Mini Review of Close Action the Bloody First

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Without saying too much in advance, I found something particularly frustrating in the long-running Tentpole Real Time Tactics franchises. I’m talking about games like Sudden Strike 4, Blitzkrieg 3 and yes, Close action: the Bloody First.

For the most part, I found that I liked hand-to-hand action: the first bloody one. But I think there’s this idea that tent pole RTT games have that the great features they’ve been building on for years are important differentiators and will help you stand out from the crowd of other tactics and strategy options. And I’m not sure that’s true anymore.

While systems such as Morale, terrain affecting unit movement and abilities, routes giving speed bonuses, several types of weapons per team and such features were more unique for tactical games twenty years ago, now we see similar systems in games such as Steel Division, Company of Heroes, “real” line of sight systems have also made their way more and more into RT, and they just don’t feel as unique or special as they did in the late 90s or early 2000s. This was one of my big problems with Sudden Strike 4, a capable RTT that didn’t particularly impress me in the end, partly because of its clumsy control scheme and camera.

I’m not a big fan of the Melee Franchise (because I’ve mostly just heard about the games), but I decided that I’d make a foray into Bloody first, because I’m a fan of tactics and debate games (although a bit new to them) and I hope it lasts forever. I’ve been hearing the praises of this series for a long time and I wanted to take a look at it.

For better or for worse, it always feels like there’s so much to *unpack* with these games. In melee, each squad member of your troops has an individual name, as well as Morale and status that are visible when you have selected them. I don’t know what effect this has on the Morale of the team or the Chance of being broken, which is a shame because I imagine there is a bit of Nuance built into this system. I found that Morale is a bit opaque (as I think it is too often the matter with tactical games), other than the simple fact of catching fire, it will drop.

How far squads can strike and see is something else that is a bit murky for me. In a way, Steel Division and Wargame do a little better than Close action: the bloody First, because you can be pretty sure that standing behind a fence or behind the crest of a hill or inside a tree line will block the enemy’s view and at least somewhat protect your troops. I have yet to find good places for troops to stand or pass while minimizing return fire, which is very frustrating and has prompted me to restart scenarios more often than anything else in the game.

Overall, however, I positively compare Close action: TBF to Steel Division 2 in terms of action. both games have a similar system of strategic points distributed on the map that determine the territorial ownership of each side. Both games are about height (I think TBF works a little better here with its height map) and – this is important to me – you can turn the interface on and off in TBF at the push of a button to get better screenshots.

The TBF context menu is a good idea-After getting used to clarifying each command, I saw the advantage of it, even if it remains a little clumsy in practice. It’s especially annoying at the beginning of the game when I want to give orders to each team under my control, one by one.

The most frustrating thing about such games, and this one in particular, is the feeling that there is a lot going on under the hood and you are not able to exploit it properly. For example, how does the player use the smoke to his advantage? The smoke mechanisms of Company of Heroes 2 are very visual and simple, so you know if you have used them well. The mechanism of smoke in TBF is much less clear to me. I am trying to create smoke between The squad to which I am giving the order and the main source of incoming fire, but there is no clear indication to me whether I managed to prevent the enemy from seeing my troops. I’m basically assuming that I did something positive and I’m hoping for the best.

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