Well, it’s that time of the week again. This week, it’s all about the zoom key with Supreme Commander 2.
Supreme Commander 2 is a game that I very much want to like, but never quite reached that point. It adheres strictly to RTS convention by having the player build up a base with tons of units, and then attack-move to go kill the opponent. Except that you’re opponent is on the other end of this insanely long map that can take anywhere from 5-10 real life minutes to traverse. See, the gimmick of the series is a focus on massive battles. Unit caps are set at 500, and you can control myriad air, land, and sea forces against your opponent as you both attempt to devise strategies to flank and decimate units, from a viewing angle like that of God himself. You also have a commander robot that can build and perform tons of combat roles through different upgrade paths. The game ends when your commander goes critical, turning it into a nuke. There are upgrades that will allow you to safely detach the head and have it turn into another unit, leaving your enemies to fry while you regroup.
There are also Experimental Units, which take tons of time to research and build. Consequently, they are the most powerful units in the game. The developers over at Gas Powered Games also took the experimental moniker and applied it to the unit designs themselves, which are crazy and awesome. There’s fire-breathing dinosaur robots, submarines that have crazy Kraken tentacles, tanks that are made of other tanks, and a cannon that shoots units across the battlefield. It’s completely nuts, and gives the game a unique feel to using them. I really enjoy the physical design of these units, and I wish they had been able to transfer that to the regular units as well.
An there’s one of my first problems: for as awesome as the Experimental Units are, getting them out takes a long time, and very specific tech paths to get to each. It’s understandable, because you can’t just have a Cybrannosaurus Rex come out in the first 15 minutes. Yet using the actual normal units, the ones that are supposed to be augmented by the Experimental Units, are just boring and sometimes difficult to use. There is something like 5 different types, including artillery, support, and attack and so on, but the actual effect these roles seem to have is minimal. I don’t feel the need to pick specific unit combos because they are just so disposable. It really feels like you are always waiting on meters to fill up so you can pump out another 3 measly units.
Also, building the units is a chore in and of itself. The buildings from which they come from are enormous, and take up a ton of space, but only make one unit at a time. I feel that if units came out in squads of 5 or 10, it would speed up the game so much, and trying to differentiate between individual buildings can be tricky. The AI pathfinding is nothing to write home about, and for a game that relies so heavily on sending hordes of units, it would be nice to have them all get there at the same time. I’ve had tons of problems with units just getting stuck on walls, and that should not happen in this kind of game!
Overall the game just feels really slow. It kind of fits with the theme of commanding these insanely huge armies, but ultimately is a barrier to entry. Why waste 45 minutes getting to a point where it becomes fun, when I can play something like Dawn of War II or StarCraft and have an enjoyable 30 minutes? Also, why does this game have a unit cap? When the whole point is to build up huge forces, I don’t think I should be limited. It was fun for an afternoon, but that’s really all I wanted to play, despite my love for the Experimental Units and the Commander idea.
The campaign is also pretty weak, with very pretty but meaningless cutscenes about a war that brings these formerly peaceful factions against each other’s throats. Something that would have been cool would be to extend to some global domination game like MAG, but with the three different factions duking it out over the planet. Oh well, at least there’s a giant dinosaur robot in it.