With the fourth Command & Conquer game struggling to make an impact, and the once mighty Company Of Heroes looking to warrant attention once more, the real time strategy genre – once the cornerstone of PC gaming – has gone and got itself into a pickle.
Supreme Commander 2 doesn’t help the cause enough, either. The original was a tough, at times really quite epic RTS title, that took a fair amount of time to get into. That said, if you made the effort you certainly got your rewards, with some spectacular battles and dense gaming the proverbial pot of gold. No wonder so many were desperately awaiting a follow-up.
For the sequel, some changes have been made. If anything, the game has been scaled down a little, which immediately has the knock-on effect of making it easier to get into (although you’ll meet games with a far easier learning curve than this, still). It’s less intricate and perhaps just a little bit less compelling as a result, certainly for those who warmed to the depths of the original, but there’s still plenty here to enjoy.
The main attraction remains the massive battles themselves, which you spend your time managing your resources and building up to. When they happen, they’re immensely satisfying (and make for stunning eye candy), and don’t go by in the blink of an eye, as has been happening with the Command & Conquer franchise. There’s real pay-off for the time investment you put in, and also swift punishment for any flaws in your offensive and defensive strategies.
You can, of course, upgrade your units as you go along, and this is managed in a quicker, easier and ultimately less challenging manner than before. The core of it is a tech tree system, that you need to climb to unlock the units capable of getting you to the back end of the game. It’s more straightforward than before and, along with resource management, you don’t have to battle quite so hard to improve your forces.
This is, of course, a good and bad thing. It still takes time to build things up, but not to the degree of the original. But it can be a little less satisfying when you do so. It’s a tight balancing act, and one that doesn’t quite pay off as well as you’d hope.
What you can’t fault is the look, feel and challenge of the game, though. It’s not the RTS genre firing on all cylinders, and the underwhelming narrative and terrible cut-scenes can happily be ignored, but it’s still a good value for money game, and quite a testing one. It doesn’t leave too many obvious avenues for a Supreme Commander 3, short of more of the same, but it just about warrants this sequel with what is in the tank.
Company: Square Enix