Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Supreme Commander

Tech Info :

Publisher: THQ
Developer: Gas Powered Games
Release Date: Feb 20, 2007
ESRB: EVERYONE 10+
ESRB Descriptors: Comic Mischief, Fantasy Violence, Mild Language

System Requirements :

DirectX Version: v9.0
Operating System: Windows XP/Vista
System: 3.0 GHz Intel or equivalent AMD processor or equivalent
RAM: 1024 MB
Video Memory: 256 MB
Other: Internet connection with Cable/DSL speeds


Wi
th the advent of Total Annihilation, a cult classic was born that gamers either loved or hated. The ability to field gigantic weapons of mass destruction followed with a humongous army that would follow the shockwave from the original impact was instantly embraced by the gaming community. Lets not forget that Total Annihilation spawned one expansion by the name of The Core Contingency and a plethora of user made mods.

Supreme Commander has to fight against some insurmountable odds as it has some ever so large shoes to fill. I personally will go into the game with a little bias since I enjoyed the previous incarnation of said game and bought into the hype once the first screens were released. So, the question on everyone's mind is if Supreme Commander truly is the spiritual successor to Total Annihilation? Read on to figure out the truth...

Graphics

When the first screenshots of the game were leaked, I could only stare at the gigantic units crushing their foes beneath their feet. Fleets of airplanes were filling the sky with their metal, darkening the ground with their shadows. Yes, all of these awesome effects did make it into the game and definitely shaped the game to an awesome sight. As was mentioned previously, I was excited to see that the game was shaping up to be just like Total Annihilation but with an increase of polygons per unit. I do miss the handpainted backgrounds that were prevalent in the original, but the three dimensional backgrounds in this game are definitely pleasing to the eye. Even during the beginning of a battle, it is possible to see how much attention was paid to the detail of the units and the environment. The commander warps in with a shockwave leaving a crater on the ground and decimating the surrounding flora. Such small touches definitely add to the eye candy that is present in this game.

Each side has a distinct look to their structures and units, with my personal favorite, at least aesthetically speaking, being the Aeon Illuminate. Due to their contact with an alien civilization, most of their units either hover, are very futuristic looking, or/and have a distinct alien feel to them. When their units are constructed they seem to rise from organic matter into being. The United Earth Federation is radically different in design, clinging to traditional military designs to almost all of their units. Their construction units use lasers that seem to scan a blueprint as the structure or unit is built. The Cybrans could possibly be compared to units from Quake. Their units consist of humans that have implants placed in them for augmenting their skills or providing control over them. You will see lots of spikes and laser weaponry in their arsenal and their nature is very mechanical. Their construction units shoot out small drones that are very reminiscent of nanites, only they are much larger.

The graphics of the game are also the games biggest flaw right now. The requirements to render this game properly has given more than one player a headache. We have had numerous complaints on our forums of issues with the game and some players even quit the game over the aggravation this has caused. This game recommends a dual core processor and a high end video card to render Supreme Commander properly. It seems that Supreme Commander also requires a supreme rig to run it.

Sound/Music

The music in this game is flat out amazing! My fondest memories of Total Annihilation was the orchestrated music that evolved during a mission from relatively calm to more upbeat as enemies pounded into your defensive lines. The music actually has an emotional effect on the player: Either he rallies his troops and pushes the enemy out or they will crush the base underneath their treads and the music can push you in either direction.

The environmental sounds range from the grinding of machinery in your commander to the explosions of a artillery piece shooting at your position from 20 klicks away. With that said, the sounds are very well designed and make you feel immersed in the battle...as immersed as you can be with a omnipotent view of the battlefield.

Just like the game's predecessor, the music and sound in this game is of top quality and good music makes the game much more enjoyable. The only downside is that the variety of music is a bit minimal. There seems to be only one orchestra playing a single song for all of the sides. If the different races would each have their own tailored music, it would have been a plus.

Controls

Supreme Commander's control is similiar to many of the other RTS games that are out in wild, with some notable differences. Most of the units have a control that can be micromanaged ranging from stealth to changing the functionality of the unit to something else. For example, one of the Cybran naval units is both an anti-air but can be changed, with the push of a button, to a ground attack ship. This is just touching briefly on the different choices that are available with the units. The interface was one subject that was under conflict when the demo of the game was first released. Most were happy with the interface but many were perturbed that the interface seemed to cover 30% of the screen real estate. There is an option to position the interface vertically or to change it to a more minimalistic nature that was added through a patch by public demand. Luckily, this game is very moddable and players who like to dabble with modding can shape their own interface and share it with the public. The biggest addition to battlefield control is the ability to use a secondary monitor as another display. The second display is independent of the first display and allows the player to command the troops from it. It is possible to use this second monitor as a map, using it to keep an eye out on an avenue of approach, or if you like multitasking, upgrading and building a second base. The actual options are endless. Lets see if this feature actually pans out as when I used it, I was too busy on my single screen to have to worry about a second one. The second display was primarily used for intelligence gathering and was kept zoomed out all of the way, but then again, someone more adept at the game could definitely put this function to good use.

Gameplay

For all the masses expecting something different from Total Annihilation, prepare to be disappointed. To everyone who enjoyed the game, you will get a definite kick out of Supreme Commander. Supreme Commander takes all of the gameplay from the predecessor. It has a graphical update, making for some shiny eye candy, but the actual gameplay has remained unchanged. Your commander is the first unit in and can construct a basic base by itself. One important aspect is managing your mass and energy intake and consumption. If the player does not plan accordingly, it can give the opposing player a tremendous advantage as you attempt to recover. With a lack of resources, everything slows down to a crawl and some installations seize to function. Also, units that require a steady use of the materials will lose some of their abilities or also remain inactive. Once the resource juggling act is complete, a living base will spring up and the commander will be able to give commands to upgrade buildings to move up the tech chain. This in turn will allow the commander to field more powerful units all the way up to “experimental” units. These are the best units a race can construct and can definitely turn the tide of a battle. One interesting upgrade that is present in the game is the ability to construct past units and structures with advanced builders, a feature that was absent in the predecessor.

The gameplay is tried and true, but what sets this game aside from other games that have been released is the massive scale of it all. Instead of just having to worry about a small pool of units, here you can have up to 200 units on the screen ravaging everything in their path. Imagine being able to send in ground forces that tie up or destroy the defenses then sending in a bombing run from another angle, bypassing all of the defensive structures that were created by the opponent. Being able to field such a huge army and then watching your plans pan out properly can cause egos to swell. On the flipside, a failed attack can demoralize a commander and promote failure in the battle. The player of Supreme Commander needs to remember that units are more disposable in this game than any other. Sacrificing frontline troops to break the barricade of turrets or taking out a strategic objective is acceptable. All in the name of the victory. As long as you keep up your resource production, the factories will operate, and this will lead to victory. One talented suicidal strike can cause the house of cards to collapse.

Three newer additions to the commanders arsenal are the ability to field shields, upgrade the main commanding unit with small perks that specialize him down a certain path ranging from frontline assault to dedicated construction unit, and the chance to build secondary commander units that can be used a walking tactical nukes. Also, shields are now available allowing turtling players to hide behind a wall of energy...till enemy fire causes them to burn out, leaving the soft meat underneath vulnerable. Nothing a few more shield generators in the area can't fix though. The sub-commanders that can be brought in through quantum gates are an exact replica of the original commander. With the ability to upgrade their subsystems or use them as small tactical nukes, although sadly, this ability was nerfed with the last patch.

The single player campaigns of Supreme Commander consist of the three sides attempting to bring an end to the thousand year war. One interesting aspect of the single player campaigns is how the battlefield evolves during the campaign. The player might begin with a small operational area but after an objective is completed, it is expanded with new objectives being added. This turns the six missions of each side into much larger, modular battlefields. Other than that, the campaigns themselves are rather vanilla. In my humble opinion, the multiplayer and skirmish options is where the meat of the game is contained.

The skirmish function for Supreme Commander is similar to other RTS games out there. Pick the sides, pick the victory conditions, then the clash of the titans begins. The AI that is included with the game is pretty simple to beat at lower settings, but at higher settings, the game throws everything at you in an attempt to return you to the soil. With the modding community already working on AI algorithms that will rival or build upon what the developers have created, it is only a matter of time till AI opponents will be impossible to beat. The online portion of the game is run through GPGNet, a nice proprietary game matching service. The program itself is very simple to use, prompting for updates if any are needed. Just join the chatroom, find your buddies or the occasional random stranger, and with the a push of a button, the game client starts. The biggest challenges, as I have mentioned previously, is the fight against a human mind. Lets not forget the trash talking and taunting that also goes on. Once the game finishes, the option to save the replay is available so the player can save the most memorable battles and show them to his opponents who he just curb stomped or to learn from mistakes that were committed during the fight.

Value / Replay Value

Supreme Commander was touted as being and very moddable game and with the recent mods that are springing up online, this a very true statement. As of right now, everything from turning grounded units into hovering units to balancing issues. Even adding in a pseudo-leveling system that allows you to move up the tech tree through combat. With all of these early mods, I personally believe that this game will have strong staying power with future, more in depth mods.

Other than that, the multiplayer for the game is fantastic. Not only does the skirmish AI provide a challenge depending on the settings chosen for it, but a human player provides the best challenge yet. When you are flanked by ground units, bombarded by bombers with a fighter escort, then blow to bits by a nuclear missile, the experience can cause a feeling of humility. With the game already on sale in the high 30's, the only thing that should stop you from purchasing this game is if you don't meet the recommended requirements of the game.

1 comment:

dlhs253@gmail.com said...

wow, dude. that was a frigging good review, i mean GOOD. props to you. good old total annihilation. i just wish i had a windows 98 to run that on again. and what you said about the orchestral music for total annihilation - - SOOO true such a good soundtrack. if they took the music from TA and put it into supreme commander i would die of happiness.