Field Commander

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It would seem, then, that SOE is telling Advance Wars that it’s the most beautiful woman on Earth; Field Commander is essentially Advance Wars for the PSP.

That’s not to imply that it’s necessarily a bad thing. While the DS might be storming ahead in Japan due to the inhalation of deliberately-different titles, the race between the PSP and the DS is closer in the West because the DS’ killer apps are more likely to be attributed as Mario Kart and Advance Wars than Cooking Mama and English Training.

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And with the PSP attempting to offer a similar experience to what is found on the DS, it’s no surprise that the sales of both consoles would be close. And there is no better example than Field Commander to represent that the choice comes down to what kind of style you would like from your game.

Let’s be blunt; Field Commander is Advance Wars. Everything in the game screams rip-off or homage. The game is essentially a turn-based strategy game that consists of moving a variety of units to a certain square to attack or achieve certain goals. It’s nothing original; think Chess on a grand scale. The difference with Field Commander is that it blatantly rips off elements of Advance Wars.

For example, the units and their abilities are totally reminiscent of Intelligent Systems’ masterpiece. Grunts will capture cities at a rate that is based on the number of hit points remaining. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Additionally, fog of war works in a remarkably similar fashion: hiding in trees provides cover. Additionally, crossing rivers is an ability most units have, whereas crossing lakes is a task for ships. Honestly, if you’ve played Advance Wars, you can skip the training missions.

That’s not to say that Field Commander is a bad game just because it's a square-based, turn-based strategy game that imitates Advance Wars. Far from it; even ripping off one of the greatest games ever means you’re likely to create a decent title. And Field Commander does go out of its way to offer something more.

We’re not just talking enhanced 3D visuals. Nor are we talking about the ability to destroy terrain; something that adds an immense sense of tactics. And nor are we talking about the fleshed-out and Command and Conquer-style setting and story. No, we are talking about online play: something Advance Wars is missing.

The ability to play realistic opponents without needing to find a friend to share your PSP with is a bonus, as is the ability to create and share maps online. Yes, Field Commander might be devoid of the charm and style that makes Advance Wars so completely irresistible, but PSP owners get to take their game online. And as the future of competitive gaming focuses on interaction on the Internet, it’s nice to see that Field Commander is future-proof.

With 30 campaign missions, the ability to create and download maps, and the ability to play online, Field Commander certainly offers a cohesive PSP package. The single-player affair is shorter than Advance Wars’, however, mainly because the maps are mostly limited to 20 x 20 squares. You’ll easily blow through the single-player game in about 8 hours if you’re good.

Ultimately, Field Commander is Advance Wars for the PSP. No game perfectly represents the similarities yet differences between the formats. Field Commander forsakes the charm of Advance Wars and prefers to include a more sober setting and theme. If you’re one of those gamers who is opposed to ‘kiddy’ games, you might want to check out Field Commander.

In fact, if you don’t have a DS, you’ll want to check out Field Commander; as stated before, an Advance Wars clone is still a solid title. And if you’re an Advance Wars fan who has completed all three Nintendo titles, you might want to check out Field Commander for a similar experience. However, if you have both a DS and a PSP and you have neither title, you’re really going to want to pick up Advance Wars; it ultimately has more charm, style, and lasting appeal.

"A competent Advance Wars clone."
- Field Commander
Follow Own it? Rating: PG   Difficulty: Medium   Learning Curve: 30 Min


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