Welcome to the RTSC
Supreme Commander pages!
Developed by American developers Gas
Powered Games and published by THQ
in 2007, Supreme
Commander (SupCom) is a large scale RTS that plays out titanic battles on land, sea and air. Its fought between generic forces, each commanded by a giant, singular robot commander that represents you on the battlefield. Your commander or Armoured Command Unit (ACU) is the seed that grows into an impressive military machine that covers nearly every niche of land, sea, air and strategic weaponry. Tanks, bots, planes, ships, subs, turrets, shields, nukes, and Godzillan superweapons - they're all there. Battles between opponents can easily take about an hour, and can easily involve hundreds, if not thousands of units, depending on how many players are involved.
There are two games and one expansion in the series so far. RTSC will fixate primarily on the standalone expansion, Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance, and treat that as the "definitive" version of the game. The sequel, Supreme Commander 2, while snappier looking, is far smaller in scope and more accessible to a wider gaming audience. In other words, SupCom2 got dumbed down, lost most of its epic flavour and grandeur, losing a lot of old SupCom and Total Annihilation players in the process.
The first Supreme Commander was the long awaited "spiritual successor" to Total Annihilation, and came arguably close to being a perfect game sequel. Starting off from where Total Annihilation left off, SupCom pushed
the basic premise further, updated the graphics, sound, units,
and presented the player with an almost infinitely configurable GUI that
to get in the way. The game can be serviced and maintained using Gas Power Games' GPG.net service. GPG.net applies patches, provides an online gaming environment, multiplayer replays and a ranking system. It's more than just an echo of the old Total Annihilation's Boneyards multiplayer service.
quite obvious that the developers have not only reprised TA in
the extraordinary output of the fans over the years as well. Supreme
Commander appears to be the distillation of every custom
mod, unit pack,
and home grown add-on built by the TA modding community over the last
decade, with all the repetition and dead wood stripped out.
What you get is a very polished - if not demanding game - for your
PC that has at least five years of life built into it. You'll need a solid PC to get the most out of it, though.
There's been a big trend in the last decade towards the hands on, micromanaging "twitch" style of the WarCraft RTS, or the more recent "Defence of the Ancients" game style where players focus entirely on a Hero and their character progression in a small team game. The whole game centres around these heroes, and a lot of the complexity comes about from insider knowledge of how each Hero plays differently to the rest. StarCraft, WarCraft and the DotA's of this world restrict your access to the game's GUI, limiting your perspective, imposing limits on the number of units you can control and relying on a lot of high speed, stimulus-response "gamer athletics" to prevail. Winners show off considerable mouse and keyboard skills and timing to pull off a win - whilst at the same time demonstrating some big picture strategising, usually at high speed. This combination of fine control and big picture strategy is why StarCraft deserves its legendary status in the gaming world, and why South Koreans have all but turned it into a national sport.
However, Supreme Commander's a different kind of beast. Its more austere, less intimate, and more about crowd control. There aren't any charismatic units; your forces are made up of disposable and anonymous drones, built and lost in swarms. The only intricate magic spells you'll find here are On/Off switches. You can upgrade Mass Mines and factories, and there are some seriously expensive upgrades on your commander. But essentially all units are completely without upgrades or improvements. The small tank you build at the start of a six hour marathon game will still be exactly the same small tank at the end of it. Some games give you one tank with three magic upgrades: SupCom gives you three different tanks - small, medium and big, each produced from a small, medium and big factory respectively.
SupCom is really a battlefield simulator, where all firepower is calculated on the fly. You're responsible for everything, and your success depends on your capacity to manage ten different things whilst under fire. The last thing you need is a GUI that gets in the way. Still, you do have room for clever micro-tactics on the field: in this sim, you really can dodge well aimed artillery shells and apply some hands on unit dancing to turn the tables on your leaden footed opponent. There's a lot of automation in the game, and you'll rely on it heavily. Like chess, you have full access to the entire field, but if you want to see everything in it and hide from your opponents then you're responsible for scouting and maintaining your radar and anti-radar coverage. Likewise with your economy: your capacity to build and absorb damage is directly affected by your ability to base build and exploit the map under increasingly difficult conditions.
Backstory is largely cosmetic. Myself, I have absolutely no desire to play
the single player campaign, since most RTS writing is often laughably trite, and SupCom's Infinite War is definitely no exception. Indy games have the right idea: a couple of paragraphs to set a context, a few suggestive lines to set up a scenario, and then the player makes up the rest actually playing it all out in the game. Its the game mechanics that sell these things; trying to feebly justify those mechanics with some inane story is like laboriously explaining every joke you tell. The whole package clocks in at something like 8 gigabytes,
and a lot of the bloat is stored in massive high definition animation
files (tutorials and single player campaign vids) and equally
huge sound banks. So the only real downside to this game is losing gigabytes of disk space to embarrassingly naff "well done brave commander" dialogue and some awful Saturday morning cartoon storytelling presented in resolutions that dwarf your typical DVD.
But still - we do have four massive factions to crash around with, so its easily forgiven. I just wish I had the option to bypass installing the campaign (or multiplayer, for those who prefer campaigns). Back in the day, i.e. a mere ten years ago as I write this, a lot of games gave you the option of doing just that.
The real attraction is that killer
gameplay that the old Total Annihilation had, and then some.
The whole progression of the game has been streamlined and deepened, with all of the kinks ironed out. There seems to be more ways to build a base, manage it, and demolish
it than ever before. There's a wealth of strategies, styles,
tricks and tactics that you can