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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Game Review:Supreme Commander

(First play-through) The long-awaited unofficial sequel to 1997’s Total Annihilation, Supreme Commander, has finally arrived, with all the bells and whistles promised by the several promotional videos that were made for download before the release of the game. Total Annihilation was my first ever game played and till these days, I am still playing it regularly and for a game which has been billed as the spiritual successor to Total Annihilation, it had to be something awesome. Supreme Commander achieves that.

As I have touched neither the skirmish nor multiplayer mode of Supreme Commander yet, I shall discuss about the campaign first, which I am still currently going through. Unlike Total Annihilation, where the mission objectives are usually to kill all enemy units, Supreme Commander adopts an interesting mission structure, one that has not even been seen in the previous great RTS game, Company of Heroes. Although the game may look short on the surface with only 6 missions to offer for each faction, the game is actually quite lengthy, with each mission lasting at least 2 hours. There are numerous objectives in each mission, but they do not get revealed all at once; it is only when you have completed the previous objective will the next objective become available. Supreme Commander also introduces what is known as ‘map-expanding’. When you start a mission, the area that you get in the entire battlefield will never be what you will see at the end of the mission. In other words, once you have completed a certain set of objectives, the map will eventually expand, revealing the next enemy base or so. All these provide you a sense of intensity as you never know what the enemy has in hands until the map expands fully. At one moment, all you need to focus on is to rush huge swarms of gunships to obliterate an enemy base to the south, and at the next moment, you need to focus to your east and quickly establish missile defense systems. Supreme Commander also has the habit of introducing new units for you to build once you progress further into a particular mission.

For Total Annihilation veterans, learning to play Supreme Commander could be a breeze because most of controls in Total Annihilation have been brought over to Supreme Commander, but for newbies or casual gamers, unfortunately, the controls may look intimidating at first because it is all relatively complex. I myself encountered some problems with the controls when I first started with the game, what with the right mouse and left mouse button clicks, but after a few sessions with the game, you should be able to get used to the controls. If you are still confused, the tutorial section is on hand to aid you. However, I noticed one glitch after a few sessions with the game and that problem lies with the ‘patrol’ command. When you order a bunch of units to patrol an a route, they will somehow clump together unnecessarily and instead of following the patrol route, they actually travel back to the base first before making another turn. Also, at times, units, for no obvious reason, will suddenly stop in their patrol routes when they spot the enemy and even after destroying the enemy, they continue to stay rooted at the spot instead of progressing along the patrol route. I hope these errors will be fixed in future patches.

Another interesting feature introduced by Supreme Commander is the strategic zoom. You can zoom in simply to admire the beauty of the battlefield or your units or you can zoom out till the entire screen becomes a tactical map, where all the units are represented by various icons. One minor grouse, though: Engineers can be difficult to spot among all your units on the battlefield.

The music, like in Total Annihilation, is simply top-notch and leaves absolutely no room for criticisms. There are tons of unit varieties to construct and the good news is that both your commander and engineers can now capture units. Some units can even upgrade themselves and you get a good mix of powerful experimental units and low-cost but efficient units. All in all, the experience that I have with Supreme Commander so far is just great and it has the makings of a fantastic game.

Check back soon for the full review of Supreme Commander, which will be written once I have completed the whole game.


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