Armor Command Review

Because of the game's, um, different interface, the two 3D views are interesting in application but almost useless in practice.

According to the publisher's propaganda, Armor Command breaks away from standard real-time strategy game because of the "revolutionary intuitive interface," a "new brand of information warfare," with "multi-perspective design," 3D card support, and four-player network games. Plus the game is from the codesigner of X-Wing and TIE Fighter. Sounds like a pretty appealing package, right? Unfortunately, many of these additions don't necessarily make Armor Command a better game.

The story is pretty straightforward. Earth is at war with an alien civilization called the Vrass, intent on destruction. Fleets from each race battle for a nebula full of planets. Large fleets cannot easily maneuver this nebula, so battles for each of the resource-rich planets must take place on the ground. You can play either the United Terran Federation or the Vrass Empire, each with its own selection of training missions and Tour of Duty campaign (22 missions per side). Full-motion cutscenes are interspersed between the various missions, forming a more coherent and interesting plot.

First off, Armor Command is a real-time strategy game with some interesting twists and turns. It utilizes 3D acceleration through Direct3D (or other in-game software routines) and has direct support for a number of 3D cards. The graphics should be pretty familiar to you: great textures, multicolored source lighting, and so on, similar in quality to other recent Direct3D games. Unlike other real-time strategy games, Armor Command offers a "floating camera" of sorts, including four different points of view: a top-down high view (what most real-time strategy players are used to), top-down close view (zoomed in), main low-angle 3D view, and high-angle 3D view. The 3D views are supposed to make the game unique, offering a more down-to-earth and personal point of view. Because of the game's, um, different interface (see below), the two 3D views are interesting in application but almost useless in practice.

The problem is that Armor Command requires both the mouse and keyboard, and proficient use of both is required in order to do anything useful. A left-mouse click will set a path for the target to move to, a right-mouse click will select the current target. Sounds simple? Well, a control/left-click will allow you to add waypoints, a shift/right-click will select that vehicle for control, and a shift/left-click will split or join vehicles into the current group. That's not too bad, but the problem is everything you have to do with the keyboard. Controlling your resources and building strategies are done only through a bevy of keyboard commands. You can't jump to different locations on the overhead map with the mouse.

The problem is exacerbated in the 3D view, because the camera angle is determined by the cursor that directs your vehicles. If you want to look behind you, you have to slowly scroll the view around with the mouse. If the designers had done things the other way around, say used the mouse for the interface/command functions and the keyboard for helping scroll around the map (as in Myth: the Fallen Lords), Armor Command would have been tremendously better.

Some of the other features work a little better; radar and vehicles provide information on targets up to a certain range - a bit beyond that range the enemy units appear as symbols so you don't know what type they are. Certain constructs like mining vehicles and fixed gun batteries can be packed up and easily moved. While the two sides look pretty different, there isn't much diversity in the types of units available, so they fight pretty similarly. The artificial intelligence is about average for a real-time strategy game.

So let's go back to the main question: Is it all worth it? Well, yes and no. The 3D view looks nice for a few minutes but is discarded for practicality's sake. There are multiplayer modem and LAN games to add some spice to the 40-plus or so missions, but that's about it as far as replayability goes. Armor Command in many ways is no different from a generic real-time strategy game: direct troops, destroy the enemy, develop your base of operations, exploit resources, and move on to the next scenario. If you're new to the real-time genre or you're just completely addicted to them, it might be a nice distraction from the standard fare. But veteran real-time strategy players will not find much to impress them.

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The Bad
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Armor Command More Info

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  • First Released Mar 31, 1998
    released
    • PC
    Because of the game's, um, different interface, the two 3D views are interesting in application but almost useless in practice.
    7.9
    Average Rating42 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    Ronin Entertainment
    Published by:
    Ripcord Games
    Genre(s):
    Real-Time, Strategy
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
    Everyone
    Animated Violence