Friday, November 10, 2006

Field Commander: dire design decisions

The introductory bits to each mission have the text scrolling at a fixed speed, and can't be sped up at all. I'm assuming that's because there's a voiceover, but I play handheld games almost exclusively with the sound muted, so I've no idea.

The graphical style is quite swish, with the view swooping down to view a battle, but the framerate drops quite horrendously sometimes, and the disc is accessed loads whenever you move over a different type of unit. When you actually tell a unit to move, it shudders for a second before moving, then moves really slowly to where you've said. While it's doing this you can't choose any other units or move around the map.

The intricate graphical style means it's really hard to tell which units are which, without either moving the cursor over them, or pressing and holding the right shoulder button, which shows a stylised overview of the combat field, à la Advance Wars.

When you kill an enemy infantry unit, you see them slumping down to their knees before dying. It makes it feel brutal and unnecessary.

When you finish a mission, you're told how many turns it took, how many units were destroyed, and so on, but you're given no indication how good your performance was. In one level I did a superb job of shepherding all the enemy units to one side and destroying them while capturing their HQ, but there's no recognition for that.

But all that said, this is still a great game, because it's based on a brilliant game. I'm still learning what all the units can do, and the idea of destroying cover is pretty clever. I've not quite seen the tactical advantage of being able to attack buildings to make them easier to capture, but I'm sure I will.

I've just completed the level in which the heaviest ground units - tanks - are introduced. The balance between infantry, tanks and medium tanks in Advance Wars has been captured almost identically. However, the spec ops units - the replacements for mechs - can do a lot more damage for two reasons: they can launch attacks from afar, and they can lay mines over which the tanks can be lured.

The only issue I have is that the game seems pretty short. I've completed 11% already. I hope it gets harder ... but not too hard.

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