When Total Annihilation came out nearly 10 years ago, it gave the RTS genre a major kick in the arse, bringing 3D units and terrain, downloadable units, and a level of battlefield chaos that was over-the-top for its time.
Why the hell are we talking about a decade-old game? Supreme Commander is the brainchild of TA’s daddy, that’s why. It may not be called TA II, but Supcom is very much the spiritual successor to that genre-redefining game. And, as with TA, our expectations for an RTS are forever changed after playing Supcom.
This is quite simply the biggest, most explosive, most visually gratifying RTS we’ve ever played. Everything about this game screams B-I-G, from the size of its units and maps to the size of its explosions—and system requirements.
The game serves up three single-player campaigns featuring three very visually distinct factions—all vying for control of the galaxy. The story is well told and backed by top-notch production values. Each campaign may include only six missions, but each mission grows in size as various objectives are met, and most missions take several hours to complete. (And you get deep skirmish and multiplayer options, too.)
You control an Armored Command Unit, which is basically a King Kong–size robot that you use to construct a base and raise an army. Lose this unit and it’s game over. (The same rule applies to your enemies.)
The primary ace up Supcom’s sleeve is the scale of its maps, which are simply ginormous—think hundreds of square miles, not a couple of football fields! You can have up to 500 units in your army at once, as can each enemy commander on the map, and up to eight players can go at it on multiplayer maps. The math adds up to mass carnage, and it also makes for a game that feels much more like real war than anything we’ve played yet.
Units are expendable! Base defenses are strong, and it’ll take hundreds of units to storm a large installation. The name of the game is combined arms: finding the right balance of units to win the day.
Supcom’s interface and camera system are simply brilliant, which means the game is never hard to manage despite the scale of war erupting on your screen. You can zoom out until units are no more than chits, and you can zoom in until you can see the whites of their eyes. Your level of control over the game never changes.
By holding down the Shift key and right-clicking you can do just about anything in the game: queue build commands, set patrols, tell units to assist each other, and of course, order attacks. It’s all so elegantly simple, which means you are free to concentrate on strategy and tactics rather than worry about micromanagement. This freedom is also bolstered by the fact that you only need to worry about harvesting two resources—energy and mass—to keep your army running.
Supcom is a bloody fantastic game—even if you don’t like strategy games, you will like this one. However, this is also the most system-intensive RTS we’ve ever seen. Don’t even think of playing it with all the bells and whistles on unless you have an 8800-class GPU and a multicore CPU. Even then, it will likely bog down at times. Nevertheless, this is one game that’s definitely worth the upgrade hassles.
Huge maps, tons of units, great control scheme; dual-monitor support is cool.
Extreme resource hog! AI gets a bit dumb in the largest battles; faction units are a bit too samey