Mark Marrow
20 May, 2007

Supreme Commander Review

PC Review | Supremely demanding.
SupCom is basically the ‘spiritual successor’ to the fantastic Total Annihilation that was released back in 1997. Chris Taylor is still at the helm and his brilliance shines once again on the release of the long awaited Supreme Commander, though early anticipation for the game was slightly exaggerated. SupCom is certainly not to be confused with a mass-market friendly RTS, but however a game that’ll surely please the more fanatic and old-school RTS gamers. While it is far from being the revolutionary real-time strategy game that some people expected, it does however manage to introduce a number of groundbreaking gameplay features that’ll surely reflect on future releases in the RTS genre.

Much like Total Annihilation, you’ll have two forms of resources to use that’ll feed your buying addiction – mass and power. There are dedicated points on the map where mass-extracting structures can be built; meanwhile power emitting structures can be built anywhere. You’ll be capped frequently on just how much mass and power you can acquire, though there are certain buildings that can increase this limit. Additionally, radars, anti-air guns, power guns and even some units will frequently drain power in order to correctly operate, meaning that it’s ideal to keep plenty of resources in reserve and to maintain a steady flow of resources coming in.

Surprisingly, especially for a real-time strategy game full of brain-dead robots, SupCom has a remarkably compelling story. The game is set well into the future, where the Infinite War has raged on for over a 1000 years against three distinctive factions - the United Earth Federation, Cybran Nation and Aeon Illuminate. Naturally, all envision their own unique peace and therefore try to fulfil their needs differently. You can decide to play the campaign mode as all three of the factions, each providing their own ending. Additionally, the three factions can be played as in the multiplayer and skirmish modes.

The experiential units may cost plenty of time and resources to make, but they are basically the last move before the checkmate.

The experiential units may cost plenty of time and resources to make, but they are basically the last move before the checkmate.
Unfortunately, play styles aren’t particularly different between the three available factions. The game uses tech levels where unit-sourcing structures will be able to create simple low-cost units such as spy planes and light tanks during tech level one, meanwhile further tech levels will allow players to create stronger units such as heavy tanks, mobile shield generators and a large variety of naval units. As mentioned previously, the differences are very minimal during these early tech levels, meaning that tactics used early on will be almost identical. This comes at a bit of blow since there are only three factions to choose from, and for the most part they are barely different outside of the visual appearance. However, over time and devotion to plenty of resources, each faction can create their own unique ‘experiential’ units. These are extremely powerful and colossal units that can usually swing the tide of the battle. The experiential units range from massive spider-like tanks, huge aircrafts and naval units that can sprout legs and travel across land.

The similarities between Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander are fairly obvious in areas, though SupCom does however manage to extend on the former in a number of ways. The most notable difference is the extremely versatile zoom feature. SupCom incorporates a very flexible map system where players are able to zoom all the way out to an overhead perspective where every unit and structure is in view. Additionally, players can then point their mouse cursor to an area on the map and zoom right into the action with absolute ease. This feature eliminates the purpose of even using a mini-map, and it works extremely well in the context of this highly manageable title. To add to this superb idea is the ability to use multiple monitors to split up the action - which is an extremely helpful feature if you have the ability to do so. One screen can focus on the bottom-half of the map; meanwhile the other can be used to focus on the top. If used correctly, this zoom feature could eventually change the way future real-time strategy games are played.

While the zoom feature has its advantages, it comes at a cost for a number of reasons. Probably the biggest flaw of the feature – and this largely due to the scale of Supreme Commander – is that the majority of the time you’ll keep your map zoomed way out to the point where you’ll only see little squares rushing around the huge map. Problem you ask? Well, the impressive visuals of SupCom are left unnoticed since you’ll be managing far too much on the large map to appreciate that side of the game. You never really get the chance of focusing on these battles; instead you are often left watching hundreds of little 8-bit squares moving around the screen. While there are certainly strategic benefits thanks to the inclusion of the zoom feature, it isn’t incorporated nearly as well as it could’ve been.

Blast from the past or clever strategic map?

Blast from the past or clever strategic map?
The most spectacular feature of SupCom is its unbelievable size; even the smallest map in this game is gigantic. But there is often good reason as to why this is – the unit cap in SupCom stops at 500, meaning that you’ll eventually be able to conjure a mass army to wipe your opponent with. It’s particularly interesting in the campaign mode, watching as the size of the map slowly develops the further you progress. Initially, each mission will begin in a very small sector to work in, however, as you begin to complete certain objectives, the area to work in will further increase. For example: You may be required to set-up defences for your base, then, once that’s completed, the map size will increase due to Intel revealing an enemy HQ nearby. It’s a good way of progressing the campaign mode, however, the missions themselves are poorly implemented.

And this is ideally the main problem with SupCom. The game manages to implement a number of fascinating concepts – concepts that’ll no doubt change the way people look at the genre, and in a good way – though it is often the execution of some of these that let the rest of the game down. The campaign mode in particularly is structured poorly in areas. The story and the way the level develops as you progress through each mission is done well, though this is hurt largely due to the fact that SupCom is an extremely slow-paced game, meaning that most missions will last 3+ hours. It’s a difficult structure to enjoy since missions take incredibly long amounts of time to accomplish, and the slow resource gathering system can bog you down further if certain tactics don’t go your way. And if you suffer a defeat, then you’ll have to go through that tedious process all over again, unless you save your game frequently.

Supreme Commander is a title that is perfectly catered for a niche group of real-time strategy fans – the people who adore their managing. The game is absolutely reliant on your ability to quickly swap between your engineers to set-up more defences, a group of tanks to flank a base, your air fleet to transport units to the other side of the map, and you’d need to do all of this while looking after your own base too. It can become a tad overwhelming for newcomers to the genre, and even the more skilled RTS gamers when matched with a tough opponent. This is partly the reason why SupCom is a difficult game to cater the needs for a mass-market. The gameplay is slow, requires plenty of management and is very old-school in its approach. These aren’t necessarily the reasons why SupCom is an average game instead of great game, but more or less the approach the developers have chosen to implement these features.

Space invaders!

Space invaders!
Graphically, the game looks remarkable in certain areas, namely the variation in units and buildings - most are generally well suited to their respective faction. On the other side of the scale, SupCom fails to provide consistent scaling between units and buildings, and environments are generally quite sparse in detail. Meanwhile, the audio is particularly average on all accounts. The voice prompts through missions and the cutscenes are very well done and help to provide atmosphere throughout the game, although the music fails to strike tension during battles. It’s fairly generic and repetitive, and often at times non-existent – a little different from the composer’s other work.

It’s a little daunting that the game is such a power hog. Graphics are one thing, though a lot of problems persist from the number of units that often fill your screen, often requiring much more processing power than your computer can handle. The computer used to review this game is relatively new – a computer that would’ve been sought after mid last year in fact – and it still had trouble handling some of the much larger battles that take place when you’re fighting against multiple armies. This also hurts a bit of the game’s appeal, since if you don’t have a computer purchased within the last year, it’s highly doubtful that you could successfully run this game.

Supreme Commander isn’t quite the revolutionary step forward in the genre that people were expecting. Instead, it is a game full of old favourites that people may’ve enjoyed from the Total Annihilation days, and a game that’s really best suited for the RTS gamer who doesn’t mind managing legions of units and swapping constantly between multiple battles. Of course, the power of your computer is also a deciding factor in whether or not this game is for you. Is SupCom worth the impulse purchase of a new computer? Not quite. If you don’t consider yourself an old school, and hardcore, real-time strategy fan, Supreme Commander says: “Stay out”.
The Score
A title that is easy to enjoy if management and slow-paced RTS games are your sort of thing, though just be hopeful your computer is capable of running this beast first.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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6 years ago
But there is often good reason as to why this is – the unit cap in SupCom stops at 500, meaning that you’ll eventually be able to conjure a mass army to wipe your opponent with.
I think this is a typo... The default unit cap when I first played SupCom was 1000. Perhaps the game can predict hardware bottlenecks.

I love the scale of SupCom, especially the nuclear weapons. The Strategic Nukes make Starcraft's nukes look like fire crackers icon_twisted.gif icon_lol.gif

Edit: Fixed a mistake.
6 years ago
minimum requirements 8gb free space!!, i dont test my computers by 3d marks its if it can play SupCom smoothly!
6 years ago
This game does look pretty sick..VERY good graphics.


I dont think ill have a computer that can run it until atleast another 2 years lol.

Hopefully it eventually comes out on console..

The 1 thing i hate about pc gaming.. constantly upgrading :\.
6 years ago
B3NBO wrote
Hopefully it eventually comes out on console..
Urg, I can't imagine this ever working on a console. It's far too complex, even if it came with a keyboard and mouse, the interface would translate poorly to a TV screen.
6 years ago
I thought Supreme Commander was on Xbox 360. Maybe it's just Middle Earth 2 and Command and Conquer.
6 years ago
Sup com is exclusive to PC.

The game's great, but it's way too f**king demanding. I can't handle anything above 1v1, as it absolutely tears through my processor like no tomorrow. It's about the CPU with this game.
6 years ago
This is one of my favourite RTS game ever (I don't play many so not that big of a statement). I've only started but it feels...so right. (Me want Nukes!!!)

Frozencry wrote
Sup com is exclusive to PC.

The game's great, but it's way too f**king demanding. I can't handle anything above 1v1, as it absolutely tears through my processor like no tomorrow. It's about the CPU with this game.
Yep, this game shows HUGE improvements when run on a dual or quad. Its actually one of the first games to take proper advantage of Quad Cores.

I can't imagine this game being run on a CPU that doesn't support Hyper-Threading at the least.
6 years ago
^I have HT tech, and it still chugs like no tomorrow. I've learnt some tricks where I turn off a few minor effects in the console, and it improves performance quite a lot, but still, this game is for dual core and up if you want the most out of it.
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Minimum Specs:
1.8 GHz processor
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128 video RAM with DirectX 9 Vertex Shader/Pixel Shader 2.0 support
8 GB free space

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256 MB video RAM.

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