One of the most awaited Real-Time Strategy (RTS) game, Supreme Commander is said to be the successor of Total Annihilation – how well will this game fare as another RTS?
3 conflicting factions, each having their agenda. Just play the game and find out the ending then, the story will unfold itself. I’m sorry, I’m not inclined to story telling.
Being another Real-Time Strategy (RTS) game, Supreme Commander comes with campaign mode, skirmish mode and multi-player mode. For the campaign mode, you have a choice to play the campaign mode for any of the 3 races. As usual the story unfolds as you progress in the missions, the missions in Supreme Commander are interesting, quite often you’ll have the operation area expanded 3 times and with new objectives. So yeah, each outing is like 4 missions in 1.
(I will touch on Skirmish and Multi-player mode in the next section)
Just as any other RTS games, each race has it’s strengths and weaknesses. They build similarly but their units and structure vary in offensive and defensive capability. for example the Cybrans have Destroyer ships that could walk on land while the UEF has Tech 3 Gunships that are horribly powerful.
Gunships? Destroyers? YES! you are given an array of ground, air and naval units to choose from. And when I say choose, I don’t mean the measly 2 or 3 (or 1 or none) air units available like those found in Command & Conquer series. Even with a Tech 1 air factory, you get 3 types of air units already. The number of unit available for each Tech level depends on the race you’re using.
All of the race have Tech 4 experiment units and believe me, appropriate tactical usage of these units could tip the tide of the combat, for example the Aeon has the Colossus that sports a very heavy armor, the Cybrans have a mobile artillery unit that rips your base apart should it get into firing range while the UEF has a mobile factory that deals powerful blows while being capable of producing units. And those are just a few examples of the available Tech 4 units; each race has more than 1 Tech 4 unit.
Unlike any other RTS before, Supreme Commander offers a wealth of features that I’ve not come by in any RTS so far. Unlike games like StarCraft or Command & Conquer : Generals, the construction units in Supreme Commander are able to accept build-queues for structures – this means you can actually instruct the unit to build an Extractor at point A, travel to point B, build a generator, travel to point C, build 5 fabricators in the shape of a 5×5 cube – it’s incredible!! No more worries about the unit staying idle upon finish an instructed task, well at least not so often. 🙂 Sometimes I’ll just get them to construct a bunch of generators or defence structures while I look into other more important matters.
Note that those who played Total Annihilation before would most probably pick up the game very fast; after all it’s just a better Total Annihilation.
The game allows employing seemingly limitless tactics for combat, for example you could instruct your 200 bombers to move in a various formations. Don’t under-estimate this feature, a typical RTS would send all your units going almost in a single file and it’s practically suicidal. With the formation move, your units could reach there almost all at once thus increasing the survival rate for your units and allowing it to actually do some damage.
Attacking an opponent is more than just sending a bunch of units, as I mentioned earlier there’s ‘seemingly limitless tactics for combat’. You could always engage in an early assault, or you could rush for heavy artillery or nuclear missiles, you could even send in a few Tech 4 units with powerful Tech 3 units accompanying it.
Just like Total Annihilation, Supreme Commander is one of the really rare games that don’t require you to continuously send your harvesting units to collect resources. The focus of Supreme Commander is on the ACU (the commander unit) and resources are based on mass and power (electricity). While the supply is endless, you need to be able to generate enough resources for your expanding unit and base.
By the way, Supreme Commander doesn’t allocate a portion of the screen to have a minimap; instead you get to view the map of the entire scenario by using the mouse-wheel to zoom outwards. It’s kind of like Homeworld series where you press space to view the scenario.
Skirmish Mode & Online Gaming
The skirmish mode for Supreme Commander is pretty interesting as the maps come in variety of size, ranging from small map-sizes like 5km x 5km up to even 80km x 80km. These large sized maps are horribly big, even a scout unit could take a minute or 2 just to get from 1 end to the other.
The maps available come with varying terrain details, from green pastures to scorching deserts, don’t expect to see any buildings or torn cities though, there’s like that in this game.
Should you decide to have a game or 2 with your friends, you have the option of playing via GPGNet’s online gaming service server or you could just establish direct connections.
Connection has never been a problem for Supreme Commander, the system requires no major change to your network. Being behind a router, all I needed to do was add another port-forwarding rule and that’s it.
Multi-player gaming is great BUT it becomes a pain as the game progresses. Imaging having 6 players on the map and each one having over 300 units. The game goes horribly slow, each second in the game translates to 2 or 3 seconds in real life. So by the end of the session, the game may have stated that you just finished an hour of combat but in real life you’ve just spent about 2 hours or more on the game.
Graphics & Sound
Graphically the game isn’t something ground-breaking. The details on the units the many special effects are nothing to shout about and it didn’t have to either because when you have about 500 units in the arsenal and constantly moving around the map, there’s no time for you to actually zoom in and admire a unit and all it’s details. 🙂 Ok, I did that when I first got hold of the game, tested all the settings and such, seriously if the game lags on you, don’t hesitate to turn off the details as you would be too busy enjoying the game instead of noticing the graphical differences.
The game ran fine at 1680×1050 resolution on my setup, despite running at 13 – 15 frames per second or so, the game was playable. Eventually I decided to lower the details and the resolution to get better frame rates.
The game also sports this feature to run on 2 monitors. When this option is enabled, the game will output the scenario on the additional monitor so you don’t have to scroll the mouse wheel each time you want to view the map.
It takes a while to get used to it and it does take up more resources, in the end I’ve decided not to go with that feature. It’s a nice feature no doubt, whether implementing is helpful to your endeavours is entirely your decision.
It’s been a long time since I come by a really nice RTS that holds so much feature that it actually makes warfare fun! I mean really, formation move was revolutionary. The units actually line up themselves intelligently before starting their journey! That also we’ve not consider the many other fancy stuff you get that was mentioned earlier.
This game is definitely an RTS gamer’s delight, now I only wish that this game is actually playable. It seems to bring even the most modern PCs to their knees. I suppose we can play this game again a few more years down the road. 🙂
PC Specifications Used
Processor : AMD X2 3600+ @ 2.5ghz
RAM : 1GB DDR2 667
Graphic Card : BFG 6800 Ultra 256MB
Monitor : 20″ Dell Ultra-sharp Wide-screen LCD