Review | Commander: Conquest of the Americas
The Winds of Change
Format: PC | Genre: Strategy | Publisher: Paradox | Developer: Nitro Games | Release Date: 30/07/10 | RRP: £24.99
It’s a clever twist and certainly gives the act of receiving orders a lot of personality, but the system isn’t without its fault. Initially players are presented with useful and necessary tasks, such as setting up trade routes and founding new colonies, but after a short while certain demands from your advisors become seemingly impossible in your current situation. One mission in particular sees your Trade Advisor stating that you must bring gold back to your homeport within the time limit. In every single game I played, neither myself nor my opponents had any gold at that point, and hence I was unable to complete the challenge every time.
It’s also rather disappointing that the missions are the very same for each playthrough. I had hoped that choosing a different nation would yield an entirely different experience, with new challenges to overcome and unique demands to face. Yet with every new game, I was presented with the exact same missions as before in the same chronological order. Of course, this means that Commander’s replay value isn’t exactly staggering.
That’s not to say you’ll conquer the game on your first playthrough, however. Commander really throws you in at the deep end from the get-go with limited explanation available. It took me three plays to finally ‘get it’ and fully understand every aspect of the game. Where East India Company provided a really useful and in-depth tutorial, Commander is a little lighter on the details and finer points, leaving the player initially flummoxed.
Your success in completing challenges and building up a great empire is charted against the other European powers. Diplomacy options are available, allowing you to trade, make pacts or declare war with neighbouring opponents. Unfortunately, these elements are rather weak, and interaction with the AI-controlled players is very limited. The majority of the time, it’s barely even worth trying to do business with other nations, as they’ll usually reject any offer you put down unless it’s extremely beneficial to them.
You may be wondering why I haven’t mentioned the naval battle side to Commander yet. The reason is that compared to East India Company – in which ocean assaults were a common occurrence – these fights take a firm backseat this time around. You’ll perhaps encounter enemy ships a few times during a single playthrough, and these play out in the same manner as was seen in EIC. Ships can be sent to attack enemy vessels via an RTS interface, or controlled directly using the keyboard.
While these sections do a fairly decent job of breaking up the trading action, they are also far too simple and seemingly throwaway – so much so, that you can in fact choose to skip them entirely and allow the game to automatically pick a winner based on stats. Compared to the likes of Empire: Total War, there just isn’t enough substance to make combat worthwhile.
Still, Commander: Conquest of the Americas has its strong points. There isn’t as much waiting around this time, as ships can reach their destination and be back in port within a minute, and the majority of options can be selected with little hassle. Of course, this kind of title thrives on providing addictive, jump-in jump-out gameplay and Commander definitely emanates these qualities. It’s also incredibly polished, with smooth interfaces and charming visuals.
If you were a fan of East India Company, this will feel very much like more of the same and provide many hours of engrossing play. On the flipside, newcomers should be wary of the awkward difficulty curve, and the less-than-thrilling gaming on offer. It’s a gentle, slow-footed experience that is great for relaxing with, but could have been so much more.
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