Supreme Commander 2 review
I'll take a Supreme, please!
Supreme Commander 2 is a game that is compared both favourably and unfavourably to its predecessor. Featuring such elements as large-scale battles and quite a comprehensive path for technological research, Supreme Commander 2 distinguishes its appearance through one word: big. Designed to be played hard and fast, Supreme Commander 2 presents itself as a game for the more active and determined of RTS players. It effectively maximises gameplay, while keeping the mechanics very easy to use, to create a harmony that lends itself to a surprisingly fun game.
In typical human fashion, the Colonial Defence Coalition has broken and three factions who were at peace for twenty-five years are now pitted against each other once again. The UEF, Illuminate and Cybrans are at war – this time due to the unfortunate assassination of the President of the CDC. The story then follows the exploits of three commanders from each of the respective races: Dominic Maddox, of the UEF; Thalia Kael, of The Illuminate; and Ivan Brackman, of the Cybran Nation.
Effectively splitting the campaign into thirds, each character explores their own part of the story, as it slowly wraps together to form the bigger picture. There’s a couple of interesting twists sprinkled in – where they are not shy about showering you with betrayal – which add to the mystery surrounding the unfolding events. I was actually impressed with how they slowly linked everything together, making the plot seem much closer-knitted than one would’ve originally thought. It may have a typical “where is the love?” ending, but it does frame the campaign well and gives a good hint toward a third title in the series
If you like learning a bajillion different key combinations, then the controls of Supreme Commander 2 are for you. Although you’ll slowly pick them up (and regular RTS players will be at a large advantage here), it really is one of the most comprehensive control schemes I’ve ever encountered – though having said this, they developed the HUD with less experienced players in mind, so don’t worry too much. And as you progress, and take it one step further by going online, you quickly realise how vital they are. With such abilities as being able to select every unit of a specific theme (e.g. You can select every air unit), capture units and structures from the enemy, not to mention the very useful control over the camera, you’ll find yourself immersed after just a few battles.
Speaking of the camera controls, strategic overview is one of the shining aspects of Supreme Commander 2. Not only can you zoom in and out, as well as pan around with the camera to view things from any angle you like, but you can also zoom out until you enter a map-large view, where the look of battle changes entirely. No longer do you see units; rather, everything is suddenly represented by symbols and numbers. Did you just build twenty air units? No problem, just click the encircled twenty and it’ll immediately select all of them to command as you see fit. The strategic overview is a fantastic feature for effective management of your army, giving you a map-wide view of the battlefield – not to mention being able to zoom out from one side of the battlefield and into another in less than a second – it sure beats scrolling!
And that’s not the only feature adding depth to the gameplay; we also have the Research Tree. Each faction has their own tree, split into categories such as land, structure, ACU, etc. Within each of these categories is a ton of research options. You can strengthen your buildings; unlock special gear such as Shield Generators; gain access to special experimental units and more. Working off Research Points, which are generated through several avenues, the Research Tree requires cautious thought. Choosing the right upgrade at the right time can be crucial to success when it comes to Supreme Commander 2.
Even the units themselves show a level of thought and sophistication that makes this title standout. As you battle with your little guys, their Veterancy Rate will increase. Like an experience gauge, it allows them to go up levels and consequentially make them tougher than the new-built version. It’s factors like this, and the aforementioned research, which encourage players to manage their armies in what can be considered as a more thoughtful approach to battlefield tactics than other RTS games generate.
Then, of course, there’s the battles themselves. They’re fast, hard, and enjoyably futuristic. Whether you’re using an experimental teleportation device to instantaneously transport your army across the map, while giving your enemy the opportunity to take the link back to your base and turn your own technology against you; participating in hard-fought duels between gargantuan spectacles of scientific development, while smaller units wage similar battles at their feet; or simply nuking an entire base, only to discover your enemy set that one up to trick you and is bringing their main force to attack from the side, Supreme Commander 2 delivers an engrossing warfare experience. You’ll also find that although each faction plays slightly differently due to each having all unique units, the game is well balanced.
The aforementioned campaign is interesting, if a little confusing. Split equally between the three factions, each level features objectives pertaining to the storyline. What’s not equal is the basic difficulty, with the level two-thirds through being harder than any level to follow it! The campaign has a sufficient length to it, with the majority of levels lasting you between forty minutes to an hour, and the total campaign about twelve to twenty hours. The game has decent AI, so you’ll get a hearty challenge if you jack it up to hard.
Especially if you play in skirmish mode, where the AI tends to be less linear with their approach. Offering a plethora of maps, and the opportunity to play with your favourite race, the skirmish mode gives you something to be getting on with after you’ve finished playing through the campaign. It also gives you a bit more control, allowing you to tweak some rules and experiment more to form some real tactics, which would be useful if the community was still strong...
That’s not to say that multiplayer isn’t exciting! If you think playing bots is hard, just try taking on a regular from Supreme Commander 2. Fortunately, there is a player rating system in place to ensure you find a fair match-up, which you can also lower or raise to your desire. Multiplayer mode runs just as smooth as singleplayer does and, if you have some friends who own the game too, it’ll keep you coming back to the game again and again.
The look of Supreme Commander 2 is just a little bit disappointing. There’s not much to jack up from the basic settings, and I have to admit I was expecting just a tiny bit more from a game that was released in 2010. Though having said this, the game runs incredibly smoothly, and I’ve yet to experience any frame rate issues. You’ll battle it out in just about every setting you could possibly wish for, from tropical beaches to arid mountain ranges. And there’s nothing more satisfying than zooming in to admire your army lined up in all its glory. Each faction carries a pleasing, quite distinctive look to it. And I have to admit that the battles are nothing short of exciting, with lasers and bright colours flashing all over the show. The cut scenes are also decent, though I have to question the severe lack of facial expressions, which seem out of touch with the more emotional voice acting.
Your soundtrack is very typical war-style, the sort of stuff you can march to while some conscripted teenager plays the trumpet. It’s actually the sounds I enjoy, with all the futuristic pew-pew-pews and the typical calm female voice for the computer system of your ACU. And the voice acting is pretty well done, even if it is at odds with the completely static faces of the characters.
Supreme Commander 2 is one of those games where you lose track of time. It’s a lot fun, and it’s just a shame that the online community is now a ghost of its former self. It does really well to make itself accessible to people who aren’t fanatical RTS players, while remaining very comprehensive in its structure. With some interesting features behind it, Supreme Commander 2 offers a unique experience and I can’t wait to see what they do with the next title.
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