Have you heard of Warfare Sims? The developer, as well as its publisher Slitherine Ltd are well known for their deep tactical war games, usually turn based, and they’ve built up a small yet decent cult following. Among the games published by Slitherine are Shadow Empire, a deep 4X sci-fi strategy game, the Field of Glory series which focuses on tabletop strategy set in the ancient times (with a Medieval standalone pack that just released last month), Distant Worlds Universe and Order of Battle.
There are quirkier titles as well, including the divisive Combat Mission Shock Force series (a real time RTS that focuses on realism, with similar design ethos to the game I’m going to discuss today). The publisher seems to favour gameplay and depth over appearance, so most of these games come with clunky UI systems, some lack of polish in areas and plenty of content. Give them a try sometime. I can recommend Shadow Empire from that list for certain, although it will take you several lunch breaks just to scratch the surface. I would like to try Combat Mission some day.
Strategy games aren’t made as much these days, and as a strategy/RTS fanboy for many years, I’m happy there are still developers dedicated to this genre in a sea of AAA open world action and RPGs.
My review today takes me down the murky journey of Command: Modern Operations, a wargaming sim that makes Paradox titles look simple in comparison. My experience with it tells me that it does a pretty good job for dedicated fans of the wargaming genre, but how much would a casual gamer enjoy it? Stay tuned to find out. Unlike my previous reviews where I cover the story, quest design etc, I’m just going to talk generally about my impressions with it, because it’s a different type of game to the one I’m used to.
The first thing I must discuss is the extensive price tag. £62.99/70$ is the price of the base game, and that’s not including the trove of expansions and DLC that comes with it. That is a bitter pill to swallow for anyone, because if you’re charging more than a AAA standard, you’d better have a good reason for doing so. This isn’t new for the publisher, I’ve found most Slitherine titles to be a bit on the expensive side. From what I’ve seen in this particular genre, high price is just how it is. Fortunately, it does go on sale, including a 50% discount a few weeks ago. I did want to discuss the price before going into my impressions, because I’ve always believed in price being important to a game’s reputation.
Booting it up and greeted by the somewhat archaic UI, I came across a list of tutorials. Dozens and dozens of tutorials. On one hand, that’s a lot for someone to take in, and I recommend sitting down with a lot of time on your hands before you even start the game. On the other hand, I was rather impressed by the level of detail Command: Modern Operations includes into teaching new players the intricacies of its many systems. The tutorials cover almost everything from moving units on the map, to organizing cargo patrol routes, carrying out strategic bombings and setting up your own missions. I found the tutorials enjoyable enough, and the depth in this game is astonishing. While it’s difficult to follow at first, I found it getting easier the more I spend time with it. For a game as deep as this, I’m happy that they put so much effort into the number of tutorials to teach the player how to play, even if it takes time to become an expert. I’d call it ‘relatively easy to learn but very difficult to master’. It takes a long time to get into the game, so if you’re an impatient soul, this might not be the game for you.
I do have one problem with the interface. It is dialogue-text only, so expect to do a lot of reading in relatively small boxes. There’s no way to make it voiced from what I can see, so accessibility options are thin on the ground. I recommend to the developer to make this an option, because it might be easier to follow the tutorials in future. If you struggle to read or have eyesight issues, this game won’t be as enjoyable.
You play the game in real-time. You can pause to carry out instructions, but everything happens on a realistic scale. The game takes place on a giant map of the globe, with every country and detail mapped out fairly accurately. There’s no shortage of content and wargames to try out, and the amount of units and toys you get to play with is impressive. The database is in-depth, covering ships, planes, weapons and submarines from over sixty years of contemporary history. You are the star commander of the show, with every action being solely under your control. While this means you have to take control of everything with no way of automating it, this can be seen as a good thing.
This is hardcore wargaming to the max, and the smallest mistake can spell doom to your campaign. You can make your own missions, as well as take part in one of several scenarios, as well as a tutorial campaign. There’s a lot of extra content, but this is locked behind DLC paywalls (and they don’t come cheap). There is Steam Workshop support however, with hundreds of community scenarios ready to download and play if you don’t feel like making your own. Stability wise, it seems to be okay. I’ve found a few bugs here and there, but nothing major, and the game doesn’t require anything modern to run it. You can play it on even modest hardware. It’s not the most polished, and the interface could use a lot of work, but this is a solid game for its dedicated market. If I were someone who spends most of my days playing modern warfare simulators, I can recommend the game one hundred percent.
Review and Conclusion
The ultimate question for me is this: How well does Command: Modern Operations translate to the casual market? I can see why it appeals to hardcore fans of the genre. It’s a deep, extensive tactical wargame simulator which takes lengths to teach you how best to get to grips with it, and shows no shame in that. The developer is reasonably active in dealing with issues, and he knows his audience for certain. For the average person? That’s when things begin to stumble.
While the tutorials are relatively kind in teaching the player how best to play, it takes a long time to understand everything. In this kind of game where you create your own enjoyment, that’s a barrier that is hard to break. That, coupled with the game’s price tag, price-gated content and aged technical pieces is a hard sell for many. For a $70 game, I expected better polish.
Above all, I can recommend Command: Modern Operations with some caveats. If you’re a big fan of deep tactical simulators, see the game on a sale and pick it up. I can’t say the game is worth its base price, but at the last sale price of 40$, that’s more reasonable. If you’re a fan of modern military history, this might be worth picking up just for its database alone. There’s so much content packed in there I’ve had a lot of fun researching and learning about modern military systems, enough to fill several books.
It’s geared for a significant few, and that’s okay. I still think a casual gamer can have some fun with this one, but have a think about what I said. If the UI and polish gets fixed over time, and with a few more sales, Command: Modern Operations could see a following outside its intended market.
- Deep and complex military simulator, perfect for its target market
- Extensive tutorials to teach you how to play the game
- A solid teaching tool on modern warfare with its vast database
- Challenging but rewarding gameplay
- Huge price tag will scare away many people
- Additional content locked by paywalls
- Some bugs and glitches
- Lack of accessibility options and a rough UI