World Supremacy

Review

posted 12/22/2010 by Tom Bitterman
other articles by Tom Bitterman
Sometimes you want to play a real in-depth strategy game, one with lots of decisions to make and options to weigh.  The kind of game you can get lost in, that provides some feeling for what it would actually be like to make decisions that rule the fate of armies, nations and worlds.

And sometimes you just want to push a bunch of computerized army guys around and fight stuff.  “World Supremacy” (WS) is that type of game.  It is billed by its developer, Malfador Machinations, as a beer and pretzels wargame.  This is not the sort of game that is going to require you to learn calculus to win.


The game mechanics are simple and straightforward.  You're plopped on a randomly generated world with a small starting force of modern-day-style units (tanks, planes, artillery, infantry – the usual suspects).  The world is divided up into a bunch of regions.  Each region has a monetary value associated with it.  Each region you control provides its monetary value to your treasury every turn.  You use this money for upkeep and to buy new units.

Of course, you are not alone on this world.  As you roll back the fog of war you will find opposing factions.  Much like the “Dominions” series, there is no diplomacy.  You are in this game to the death, either yours or your opponents'.  There is only one victory condition – total elimination of all opponents.  There can be only one.


This is a pretty standard system for a basic turn-based strategy game.  The reader can be forgiven for having flashbacks to Axis and Allies or Risk.  Still, basic does not mean bad.  Putting together the two mechanics leads to a simple equation: expand ruthlessly + constant war = pure combat.  Or, since this is a beer and pretzels game: bigger is better + everybody hates me = fight, fight, fight.

World Supremacy adds to a few wrinkles to this basic template, but not many.  Perhaps the biggest addition to the “standard” sort of game is the tactical map.  When units from different sides end up in the same region they automatically enter combat on a separate tactical combat map.  The map itself looks nice, being taken from Google Earth (I think I saw my house!), but is just a bunch of squares and has no real effect on the combat.  Each type of unit has a number of movement points, an attack and defense strength, and a range.  Sides take turns moving, and the last side with any units left wins.

Another innovation is the ability to research technologies.  Unfortunately this feature could use a little more work.  The technologies themselves are nothing to write home about, mostly they just produce a more powerful version of a particular unit type.  They even have blood-stirring names like “Infantry II”.  They are also too expensive for the benefit they provide, and research is dicey.  For example, researching “Helicopter II” with a 50% chance of success (the highest possible) might cost $300 million, while an individual helicopter costs only $12 million.  Why pay for a coin flip for the ability to build slightly better helicopters when one could just buy 25 of the old type?

As far as it goes, World Supremacy is an OK game.  The problems it has stem from a failure to learn the lessons of games that have come before it.  This style of game (turn-based, land is money, constant war) has been around for long enough that its flaws have become clear and newer games have incorporated mechanics to fix them.  World Supremacy does not.


For example, once the player becomes sufficiently large it is a foregone conclusion that they will win.  There is just no way for the AI to build as many units as the player can, which means the player can win through simple attrition.  This is generally how WS games end – with a long, boring stretch of pretty easy victories.  This is not fun.

Also, when two sides are evenly matched it is easy for the game to become stalemated for long periods of time.  There can be long stretches in WS where you trade a single territory back and forth with an enemy simply because neither of you can build a big enough edge in forces to hold it.  At first this seems like nail-biting, well-balanced combat, but eventually it becomes boring.  Eventually one side will out-produce the other and keep the territory, but the interim is just tedious.

Aside from the mechanics, there are significant problems with the interface.  Beer and pretzels games should be inviting and easy to manipulate – half the fun of “Plants vs Zombies” is that the interface makes the game so easy to play and is itself enjoyable to look at.  WS does not have that sort of interface.  It just takes too many clicks to do even the simplest things.  One can't even drag and drop units to move them, but one has to select them, then push the “move” button, then decide where.


The graphics themselves are not pretty.  Units are simple sprites.  Even different tech levels of units (Tank I vs Tank II, for example) have the same sprite.  The explosions could use more variety, as could the sound effects.  The sprites clearly distinguish the unit type but are otherwise kind of sad-looking.  A casual game needs to be eye-catching and this game is not.

In summary, then, World Supremacy is a turn-based strategy game in the mold of Axis and Allies and Risk.  It is meant for a more casual gamer.  Unfortunately, flaws in its mechanics and an unpleasant interface mean that most gamers will tire of the game after a few play-throughs.  There are better options out there with similar mechanics for those interested in this style of game.




* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.

C-
Beer and pretzels strategy game that comes on strong but fades quickly. Easy to pick up, and just as easy to put down.