Players: 1+ Player Game | Release Date: 02/13/08 | Genre: Strategy
With all the games being released on Xbox Live Arcade, it can be hard to tell the good ones from the bad ones. Sure, you can download demos for the games to see which ones are worth the price, but that's a lot of demos to download. Fear not, for that's why we're here at CVG; to let you know which games are good and which are better left untouched. To that end, allow me to introduce Commanders: Attack of the Genos. Developed by Southend Interactive and published by Sierra, this is as close a thing as you'll find to Nintendo's Advance Wars on XBLA.
The game is a turn-based strategy game that keeps things fairly simple. One unique thing about the game is that before each battle, you'll choose a commander for your team. The commander units have varying passive powers that are always active and also special attacks that can be used periodically on the battlefield. Depending on which commander you choose, your strategy during a match will change. For instance, if your commander has an offensive special attack, you'll probably be bowling ahead full force to decimate the opposing forces; but, with a different commander the special may be to give all units within range an extra turn. This may entice you into setting up an ambush force and have all the units take two turns in one round to surprise an incoming enemy convoy.
The units in your military come in several varieties and some are better suited to certain scenarios than others. Tanks, infantry and artillery come in two flavors: light and heavy. The light versions typically are allowed to move more spaces in a turn, but don't have the defense or range of the heavy version. You also have scouts which are quick and can move a large number of spaces, but while they are effective against enemy infantry, they are easily destroyed by tanks and other units. As the game progresses, you also gain access to flying units such as gunships and bombers. Of course, the enemy also gets these same upgrades and in order to combat them you'll want to stock up on anti-aircraft ground units which are capable of decimating flying enemies with little trouble. Other units include radar vehicles, repair trucks and special units that are capable of firing at both ground and air forces with devastating results. Units earn experience by dealing damage to the enemy and will level up and become stronger if you can keep them alive while obliterating foes. Having leveled units under your command can make life a lot easier; just be sure you're careful as enemy units can also level up.
The game will cost you 800 Microsoft points (10 bucks) but you actually get a lot for your money. The standard campaign will probably take you around fifteen hours to complete; this does not take into account the other game modes available which include multiplayer over Xbox Live with up to four players and also a special set of battle maps which can be played solo if you so desire. All in all there are over twenty missions to play through and to help keep things fresh there are different goals that need to be accomplished. In some cases, the objective is simply to destroy all the enemy forces. In others you must fight for control over factories, teleporters, missile silos and other important control points. Then there is the rare mission where your goal is simply to survive a set number of rounds. It is a shame there weren't more of these missions because they proved to be some of the best levels in the game. For the perfectionists out there, you'll be ranked on speed, power and strategy after each mission. Obtaining a five star rating in each category is incredibly difficult to achieve and could keep you raptured for months.
The game is built as a simple strategy game and therefore, if you're a hardcore fan of the genre, you may find this game somewhat lacking. The games biggest fault by far is that at times it does get monotonous. There is never any real danger of defeat as you can use money earned during a match to produce new units; as long as you can keep control over at least one oil well and keep even a single unit out of harm's way you can overwhelm the enemy with sheer numbers. Another problem, though beyond developer control, is that even though the game offers an online mode, good luck finding anyone else playing. I suppose the blame here lies on Call of Duty 4.
The visuals in the game are surprisingly good for an XBLA game. The special effects and animations are clean and look nice and the sound effects are fairly decent too. The music is rather upbeat most of the time which helps keep things light and fun throughout. Commanders: Attack of the Genos is overall a fun game. Though the missions can drag on far too long and get boring, the amount of gameplay here is well worth the price; especially for more casual strategy fans.