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Commanders: Attack of the Genos Updated Hands-On

Advance Wars meets retro sci-fi in our look at this fun-looking XBLA game.


Take Advance Wars, add a dash of 1930s art deco visual style, and toss in some charismatic field generals and a plotline that's straight out of sci-fi pulp serials; put it all on Xbox Live Arcade and you have Sierra Online's upcoming turn-based strategy game, Commanders: Attack of the Genos We first saw the game back at E3 2007, and recently we had a chance to see the game again to see how it's coming along.

Art deco style meets turn-based strategy in Commanders: Attack of the Genos.
Art deco style meets turn-based strategy in Commanders: Attack of the Genos.

We started out in Commanders with one of the earliest missions in the game, playing its hero, Alec Falcon, a military commander who happens to be the only commander in sight when the Genos, a genetically enhanced race of baddies, decide it's the right time to attack Earth. Falcon (and you) will be assisted by another commander, the mysterious Raven, who will offer you tutorial assists throughout the game, and they both become playable later in the game. In the field, commanders have special primary and secondary abilities that will help you along the way. Falcon's abilities include giving a passive defensive bonus to all friendly units in range; his active ability lets him attack multiple targets in a single turn, provided they are within range.

Though your commanders' special attacks will help you out of a pinch, it's the lowly field units that make victory possible. In the version of the game we played, there were a handful of unit types available--infantry for basic combat and capturing enemy buildings, troop transport to move multiple units quickly, scout vehicles to check out enemy placements and look for extra bonus tokens on the field of battle (which can offer health bonuses or extra health), as well as the aforementioned commander unit. The game will include 16 total units, including tanks and artillery, as well as air units such as bombers, transport, and helicopters. The units will each have their strengths and weaknesses; for example, scouts will be strong against infantry but weak against tanks, while artillery will be able to fire on enemy units at long range, but will be quite vulnerable up close.

Gameplay in Commanders will be familiar to anyone who has played games like turn-based tactical games in the past. Movement and combat takes place on a grid, and when you select a unit, the movement and attacking potential for that unit will show up on the grid. Both movement and attacks are governed by a point system. Each unit has a number of action points it can use during a turn--use too many on movement and you won't be able to attack. Conversely, if you don't move a unit at all, you might be able to attack with it twice.

Multiplayer options in Commanders will include play for up to four players, including free-for-all options and cooperative 2-on-2 (on either the same system or via Xbox Live). All of the action will happen over 15 missions, plus six instant action maps exclusively for multiplayer matches. At the end of the missions, you'll be rated on various aspects of your performance including speed, power, and strategy.

Commanders will have special abilities that will make them invaluable on the field of battle.
Commanders will have special abilities that will make them invaluable on the field of battle.

The game's attractive retro sci-fi look is certainly a selling point for Commanders; with their winged helmets and old-fashioned unit design, the combatants in the game look like something out of The Rocketeer or old pulp serial magazines. That same sleek style is reflected in the game's environment and building design and makes for a clean presentation.

Commanders: Attack! is slated for release on Xbox Live and the PC, with the former edition arriving on Xbox Live Arcade in November.

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