Fire Commander is a firefighting game that doesn’t suck

fire commander

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Firefighting games have been around for as long as video games, but for some reason – and I’ll get into that in a bit – there never was. big one. fire commander is the latest game to try and break that duck, and while it fails, I at least admire the way it tries.

fire commander was developed by Pixel Crow—remember Defeat the cop?– and Atomic Wolf, and was released last week on PC, Xbox and PlayStation. It works like a real-time tactical game, only instead of shooting Nazis, you’re putting out fires, and between missions there’s a whole strategic side of the game that can best be summed up as “XCOMbut with gyms for firefighters.”

I think the main reason there’s never been a good firefighting game is that, as exciting as it may look in the news or the movies, most fires are actually put out in an incredibly routine way. And the fire itself, although it represents a certain danger, simply cannot be a strong opponent in the game, like a real enemy. Sure, it’s dangerous, but usually also slow, and most of the time you defeat him by… pointing a hose at him.

fire commander tries to get around this by giving up any simulation attempts. If you want to get an idea of ​​how fires are actually put out and what a day in the life of a firefighter really looks like, this game is not for you. Almost every moment of this game fire commander discards reality in the name of making concessions to interesting and strategic gameplay, and while this is somewhat disappointing – I used to work at NSW Fire & Rescue and would love to see someone actually make a decent simulation – in many ways it’s understandable, and the game the better for it.

Fire Commander Trailer Launch

As I already said, fire commander is divided into two sections. In the first one, played between missions, you oversee your fire station and firemen’s roster, and if you’ve played XCOM you already know what’s going on here. You can rest and train existing firefighters, hire new ones and expand or improve your base. Everything is fine, everything works, but I never found call the way I think it must have been, as my firefighters were gaining experience so quickly that rest and replacement never seemed as urgent as it was clearly intended.

Most of the time in fire commander is spent on a mission, and this is where things got a lot nicer. Abandoning any attempt at realism, the developers instead created a real-time tactical game based on you picking the right person for the right job at the right time.

Image for an article titled Fire Commander - A firefighting game that doesn't suck

Image: fire commander

Each mission you visit will have some sort of time limit, such as a fire spreading to something explosive, or a number of civilians who are in danger and must be rescued before it’s too late. Standing in your way is the fire itself to put out, as well as a number of environmental issues such as locked doors (which must be cut down with axes) and obstacles that only a certain class of firefighters can overcome.

This division into classes is disappointing in many ways – why shouldn’t every firefighter use a circular saw or a computer!?! – but as I said, this is one of the design concessions that was made to make this a game, and once the initial dissatisfaction had passed and I started thinking of everyone as “techies” or “cheaters”, everything was fine .

So the key to completing each individual mission is to develop the fastest way to reach each objective, because the longer you leave a fire or an office worker in a smoke-filled room, the harder your job will be. . I rarely got the job done on the first try; instead, it would take multiple tries, as I needed to optimize which firefighters I sent to each corner of the map and make sure they were doing the right job when they got there.

Again, this was frustrating at first, as having to constantly restart missions in a game that at first glance had so much in common with a real-time tactical game seemed like nonsense. Surely a game that has so much in common, let’s say Steel division should check on me throughout the mission and not just give me one puzzle at the beginning and leave the rest until I solve it?

However, start thinking of each mission as a race and it will make more sense. Less Steel divisionmore neon white. Each mission will unfold the same way from the start, so being successful in fire commander it’s more about perfecting your plan – multiple actions can be queued up at any time, even before the mission starts – and then perfecting that plan.

When you master what fire commander trying to do here –using firefighters as showcases for a unique real-time tactical experience rather than simulating the work of a firefighter– it can be a lot of fun. Navigating the map shooting at the bad guys had been a 1,000-fold exercise, but coordinating a team to contain a spreading fire, clean up chemical spills, and drag unconscious civilians out of a burning restaurant (sometimes all at once) was a new challenge.

Image for an article titled Fire Commander - A firefighting game that doesn't suck

Image: fire commander

Of course, it’s far from perfect, and I don’t want it to sound like it’s a contender for strategy game of the year. Even taking into account the lack of realism, there are still some odd decisions here, such as forbidding firefighters from breaking huge windows next to locked doors, or giving everyone a portable water tank instead of using hoses, which again is clearly meant to provide a challenge (forcing you to juggle firefighters who have to race back to the truck to refuel), but which is a huge headache to implement.

The most unpleasant, and despite my general love for this “genre” European disaster and Transport management (if you can even call it that), it’s full of annoying little quirks, like simple tasks that you have to tap multiple times, and pathfinding that sends firefighters on bizarre journeys around the map, and sometimes… right into the fire. It’s a crappy field that cares more (or prioritizes) its nuts and bolts over polish, and I knew it was coming, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

BUT. I am a forgiving person when it comes to such games, because however unfortunate they may be, and however unforgivable they may be in many other circumstances, When it comes to European management games, I’m willing to overlook a lot because these games are so serious. This wide-ranging genre It has limited budget and playing for a limited audience, so it’s unfair to expect that the world of his games. They try their best, damn it, and in this case fire commander does enough new and interesting things for me to overcome its rough edges.

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