Robot Commander


Title		Robot Commander
Game Type	Strategy
Company		Ariola Soft / Art Edition, 1990
Programmer      Carsten Herting / Frank Reibold
Players		1-2
Compatibility   OCS/ECS (buggy on AGA)
HD Installable  No
Submission	Bernd Gmeineder

Review
Robot Commander? Never heard of this Amiga game? You are probably not
alone as this game is hardly known and was mainly distributed in German
speaking countries. According to one of the authors only about 1000 copies
were sold. After reading this review you can form an opinion if it is one
of those "undiscovered pearls" or not.

As the game's title suggests, its all about robots and you are
their commander. There are not many facts in the manual; where the game is
situated and what the background story is. Probably the makers did not
care because there have already been too many bad storyboards for computer
games. Before the actual game starts you are forced to enter the Robot
Editor. There are some jobs you have to do here. Lots of things can be
manually selected, but for time-consuming concerns there are random
generators and other little aids.

First of all a robot list has to be configured. Fortunately there are
already 20 predefined robot types, but of course it is also feasible to
build your own robots by adjusting lots of parameters such as missile
range, resistance power, plating power as well as energy allocation and
times. However, these options should be used with care because only a
small alteration of the paramters can disturb the well adjusted balance of
your human or computer opponent. Next, a map is required. Pre-defined maps
can be loaded or new ones can be generated by using five modulators of
which two control the map size, while the others represent the number of
figures and wall dependability. The two headquarters for each player can
be set manually or randomly by the computer. If you choose the latter
option the game can become more exciting as you won't know where the
opponent's HQ is positioned.

After setting up all of the above, the actual game can begin. Within the
real game the screen is vertically split into two independent parts, one
for player 1, the other for player 2. These two parts are split again in a
robot view screen (similar to a map) as well as a combined status and
selection bar.

It is now time to select one of the player's robots in the selection bar.
The robot view screen then jumps to the selected robot and usually there
are only some visible fields which represent the visual range of your
active robot. The rest of the landscape remains black as your robot only
has limited eyesight. Now it is time to give some orders to your robots.
For instance, a route can be set which the robot will ordinarily follow
unless there is a barrier. A similar command is "follow a robot". This is
useful if you want to move several robots to the same destination or
shadow enemy robots. Additionally, any hostile robots or droids can be
identified and/or selected as a point of attack. Your robot will provide
you with the necessary specs and then attack that object. In some cases
destroyed opponent's robots can even be repaired and made to join your own
robot force.

But of course not every type of robot is able to do all of these tasks.
Another interesting option is energy allocation. It enables you to
distribute a limited amount of energy to the robots machinery, weapons,
sensors and shields. The status menu is associated with the energy menu
and shows your robots health state. A nice feature is a robot's dock in
which smaller robots (in the game called droids) can be docked with,
transported and even repaired. Droids do not have the power of the big
robots and can be used as your reconnaisance or as fast, but less well
armoured units for surprise attacks. With this variety of options and
several robots you can try to conquer your opponents base. Which strategy
you use is up to you. Sometimes a quick and dirty guerilla attack is the
right way, while in other cases it requires a real strategy to
successfully slaughter your enemy and occupy their territory.

Robot Commander is more than a simple "snatch the flag" game. One of the
main reasons for this is the fact that a great amount of different
pre-defined robots, ranging from attack drones to super battle units and
many more types, are available. This keeps up long time motivation!
As you would expect, each of these robots has its advantages and
disadvantages.

It is simply fun to control your small army, plan and enforce attacks and
pray that your babies won't get damaged by the enemy's superiority.
The ultimate fun is in the two player mode: The fact that the players can
control their part of the computer screen simultaneously and independently
was completely new at the time the game was released. This means that the
game takes place in absolute realtime. Another pro is the repair
option which makes the game more interesting as "lost" will not
necessarily mean "lost" and you can attempt further attacks.
Another potential positive aspect would be a sheet of cardboard which was
meant to split the screen so that the two opposing players could not see
each others actions. Unfortunately this feature was dropped by the
publisher due to cost issues. But no game is without criticism: A
disadvantage is the inflexible menu system and the game's really old
fashioned graphics. How nice looking it would be if there would be some
more colors, better scrolling and smoother robot sprites. Some players may
argue that this is not necessary for a strategy game, but these
unfortunately absent features would probably have enhanced the game's
reputation and impacted on the number of copies sold. If you ever get your
hands on this game then try it. There have been far worse games on the
Amiga!




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