Supreme Commander 2 Preview (PC)

Supreme Commander was one of those games where one of its more pointed-out flaws was actually something that made it unique. Chris Taylor's epic, Total Annihilation-tribute machine bonanza encompassed such a huge gameplay style that carried with it a certain energy not really seen in a strategy game. Unless your Rushing of course, but no one likes that. A literal homage to the 'machine of war', Supreme Commander took a considerable amount of getting used to, as well as decent machine to boot. Now Gas Powered Games is back with a sequel, but it may not be the one you expected.

Judging by the various interviews Taylor has done, along with our own experiences with both games, it's clear that two things were in the fore-front of the developer's mind when it came to this sequel: Accessibility and Story. Now, a strategy game, even the best of strategy games, can be forgiven for not having a heart-wrenching tale of lost youth - it's a strategy game, it's not supposed to win any awards for narrative. Still, it was at the forefront of their minds, and if what they say is true it was part of the reason they paired up with Square Enix for this title.

And interesting partnership, but not wholly surprising as Square have been trying to make waves in the strategy genre of late with Order of War. Whilst technically sound, it was at the end of the day a rather shallow game, with no attempt to highlight the more desperate and emotional side of World War II. As much as we hate to say it, something similar is happening with Supreme Commander 2 as well. We understand what they are trying to do - which is highlight how a man has to choose between his duty and his family - but it doesn't really come across in the gameplay or in the dialogue. In the end, things once again seem a little bit shallow.

Speaking of gameplay, as mentioned above, the second focus of the game was to make things more accessible. Gone are the more complex micro-management facets of base/resource management, and instead the game utilises a more generic principle. Unit cap has also been lowered, and a lot more emphasis has been placed on the 'experimental' units - with plenty of weird and wonderful things available to unlock. Still, the game is still pretty complex, even for the a strategy game - not only do you have Land, Sea and Air units to deal with, you also have to remember the Rock, Paper, Scissor dynamic that exists within each of them, and how they interact to each other. Say what you want about the campaign, at the very least it can help you get to grips with those things if you're a first time player.

Skirmishes still retain their fluidity and energy, depending on the map you choose and the skill of your opponent. A plus point actually is the fact that there are many diverse map types, each that require their own strategy and way of thinking. Coupled with a slightly more drawn out resource collection and research rate, battles could prolong quite a bit, provided no one gets in that early rush that completely kills the game.

Multiplayer is probably going to be as hectic and rush-fuelled as ever, and this time around Supreme Commander 2 will be fully integrated into Steam's online platform. Mod support has unfortunately taken a slight hit, as players are no longer allowed to create custom maps. According to Taylor himself, industrial sized tools were used to create the current ones, tools that apparently just can't be released to the public. Me and you both know, however, that if you build it, they will mod. It will be interesting to see how the community deals with the engine.

Those of you who lamented the fact that Supreme Commander required a God-machine just to run will be relieved to know that a complete re-write of the main engine, as well as code optimisation has considerably lowered the technical specifications. Graphically, it's hard to make a comparison as the two games now implement slightly different styles... although the sequel does seem much 'brighter' than the first one.

It's hard to give a prediction on Supreme Commander 2 at this point - on the one hand, there is still that crazy massive scale mayhem that made the first game so unique, if slightly inaccessible. On the other, GPG and Square's mission has been to make the game appeal more to wider audiences, and that is definitely going to show when you play it. It probably won't be a sequel that the hardcore fans wanted, but it may be good enough for everyone else. Then again, it may just fall into a black pit of obscurity, as there's really little that makes it 'stand-out' at the moment... Unless walking Dino-cannons are your thing, of course.

Supreme Commander 2 is due out on PC and Xbox 360 with European release dates on March 5th (PC) and March 19th (360), and US release dates of March 2nd and March 16th.


By eloqui (SI Core Member) on Feb 08, 2010
Hmmn. Did the original TA really sell that badly that the formula needed to be totally overhauled? I hear SC2 will have drastically fewer unit types--and no walls! Come on. I thought it was kindof nice to have many different units to chose from in TA, even if they just were for character.

I hate to be a cynic, but the Eurogamer preview was pretty scathing and I tend to think it's probably not off the mark. I'm trying hard to get psyched about SC2...
By Kres (SI Elite) on Feb 09, 2010
I'm a huge fan of Sup Com. But this Sup Com 2 doesn't sound like something for me. I will most likely get it. If the scores are good on the start.

What I don't like is that they killed the eco in the game. Might've been a bit frustrating at times in Sup Com 1 for players that haven't sharpened their skills at it. But it was half of what the game was.

Their goal wasn't to ruin the game so I'll keep some faith for it...
By noobst3R (SI Core) on Feb 09, 2010
I'm so excited! :O
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Feb 10, 2010
Can't wait for the first Reviews on SI. I'm actually looking forward to this more than the first.
By eloqui (SI Core Member) on Feb 10, 2010
With the platforms and bottomless pits, it just seems to be getting more starcraft-y...ugh.
By paelleon (SI Veteran Member) on Feb 12, 2010
There were few things about the good old SUPCOM that did not worked and all regarded AI scripts and the graphic engine (mostly one player in skirmish mode). No one ever complained about the story or the fact that there were too many units or few unit types or about the fact that maps were small or too big.
QAI will win!
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Feb 24, 2010
They've certainly borrowed a lot from their previous title "Demigod" in the map creation, and "DoW II" in the RPG traits of the new units. Time will tell, but a lot of the old elements are still present (some unwelcome- slag heaps).
By Eversor (SI Elite) on Feb 25, 2010
I agree with herodotos. I saw a trailer for demigod a one for this game and it looks very alike. Way to much. But you never know it might be a big hit. getting ready to get the demo.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Feb 25, 2010
Played the Demo...sweeeet.
By steven101x1 (SI Member) on Mar 06, 2010
I don't like the idea of dumbing down the graphics :(