From its very inception, the Supreme Commander franchise has been dedicated to one thing, fan service. Created by Chris Taylor and his team at Gas Powered Games, SupCom was considered to be the spiritual successor to 1997′s Total Annihilation. With Supreme Commander 2, it seems like the SupCom franchise it coming into its own, and I like it.
For those of you who are not too familiar with SupCom, let me fill you in. This RTS series is build on big things: big robots, big armies, big maps, and big destruction. Players take on the role of a commander represented by a giant robot called an ACU. The ACU acts as both a construction unit and a combat unit, but you have to be careful. If your ACU is destroyed, you lose.
Like any good RTS, there are three factions for you to choose from: the typical human army called the UEF (United Earth Federation), a cyborg hive-mind dubbed The Cybran Nation, and a group of humans who follow an alien philosophy called The Aeon Illuminate. All three factions start out with basically the same units and structures. Differences begin to surface as you research new technologies and weapons.
Unlike the first SupCom, where you had to level up research structures to gain access to new technologies, SupCom 2 takes a step back to a more simplistic research structure. Now you build research facilities which accelerate the rate you receive research points. You then spend research points to buy new technologies. There is a tree which forces you to research preliminary technologies before you can buy the high-end stuff.
I should probably mention that one of the big draws of SupCom 2 is the experimental units. These colossal robots require a decent bit of research before unlocking, and cost a ton of money – but it’s worth it. When you are rocking a fleet of squid like submarines that shoot lasers out of each tentacle, picking bombers out of the sky and raining terror and destruction on your enemies, you’ll understand what I mean.
Another place where SupCom 2 takes a step toward to simpler side is resource acquisition. Much like the first SupCom, you gain resources by building mass extractors on specific parts of the map, and power plants wherever. You were told how many resources you were bringing in per second, and were able to build units and structures as long as you were taking in more money than you were spending. Needless to say this system was confusing to some gamers. In SupCom 2, resource spending is handled more like a debit card, rather than credit. You are only allowed to build a unit or structure if you have the resources waiting.
The single-player campaign consists of twenty levels, two tutorial maps and eighteen campaign maps. Gas Powered Games did a great job with level design. In some levels you are specifically placed where there are fewer resources. The player must utilize his ACU and engineer units to “reclaim the wreckage” of destroyed robots. By forcing the player to harvest the enemy corpses, GPG effectively guides the player into new ways of thinking. In order to amass an army, I had to lure enemy waves into a series of traps, just so I could build my own forces. This isn’t the only place where GPG’s level design shines. While most maps have the obvious objective of “destroy the enemy ACU(s)” there are several where you must defend structures or allied armies. While these objectives are not revolutionary, GPG handles them in a way that makes sure you are on the edge of your seat for the entire campaign.
The one place where SupCom 2 falls on its face is the story. Maybe it’s because I don’t really remember the first SupCom‘s storyline very well, or I’m just picky about narratives, but the story just didn’t do it for me. The villain is just some giggling goon whose motives are never really explained. The voice acting, while sufficient, isn’t going to win any awards. Every twist and turn in the story arc can be seen from a mile away, and are such cliches that anyone who has played more than a handful of games will know what to expect.
The good thing about SupCom 2 is that once you finish the single-player portion, the real game begins in multiplayer. With over twenty-five maps, three different game modes (victory conditions), support for up to eight players, and a whole slew of game changing options (no rush timers, unit exclusions, etc.), SupCom 2 provides gamers with an almost endless lifespan. I was able to jump in and out of games with no problem and always had a ping under 100.
The one issue with multiplayer is that it’s extremely cutthroat. Like all multiplayer games, there are going to be some people out there that take the game way too seriously and have victory down to an equation. Good thing SupCom 2 packs a skirmish mode where you can hone your skills against computer-controlled opponents.
Another thing that makes SupCom 2 great is its use of Valve’s Steamworks toolkit. While some gamers may object to being forced to use Steam, personally I have no problem with it. In fact I feel that it adds value to the title by giving gamers access to the Steam friends list feature, leaderboards, and forty-seven achievements.
Some other features of SupCom 2 that I enjoyed are the build queue system and dual monitor support.
As I’ve mentioned before, SupCom 2 features huge battles with tons of units. As you’d expect, it’s a lot of work to micromanage your factories to produce the units you want, or I should say it would be a lot of work had SupCom 2 not come up with a brilliant solution to this problem. After gamers queue up a list of units for a factory to produce, they can press a button to have that factory repeat the build queue. Much like those annoying infomercials you see at 4:00 AM, you can set it and forget it.
Another feature of SupCom 2 that I liked was its dual monitor support. Those of you who played the first SupCom are already familiar with it, but for those of you who missed out let me break it down. SupCom 2 allows you to play the game with two monitors, meaning you can checkout two parts of the map at the same time. What I chose to do with my second monitor was zoom as far out as possible and use it as a huge minimap. This allowed me to both micro and macromanage my armies for maximum ass-kicking efficiency. Those of you without a second monitor won’t really be at a disadvantage, but it does make the game more engaging and enjoyable.
All in all SupCom 2 is a great RTS title sure to satisfy gamers who like things on a grand scale. If you like big battles and big robots I can’t recommend this game enough. While it may not revolutionize the genre, SupCom 2 still deserves a place on every RTS gamer’s shelf.
The visuals are about what you would expect from a modern RTS, however the unique use of dual monitor support is a nice bonus.
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Supreme Commander 2 takes the best parts of the first game while simplifying the worst, ultimately resulting in a more enjoyable experience.
The voice acting gets the job done, but it isn't pretty, and the music is appropriately epic.
With plenty of multiplayer modes and a skirmish feature, Supreme Commander 2 has more than enough content to warrant keeping it installed on your machine.
Supreme Commander 2 is a solid step in the right direction to making the SupCom name a staple for RTS gamers.