So Close to Wonderful

Supreme Commander is a relatively new franchise in the sea of strategy games, and against all odds, Supreme Commander 2 has found a way to rise above the glut of RTSs.  While the original was a generally solid title, SupCom2 makes some serious strides forward within that framework.  Sadly some of the more extreme balance issues of the game, mixed with a viscous computer AI make the game difficult to recommend to anyone who isn’t already a hardcore fan of the genre.

The game handles like most other RTSs, but its tech tree manages to really make the experience stand out.  In most strategy games, the player has to construct buildings in a certain order to get the best units in the game.  Supreme Commander does away with this with the same types of units being centralized in a single building (for example, all land units can be built in a “land building” ).  New unit types are unlocked through a drop down tree that lets the player spend “research points” on improvements and new units.  This tech tree also applies to individual units.  Different upgrades can be purchased to give higher damage or greater range.  This can seriously alter the way a match plays out, and a skirmish between similar armies that have been upgraded differently will play out in dynamic ways.

The balance of Supreme Commander 2 is a little skewed from the standard fair.  Most strategy games try to make use of a Rock/Paper/Scissor setup.  While this game does have roots in this, it is a bit deeper than games of the same ilk.  There are three types of units; land, air and sea.  While these units do manage to play off of each other (air beats land, sea beats air) many of them are most vulnerable to units from their own type (a bomber would get taken apart by a fighter jet).  On top of that, these units can be upgraded through the tech tree to counter these disadvantages…making for a crazy tug-of-war for inter-unit dominance.

Returning from the previous iteration of the game is the “Commander View” of the battlefield, which allows players to zoom the camera out to almost unreasonable heights, such that they can view the entire map at once…and Supreme Commander has rather large maps.  While there are still condensed maps for quick games, those looking for long, epic battles with friends can’t beat SupCom 2.

But this is also one of the core weaknesses of the game, where it’s incredibly easy to just get removed from the individual units, such that you can’t really see how the enemy has been upgraded.  The AI of the game doesn’t really do new players any favors either.  After a brief tutorial of the game, which mainly consists of informing the player of how all strategy games work, they are thrown into battle.  Concessions are made, briefly, to slowly introduce new tech trees and units but it never feels like enough.  Before long, the computer simply counters any move the player presents, almost like it was expecting it all along.  Although it is hard to fault the developers for this, as they have clearly designed this for RTS pros, it will still leave the majority of gamers in the dust early.  There is an easy mode, but the dip in challenge almost makes it a “win” button for many levels.

That isn’t to say the developers have done everything right, with some really average aesthetics to the game.  The voice acting is simply abominable in SupCom2, which almost sounds like someone’s neighbor doing a bad impression of a 15 year-old Adam Sandler character. The plot is not particularly strong, either, and draws on the tiniest details of the original Supreme Commander.  On top of that, the characters in CGs lack any real personality or character in their appearance.

Still, SupCom 2 is a pretty solid game.  The only issue is that the intricate tech tree system sets a pretty steep learning curve for the game that can scare off lots of young, inexperienced players.  Because of that, it’s hard to recommend this to people just looking to dive into the RTS genre, but it may be worth looking at for all you Starcraft and Command & Conquer veterans.


Not As Good As: Company of Heroes

Also Try: Dawn of War II

Wait For It: The Gold Edition

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