Armoured Commander II Review
Immolation is the career hazard of armored crewman. A tank is a steel box filled with machinery, explosives, and fuel. Pierce that armored shell and odds have it, your crew will burn. I know this because in Armoured Commander II most of my crews suffer this terrible fate. But, like the troopers they are, the survivors try again.
Armoured Commander II is a roguelike tank simulator developed by Gregory Adam Scott and released as 1.0 on September 4th, 2021. It features simplistic graphics in a retro 8-bit style but with a surprisingly deep level of game play to go with it. The game has polish with a hint of indy style that makes for a very entertaining romp in WW2.
Subject of the Game
AC2 covers tank warfare and crew management from 1939 to 1945. Your goal is to keep your crew alive and grow them professionally all the while advancing (or defending) on the battlefields of World War 2. You will likely have your tank shot out from under you and place a star gunner into a hospital or lose your choice PZIV only to have a replaced with a clunky Panzer 38T.
Tank nerds should rejoice as there is a ton of armor available ranging from obscure Polish and Finnish tanks all the way to the Wehraboo delite, the Tiger II. Advancing under fire, positioning, turret angle, and load out, all play critical roles in keeping your crew alive.
Scope, Scale, Level of Play
The scope of the game is 3 to 80 days of in-game combat. You must keep your crew alive while using the skill points accrued to turn them into a more effective fighting force. The scale is by unit, you may have platoon mates of AI controlled armor that you, as Battlegroup Commander, can give some basic orders to. Enemy units may range from a platoon of infantry or engineers all the way to enemy tanks. Each is represented as stylized 8-bit icons.
The level of play is basic, almost gritty. Ammo loadouts, crew assignments, hatch status, and basically anything that a Tank Commander would order in combat.
Graphically the game is sparse and would look to come out of an EGA display on an Amiga in the early 90’s. The game doesn’t suffer for it and the quaint charm makes for the focus to be on the gameplay and less so on graphics (or lack of). The depth of armor choices easily makes up for the lack of graphical depth.
There are over 620 units available, some only as targets while others are playable.
Who hasn’t wanted to play a Crocodile?
The game focuses on armored crew management and tank combat at an individual level. The designer has added solid RPG mechanics that bring your crew alive as they grow more useful and tactically adept. Where to fight, how much supporting assets to request, and when to resupply are all part of an overlying meta-map.
The simplicity of choices makes for a quick narrative with enough depth to keep you wondering what challenges come next.
Overall System Description
AC2 is what something like Panzer (from GMT Games) would be if it were ported to the PC. The focus is on armored combat primarily with the goal being 1, to keep your crew alive, and 2, to complete the scenario goals. Managing those two are a very difficult challenge that is, luckily, easy to do, but hard to master.
Principal areas of reality represented in the game
The principal area of focus is small unit engagements in WW2. The game models weather, fatigue, loadout, and survivability. Calling in supporting artillery, armor, infantry and air units is critical to keep your tank alive.
Individual combat statistics are modelled as “firepower” and not as a live armor penetration simulator. The game does a fine job however in making it feel about as tough as it needs to be without bogging you down in rivet counting and determining the Brinell hardness of bolted armor plate.
Intricacy of the system and mechanical ease of play
The system is mechanically easy to play. The graphical system involve a combination of keyboard strokes and mouse hovers to give you the information you need. Initially it can be easy to miss that there are multiple menus that one would use Q and E, number keys, or arrow keys, to access.
The intricacy comes from the management and it is easy enough to just jump in not knowing much of anything about HE, APCR, or AP rounds. Earlier scenarios tend to be easier while later ones deadly, reflecting the change in technology.
Evaluation of the systems success at achieving the designers goals and representing the real situation
The success of the system is presenting an easily playable framework to experience complex armored combat. Reinforcements appear, friendlies become pinned down, artillery misses, air strikes go wide, and muddy ground stymies your advance. Fog can shroud hidden hostiles and weather becomes a truly difficult proposition.
So ending a day with a crew, alive, and spending some action points to make them better is something that you will feel the very next day.
Contributions to the wargaming state of the art
The game contributes a great deal by focusing on game play and not on graphics. We have amazing PC’s today, yet most of the focus is on a graphical overlay that can shroud poor underlying mechanics. In this case AC2 has focused on the nuts and bolts, kept it playable, and given you a stylistic look that is perfectly adequate for the game.
It fits, and it fits well.
The Game in play
The game is broken into three distinct time frames: 1939-1941, 1942-1943, and 1944-1945. There is East Front, West Front, Mediterranean, and Pacific scenarios with varying time frames available. Want 22 days in Kursk? How about 3 days in Finland? Maybe 80 days with the 7th Armoured Division in Western Europe?
Even more interesting is the minor nations, Finland in the Winter War, or Belgium in 1940. How about Khalkin Gol from either the Soviet or Japanese sides? In this game you will find underrepresented theaters of war that have been begging for a game.
You are the Tank Commander, a tyrant who watches over your crew and sees to there every need. You may have several tanks under your command. You may also call in artillery, air strikes, or assisting units but they are under AI control.
Types of decisions required
You will decide tactics, how far to advance, whether or not to go hull down, and when to bail out of a burning tank. How, and where, to approach an enemy will change in different theaters and as the game progresses.
There is a strong RPG element to the game as well where advancing your crewmates is of utter importance. Determining where to put those skill points is a difficult challenge.
Effects of the game systems mechanical requirements on the players decision making
The game gives you a realistic and fairly complete image of the battlefield that is tempered by the fog of war. You must detect hostiles before firing, just as they must detect you. A hidden AT gun can wreak havoc just as you may sneak up on an unsuspecting foe.
Understanding some of the choices available to you and how they impact gameplay can take some getting used to. When is it proper to use Drive? Or should the TC assist in directing movement?
Evaluation of the players experience
I’ve found my experience in the game to be positive, engaging, and interesting. It’s cool to be presented with unique armor, hidden enemies, and what feels like a decent representation of my crews burning to death. There are no time restraint on me, a player, so I can walk away at any time and not lose my saved game position.
Does the game work?
The game works. You are presented with good information, an understanding of why your crew succeeded or failed, and how to fix it for next time. The choices you make leave you watching the clock and wondering if you’ll survive that next advance before the day finally ends. Darkness is your only respite, and at that temporary.
Is it a good game?
Yes. It is a good game.
Who would be most interested in the game?
Fans of tank games, roguelike/roguelite fans, and those who want a tactical simulator that has more presence in the accuracy of ballistics and capabilities than the color of the paint in 1943. Even those with a passing interest in WW2 will find this game unique just for the RPG elements.
Is the game a good value?
Yes, the game is an exceptional value at $9.99 on September 19th, 2021.
You can find it on Steam : https://store.steampowered.com/app/1292020/Armoured_Commander_II/