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So Close…

July 15th, 2007 by Troy Goodfellow · 6 Comments · Slitherine, StrZone/XtrGamer

My review of Europe: Commander at War is up at Gamesquad (formerly Xtreme-Gamer, formerly Strategy Zone Online.)

Commander is one of those games that has some superior design but occasionally poor execution. The good parts of the game – and there are many – are often undone by an AI that has no teeth.

– The Battle of the Atlantic is great, but, as the Allies, I found it very easy to just blockade the Baltic, Gibraltar and the Channel. The Nazis never seriously tried to break through after 1941, so I spent my resources on planes and tanks.

– The research model is general enough to be comprehensible and allows a lot of customization as the war progresses. But the computer will upgrade as much of its army as it can, as soon as it can, paying a steep penalty in organization leading to routs.

– The industrial points system is so central to national survival that the AI is smart enough to garrison cities and resource areas. It is not smart enough to keep you from grabbing all six hexes surrounding Frankfurt or Paris and beating the garrison to death.

– The historical timeline works to keep the player from ahistorically buffing the Soviet Union or Italy. But the 1939 campaign leaves out the invasions of the Balkans and Norway. Good thing, too, because there’s no way the computer could manage a war that big for that long. It does, sadly, make Italy ahistorically strong since it isn’t fighting in Yugoslavia or Greece. It can cram the boot full of troops – Germany is a much easier nut to crack.

I was talking up this game at Origins because I had only played a couple of campaigns and was focused on the design stuff, which I like. Good interface, strong commitment to a vision of simplicity, no overwhelming options to pick from. But when I returned to play some more and focus on what the AI was actually doing, I realized that the game is sort of half-finished in some ways.

I still think this is the best intro level wargame out there, but it’s one of those appetizers that will either have you craving for the entree or deciding that you are full and would rather go home.


6 Comments so far ↓

  • roberton

    Good design, nice interface, but the weak AI means it’s too easy?
    Sounds perfect for me :-)

    Ok, on a more serious note it is a shame about the AI, but I’m encouraged that you say the design is sound. Writing good AI for this sort of game is hard, but patching the design would be impossible.


  • Troy

    Yeah, it’s easy. Which is fine if it’s a “fun” easy, like in Age of Empires or something, where you can set challenges for yourself, like winning without catapults. Here it’s more of a “stop thinking in 1942” easy where you know the war is won well once you notice the AI isn’t spending anything.

    You can make things a little harder by using the Oil and Fog of War options.

    But it is “Fair” – there is some good stuff here.

  • mjlaufgr

    Troy, do you have any thoughts about AGEOD’s American Civil War game? I am very close to a purchase on this one.

  • Scott R. Krol

    Sounds like SC2 is still the best beer and pretzels computer game on the ETO.

  • Troy

    Thoughts on ACW? Working on a review for that, so I’ll keep it simple.

    I liked Birth of America much better. ACW is the type of game for people who thought that BoA had too little in the way of troop management. It has a lot of the same control scheme, but, I think, loses some of what made the BoA system so elegant. It’s a decent game, and better than Forge of Freedom, I think. But a letdown from the brilliant simplicity of BoA.

    Scott: I like C:EaW better than SC2.

  • mjlaufgr

    Thanks, Troy. I’m looking forward to your review, but that is just what I was looking for.