Supreme Commander, designed by Chris Taylor (Gas Powered Games and THQ) is widely regarded as the unofficial sequel to Total Annihilation. Although I have not played Total Annihilation myself I have heard very good reviews of it!
Supreme Commanders story starts with man possessing the ability to travel the universe through a network of quantum gates. Three races have evolved from man “United Earth Federation,” “Aeon Illuminate” and “Cybran Nation.” UEF (United Earth Federation) are still human and they are the ones that stayed behind on Earth. The Aeon are friends of a now dead alien race. And finally there are the Symbions who are the meld of man and machine. However things turn for the worse after becoming man's slave the Symbions begin an uprising. The humans decide to infect all Symbions with a loyalty virus. Only a few escape to the furthest reach of the universe and form the Cybran nation. With humans traveling the universe, some encounter an alien race known as the Serephin. But after the destruction there by xenophobic humans, the surviving human colonists vow to enlighten the others by using war similar to a sort of modern-day Jehovah witness. This sends the universe in to one massive war, known as the Infinite war, which ironically you are playing the final chapter to end this war.
As far as races go UEF is the land power, with tanks and other such vehicles. The Cybrians dominate with air superiority, fighters and bombers are their main choice. Finally the Aeon is mainly a naval power, with attack boats and submarines. There are only 6 mission for each race. “Only 6 missions!” I hear you exclaim, well… yes but after playing these missions I know you’re going to feel exhausted.
You start off with a single commander unit; this is the most important unit of your army. And you must keep him safe or lose the game. The idea is that YOU are this fighting, building machine. And through him all other things are created. However the first thing you notice is the sheer scale. On some of the larger maps your index finger can become quite tired from zooming in and out. You’ve most likely played large maps in other RTS’s, but in comparison to the ones in Supreme Commander they are a fly on a horse’s ass. The Dawn of War series is a VERY good game which featured excellent gameplay but Supreme Commander is an evolution ahead. In DOW you could build your armies and vehicles but attacking bases always felt the same; ie: just another frontal assault. I am not picking on DOW; the whole genre seems to suffer from this problem. Rarely did the AI do anything special and rarely did you feel outwitted. Forget all that! Supreme Commander has enough space for you to pull off a REAL flanking maneuver with AI that has the intelligence to trick, deceive, and lure you out. You’ve never played a game like this! In ten years time, our kids will still talk of this title similar to how our generation still talks of the first Command and Conquer.
The new features in Supreme Commander include the use of a zoom function. I include this as a new function, because the game actually uses it to it full potential. You get a bird’s eye view if a bird could fly in orbit. This gives you a huge advantage allowing you to see everything, but the trade off being detail. At this height, everything is little blips on a radar screen.
Large maps means thinking about time and distance. Flanking a base and having two lines meet at the same time is a lot harder than it may seem. And when your fastest unit takes 10 minutes end to end it adds a whole extra dimension. Never have I ever thought about how long it takes to reach to my destination. Speed is critical and especially the difference of speed. If you set your army off from your base, by the time they reach their target the enemy will have destroyed your faster, lightly armored wave, and then finish off the slower ones. This also presents trouble if you want to support an army in battle. Say you need anti-air vehicles; if the army is too far away you might want to consider them a lost cause. These are the decisions you will be faced with and the choice is yours to make the right one. One bad thing about the large maps is that the screen scrolls way too fast, and you can’t adjust the speed at all.
Selecting and controlling units is friendly and easy. Some of the mouse buttons aren’t the standard RTS setup buttons which will take some getting use to. You also cannot alter the controls in any way, which is unfortunate. What’s really unique about selecting units in this game is the fact that if I have an army of units, 5 tanks, 5 rockets, 5 Anti Air and 5 robots I can select the whole group and then I can select an individual group within them. This means I can select my army and tell the tanks and robots to move forward all while having the Anti Air and rockets stand back.
Your base is no longer limited to a certain area. As long as you have a builder unit, you can build anywhere on the map. This means that you can have a “defense base” miles away from your main one. This is both a blessing and a curse. Here is the problem with it: Once you accomplish an objective you have to be wary of the next part of the map that is revealed. This can leave your army in a mad race to intercept enemies heading for your base all while remembering the time and distance of traveling. Or it can leave you with buildings that have now become obsolete. In the first few missions of course this isn’t a problem. But when resources get scarce, maps get larger and enemies more powerful. Things start to go pear shaped very quickly, only a supreme commander could pull a win out of the bag. (Sorry that was awful!)
Now you have read all this I’d just like to point out one thing. It’s funny I don’t like losing, I don’t think anyone does. But when first I played this game with a rush tactic I got my ass handed to me on a plate! With fries! But do you know what? I laughed. Not a big psycho laugh, but just a giggle as I realized that I had been so out played. A word of warning, don’t underestimated the AI in Supreme Commander. I know it hard to convey this sentiment in writing, but when you get a chance to play know that I told you so!
The processing requirements needed are huge (See below). If you haven’t got a strong machine +3 GHz or Dual-Core, +1 GB ram and +256 MB Graphics card you might find it hard enjoying the game, which is a shame as it should be enjoyed by all! Forget the minimal requirements, they are rubbish! I’d be surprised if Vista would run on a computer with those specifications. (Remember Dual cores are more efficient; therefore don’t have to be as fast, say about 1.8 GHz).
This is the RTS game of the year! If you never played a RTS before, play this one. Supreme Commander is how the genre should play. If you have played RTS before, throw the others away. This has everything your strategy desires could wish for. Before I leave you I’ll say one thing,
Expect late nights, tiredness and in certain cases (Husbands) Divorce… … But this mistress is worth it!
MINIMUM SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS: Microsoft® Windows® XP Service Pack 2, Vista 1.8 GHz processor 512 MB RAM 8 GB available hard drive space 128 MB video RAM or greater, with DirectX 9 Vertex Shader / Pixel Shader 2.0 support (Nvidia 6x00 or better) Sound card, speakers or headphones Broadband internet connection (DSL/Cable).
RECOMMENDED SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS: 3.0 GHz Intel or equivalent AMD processor or better 1 GB RAM or better 8 GB available hard drive space 256 MB video RAM, with DirectX 9 Vertex Shader / Pixel Shader 2.0 support (Nvidia 6800 or better) Internet connection with Cable/DSL speeds
Oh and before I forget, this game allows you to play with two monitors. This adds a whole new dimension to the game. If you don’t have two monitors get one. By any means possible, go on! I am giving you permission, because you have no idea what you’re missing out on! However you might just have to sit back a little bit to absorb in the information of two screens.
It’s been fun writing this, but I am off to see my mistress… And I’ve project work to do, but there always time for one more game!