Close Combat: Invasion Normandy (often reffered to as Close Combat V) is the last game in the franchise made by Atomic Games and published by SSI. The game puts the player on the beaches and hedges of Cotentin Penisula during the 1944 Operation Overlord (starting with the D-Day) and allows the player to play as the allied invasion forces or the defending axis. It is regarded as the best in the series, as it refinded the gameplay elements from all of the previous iterations, improved units pathfinding and the strategic map (which first appeared in Close Combat IV).
The game is divided into two parts – turn based strategic map phase, where the player moves the whole battalions of troops on a large map of the Cotentin penisula, and the real-time tactical part, when the units who encounter the enemy can be ordered during battle.
In the tactical part, which is the most recognizable feature of the whole franchise, the player controls squads of infantry, mortars, single armored vehicles and guns with a set of simple orders. He is also able to call down an artillery or aircraft support if it’s available. The firefights consist of maximum 3 platoons on each side of conflict and are short, but intense. The battle can end in a victory (when the enemy forces rout due to the loss of morale or loss of every “victory point” on the map) and a total control of the location on the strategic map, a draw (when neither side gains the upper hand before the timer runs out, which is usually set to 15 minutes) which means that the battle will continue in the next strategic turn, or defeat (when our forces loose morale or all victory points) which means a destruction of the player’s battalion on the strategic map.
Every single soldier in the battalion has it’s own morale meter which can be changed by a number of factors – the closeness to the commander, taking a victory location or performing a brave act during battle can fill the hearts of the combatant and his fellow troops with hope, while the suppresion by enemy fire, loss of his comrades, seeing other troops retreating or an enemy vehicle approaching when there is no anti-tank measures available can cause a worse performance on the battlefield or evan a dessertion. Thus, the morale is the most important factor during the tactical phase and seasoned players could observe numerous times the rout of entire enemy platoons due to a lucky sniper shots elliminating the squad officers or a single well-placed machine gun stopping a whole infantry assault.
The batallions on the map have finite number of troops and player is encouraged to retreat them to the rear if the prolonged fighting during the campaign thins their numbers, as every single soldier gains experience individually and low quality replacements are no match for the veterans – sometimes a whole squad of replacement troops can surrender without even hearing a shot, which can be criplling to the morale of a whole force and in turn can cost the player a whole battle. In addition, even the best soldiers cannot fight without fuel and ammunition which they can only replenish if they have a road connection with a supply depot indicated on the strategic map. Thus, encircling a tough enemy during the strategic phase can turn the tide of battle in the tactical phase.
Invasion Normandy was remade (as well as the other Colse Combat games, excluding the first one) by Matrix Games and is sold under the title Close Combat: The Longest Day in a digital and phisical copy format. The remake left the graphics engine and the core gameplay in it’s original form, changing only small details (like vehicle models and some tactical map fixes) and packed the game with a lot of mods, making the strategic map much bigger, adding more battlegroups and remodelling their size, troop composition and experience.
The game (like all the previous Close Combats) still has a large following of die-hard strategy games fans who still make mods for it and still play the entire campaigns through the multiplayer.