Supreme Commander 2 Review
Chris Taylor is a name known greatly to me. It’s not just because it’s my own name but because I grew up playing titles such as Total Annihilation and Dungeon Siege. Chris is a pretty influential guy in the gaming industry and there’s good reason for this. Supreme Commander, released in 2007 and was very well received despite being very difficult for RTS newbies. Supreme Commander 2 does knock things down a bit but it seems like a step backwards from the original.
One thing Supreme Commander 2 does extremely well, however, is the in the way it controls; something that’s always been a problem of RTS games for consoles up until Halo Wars. As much as I didn’t like Halo Wars, I have to admit that the controls were extremely well done. There weren’t many fiddly menus to navigate and everything seemed extremely smooth. The same can be seen here with everything fitting neatly onto the pad. You can flick from upgrading buildings, to researching new weapons, to ordering your troops around within seconds. The camera also adds an strategic element by giving you a much wider view of the entire battlefield. Pull back on the camera and you can get a tactical view of the field showing your troops positions, enemy positions and any friends. From here you can bulk select a squad and send them to a certain location before zooming back in for a real time view. It’s all very snazzy and it’s something more RTSs should throw in because a mini-map just isn’t going to cut it!
The controls aren’t completely precise, however, which can cause big problems. Selecting units is one of the major issues. Selecting groups of units is sometimes near impossible because, for some reason, it refuses to select certain units if their “selection radius” overlaps with that of a building. It can make finding and moving all your troops extremely difficult. It’s also sometimes a pain to navigate the research trees with it flicking between boxes when you just needed to move one box along. The radial interface for building troops or structures is extremely effective, similar to that found in Halo Wars, and performs its function well. Supreme Commander 2 doesn’t focus much on resource gathering so the lack of micromanaging makes it much easier to just get into a battle and blow up some enemies.
The game itself is split, very simply, into offline and online modes. There’s nothing fancy here; just your regular campaign, skirmish and annihilation online modes. Skirmish is very simply in that you set the rules and fight either a computer or a friend. Online has nothing fancy just a simple “kill the commander” or “kill all units” match type. There are no ridiculously pointless game modes here as seen in many other RTS titles to “set them apart from the pack”.
Campaign is, unfortunately, nothing special. It follows three factions, the UEF, the Illuminate and the Cybrans, all locked in a vicious conflict with each other. Cutscenes are kept minimal, thankfully, with much of the story being told through in-game communications so you can piece together the story as you play. Each faction has six levels each with numerous objectives, optional objectives and hidden ones to build up your research points which allow you to build awesome weapons for bigger explosions.
The problem is that all these levels feel the same. There doesn’t seem to be much variety and this is mainly due to the AI. I’ve never seen such predictable AI in a modern game before now. Most enemies seem to take the same exact path every time they attack. One level involves an air assault, where every so often a squadron of fighters would attack my base and each time they would arrive from the same area and attack the same buildings. After a few turns I managed to set up a defensive to take them down every time without fail; it really did take away the strategy from the game. Your own AI is pretty poor too. They follow directions worse than a New York cab driver, taking the scenic route every time. This really does become a pain if you need your troops to pull back rather quickly.
The game features a wide variety of land, sea and air vehicles, but regardless of what faction you are playing as, they all seem to function the same despite their funny names. You have the standard tanks, then the beefed up tanks, bombers and standard fighters amongst others. Building up an army is a lot easier when the economy is less precise than other titles. As mentioned earlier, resource gathering is not a large area of the game, you simply plonk a mass extractor down and what comes out is your currency. Once new troops are researched using the simpler research tree, however, things really kick off with Transformer-esque robots fighting on your side.
Supreme Commander 2 doesn’t look too great. It’s very washy and, at points, the textures are just horrible. There are some nice additions like missile smoke trails but it is very average looking. The common explanation for this is that it’s an RTS and it doesn’t need to look good but, in this day and age, skimping on graphics is taking away part of the experience.
Supreme Commander 2 is like the simple younger brother of Supreme Commander. It’s more accessible to people but, as such, misses out a number of vital points that it’s Oxford graduating older brother holds so high. If you want an RTS that isn’t packed full of micromanagement and fiddly controls, you could do worse, but this is by no means the best RTS out there. The controls are great for a console port but I just can’t help feel that RTS games feel out of place on consoles. Best to stick with the PC, as much as you enjoy being a sofa overlord!