After finishing with Order Of Battle (and specifically with the Winter War DLC), I turned my eyes to something somewhat more modern: Command: Modern Air / Naval Operations (or CMANO for short) is warfare simulation developed by WarfareSims and published by Matrix Games.
I have to admit that I have somewhat love/hate relationship with CMANO. I love the idea of realistic modern air/naval combat game that models sensors well. But on the other hand, I don’t like at all how some scenarios require lots of micromanagement and baby sitting. Trying to manually coordinate multiple flights of planes so that they attack target from multiple directions at the same time is pretty tedious. Especially if you try to time that with long range weapons in order to saturate defence systems. While the mission editor has its flaws, it still manages to perform adequately. There’s scary amount of options and settings and on a first sight the editor is very overwhelming. With some practice and experimenting it eventually does get easier. Things like various patrols and support missions are easy enough to setup.
Graphically game looks like business application from the 90s. Battleship grey dialogs and loads of buttons and drop down menus. Map is functional and has lots of settings that allow player to configure it to look just what the situation demands. Fighting planes with planes? Underwater sensors and weapons aren’t needed, so no need to show their ranges. Having piles of planes in the air? Better display just flights and not individual planes. Sailing on the high seas? No need to use relief map that shows mountains. And so on, options are plenty. Units are represented with naval tactical data system (NTDS) symbols that, while not particularly flashy, are easy to read and quick to recognize after a little bit of practice.
Because game aims for realism, there are tons and tons and tons of different kinds of planes, ships, submarines and weapons. And then even more versions and variants for all of those. While I can tell a F-18 and B-2 apart by their name and have idea which is intended to what purpose, I often end up browsing the included database that contains more than enough information. Especially at the beginning of a scenario it’s good idea to get really familiar with the tools which are at your disposal and what kind of possibilities and limitations they have. It’s not once or twice I tried to drop bombs from incorrect altitude, resulting mission failures, before I learned to take my time and check the database. And countless are times when I haven’t had a slightest clue on what has been loaded on planes at the start of a scenario. But as I said, the database is there to help and contains not only technical details of each item, often some background information too.
Sometimes game feels like a puzzle. Player is presented with a problem, often with incomple or even incorrect information, and they have to solve it. Usually there are more than one way to complete a mission and often multiple tries are required (at least for me), before the puzzle is cracked. Even after completing a scenario it’s interesting to try it out with different approach or trying to complete it even better. While I haven’t touched campaigns yet, I read that they’re just linked missions without one mission affecting to other. As soon as you can achieve some sort of victory, you can proceed to next mission. This makes creating and balancing scenarios easier, which probably makes sense given the complexity of the game.
All in all, I do enjoy the game. It has really steep learning curve and I seem to discoverer new things every time I play or venture on the forums. Because manual doesn’t try to teach you more than just how to play the game, one should be prepared to spend lots of time learning about modern naval warfare from other sources. This game deserves a meticulous approach and patient player. Despite of its flaws, the game can be fun and interesting.