War Commander from Kixeye has been around on Facebook for some time now — we last took a look at it last October — but it has enjoyed sustained growth ever since then, and features regularly in Facebook’s sidebar advertising module with a provocative “Must be 18+ to play” slogan.
At its core, War Commander is a very similar game to Kixeye’s other high-profile “hardcore” strategy title Battle Pirates, which we reviewed recently. Players build up a base, train troops, upgrade buildings and eventually set out into the massively-multiplayer world to assert their dominance through military might. Like most other similar games of this type, the player is given a week-long “newbie shield” to protect them from bullies as they acclimatize to the game and build up their defenses.
Gameplay unfolds over two main components. The base-building section is a combination of managing the available space and ensuring enough resources are on hand for various construction projects — though as usual, it’s also possible to directly purchase resources using hard currency if the player finds themself a little bit short for the task they want to complete. A series of quests that appear in the corner of the screen guide the player through a suggested series of tasks, though it’s possible to ignore these once the initial tutorial is over. It’s generally in the player’s interests to complete these tasks, however, as they offer significant resource and experience rewards in most cases, allowing for more rapid progress to be made.
When the player has constructed military units using the appropriate buildings, they may then deploy them onto the hex-based world map and move them around to capture resource nodes, attack AI-controlled enemy bases or other players, or simply explore and scout to see what is in the local area. If attacking a base, the perspective switches to a close-up isometric view of the base which the player is attacking, and it then becomes possible to give direct orders to units or, optionally, to let the game’s AI prioritize targets. The latter option is usually just about acceptable in most situations, but it doesn’t make particularly sound strategic decisions. This becomes especially apparent in the game’s tutorial mission, where the player is encouraged to put a tank up front for their infantry to hide behind, only for the infantry to automatically charge straight past it in a kamikaze attack on the enemy base.
War Commander’s presentation is, like Battle Pirates, highly polished and thus attractive to “core” gamers. The distractingly testosterone-fuelled, male-dominated aesthetic is still present and correct, however, with a number of elements of questionable taste throughout the game — downed enemies remain in a bloody heap on the battlefield until they are picked clean by crows, for example, and the game’s AI character RUBI is represented as a large-breasted robot woman who moans suggestively when “reprogrammed” during the introductory tutorial. While the subject matter is stereotypically likely to appeal to male players more than females, it probably wouldn’t have hurt to make the aesthetic a little less aggressively gendered.
Social features are limited to a real-time chat facility and asynchronous combat between players’ units and bases. The proposed “alliance” feature mentioned when we last looked at the game does not appear to have been implemented as yet — the game’s official forums do, however, offer the facility for players to set up unofficial alliances with one another, though this has no direct effect in game and is based on the players’ respective “honor” rather than game mechanics.
Flaws and elements of questionable taste aside, War Commander is a solid game that makes good use of the Facebook platform to provide a fun, compelling experience for fans of light military strategy. Its gameplay is straightforward enough for strategic newcomers to get into easily while simultaneously offering a considerable amount of depth for those willing to invest a bit more time, effort and money into the experience. Its presentation and level of polish is such that core gamers won’t immediately dismiss it in disgust, and the game isn’t too overly aggressive with its requests to share achievements or get the player to spend money, which will also ensure that core gamers give it a fair chance.
These decisions seem to be paying off, too — the game currently has an impressive 5,200,000 monthly active users and 660,000 daily active users. Follow its progress with AppData, our traffic tracking service for social games and developers.
Despite a few provocative elements of questionable taste, this is a solid strategy game friendly to both core and casual players alike.