Jeremy Jastrzab
11 Aug, 2006

Field Commander Review

PSP Review | High treason.
The Advance Wars titles stand as a few of the finest handheld games from the last few years. They've managed to blend depth and simplicity and are at the forefront of handheld strategy gaming. Apart from Fire Emblem, there really aren’t any other games that come within several country miles. Despite the lack of a stylus and touch screen, the extra processing power of the PSP asks for some strategy games, surely? Apart from the controversial Metal Gear Acid games and a couple of dodgy J-RPG imports, there has been nothing to talk about - until now. Sony Online Entertainment have come to the rescue with Field Commander.

Field Commander shares quite a lot of features and ideas with Advance Wars. Essentially, Field Commander is a war-time, turn-based strategy game that has you conquering an enemy on a field that’s divided into a large grid. The game has a lengthy campaign mode but it’s driven in a very generic manner. Otherwise, there are a lot of customising and multiplayer options.

The mosquitos are quite big in this area.

The mosquitos are quite big in this area.
We’ll be blunt. If you’ve played Advance Wars, you’ll have no trouble slipping into this game. The setup is very similar, if not completely identical in places. After a mission briefing, you will be left to control fifteen different kinds of units across the ground, sea and air. Each of the units have some unique characteristics that you’ll need to exploit in order to complete your objectives. For example, human units, either the Grunts or Spec Ops, are the only units that can be used to capture enemy buildings. However, both sides will have access to the exact same units and with only fifteen unit types, things don't really get deep enough. This means that the only factor differentiating sides is the tactics that they use.

The main objectives will have you either capturing the enemy headquarters or destroying all the enemy units. To help you achieve this, you can capture some of the vacant or enemy buildings to gain money and stop the enemy’s factories from producing more units. Battles take shape in the same way that they do in Advance Wars. You move your units across the grid into firing range and watch the ensuing face-off. You’re provided with ample information on both yours and enemy units. This will allow you to make the smart (and hopefully) the right tactical decisions for efficient destruction.

The game adds a factor known as “divisions”. As you play through the campaign, you unlock divisions and can choose from the available ones at the start of each campaign. Basically, as you work your way through a mission, a meter will build up. Once it reaches one of two levels, you can activate an ability that is unique to that division. It is there to add some need for tactical thinking to the game. However, the best tactical maneuver is all out assault and get up into the enemies face as quick as possible, whic means there isn't much need for tactical thinking. The game has the concept of fuel and ammo limitation. This means that you’re vehicles can only travel so far or attack so much. Once your fuel is gone, the vehicle blows up but ammo, fuel and health can all be restored in buildings that you occupy.

The menus are stylishly modern, which is more than can be said for the graphics.

The menus are stylishly modern, which is more than can be said for the graphics.
The controls are simple and intuitive, especially if you’ve played Advance Wars. You can get by with just the X button and d-pad. However, the other face buttons are handy for unit management and the R-button shows a map of the area. The only issue is that it isn’t always obvious that you can or can’t do something. Outside of the controls, the game does an excellent job of providing you with information on battle units, other non-player characters and characteristics of the game. It’s impressive to see the amount of effort that has been put into this aspect.

The game has a couple of substantial downers. It’s quite noticeable that the majority are tiny. This is probably because the game tries to portray a little bit of realism, but the maps come off as confined and under-utilised. While Field Commander does provide some competent and enjoyable military strategy, there is the underlying feeling of confinement and something of a lock of variety. Sometimes you feel that there could be more options open to you and there really isn’t much to differentiate between opponents. While the major obstacle that players need to overcome is the environment, the end result is that there is not enough depth to provide for those who have played a lot of Advance Wars.

The campaign has thirty plus missions and despite the generic and almost senseless nature of the story, there is enough to keep you going. Once you have completed a campaign mission, you can replay it or one of twenty other stand alone missions. On a positive note, Field Commander has some excellent online multiplayer options. Not only are you able to go alone in custom scenarios, you can play in both ad-hoc and infrastructure modes, both of which have minimal downtime and plenty of customizing options. There is also the ability to create your own maps and missions and let other people play them.

Too bad you can't destroy that dish.

Too bad you can't destroy that dish.
Graphically, the game is solid but a bit disappointing. When viewed from the normal top-down perspective, it’s acceptable but whenever it’s in close, the units are somewhat generic and ugly. The game looks like an older RTS from at least six years ago. In a way it’s a good thing because the load times are short but there are still slight pauses that come a bit too frequently and the maps really aren’t that big. Still, they manage to capture the important details and come off as solid. Sound-wise, the game is fully voiced and loaded with sounds. The general noises of war, particularly explosions, come off quite nicely. The music is appropriate and the voicing manages to give each of the characters a distinct personality. However, the good and evil are a bit too stereotyped and the scenarios are too generic.

Overall, Field Commander is essentially an Advance Wars clone. While not as deep, robust or as characterised as it’s Nintendo protégé, Field Commander is acceptable in that it doesn’t butcher a good style of gameplay. There’s not enough here to truly satisfy someone that’s been spending a lot of time with Advance Wars but as a stand alone game and one on a system that doesn’t have many alternatives, it does a good job. Despite a few issues, the game is very easy to pick-up, the campaign is enjoyable and even addictive, while the multiplayer is damned good on its on. If you’ve been itching for some strategy on the PSP that doesn’t involve a deck of cards, Field Commander will provide some relief for you.
The Score
Despite taking a bit too much Advance Wars and not building enough of its own game, Field Commander is quite enjoyable and scratches the strategy itch.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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7 years ago
looks awesome. advance wars was great and this looks good as well. Should be a good game.
7 years ago
That's gotta be a world record number of mentions for a game in a review when it's not the game being reviewed!
7 years ago

just wait till saint's row icon_wink.gif
7 years ago
I heard there is bug in the US version, I wonder has it been fixed in the AU version?

From memory, if you move all your units then execute your super power (or some other power), the game will not proceed until to assign the power somewhere. Since all the units have been moved, so you can't assign your power, and since you can't assign your power, you can't do anything but to quit and reload your save.
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