Posted on February 15, 2008,

XBLA Hors D’oeuvres: Commanders: Attack of the Genos

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XBLA Hors D’oeurvres are a weekly feature where I play the latest Xbox Live Arcade game – in trial form – for no more than 15 minutes, and then summarize my impressions of the game based only upon that.

Commanders: Attack of the Genos seemingly came out of nowhere; I had never heard of the game, and suddenly it was being released on Arcade. Strategy games are certainly a genre that XBLA is lacking, so I was more than willing to embrace Commanders. What I walked away with was the feeling that I was playing Advance Wars in 3D on my TV – and there’s nothing wrong about that, especially for only 800 points ($10).

Now, don’t get me wrong; Advance Wars is a far superior game in almost every regard. But Commanders plays out in very similar fashion. The trial version of the game allows you to play through the tutorial and the first few campaign missions, of which 15 comprise the full version. I made it through the tutorial and about a mission and a half, skipping the story elements because I could instantly tell that it was going to be far too Saturday cartoonish.

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But, really, you don’t need story to enjoy a turn-based strategy game. What’s important is that the game is balanced and, in the case of an XBLA game, the controls are easily accessible. The controls are definitely very pick up and play friendly, and the short tutorial will be more than capable of explaining the fundamental elements of the game. I didn’t play the game nearly long enough to assess whether the units and Commander powers are balanced. From what I saw, the basic light infantry and scouts work much like you would expect them to, and presumably that familiarity will hold true throughout the rest of the game.

Speaking of familiarity, however, this game seems like it’s far too unoriginal for its own good. For those who have never really dabbled in the genre, this is a fine springboard for bigger and better things. But to anyone who has ever spent more than an hour with a serious strategy game, you’ll probably be bored out of your mind within 15 minutes.

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That being said, it IS a nice strategy game on Xbox Live Arcade, and hopefully it does well enough that we’ll see a sequel that can innovate on the basics so that first impressions for strategy game vets aren’t quite as mundane as mine were.

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