SuperPower is a turn-based open-ended simulation game, with the player managing all aspects of a single country (or at least, those aspects included in the game). The difficulty of the game is left to the player - Switzerland is easier than Zimbabwe, but less complex than the United States - with 140 countries available.
Games have three optional goals (conquer the world, eliminate armed rebels, balance resources) and an implicit goal of "stay in power", and continue until a selected time limit is reached or all goals are achieved.
The game attempts to model the state of the world as it was on January 1, 1997, and games always start on this date.
The game's original title (until shortly before release) was Defcon.
With a few exceptions, the game takes place over turns lasting one week, and each turn is broken into several phases. Orders given by each country are only performed at the end of a turn, in order of that country's "rank". Military movements and combat follow if necessary, but occur in real-time.
SuperPower divides actions the player can take into four main themes.
- Demography: health, development, technology, and other factors relating to the country's civilian population.
- Political: non-violent interactions with other countries. (Type of government can be changed, with different effects on support/growth/diplomacy/etc, but the player never has to deal with elections or heirs.)
- Economic: Everything financial. Debt and deficits don't end the game, but countries with more money take priority at the end of a turn and every action costs money.
- Military: equipment, forces, technology, espionage, and nuclear (dis)armament.
Countries consist of one or more parts, and host a number of cities and military bases, with one city chosen as the capital. Cities produce natural resources (energy, ore, cereal, meat and "wealth"), and countries import and export a wide range of goods and services, though only the richest countries will be able to import all the resources required of the much-smaller amount produced, let alone afford to.
Peaceful interactions between countries revolve around treaties, which can be single events (cease-fires, giving/selling resources or technology) or longer-term (including various partnerships which boost production or diplomatic relations, provide various rights and obligations, and continual trading). The game begins with a large number of existing treaties, representing everything from the European Union to the Olympics.
Technology is rated on a sliding scale and not individual items or tech trees. This avoids unrealistic or anachronistic problems, but does make it a little uninteresting. Most of the research areas relate to military unit types or abilities, as well as a 'generation' rank that is difficult to advance but provides bonuses to all areas. Countries begin with plans and units of appropriate strength and number, and designs can be customised and updated as advances are made. Technology can't be stolen or reverse-engineered, and buying advanced units doesn't necessarily mean the player can build more.
Warfare & Espionage
There is no truly peaceful way to control another country; the closest is by rigging elections and installing a puppet government which is only possible in democracies and understandably disastrous if discovered. As such, all but the dullest of games follow a common thread: acquire more money by increasing revenue or decreasing spending, use it to increase military strength, then invade someone (or attack your own rebels).
Troop movements, combat and strategic warfare all take place in speed-selectable realtime (individual battles are queued and not entirely simultaneous). Early, unpatched versions of the game had no limits on movement and effectively gave even the poorest country unlimited global airlift capability; the most recent patch decreased the reach to areas adjacent to friendly military units.
Conquering a country involves taking over its capital, which effectively requires taking over every city as the capital 'retreats', but combat can also take place anywhere on land or sea where hostile forces meet. The game has a fairly detailed internal map of real elevation and terrain, which should supposedly be taken into consideration when preparing for combat.
Unfortunately, the combat itself is fairly poor with many factors hidden from the player. Units with a low "communication" technology rating won't receive changed orders, but the player can't tell if this occurs. Ammunition and weapon range/power have to be memorised or guessed, even for your own forces, and fog of war is used to some extent but not displayed. Units aren't particularly intelligent and micromanaging (to the level of setting waypoints, splitting/joining groups, and keeping track of morale) is tedious at best. (Generally throughout the game, the specific effects of actions are not made clear to the player before or after performing them.) Fortunately, battles can be auto-resolved with fairly consistent results.
A conquered AI country is considered an extension of the player's country, but can be made independent again (keeping all technology and constructed units).
A number of countries begin the game with nuclear missiles, and the technology can be gained by others in time. Missiles can be launched from military bases, naval craft or orbital platforms, but must be targeted manually and individually which is sadly also a tedious process. Chemical and biological weapons can also be deployed, with typical effects on population and diplomacy. While it's rare for AI countries to start a nuclear war, they're quite likely to take part, even launching on mostly-innocent countries. Lastly, if too much radiation is released in too short a time the game ends immediately with a screen telling you off for being destructive and not taking it seriously.
Apart from installing fake governments, espionage permits a number of actions that harm countries if successful, as well as less-harmful intelligence gathering. Countries can also be framed, though this makes success harder. The manual gives an example:
You want to go to war with a country but fear your population will not support your decision. How about performing TERRORISM on your own country while framing the country you wish to attack? Target the CIVIL sector and set the importance according to the amount of damage you want to do.
E.H.E: The Evolutionary Human Emulator
One of the more unique aspects of the game is its AI, which the game terms the EHE. Each country is entirely independent, and not aware of anything it shouldn't know, including which countries are human-controlled. Further, the EHE learns from the results of actions (including those of the player) and uses this information in both future turns and games, supposedly becoming smarter and a more realistic opponent. There are downsides, however: coincidences or other effects can cause the EHE to learn poorly or associate the wrong outcome to an effect (e.g. "building military units is a good way to increase cereal exports").
Though it's not possible to see why a specific decision is made or what knowledge the EHE has, the player has access to a number of advisors that suggest actions with probability of success based on what the EHE has seen in the past. Its suggestions are generally obvious or vague.
The game comes with a manager that can be used to train the EHE outside of the game, but training too much can also be a problem. It's useful mostly for custom scenarios.
- Pentium ® compatible processor
- A 100% Windows ® 98/ME/XP compatible computer system
- DirectX ® 8.1
- Display adapter with 800x600 16-bit color screen resolution ability
- 64MB RAM
- 300 MB of hard disk space
- CD-ROM drive
- 100% Microsoft ® -compatible mouse and driver
- DirectSound ® compatible sound card
- Pentium ® III processor
- 128MB RAM