

September 5th, 2007 by Troy Goodfellow · 5 Comments · Battlefront, Review, Wargames

My long delayed review of Combat Mission: Shock Force is up at Gameshark. Apologies for the crappy screenshots.

The 1.01 version I played was a significant improvement from the 1.00 version that I derided a couple of months ago, derision that led to an influx of visitors from the Battlefront forums. (“Few stayed to bowl.”) It’s amazing what a few performance tweaks and pathfinding alterations can do to make a game better. I’ve no clue why Paradox decided to send out a clearly incomplete version for review, leading to scathing reviews from Eurogamer and Games for Windows Magazine. (The Gamespot review was based on 1.01, though Brett Todd’s very critical review is as puzzling to me as all those sevens and nines that 1.00 got.)

CMSF is an above average wargame, but barely. I go back and forth on whether it is better than Theatre of War or not. CMSF tries some new things and the unconventional war stuff is more interesting than I thought it would be. ToW’s soldiers, however, act like soldiers – they respond to threats, they run when scared, they seek cover. They used to do that in Combat Mission, too.

Since this review was written, two patches have come out, and I haven’t had the opportunity or desire to try them. Armageddon Empires is catching my attention at the moment (I’m reviewing it for PTD Magazine) and it is a game as far from Shock Force as you can possibly imagine. Grab the demo and be sure to read Bill Harris’s tutorial at Dubious Quality.


5 Comments so far ↓

  • Scott R. Krol

    The CM situation got me thinking about the typical review process for publications (let’s use that as a catch-all for magazines, websites, and blogs) and I wanted to hear your thoughts on it.

    A number of pubs have a rule of reviewing the game straight out of the box, even if there are patches available for it. But you’ll also find just as many pubs who will review patched games, with their feeling being that since it’s available and the general public can patch it up just as they can, why not review the patched copy?

    While that logic is obvious the problem is at what point do you stop? If you continue along that path then every game would be in perpetual review. If a reviewer submits his review of a game version 1.1, patched during his review process from 1.0, and then 1.2 comes out a day after his submission should the review be revised? If 1.1 makes a game better and its strengths discussed in the review, why shouldn’t 1.2 be discussed?

    So what are your thoughts on reviewing patched versus non-patched?

  • Troy

    The basic rule is you review what most consumers get on launch day, which in this case would be v1.01 in America. Since it was made available to me, that’s what I reviewed. (Europe, sadly, got the 1.00 version and had to patch up.) This is the equivalent of reviewing what’s in the box or what the digital download is.

    Zero day or day one patches are fine with me, too, but note in the review that a patch is available and what it changes.

    Publications with print delays or a desire to get the review online the day comes out are in different situations, of course. They review what they get and it’s the responsibility of the developer/publisher to make sure that what they get reflects the launch state.

    I think that game sites could do a better job of reporting on patches, especially when they do something important. If a game is dinged for balance issues on release, what if a patch addresses that a month or two later? Does that make the game worth a purchase now? (Especially since the price has likely dropped.)

    Most gamers serious enough to seek out a review will also be familiar with the patching process. Though I don’t think anyone should encourage the release of buggy games, patches do sometimes address design issues that could only really be noticed “out in the wild.”

  • jonathanstrange

    Armageddon Empires has been a pleasure to play. I recommend trying the demo. Give it a chance; don’t let the UI dissuade you. It’s a really fun game that if the UI incorporated more basic things like tooltips and such, along with some sound FX (it couldn’t hurt) and maybe some way to have a goal rather than only skirmish games, I think it’d be my favorite for this year. Multiplayer? I wish…

  • Mark L

    Armageddon Empires is indeed a breath of fresh air. The system is very open to trying different things, the deck building allows a fun measure of strategic flexibility, and most importantly, the designer is constantly improving his product in response to user feedback. Easily one of the most enjoyable gaming experiences I’ve had all year.

  • Matt Peckham

    There is no official or even professional rule of thumb for patches, there’s just what people make up as they go along (though there is a professional rule about disclosure). Since I can control how I do this in terms of who I write for, I always review whatever’s available to me at the time I’m writing the review and note the version. If someone’s bound and determined to ignore the patch and by-god-only-play-the-version-they-downloaded (or plucked off the shelf), that’s their baggage to carry in a world where almost every computer owner has internet access, I guess.