Field Commander -- Remedial Wars

You, sir, are no Advance Wars.

Damn Tom, you’re on fire this week.

Totally agree - I’m writing it up for GamerDad and finding myself thinking ‘I like the way Advance Wars did that’ around every corner. It is fun, but feeld like a lesser retreat with better explosions.

The Quayle reference is another of those ‘can’t avoid’ things.

Mike

This was definitely on my list but now I’m unsure. I love the Advance Wars games and a 3d update sounded very appealing. Maybe I should just get the DS one instead (I have both GBA games).

FWIW, AW DS is a much bigger step up from AW 2 than AW 2 was from the original. I highly recommend AW DS over Field Commander if you have a DS.

Well I’ll say I think this is a rather poor review overall that sounds more like an Advance Wars fanboy slamming the competition simply because it came afterwards and copies their game. Big deal. Most games do this type of thing in some way. It gives PSP users and AW type experience with a number of diffrent ways for multiplayer. Maybe its not a great game but to say it sucks is just slamming the game unfairly.

I disagree. This review makes a rather obvious comparison to answer the obvious question: how does it compare. Tom says, “not very well.” As an Advance Wars fan, this is almost exactly what I wanted to know.

Oh, and he gave it 3 stars. That makes it above average. That’s a decent score from Tom.

What was he supposed to do, say it was a better game? Well, it’s not.

Seriously. Play the 2 games and tell us what you think. I’d be very surprised if you objectively came to a different conclusion.

Field Commander, standing on its own, is not a great game by any measure. And as he said, it’s hard not to compare it to a game that it’s clearly copying. AW is a big seller for the DS, and Sony was clearly trying to tap some of that for the PSP. Sony wasn’t trying to create a game analagous to AW. They weren’t trying to create a game in the same genre. They were creating a direct clone that copied every rule (including the bad ones), and much of the content (economy, terrain, and even some units) as well.

If anything, its biggest merit is that it takes the gameplay of AW and makes it playable (technically if not pleasantly) online, which to many people is worth suffering the downgrade in the rest of the game.

If there’s any fanboiness here, it’s to the style of gameplay. I think everyone here wanted it to be better, and would have been delighted to have the bar raised. But it’s not better. It’s a step back in execution in nearly every way.

I would say they were 'creating a very-similar clone that tailored to a slightly older clientelle, but in doing so lost even that charming element of AW.

Sure. But they also literally copied literally every in-game rule from AW, and then added a few of their own. (Mines, attacking cities/forests, cliffs.)

Can you name a single in-game rule in AW that wasn’t in FC? I can’t…

(Note that FC didn’t copy AW’s meta-game rules, which were superior in AW with its flexible shopping.)

I have played both, and frankly I think their both fairly equal. Advance Wars DS is a very good game buts its basically the same game as on the GBA except using a touch screen. FC is a very similar game, but so what. Almost all games can de pigeon holed into a few basic generes. Its not like AW was the first TB game ever. If you already have a DS and AW then maybe its not worth it, but if you own a PSP then I’d say its a good TB strategy game IMO.

As an owner of FC and a big fan of AW, I think the review was pretty on point. Some of the game conventions are updated for the better in FC. For instance, you can have a grunt standing on an airport and still construct a chopper. Stuff like air and ground units occupying the same space seems like a no brainer but wasn’t part of AW (at least on the GBA where I played it).

Just a correction for Tom’s review though: When you highlight a carrier unit in FC, you can see what it’s carrying on the edge of the screen, represented by mini 2D icons. The review says you can’t.

No, but Famicom Wars and Daisenryaku (The Great Tactics) came out in 1988. Advance Wars plays a lot like what Famicom Wars was like back then. Both games kind of created a standard for this type of strategy title, much like Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Fire Emblem and Tactics Ogre all did similarly for the games that ape their style.

However, something like Gladius has a lot of the same gameplay mechanisms in place on the base ground as Tactics Ogre does, but it eventually does its own thing.

I imported Field Commander thinking it would be like a little less involved Daisenryaku game. Unfortunately, it is such a complete ripoff of Advance Wars right down to the same units, deja vu mission types and idea layout that it must improve on Wars in order to come out better.

It’s kind of unacceptable to me to expect us to put up with almost exactly the same, but not as good, if you’re not the genre leader yourself, you have to make some sort of attempt to steal the crown in order to deserve your place.

BTW, I picked up Daisenryaku DS last week when I got New Super Mario Bros. and it is very nice, and way more complete and solid than Ys Strategy. I think if it gets translated, it will be out at the same time the DS version of Panzer Tactics is scheduled to come out.

It looks a lot like developers are thinking the strategy market is on the DS (sure there’s Three Kingdoms and Generations of Chaos and Ruler of the Midlands, but it’s not very distinctive on PSP, but none of Three Kingdoms is on the DS as well and of the other two, Ruler of the Midlands is the only that slightly stands out). Field Commander could have changed that, but I kind of doubt it will get much momentum if it doesn’t have as big a word of mouth force as Advance Wars did.

-Kitsune

Y’all need to play Panzer General 1/2/3D/Scorched Earth, Allied General, and Fantasy General. Well, I’m sure Tom and some of the older gamers have, but the folks thinking the lightweight Advance Wars series is the pinnacle of this style of TB wargame have got some gaming history to catch up on.

Again so what if its a “ripoff”? Advance Wars while fun is hardly an origional game. Its good that a fun/well made TB game was put on the GBA but people keep elevating this game as if its some sublime experience.

Dude. You’re making it out like these are simply 2 games that just happen to be in the same genre.

This is not the case.

Field commander copied every single rule, even the bad ones, from Advance Wars. (I am excluding meta-game rules – FC didn’t copy them because it basically has no meta-game.)

If FC were just another turn-based game, then I don’t think we’d be making these comparisons. After all, we’re not comparing FC to x-com, civ, or Age of Empires for DS.

We’re comparing it to Advance Wars because that’s what it cloned.

Trust me. I’ve written and published a game in the same sub-genre of TBS as Advance Wars. As my game and Age of Empires DS shows, it’s perfectly possible to have games without making a direct clone with different graphics and a few minor and unnecessary rules tacked on. There’s room for at least hundreds of games with their own mechanics and personalities. But FC chose to clone AW.

And i think it’s worth noting that we could have just as easily have been having a conversation about how it’s a Advance Wars clone that’s better than Advance Wars itself. But most of us don’t feel that way, and it’s not because we’re Advance Wars fanboys. I was hoping to be a FC fanboy too, but it just didn’t work very hard for it.

Frankly, I’ll take a Panzer General – and particularly a Fantasy General – over an Advance Wars any day. I’m not that crazy about Advance Wars unless I’m playing it with a buddy. But Field Commander is really a spectacularly misguided and shallow attempt to just copy Advance Wars, partly for how poorly it understands what made Advance Wars good.

Also, I’m not sure things like stacking and invisible units really add much to the game, particularly when Field Commander doesn’t handle them well. I find that the unit stacking just muddies up the visuals even more, and it makes it even harder to keep track of your dudes. Also, I think Advance Wars’ fog of war and ambush mechanics added just enough uncertainty for its level of abstraction. To me, invisible tanks, mines, and snipers just muddy it up even more.

-Tom

Here is the super-long Field Commander impressions I sent to a friend recently:

Overall, I give it a marginal thumbs-up. It’s a pretty great game, conceptually, with a lot of potential. I think it’s hampered by a poor implementation and bad AI. But for multiplayer, it could be really great.

Gameplay-wise, it’s about what you’d expect from a small TBS game. You play on a variety of maps, with a good variety of units – it’s not just infantry / tank / artillery, for example, there are stealthy infantry, regular infantry, heavy infantry, a variety of vehicles including dedicated supply/transport vehicles and AA vehicles, and so forth. There are also a variety of air and sea vehicles, each with their own talents. Maps all share the same basic terrain tiles, but the terrain effects are decently varied – plus or minus movement depending on unit type, plus or minus defense, and some that conceal units until enemies are adjacent. There’s also a small variety of capturable buildings (each one gives you money or allows you to build ground, or air, or sea units). So that’s all good.

Some scenarios use fog of war and some don’t, which I find sort of bizarre and annoying (I wish it were all one way or all the other). The utility of each unit varies from scenario to scenario, which is nice (e.g. infantry good in rough terrain, vehicles better in the open, artillery good if there are defensible positions, scouts become a lot more useful in the fog of war scenarios, etc.), but that’s hampered by the fact that you don’t purchase your starting army (although you do decide what to buy as each scenario progresses, which is an important and fun series of decisions). The units seem well balanced for their cost, and each unit has a at least a couple of counters. Overall, it’s a very nice setup for a simple TBS, which makes the remainder of the game’s failings that much more painful.

The first problem is the graphics. The game is 3D and really shouldn’t be. On the small PSP screen, 3D graphics only work for big, simple things (like Hot Shots Golf, with big characters and golf greens). Trying to do this complex boardgame in 3D is just silly. Sprites would have been much better. The game looks nice, particularly zoomed in, but I will take functional over nice any day.

The second problem is the interface, although I give them a bit of a break here because the PSP has limited controls. You select the active unit, its destination, and its fire target with a floating cursor. It’s a hassle to have to move the cursor square-by-square with the d-pad. It makes moving your guys, particularly when you have a lot of guys (and you’ll have 10+ in many scenarios), quite tedious. Now, part of that is probably just that I’m spoiled by decades of mousing. But it’s still a pain – it’s frustrating because your brain goes a lot faster than your controls can keep up with.

The third problem, and one of the bigger problems, is the turn speed. Every time you move a unit, you watch the unit physically move along its path. When you fire at something, the game zooms in to show a bunch of fight animations/explosions. It also zooms in for simple stuff like watching a unit deploy mines. These are infuriating and essentially unskippable (for the shooting stuff, you can skip back out to the default view, but you still have to watch a shorter animation – and movement is totally unskippable). It makes the whole game take I would guess twice as long as it needs to.

The fourth problem, and also a pretty significant problem, is the AI. The tactical AI is okay but not great. It seems to have problems prioritizing goals, and will chase around and attack meaningless feints while not doing much about the real threats on the board (not all he time, but enough). It doesn’t think ahead enough and sometimes leaves units as sitting ducks. And it’s awful at dealing with mines, repeatedly walking into obvious minefields and almost never making use of its minesweepers. I’ve only seen it deploy mines of its own in one scenario, and that was prescripted. On the other hand, it seems to do pretty well in terms of chasing down wounded units, which is nice, and it tends to use organized combined-arms attacks and massed forces pretty well. But overall it’s a below-average tactician. One other gripe: the AI needs some sort of surrender option. There are way too many times where it’s obvious the AI has totally lost but it’s going to take me five more turns to capture the objective or kill the AI’s last man. Nothing makes the cursor-moving and fight animations more frustrating than that.

My last complaint is that the game is, so far at least, way too easy. You’re given more than sufficient resources to walk all over the AI. I’ve only lost one scenario, and that was because it’s a “gotcha” one where they tell you to escort a unit somewhere but then you discover it can’t actually get there and you’re going to have to kill all the opposition to win. Each side gets “division abilities” that are essentially god powers. I have never once used a division ability, despite the fact that the AI uses its division ability pretty much every scenario. That may change as things go on, though – they do seem to be trying to ramp up the difficulty, but I’m presently 50% complete on the campaign and so far it’s a cakewalk.

So those are my gripes about the game. Despite all those complaints, I do find myself playing pretty regularly. The scenarios are pretty good and decently varied, the maps are usually interesting, and the basic gameplay is good. The underlying “toolset” there is pretty terrific, with well-balanced units, terrain effects, etc., and you definitely have to think about the optimal moves for each turn – which units to use against which, how to dedicate your artillery and supply vehicles, and so forth. You also need to think a turn or two ahead because some of the good vehicles (like artillery and snipers) can only fire if they sit for a turn, so you have to move them into position before you will actually need them.

I think the game would be great in multiplayer. As a single-player game, it is fun and worth playing but not anything amazing. It benefits mainly from being the only decent TBS game for the PSP (it’s much better than LOTR: Tactics, for example).

He actually sent it to me, but is obviously embarrased to admit that we’re friends. Which I can understand, actually.

Bastard.