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Roguelike. Wargame. Two genres that you usually don't imagine mashing together. Perhaps it's time for that to change, if Armou...

Armoured Commander II Armoured Commander II

Armoured Commander II

Armoured Commander II



Roguelike. Wargame. Two genres that you usually don't imagine mashing together. Perhaps it's time for that to change, if Armoured Commander II is any indication of the possibilities. Now, of course, that fact that this game is a sequel indicates that the idea has been around for a bit, but I've only recently become aware of the series. I'm glad I found it, because as an avid fan of all stripes of roguelikes, I was excited to try something completely different. 

Armoured Commander II (AC2), made by solo developer Gregory Adam Scott, does indeed bring some fresh ideas to the table, and does some cool things with a very simple interface. As you'll notice, AC2 is not a visually impressive game, though the blocky tank designs are charming in their own way. What is impressive is the UI design and the fact that anyone could pick up this game and be playing in a matter of minutes, with no need to even look at the manual. The action follows a distinct series of phases, and all available actions in each phase are either explained on screen or self-explanatory. 



The game begins by letting you choose between a variety of campaigns. You can start at the beginning with the invasion of Poland, or jump to the late war rush across Europe by the Allies, and many stretches in between. Even more campaigns are planned for the future, including North Africa, the Eastern Front, and perhaps even the Pacific one day. Once you pick a campaign, you are given a choice of several tank models. All the mainstays are here, along with some rare models. I enjoyed the historical tidbits included about each model. 



Each campaign consists of multiple missions, broken down into individual days. The gameplay is then split between something of a strategic view, and more zoomed in tactical battles. Each day you have some sort of objective, such as breaking through the enemy lines, and proceed around the hex-based map in an effort to accomplish it. You aren't alone in this effort, as allied forces will take some spaces as the day goes on, occasionally giving you some extra breathing room. Artillery and air support is also on call when available, though you can't fully rely on it. Every action you take on this map consumes part of the day, time which you would ideally be using to rack up victory points. You can choose whether to spend time conducting reconnaissance into neighboring hexes, or just roll right in. Sometimes you will arrive in a hex to find fierce resistance, and sometimes nothing at all. As the day goes on you will begin running short on shells, and perhaps take some damage, making the decision of whether to press on or turn back all the more tense. Leaving the field early will cut your victory points for the day in half, but discretion is the better part of valor after all.



Before long, you will find yourself in a tactical battle against one or more enemies. This is where the meat of the game begins. Now the hex map zooms in, putting your tank in the center and foes all around. At the beginning of each round of combat you will decide what each member of your crew is doing. Naturally, each member has different options available, though all can "spot" for enemy contacts. The driver can prepare to drive, the gunner can prepare to gun, but the commander can only lend his direction to one of them at a time. Depending on what tank you are in, there will be other assistant crewman who can help out by reloading the main cannon, or manning a machine gun, or doing other activities. In the event on of your boys takes a hit (never a pretty sight inside a tank, best not to think about it), you can have one of these crewmen slide over into their place and carry on. All of the selections you make here at the beginning of the turn will dictate what your options are for the rest of the turn, and how likely you are to succeed in those actions.



Combat is deceptively simple in AC2. When you fire a cannon or machine gun, you'll get a percentage chance to hit. This chance depends on a number of factors, such as the size and type of target, whether they are in cover, whether your tank just moved, and whether the commander is directing the fire, among other things. At the end of the firing phase, there is another roll of the dice to see if the target is damaged or destroyed. Each round the enemy is doing roughly the same thing back at you. This sounds simple enough, but there are a lot of neat little twists built in. You can direct your driver to seek a hull down position. He might succeed or not, maybe you should have had the commander help him out? Alternatively, you can have the driver attempt to overrun the position of an enemy AT gun or rifle squad. Do you roll into battle un-buttoned, able to survey the entire battlefield, or button up to keep safe but leave yourself almost blind? The game has many little trade offs like this that keep each turn interesting. 

If you survive and go on to the next battle, your crew will begin to level up and gain new skills. Letting you customize your experience in each campaign and add some RPG flavor to the game. The men each have their own stats like morale and grit that change over time. Each crewman also has a name and even a bit of history, and it will sting to lose one or see him badly wounded after many fights together. I didn't get deep enough into any one campaign to see a lot of this system just yet, but I love that it's a part of the game.



I wasn't sure whether or not I would like AC2 when I first fired it up, but after my first session I could see the appeal, and after my second session I was hooked. Like other roguelikes, AC2 makes you want to see what's around the next corner, and then the next. Maybe you'll find a juicy target, or maybe a nasty surprise. Your first time out might be a dismal failure, but each subsequent run will be made with the experience you've gained. Different campaigns come with different varieties of terrain, enemy forces, and tanks to command. There is a lot of variety here already, and the one-man developer promises to keep adding on over time. The game has technically just begun early access, but you can buy it right now, and expect a full experience already, and a steady stream of updates to come. In the past week since release there have been near daily patches to fix bugs and make small improvements.

At a very modest $8, this game is certainly worth a look for anyone who fancies a new roguelike, a fresh take on WW2 combat, or all of the above. Even if you aren't a fan of the Dwarf Fortress level graphics, the solid UI and compelling gameplay will suck you in before you know it. Like some kind of grognard Neo, you won't be seeing punctuation marks and abstract shapes, you'll be seeing a battlefield alive with dug-in AT guns and deadly panzers.



Since this is just the initial early access release, I plan to follow the game for a while and post a full review once it is deemed complete by the developer.

Armoured Commander II can be purchased on Steam.

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- Joe Beard

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