A smooth and intellectually stimulating Real-Time Strategy game is hard to conjure. There are a lot of factors to take under consideration, factors that cannot be covered by epic cut scenes and excessive amounts of explosions. That being said, Supreme Commander 2
is not that Holy Grail of RTS games that you’ll clutch in your future arthritic hands in defense of your favorite genre of video games up against your FPS-loyal friend.
Looking at Supreme Commander 2 from a distance, the Gas Powered Games developed RTS looks quite promising. There are a total of three factions to participate in, all of which have a unique storyline somehow intertwined with the others’, and a set of minions wholly unique to them. There is also a lot of opportunity for co-op and online play, in the form of player versus player or indulging in the skirmishes gameplay mode. The scrutiny upon which you’ll be delving into your battle scenarios seems a hopeful endless pit of possibility, right? Well, let’s start cutting through the optimism before that idea sinks in too deep.
Your offensive and defensive teams are very basic, and uniform throughout each faction. You have your land, air, and sea units (which are comparatively rarely used in the game) to function as your attackers and perhaps defenders while you’re still growing your base. In the midst of developing your factories and the like, you’ll want your engineers and ACU to throw up some defenses. The only ones worth spending your precious resources on are the Long Range defense tower and the Anti-Air tower. These will keep the endless groups of enemies off your back while you try to build your own army.
A military-centered RTS should have more variety in the obstacles presented to you. I should be figuring out what sort of army to build, where precisely to position them, and what sort of response I’ll be giving against my opponent. Unfortunately, however, my response was always most reliable in one path only.
At first, realizing I couldn’t just begin to construct Land and Air factories and whip out an army in the next 30 seconds, it was fun to learn from my mistakes and understand the worth of being patient to build a strong defense before going on the offensive. I soon learned that a defensive line around my fort was the first necessity, followed quickly by scouring for resources with which to build my actual army. I send my engineers out to construct Mass Extractors and Energy Generators under the protection of the defense towers to ensure my levels are high for an imminent construction of my own set of waves of strength.
Once I’ve got a self-sustaining fort up and running, I can focus on building the actual units. Alongside the factory’s construction of said units, I’m undoubtedly gaining research points from the enemies that continue to encroach on my site, and maybe from the Research facilities that you can choose to build. Using these research points, I’ll look into added abilities and even new types of units to construct. This feature of the game adds a different taste to what can very quickly become a dull experience.
Each new level in the three campaign (campaigns contain six levels each, bringing it to a grand total of eighteen scenarios to partake in) will call for almost this exact progression of tactics. As you build experience from killing enemies per round, you can allocate points to various trees in your defenses adding health, strength, shields, or even new technology to your army. The only way to diversify your gameplay, therefore, is to play with research options and see what new artillery you can invent and maybe what new defenses you want to focus on. You can spend research points in Land, Air, Sea, Structures, and your ACU. Most entail something along the lines of “Add X% of vision to your radar,” or “Add X% to regeneration,” but you’ll occasionally come across experimental units that can be fun to tinker with. Otherwise, however, your operations are specifically outlined and there’s not much straying from it.There’s no legitimate challenge in the campaigns of Supreme Commander 2. You essentially have the same basic premise of starting off with a small reserve of energy, mass, and units to build an army as fast as possible while your enemy sits on his thrown amidst his fully sustainable and fully equipped base. He’ll send off small units to taunt you while you attempt to weasel your way into the top ranks of commanders to at all stand a chance against the others, and you’ll desperately labor away at building your own fortress. Eventually, once the small groups of military coming your way can be maintained by your defenses, you can build an army of massive amounts of units and absolutely obliterate the opposing force. The victory, however, doesn’t feel that it has been invested with careful thought and planning. It’s more akin to strength in numbers than in smart combat.
While that is my overall perspective on the gameplay of Supreme Commander 2, there are other qualms I had that would even get the best of an excellent RTS. Let’s say I did enjoy the monotonous task of “search and destroy target” by rebuilding an army at the start of each campaign and going about the same procedures each time, I still didn’t feel that I had control over my units. It’s difficult to select fragments of your army at a time, and distinguish which units you want to call upon. The screen gets cluttered very fast, and the zoom and movement of your camera view still can’t make up for it. It takes too long to zoom in and check on my base, and zoom back out to see how my attack is going. In the process of tinkering with my joystick, I’ve probably just lost three towers and ten mobile units.
Square Enix tried to convince us that the controls would be just as reliable on a PC as it would on the Xbox 360 port. This is something I think every PC gamer will – and justifiably so – argue against. What’s more, I found that my AI units wouldn’t respect my command. I would have to incessantly order them to attack a certain unit before they would pull away from their distraction (perhaps dreams of freedom?) and obey my command. Even a simple movement command is apparently too difficult to fulfill, and enemies fly within their vision range somehow still unnoticed. I’ve never had lazier AI.
While I did enjoy the idea of different perspectives on one vast storyline, the objectives in each campaign could have been more creative to keep my interest up for tackling the next ones. However, while campaign mode might miss the complexity of a really challenging RTS, going up against other players online can find you experiences to make up for the lack of one in the campaigns. If you prefer co-operative play, you can also set about skirmishes with friends against the AI or each other on various maps under various difficulties. Even just the companionship makes for a more fun experience. This is definitely one of those games that player versus player makes shine as opposed to a solo campaign against the AI. Overall, however, the game begins to get less fun and more tiring in a speedy hill downward.