Supreme Commander 2

I like being the Supreme Commander!

I just finished the single player campaigns of Supreme Commander 2 and when I was thinking about how to describe the experience, I went down memory lane. Because that’s what Supreme Commander 2 is. It’s filled to the brim with the classic RTS elements that we all grew up with:

  • Base building,
  • Starting with an Engineer or 2, your commander and a handful of units,
  • Overwhelming opposition to begin with,
  • Simple cutscenes and story,
  • Awesome units,
  • Insane amount of units on the screen without hindering performance.

The good:

Experimentals! Seriously these units are just so amazingly diverse, powerful and scary as hell if combined correctly! Compared to the first Supreme Commander where you had like ONE experimental unit that took truly terrifying amounts of resources to build you can sport several experimentals in the 2nd version, which is a greatly improved gameplay mechanic! You get to not only field more, but you also get a lot more diversity in the units! From Cyborg Dinosaurs and Flying Saucers to the great Kraken submarine experimental unit!

Performance! I was close to writing this as the first item on the good list, since the performance of the game has gone from Crysis powerhungryness to a silky smooth feather lightness that can only be marvelled at! You and the enemy both can field so many units, in such massive levels it’s just so far from the Dawn of War 2 approach, it’s just what RTS used to be and more! I recall ending one of the levels with my unit cap of 300 constantly maxed out and fielding atleast 175 combat units against a fully working enemy. All my factories constantly pumping out new units to replace the fallen! I had no issues throughout the game!

Research! Streamlining and optimization are the keywords in Supreme Commander 2 and this shows in the unlock / research system in the game. At each level you start with some initial research points and you have multiple categories to spend them on. Naval, Air, Land, Structures and ACU ( your commander ). These categories really define your playstyle. Do you want to turtle and hunker down until you have a sizable force or do you want to bet it all on offensive units and stretch your income towards breaking point and rush your enemy. It’s all up to how you spend your research points and how you use the rewards they offer! I really like the choices you are offered and the different paths they lead to!

Story! I actually quite liked the simplistic story that unfolds and as the campaigns progress gets more “sophisticated”. I really liked the way the story progresses, as it was done in other RTS games like: Company of Heroes, Dawn of War, Warcraft 1-3, Starcraft, Dune, Red Alert and so on! When I had finished the last mission in the last campaign. I felt a kind of emptiness that came after having played all those other kind of RTS morphling games and then suddenly being back in a pure RTS again was just so vastly different that it gave me pause, I soon realised I had just thoroughly enjoyed myself throughout the duration of the game!

Multi Monitor Support! Yeah, Supreme Commander 2 supports multiple displays. Enabling this feature gives you a screen sized interactive mini-map that lets you with a brief glance look at the entire battlefield, while controlling your base building on the other! Great and convenient, sadly you do miss some interactivity on the 2nd monitor, but it’s better than having no monitor!

The bad:

Spam! It’s both one of the strengths of Supreme Commander 2, but it is also a flaw. Once you’ve accumulated enough research buildings, mass converters and power plants, you have infinite resources, which leads to endless units and a research point generation that completely ruins the tactical decision making in the early parts of the game. Everything from the point where you have this many resources becomes trivial and can be divided into these steps:

  1. Gather overwhelming force
  2. Attack move to enemy base
  3. Victory.

This and the rewarding of doing a lot of research, killing all enemies and doing all objectives (which were often linked to research) made me develop a very specific tactic. Turtle and spam towers until I have massed enough resources and research labs. Spam x experimental A, y experimental B and z experimental C. Order these and a flock of anti air units to the objective and win. Such a shame that there isn’t a kind of limit to how non-combat earned research. This would make you fight more and therefore make progression more action oriented.

The verdict:

Supreme Commander stands alone in a time where genres morph and spawn bastard children, RPG-RTS’ seems to be the most popular one these days with C&C4 taking the crown in how horrible this can be. Dawn of War 2: Chaos Rising offers a much more nuanced and varied approach to this. But very few games are so resolute in upholding and going against the tide of not daring to stand on the RTS foundation. I really liked playing Supreme Commander 2 as the campaign got into gear!

If you liked Dune II, Red Alert, Starcraft, Warcraft 1-3, Dawn of War and Company of Heroes, even Supreme Commander 1, you will probably like Supreme Commander 2. There is a world of difference between Supreme Commander and Supreme Commander 2, but I think it’s a great change as the game is much more streamlined and humane!