Field Commander (PSP)

I said a while back I’d be willing to be a guinea pig for this game. And here I am living up to my word.

Even though it’s release date isn’t until tomorrow or wed, The Seattle (Northgate) Target had these in stock yesterday so I got to pick it up early.

First Impressions:

Very similar to Advance Wars
For better or worse, this game is quite similar to Advance Wars. Units have all the same stats – HP (1-10), vision, movement, ammo, and fuel. Like Advance Wars, units have have primary and secondary weapons, with the secondary weapon never requiring ammo. Even city capture is identical – only infantry can capture buildings, and they subtract their current HP (1-10) from the city’s current resistance (starting at 20).

There are C.O.'s , but they seem to be entirely cosmetic. There are also factions, and they seem to function identically to C.O.'s from Advance Wars. They even have a bar that fills up, with 2 powers available – one at partial fill, one at a fully-filled bar, exactly as it works in Advance Wars DS.

I knew this game was supposed to be Sony’s answer to Advance Wars, but I find it rather shameless to rip off so many of AW’s mechanics so literally and blatently. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad game. It just means it’s… uninspired.

Things that are different: Units with stronger firepower can attack forests/cities to shrink them. There are sparse forests and dense forests. Sparse cities and dense cities. This lets you open up new paths of mobility for your units, or reduce income in enemy cities you won’t be conquering soon, but the effects seem pretty minor overall.

The units generally have different prices/stat-specifics than in AW, but there are actually some suspicious similarities still. The game claims ~30 units, but as far as I can tell there are only ~15, with a different graphic for same unit on each of the two sides. The unit mix is slightly smaller than the first AW (which had 17 units, I think,) let alone AW DS (22 units, IIRC.)

The biggest difference from advance wars is probably its design style, which is closer to C&C (futuristic quasi-real military) than to AW (cartoonish military).

High production quality
The UI is pretty darn shiny and nice. Although not being able to see any stats in the buy menu (not even through a button press) is kind of crazy. But that’s nearly my only complaint about the UI, which is mostly very crisp. In fact, I think most PSP games seem to have spectacular-looking UIs, while the rest of the games seem very ‘meh’. But I digress.

There is voice acting for most of the intro/outro plot text in each mission, and the tutorials are fully voice acted. Voice acting seemed fairly well done.

There’s lots of unlockables, which seem to be granted automatically as you progress through the campaign. There’s no meta-game shopping or anything.

I found the units to have a really cool design to them, but the units are surprisingly difficult to identify when in the standard top-down gameplay mode. The game has 2d icons for each unit, and I find myself wishing I could just play with those because they’d be much easier to recognize. The 3d units are actually quite cool when you get to see them up close, but hard to tell apart when actually playing the game.

Internet and “play-by-mail”, plus mission building/sharing!
One thing the game supposedly has is Internet play – both an ‘infrastructure’ mode and ‘transmit’ mode (essentially play-by-mail, without the mail.) I haven’t tried either of these yet, but I’d love to take some of you on, if any of you end up picking this up.

There’s also a map/mission editor and some sort of mission-sharing system, but I haven’t looked into those at all yet. Depending on how they are implemented, this could be one of the first implementations of community-based content-sharing in a console game. And on a handheld, no less!

Other notes
-I don’t know if this is a problem with all PSP games, just this game, or just my PSP, but I got stuttering at times during the voice acting where it seemed to be loading slower than the voice was going, and I got pauses/mangles/skips in both the audio and rendering.

-Battle animations happen on the board in 3d. The camera swings down to a cinematic perspective and you see the attack happen. For whatever reason, I found myself getting bored of these even faster than in other TBS games, and hunted for the option to turn them off after only 2 full missions.

Basic Summary:
A decent (if somewhat uninspired) Advance Wars clone with different specifics. Supposedly has online and asynch/play-by-mail modes, as well as mission building/sharing, all of which sound promising. Has good UI. Doesn’t feel as crisp as Advance Wars, and I still think Advance Wars is the superior game.

If you own a DS and don’t have Advance Wars: Dual Strike, I recommend you get that instead. But if you only have a PSP, or have already played your fill of AW and want more-of-the-same-but-different, then this may be worth it for you. I personally fall into the latter camp. =)

Hopefully somebody finds this useful!

I find it useful. I’ll almost certainly be picking this up (and never having played Advance Wars, it’ll be all new to me). Further impressions (or impressions from others) most appreciated!

Nice post… shame about the game.

Having finished AW: DS I’ll pick it up, but I wish they’d added something besides superior graphics. My only gameplay gripe with AW was the limited number of units, so making a clone with even fewer is a shame.

I beat Advance Wars on the GBA, got bored by the sequel. Picked up AW:DS hoping to rekindle the love, but alas, every time I pick it up it’s yawnsville. If this is just a clone that’s disappointing. The graphics and interface looked nice but I am looking for something a bit more deep than an AW clone, especially if it’s not even as good as the original.

AWDS actually hasn’t grabbed me as much as I’d hoped. The game seems solid, but it doesn’t pull me in and make me want to play. I’ve actually been enjoying Battles of Prince of Persia more. If it weren’t for having those 2 and Age of Empires on DS, I’d probably be far more interested in this one (I was many months ago).

[qoute]I don’t know if this is a problem with all PSP games, just this game, or just my PSP, but I got stuttering at times during the voice acting where it seemed to be loading slower than the voice was going, and I got pauses/mangles/skips in both the audio and rendering.[/quote]

I’ve seen this happen in several PSP games. Maybe you can rip the game to a memory card.

I loved AdvWars DS, but hadn’t played the GBA versions. I’ve been looking forward to this - but didn’t like the patronizing ‘Advance Wars for Adults’ positioning …

I’ll definitely be picking this up and I accept your challenge. I loved AW2 on the GBA. Now, I fear purchasing the DS version because I don’t want to steal my son’s DS for the next several months of obsessive gaming. Thanks very much for providing an overview. It was very helpful.

If you guys loke Advance Wars, check out Shattered Union for Xbox and PC. Turn based combat with a strategic-campaign… lots of fun. Although the game gets old after you’ve taken half the country, since the AI doesn’t know when to gang up or leave well enough alone… so just keep starting new campaigns with different factions and you’ll have fun.

I’m picking this one up at some point. I’ve still got some stuff to finish, but this looks perfect for bite-sized work gaming.

As for the person that mentioned audio issues, I’ve never noticed skipping or stuttering in any of my games.

Spookily close to my experience. That makes FC a renter at best.

Oh – one other thing that is kind of original and somewhat neat is the ability to lay down mines. I forgot to mention that before…

It’s also worth noting that the game is getting pretty good reviews from various publications so far, according to game rankings. If I were going to rate it, though, it would be a 75% or 80%. The significant ‘borrowing’ from Advance Wars factors pretty heavily into that opinion. If viewed in a vacuum, I would probably give it an 80-85%.

So is anyone up for trying an internet game sometime?

I just grabbed mine at lunch - Target seems to be full up with them everywhere … so I’ll need to get some single play time before getting properly creamed in multiplayer ;)

Mike

Cool, I’ll try to scope out the online stuff tonight to see what we need to do to get a game going. (registering accounts? knowing IPs?)

I’ve been playing the game for about four hours now and there are a few problems. It seems like the game doesn’t respond to button presses right away. And I see the pausing someone mentioned earlier. If you push a button while the graphics are stuttering, it seems like the game doesn’t register it. The presentation is nice and all, but the units are difficult to tell apart on the standard map. I also don’t like that the analog stick just rotates the screen instead of scrolling around the map.

I’m happy to have a turn-based strategy for the PSP, but the game definitely has its problems. I think Worms: Open Warfare is a better TBS game overall.

My only two complaints about Advance Wars DS were the goofy commander dialogue and the lack of online multiplayer. So Field Commander sounds very interesting to me. Thanks for the short review. I am heading out to pick it up now.