09 October, 2012

Desert Commander

Release Date: 1989
Platform(s): NES
Developer: Kemco
Genre: Turn-based Strategy

Desert Commander is one of the more complex turn-based strategy games for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Set in North Africa during World War II, the player chooses between commanding either the Allied Forces of George S. Patton and Bernard Montgomery, or the Axis Powers or Erwin Rommel. Similar to 1943, using this point in history informed the visual aesthetic of the game and simplified the vehicle design, a necessary compromise for the underpowered NES.

The game uses a top-down view for strategically placing vehicles and assets against the opponent, much like a board game. The player manages resources, helping to simulate the decisions that go into deployment of a military force. When an encounter between opposing sides ensues, the game switches to a close-up view of the battle. While it was a rudimentary view with limited animations, it created a design aesthetic that remains to this day, even with systems that are capable of sophisticated animation and photorealism. The abstracted landscape keeps a focus on the numbers engaged in combat instead of the surrounding visuals. Animated sequences were used to depict special actions, such as refuelling or the gathering of supplies.

Operating on a limited platform and dependent on utilitarian visuals, Desert Commander managed to build a sophisticated tactics game.

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