Air Force Commander is a 1992 real-time strategy game by Impressions set in the Middle-East. It’s not a full-out war simulation though. As the title kind of gives away, you only control the Air Force.
First of all, mission selection. The game does not have a campaign setting, only individual scenarios. Missions range from small 2-country wars to all-out wars involving 10 or more countries. Not that it matters much, it’s just a bigger territory and more units to control for both sides.
Onwards to the real battle then. A high-level radar overview greets you with pixels representing various buildings and little lines to signify planes flying around. It’s rather abstract at first but I guess it works well enough. There are also various buttons, some to access statistics like resource consumption or even public support for and general outlook of the war, and some to cycle through your buildings and units.
It’s possible to zoom in closer to see some details and to inspect a building or unit. I think this is mostly for reviewers to be able to make screenshots to fill their review with, because it’s a bit fiddly to use while playing. As a reviewer, I might be complaining slightly about that kind of additions but I’ll always make use of it.
Giving orders to a unit is fiendishly difficult. You first need to either manage to select it (which means identifying it via text only in menus) or to know at which base it is stationed. Or you can just pick some unit from some base if you don’t really care. After that you have to select the type of mission you want the plane to execute (scout, intercept another plane, bomb a site, …) and then select the destination on the entire map. There are various statistics about your units but they are well hidden deep in the menus.
So basically, there’s a limited amount of strategy (basically only air stuff), a really non-intuitive and overcomplicated interface and not too much variation. This game was made 3 years before the first C&C and in the same year as Dune 2, but it is so much less than those. There is a bit more realism involved I guess, but really. Realism is boring. 5/10