grim_fandango's Supreme Commander 2 (PC) review

Supreme Commander... without the complexity and strategy.

 Remember the first SupCom? Remember how big and massive the game used to be? Gargantuan battles that made a difference, air fights with fleets the size of Washington to Chicago, and maps that dwarfed any strategy game to date? Well, the sequel gets all that in spades... but what is the game missing that disappoints the average SupCom fan? The story starts you off after the events of Forged Alliance--thirty or so years of peace then the president of the union gets shot. After that you take command of any race you want, Aeon Illuminate, UEF, or the Cybran. All three races are woven into an incoherent story that doesn't suck you in to the "emotional driven story," they speak so generously about. They are all friends at the academy and basically you have to kill them (exaggeration). The characters and the voice acting grate and detract from the experience and you'll likely just ignore the single-player in favor of the better skirmishes... although they don't hold much in the way of lasting value either.

The skirmish you'd think as the average SupCom fan is where the game picks up, but that really boils down to your experience with the first game. If you were a fan of the first game, you'll be thoroughly disappointed by the ease of which this game takes itself as. Dumbed down to the point of where the game just really doesn't require "strategy." You want to win? Mass units and rush, the AI doesn't help as they just send wave after wave of air units to crush you. The amount of strategy is dumbed down because the simplicity is just too much. The thing that made SupCom great was how intricate much of the strategy was--there were three tier levels of units that you could create and the strategy that added to the game-play is whether or not to build expensive durable units or stick with mass produced tier one units. The same thing boiled down to defense. However in the second one, they got rid of such a build and went with one mass produced unit--your tier one, two, and three tanks were replaced by one main battle tank, everything is the same as with the artillery and AA guns, one coherent unit to do the job.

This build made the game go much faster--no longer will you have to stay glued to your monitor for more than an hour--but this killed the strategy as you need only one unit to do the job, you could just as easily win with one hundred and sixty tanks if you really wanted to. The variety of units you could build killed in the flames. Another detriment that made when you shorten the game times was the trademark experimentals that you could build in the game. Remember how long each experimental took to build? Remember how difficult it was to kill them? Remember how satisfying it was to use them? Well, that was wounded in the flames as many of the units from the first game died in the making, only a few made it back.

The Fatboy made it, but it's not as useful as it once was--now its just a battleship made for land, no longer is it a strategic asset to you. Remember how it was able to make units three times faster than the tier three factory? Using it as a mobile factory and setting up shop outside your foes base for a preemptive strike? Well now it's just another tank you can mass produce within three minutes (yes, all experimentals are now able to be built by a special building, all under three minutes). The Megalith made it, but like the Fatboy, it's just another unit you can mass-produce. The famous one eyed monster made it, the Galactic Colossus, and yes its powerful, but like every other experimental, taking it down is a piece of cake, saying if you have enough tanks. I think you get the point about experimentals. But not a bad thing at all, they did add in some new... thoughtful units that don't exactly make themselves useful in the long run. The dragon robot (only useful at close range, and even then doesn't stand a chance), the experimental anti-air gun for the Aeon, the experimental teleporter, the experimental magnet for Aeon (not good), the bomb bouncer (not good at all for what it's worth), the list goes on and on for experimentals that just aren't useful enough to warrant the heavy cost they need--and besides, many of the experimentals are too easily destroyed, further questioning their usefulness. The strategy to taking experimentals down in SupCom 2 are the one and only (perhaps the easiest, bombers cost a bit too much) have enough tanks? Send them, that nasty walker will be gone within a matter of seconds.

If you are a fan of the original, you might notice these fault that this version falls into. The resource model you might notice as a bit odd. Remember how the resource model work before? Where you can build as much as you wanted as long as you didn't exceed what the Mass extractors were dishing out? Well that was taking out in favor of the standard rake and make resource model. Now you can't mass produce units in an unlimited fashion, you have to make sure you have enough resources in order to make that army you need to destroy the opposing force. Another one you might notice is the research tree--while a noble goal, it takes away the variety the first one had. Basically it upgrades the base model of the tank/artillery/combat plane/etc from weak to strong. Gives you experimentals and nukes, but even then they can be taken down rather easily with tanks, gunships, bombers, and anti-nukes.

Moot points that I would like to bring up is both the engine and the map designs have gotten a complete overhaul. The engine itself isn't super powerful but it does a great job of rendering most of the sharp looking battles, but doesn't do so with such aestheticism, instead opts for more reliable engines that will not crash and that perhaps will run very smoothly on many systems out there. Maps themselves are neat looking, but rather small, this accounts for the small unit count of five hundred. While only one map from the original (Setons Clutch) made it back from the original, the new maps are serviceable and are somewhat fun to play on. Sound design does a good job of emulating the cacophony of what the original was all about--tank battles, the echo of a nearby artillery gun, the satisfying mushroom cloud of a nuke all sound phenomenal in the sequel. Although the voice acting again is rather grated and will make you nod in dismay at how terribly it was directed. The story had it's potential, but old story mechanics, dated voice acting, and predictable plot points all add up to a mediocre story that may satisfy a few.
 
Multiplayer was like a giant chess battle in the original where huge fleets could patrol an area, mass tier three unit armies could stomp upon puny tier two tanks, and where the maps were so big you had to send a spy plane just to map what they are doing. Well this game has been dwarfed in comparison and the strategies you learnt in the original now have to be tweaked to match both the style, resource model, and research tree of this sequel. The original had long stalemate ridden battles that would go for over three hours (if both players are well defended), till one managed to build a game ender (either a Mavor artillery piece, a Seraphim nuke, etc). This game manages to clock in at an hour max usually--even with well defended bases, you can just send a mass of tanks and artillery pieces to deal with the one set of turrets that defend the base. Even with experimentals in the play, the game just seems to grind to a halt as the experimentals can't hold themselves together if a series of tanks come into play. They'll last a few seconds before getting themselves killed---unlike the original where things like the Fatboy mobile factory could last a while against an array of tanks (tier three or not). While the game is great for beginners alike, for many SupCom fans, you are best to avoid playing this game if you liked the complexity of the first. 

This game isn't all bad, it makes it easy for newcomers to get in to this game and I believe that is what Chris Taylor was going for. However the fanbase he once had best stick with the original SupCom instead of playing this as it is way to simple to satisfy that itch you always wanted when you played the original, that itch of being a supreme commander. If you liked the strategy of the first game (contemplating between which set of units to build, tier one, two, or three, or trying to manage your mass resources, etc, or how to take on that mighty Galactic Colossus, that flying saucer, gunship, etc), then you may want to try this game, but do so with a grain of salt.
 
**EDIT**
I would like to point out that I stopped playing the singleplayer campaign after a few hours as I found it not as fun as the skirmish modes. The whole killing of the three friends at the academy was an exaggeration and I do regret that error--I heard it off in another forum, and I jumped the gun and assumed that was what happened. I would like to thank the people who pointed that out, and again I regret that error.

3 Comments
Edited by Asrahn

A good review, one that I do not really agree with, but you raise some interesting points. Ex: I considered the storyline and the voice acting to be a bit tongue-in-cheek, no one can seriously look at the massive stereotypes and try to make emotional ties to them. Additionally, about killing the three main characters from each respective campaign, I'm not sure if it's my limited english that is spooking here, or you're sounding as if you never played through the entire single player experience, which was actually a quite awesome experience (Not storyline wise, but rather gameplay). You do after all hint to this in the review as well. Note that the campaigns is to be done in a certain order (Starcraft style) with the UEF first, Illuminate second and the Cybrans last, which would explain why you think the storyline appears incoherent.
 
As for build-times having been shortened, that is exactly what many people thought was hampering the first game. But each to his own, I guess.
 
As for recommending this review to those who liked the first Supreme Commander, I do indeed. Good job!

Posted by Shirogane
@Asrahn said:
"A good review, one that I do not really agree with, but you raise some interesting points. Ex: I considered the storyline and the voice acting to be a bit tongue-in-cheek, no one can seriously look at the massive stereotypes and try to make emotional ties to them. Additionally, about killing the three main characters from each respective campaign, I'm not sure if it's my limited english that is spooking here, or you're sounding as if you never played through the entire single player experience, which was actually a quite awesome experience (Not storyline wise, but rather gameplay). You do after all hint to this in the review as well. Note that the campaigns is to be done in a certain order (Starcraft style) with the UEF first, Illuminate second and the Cybrans last, which would explain why you think the storyline appears incoherent.  As for build-times having been shortened, that is exactly what many people thought was hampering the first game. But each to his own, I guess. As for recommending this review to those who liked the first Supreme Commander, I do indeed. Good job! "

Yeah, i was confused about his comments on the campaign as well. If i recall correctly, you HAVE to do them in that order. The Illuminate and Cybran campaigns are initially locked. Also, none of the 3 main characters get killed. 
 As for voice acting, yeah, it was pretty bad. I did like that William Gauge dude though, his voice acting was nice. 
 
Experimentals aren't insane super powerful anymore, like they used to be. But their build times got taken down so much that they're essentially more powerful now, cause you can mass them. 
Lack of tiers is both a good thing and a bad thing.  Not sure which i prefer...
Online
Posted by Grim_Fandango
@Shirogane:  I did jump the gun, I just assumed as I heard a couple spoilers from a couple other forums so I just assumed. But thank you for pointing that out! I greatly appreciate it, both of you!
 
@Asrahn: I did play the game, just stopped after a few hours. I'm a sucker for a good story, but it was just that Supreme Commander 2 didn't do a very good job on that front. I jumped the gun and I apologize. I shall change that part right now--I put the killing of the main characters as both to illustrate a point, and as a bit of an exaggeration as I found it too by the numbers. But again, that was my perspective, but thank you for pointing that out!

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