Review: Commanders: Attack of the Genos
Someone else’s good idea but in 3D and not as good.
When new Xbox Live Arcade games are released every Wednesday (although I’m sure some escape) it’s always a mixed bag when it comes to quality with the original games. For every Aegis Wing or Assault Heroes there’s an Undertow or Boogie Bunnies waiting to take a dump in your hard drive. Luckily this offering falls into the former category, although I’m pretty sure this is a game destined to be damned by faint praise.
So in keeping with our honest reviews policy here at Peoww I’m going to say what even a cursory glance at a screenshot will tell youâ€¦ this game is a massive rip-off of Advance Wars. Not a bad rip-off by any means, but no doubt Nintendo’s many lawyers are pouring over intellectual copyrights as I type this. For those of you who have never played an Advance Wars game before or indeed any of the previous Famicom Wars as they’re know in Japan here’s a quick run down about how they and indeed Commanders plays.
Turn based strategy is the order of the day here with each player or character taking turns to command their army and use it to accomplish one or more objectives be it as simple as destroying any enemy army, escorting an important unit from A to B or defending a allied base and so on and so forth. You do this with a limited range of units at first with small troops and lightly armed scout vehicles. As you progress through the campaign transports, tanks, artillery and airborne units become available increasing your tactical options and the number of defensive considerations you have. Do you launch an aerial attack and run the risk of enemy anti-air units or strike them with the tried-and-true tank rush and risk becoming bottled up?
Every unit under your command has a set number of action points that can be spent each turn to make it move, attack or use a special power in the case of commander units. The commander units are unique machines containing â€¦ yep you guessed it your commander each once having a different set of passive and active powers to use. Passive powers effect adjacent units such as boosting their defence or attack strength whilst active powers once charged have unique effects such as granting temporary invincibility to your units, unleashing a devastating muti-attack or even teleporting in reinforcements.
Right that’s enough generalities lets get into the specifics about what makes Commanders tick and if it deserves your 800 M$ points. The first thing that stands out is its general presentation with it using 1930s aesthetics and big band swing music to look like a pulp action serial like King of the Rocketmen or Flash Gordon complete with tesla coils and ray guns. It doesn’t fell super fresh after Bioshock did the same better but against the cod near-future grunge sci-fi often inflicted by game makers it’s a nice change.
The campaign storyline is presented as a series of 2D pictures of the characters talking and all FMV is done in engine. No doubt this is to save precious hard drive space but the lack of any real flair in the presentation keeps reminding you you’re playing a XBLA game and makes everything fell a little cheap. The swing music while an original choice for a game quickly becomes repetitive during long missions and will quickly have you switching to custom soundtracks before you have to endure another tuba solo.
Well Marky boy has covered most of the bases (pun intended heh) about this game. I have mainly been playing this title in ‘Battle Mode’ either with friends or against CPU or a mixture of both and the game basically plays like the Advance Wars games but with some minor tweaks.
It’s about time that we actually got a good turn based war game on XBLA and while Commanders delivers for the most part the game is not totally flawless. The online multiplayer lobby seemed to be a little ropey and randomly kicking people off the game when it was about to start in experience. Apparently they are working on fixing this and lets hope they come though because it’s a good game and it deserves better.
Like Advance Wars you get a ton of options but the one you should pay most attention to is the turn limit. No more than twenty turns a online game if I were you because me, Mark and Lurk made the mistake of going for 50 rounds. Lets just say that’s not being repeated again any time soon as it took up roughly two hours to finish thirty turns each.
Overall Commanders is a fairly unoriginal but solid homage to one of the best portable strategy games out there today but with a few minor tweaks and more multiplayer maps (currently there are ten) this would have been perfect.
Secondary Score: 7/10
It plays a good game although when placed side by side with the game it’s trying to replicate it comes badly in several areas. In Advance Wars the enemy AI is a bastard but a fair bastard, if you make a mistake like letting your army stray too close to his artillery he’ll pummel you and you’ll get mad not at him but at yourself for making the mistake and through such actions you learn and become better. The problems with Commanders is that the AI is so inconstant that it fails to punish you for your mistakes and lets you get away with sloppy strategy’s like not protecting your venerable units or leaving your refineries open to attack.
Another example is the enemy commander’s special powers. Having launched an attack against him and his units I first used my invincibly power essentially letting me have a free attack safe in the knowledge my units would take no damage in my turn or his turn. At the start of his turn the enemy AI used his special attack even though I was still invincible and did no damage, he then ordered every one of his units to attack knowing I’d take no damage and in fact just damage his units with the counter attack and even destroying some of them as I did. Any human player or indeed any AI in Advanced Wars would have backed off until the invincibility ended then wipe out my vulnerable and exposed units with his super attack.
Such problems don’t exist in multiplayer but a combination of small maps and unbalanced commander powers and units often result in hours of stalemate gameplay with no one player able to gain the upper hand without having an enemy AI to exploit. This isn’t a review where I’m going to rip into it for not being any good or for not being original because it’s an XBLA game and as such succeeds on the whole. It’s not better than Advance Wars but as a quick punt for 800 M$ points and a quick half hour mission to pass the time it works. If you like turn based strategy games get it a try or if you’ve never played Advance Wars and want an easy introduction to the genre then start here. Like I said dammed by faint praise.