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Posted on Aug 9, 2007 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Commander – Europe at War Review

By Larry Levandowski

The atmosphere is further enhanced by the fact that players can groom their favorite units. Troops gain experience by fighting and winning. Historic leaders can then be purchased and attached to these favored formations. The combination of commanders and experienced units allows the player to create super juggernaut pincers that can slice through enemy lines like a hot knife through butter

Players can also manage production and research technologies during their turn. Each nation produces a certain amount of production points based on cities controlled. These production points are then used to purchase new units, repair damaged ones, upgrade older units, or pay for technology research. Infantry units are the cheapest, while air and naval units are costly and take the most time to produce. The research screen allows the player to concentrate on infantry, armor, air, naval or general upgrades. Advances improve attack, defense and other unit characteristics. As the player’s nations advance their tech level in armor for example, existing units can be upgraded by spending production points. Well advanced units have a definite advantage over technologically inferior ones. The production and research interface is easy to use, but there is an under-pinning strategy to it, since the player must constantly balance research spending against the need to produce units.

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Diplomacy and historic events are given minimal treatment in Commander. The only diplomatic option a player has is to declare war on another nation. US and Soviet entry are scripted, unless the Axis attack one of them early. Scenarios start in 1939, 41, 42, 43 or 44 and go to 1946. Because each turn represents 20 days of real time, a full war scenario can take many, many turns to play.

The AI, is an OK opponent for new players, but can sometimes be sluggish when on the attack. As the Axis, the AI rarely goes for North Africa or Norway. It also believes in wild broken field running. When the AI German opens a gap in the Soviet line for example, the panzer corps often rush through without regard for their own supply lines. Many of these AI panzer units can then be surrounded and killed. Veteran strategy gamers will quickly best the AI at the normal level. By bumping up the AI’s advantage however, even the best players will have some fun. Still, once the player gets tired of fighting the robo-opponent, the game supports PBEM and hot seat play.

Players looking for historical accuracy won’t find it in Commander, but they would be missing the point. The game is built around game play, so there are many examples where the designers have opted for fun over history. For example, the cost of historic commanders is directly related to their ability to affect the game. A great commander like Patton can cost the same as the combined value of an infantry and a tank corps. Production times are also very fast when compared to reality, but are roughly correct in relation to each other; a carrier takes six turns, and an infantry corps takes one. There is no stacking of units, so conducting the Battle of Britain quickly fills the French beaches with air units and leaves no room for ground defenders.

If taken as a fun-to-play romp into strategy, there is very little down-side to Commander. The biggest issue seems to be that some Vista players are seeing compatibility problems, and officially, Slitherene is saying Vista is not supported. On the gameplay side, the tutorial is anemic, but game mechanics are so easy that most players won’t even need it. Modders are also not well-served. There is no editor and only minimal tweaking of script files is possible. Some of the features like the cost of historic commanders and amount of US production seem a little out of tune, but many players will not even notice.

As a complete package, Commander – Europe at War, is a crowd pleaser. Strategy players at all levels of experience will enjoy this accessible game. Grognards looking for depth and historical accuracy may want to look elsewhere. But even grizzled veterans of the genre might fall for the game’s charms.

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2 Comments

  1. I like the game alright. Very basic gameplay overall. It’s real in that it makes it impossible for the Germans to win. I’m not sure that was on purpose but that’s what it seems to me. I’ve tried being Germans but in the long run they get overwhelmed.

    • It is possible to win as the Germans, but it takes a very long time. You must turn off the “Game ends in 1945” to achieve victory. Begin by invading Poland, but before capturing Warsaw, declare war on USSR.
      (Do not invade any other country until USSR is defeated.) Use all Naval forces to block Murmansk. Split Ground/Air forces North & South. North take Moscow (T42 Nov’41) – Leningrad (T59 Nov’42) – Omsk (T90 Jul’44 -> USSR defeated). South Force takes Stalingrad (T66 Mar’43) Baku Oil Fields (T74 Aug’43). Italy holds Alps/North Africa until North force arrives. Take France. South force takes all Mid-East oil. Begin to invade/take all other countries. Build Air power – Take England. Build Naval power – Take Canada – Finally USA

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