Supreme Commander (2007, PC)

By Ultrafisk / December 4, 2013


Supreme Commander isn't your usual cup of strategy game. It's more like the big hairy uncle of yours who thinks bare knuckle boxing teaches character. Supreme Commander takes everything you'll find in your standard RTS and supersizes it. From the very first mission onwards you will be overcome with a strange new feeling as you get thrown into a game of an unprecedented scale. The maps are not simply bigger than what you are used to, they blow everything before it to oblivion, and the maps are not where this massive scale stops. Not only do you control vast armies and giant bases with humongous defensive networks but the units and buildings themselves are beyond what you usually find in an RTS game. Giant robots, huge spaceships and artillery pieces that can throw shells from Monday to Friday. If this game was a car I'd say the owner was compensating for something.

   How do I even start reviewing this game? I think I'll start by relating something that happened earlier today while I was playing a multiplayer match, an experience that illustrates quite well several of the game's qualities. It was quite late into the game, about 30-40 minutes in, and everyone had grown quite powerful. My Armored Command Unit, your most important unit that you use to build your whole army and whose death means you're out of the game in most cases, was under heavy attack from a swarm of Gunships and a Heavy Artillery Installation firing away from the other side of the map. I managed to bring my fighter planes in to take care of the enemy Gunships but the ACU was really low on health, another devastating artillery shell was incoming, and if it hit I would be out of the game. The shell was going straight for its target, I was going to lose. But I didn't. Straight above the ACU the shell hit an unfortunate fighter passing above and destroyed it. An artillery shell from the other side of the map hit a ridiculously small and fast moving fighter plane, I could hardly believe my eyes.
   There is an unbelievable attention to detail in this game, every projectile is calculated individually which adds great tactical depth. Good micro and smart use of the lay of the land can have a significant effect on the outcome of a skirmish as shots might miss, impact hills, rocks or units they where not intended for. This combined with the game's truly epic scale create one of the game's few minor drawbacks: seven years after release even the fastest computers have to slow down when literally thousands of futuristic aircraft clash.

   The size of the maps range from quite small 5x5 square kilometer ones to the enormous 81x81 square kilometer battlefields that it can take several minutes for even the fastest units to cross. So no matter if you want to wage war for hours against seven opponents or if you're interested in small StarCraft-style battles, SupCom will provide.
   Unlike most RTS games, in SupCom defensive structures are significantly more powerful than offensive ones. You only need to build one turret in the middle of your base and the enemy will need either clever artillery tactics or a force that costs many times as much as the turret to defeat it. This makes the game great, as it is rarely a case of "build 100 tanks and click on enemy base". You need to find a way around the defenses or develop a huge economic advantage.
   There is also a great variety of units, from small land scouts that take seconds to build to colossal experimental units that could take hours for a single engineer to construct but are able to single-handedly defeat huge armies. The balance between units is good, all four factions are viable and almost all units fill some role during some part of the game without any one standing out as particularly overpowered, which is quite impressive as there are hundreds of them.
   Don't let my low hours on Steam trick you. Eight of my friends and I bought this game on CD years ago. We would routinely play six to eight co-op or multiplayer (free for all) games on LAN before internet speeds really got fast. I've got at least 1000 hours in this game with all the weekend LAN parties hosted at a bachelor pad. This game ruined my RTS experience by introducing or near-perfecting countless techniques:

1. Virtually unlimited queuing of orders (patrol, move, et cetera). I've never hit a limit. I would reckon that I have had at least 100 orders queued without any issue to tens of different unit groups.

2. Large scale battles. Each side can have hundreds of units, with up to eight sides in the largest games.

3. Mouse zoom in/out. I can't explain in words the many ways this feature is plain useful and should be the standard in RTS games. You can zoom into a low level (one unit) and out to see the entire map and units are then represented as easily identifiable icons. You can issue any command or select any unit from low- to high-level zooms. It's plain awesome.

4. Big difference between tier 1, 2, 3, and experimental units.

5. Interesting upgrade options for commander with multiple paths (builder, fighter, stealth, etc.)

6. Shortcut keys to do same thing as mouse.

7. Four factions that look, feel, and really behave differently.

8. True land, sea (above and below), and air units.

9. Transports (air or sea) with fantastic transport queuing/ferry options.

10. Graphics look great, and great art style.

11. Replayability and play options through the roof (different campaigns as different factions, co-op, multiplayer, maps).

12. Experimental units.

13. Balance. Almost every unit has a counterpart. Want to nuke people? Want to build anti-nuke system? Every strategy can be countered.

14. Automation of engineers (patrol duty) to clear battlefields of wrecked metal or terrain.

15. Massive selection of buildings and units.

16. Various design mechanics are hard at work to keep it all from overwhelming you. The UI is a work of art (try dual-screen support with one screen for the action and one for logistics).

17. The entire game and the buildup of power and technology that happens throughout a game is a very fluid process and only rarely do you find yourself having nothing to do.

18. Instead of having to build new tech every so often everything has an upgrade function allowing old factories to produce the latest and greatest in units, your defenses to stay effective and your resource gatherers to not fall behind.

19. ...I'm sure I'm leaving stuff out.

   This game set the standard in so many areas that it made me sceptical of whether other RTS games could continue its legacy and improve on it. None have. To summarize, this game is a polished gem. The mechanics, in both single- and multiplayer, are great, the design is amazing, the sands of time hardly seem to affect the game at all and the replay value is close to infinite. I'm a huge fan of real-time strategy games and I honestly believe that, as of this writing, Supreme Commander is the apex of the genre. It's like nothing we've seen for a very long time and it does everything it tries so exceptionally well.

Supreme Commander is Insomnia's 2007 Game of the Year. Join The Cult today and play SupCom the way it should be played!

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