Supreme Commander 2
The original Supreme Commander conquered the RTS community with its large-scale battles and giant units. We’re now several years further and Supreme Commander 2 tries to be as succesfull as its predecessor. Does it succeed or would Gas Powered Games have done better to leave it with only one giant RTS?
The story continues where the expansion of the original, Forged Alliance, ended. After 20 years of peace between the three major factions, certain extremists decide that peace is boring and that it’s time to use some weapons of mass destruction. The story is divided into the three factions which follow up on each other. You start with the UEF (United Earth Federation), then continue with the Aeon Illuminate, and end with the Cybran Nation.
A difference with the original is that this time you’re no longer some unknown commander but have a name and voice. First you play with Dominic Maddox, a UEF commander who believes in peace between the factions and has an Illuminate as wife. In the other factions we find Thalia Kael, a descendant of the traitor Evaluator Kael from Forged Alliance, and Ivan Brackman, son of the leader of the Cybran Nation.
From the start you’ll immediately notice that the maps look completely different than those from the previous game. You’ll regularly be on heightened plateaus which results in less possibilities for setting up a strategy. You constantly have to go through a fixed route to get to the enemy base due to the natural obstructions which makes everything feel like you’re fighting in a Micro Machines world as the enemy’s base is almost always in walking distance of your own camp.
This isn’t the only big difference in the game, also getting units has undergone some changes. In the original you just have to upgrade factories to unlock new units but this time you need to spend points in a tree structure of upgrades. These are received automatically while playing but you can accellerate the process by putting down research facilities. This structure makes that you no longer have four different levels of strength amongst your units but that those you unlock have certain lackings. Sadly enough the units face bad path finding and you’ll regularly have to guide them by hand to get them to their destination as otherwise they’ll just keep standing somewhere as they’re not smart enough to make three turns on a map.
Next to the normal units there are also Experimentals. Who doesn’t remember the first images of Supreme Commander where some Cybran Nation experimentals (Monkey Lords) made scrap metal of an entire UEF army? Well, you can forget about that in this successor. Previously you could take out an entire enemy base with one or two Experimentals and although they were super strong, it did take quite a lot of time to build them. Now they come rolling out of factories all the time and get smashed to pieces if they don’t have support troops. The Experimentals were an icon of Supreme Commander and have now been reduced to nothing more than improved units.
Also the way of building your base has been completely altered. While previously you could give your engineers an entire planning no matter what the cost of Mass and Energy, you now each time need to have enough material in advance. This is frustrating as nothing was more fun than nicely planning an entire defense and even if there wasn’t enough material available at the time, everything would be built, just at a slower pace.
Now you have to check your ACU/engineers every five to ten seconds to see whether they can perform a new assignment which is way too long-winded. As if the new method for building isn’t enough, this has also been implemented for units. Give a factory the order to produce units without limit, it will just stop if you don’t have enough material and the frustrating thing is that production doesn’t start up again after your supplies have been replenished but the factory remains on pause until you start it up again.
Especially in multiplayer where a stream of new units is crucial in an attack on an enemy base this hits hard. If you don’t immediately notice your factories have halted, a near victory can result in total defeat. Especially as the maps that you play on are quite small and the enemy can be lurking in front of your base before you know it. This makes that long multiplayer games are rare and you usually know after a few minutes who will win.
For the graphics the devs are using the Demigod engine which itself is based on the engine of the first Supreme Commander. The advantage of this is that the system requirements aren’t so high compared to the first part thanks to the countless optimisations. However, they’re quite a lot less impressive than what we’re used to these days. The units look pretty boring and uninspired after a while eventhough the surroundings at times look quite decent with waterfalls and deep cliffs in the background. Still the feeling of Micro Machines remains when looking at the screen. The cut-scenes are a real disappointment, the quality is really bad and the character models seem to have come from six year old games.
The sound is decent but that’s all there is to say about it. The voices are reasonable and the same goes for the rest of the sound effects. It does remain nice to hear hundreds of different sounds at the same time, going from artillery fire to the ton of lasers.
If you’re expecting Supreme Commander 2 to deliver the same complexity as its predecessor you’ll be in for a big disappointment. SC2 is in fact Supreme Commander Light, which is focused more towards consoles with its simplified maps and choices. Nice for the casual player, but it’s the hardcore gamers that carry the community and these will for a large part abandon this game already after a couple of months.