Mr. Towelhead took a random bullet to the brain and dove into the world of Supreme Commander 2. It was a fun experience, but more than anything else Supreme Commander 2 is a supreme case study of Video Game Streamlining, better known as Lobotomising, Kindergartenising, or simply put making “complicated” games “condescending”. Streamline sounds fancy and what not until you play something like Mass Effect 3, Hitman Abomination, I mean Absurdation (or what ever) and Supreme Commander 2. You’ll feel like the developers of the game are trying to say something, something like: “You are stupid, here, let us show you how to play our game.”

All images are copyright of Square Enix, better known as Squinix (Publisher) and Gas Powered Games (Developer) used to educate on us on successful Streamlining. Bare in mind that streamlining is BAD :(

Mr. Towelhead reviews:

supcom2_cover

SUPREME COMMANDER 2

SupCom2 was designed by Chris Taylor and released in 2010. Its an RTS (Real-Time-Strategy) Game. Strategy games put you in the role of a commander, you supervise a battlefield from a top down world-view, while you create buildings, defences and military units to defeat your opponent. These games are real-time because you and your enemies play at the same time, and so the faster, multitasking-er player is usually the winner.

CONCEPT

The basic concept is: You as commander are on the field inside a giant combat and construction mech. You’ll construct an army of hundreds of small, medium and gigantic robotic units trying to destroy the opponent commander. With battles in the hundreds on different fronts and spanning vast maps you can zoom into single units and zoom out into a strategic command view of the entire battlefield. A feature Gas Powered Games can be very proud of. Not only that but armies can go naval, on-the-ground, airborne or, if you prefer you can shell your enemies at a distance with long range artillery and nuclear bombs. NEAT. SupCom2 is an RTS like very few others in the market.

Massive Battles with hundreds of units are a piece of cake in Supreme Commander 2

supcom2_units

STORY

Supreme Commander 1 seems to have a legit decent story, four factions in total war. This is where Streamlining comes in. SupCom2 has a simpler story (only three factions to begin with). You’ll get the feeling of watching a PG-13 movie where a couple of bad-actor teens with “BIG” robots have to make “BIG” decisions. Also, we get a sample of bad marketing for free: The marketing campaign, even in the counter-cover of the game’s box states: “your decisions make a difference”. Which is B.S.; the linear campaign and scripted dialogues are played without your intervention. I understand that moral decisions where popular at the time, but why lie about it?

In resume, the story could have been written by a 11-year old boy. If you must know I’ll do my best to sum up this pile of human waste with the least spoilers possible. There is an alliance of three factions, all of a sudden, all of them go berserker and try to destroy each other. In the middle of the chaos a bad guy, who is all bad and recites “bad guy lines” steals a naughty weapon and you stop him. Have a nice day.

The dialogues are so BAD, that even different characters say the exact same lines and use the exact same idiomatic expressions. And somewhere along the story you meet up with your friends from school. AH! So cute! (lame)

The whole plot of the story revolves around a mysterious gate, that leads to a mysterious place, and a mysterious weapon. And that has nothing to do with the overall conflict between factions.

supcom2_storylamey

The armies you control are composed of robots, so the only people alive are the commanders themselves. In a nutshell Supreme Commander 2 is the story of a bunch high school-level-written characters playing with big robots and eventually getting themselves killed. Goethe would be proud.

MECHANICS

What deserves praise is the game controls. SupCom2 is an extremely deep and complicated RTS and the control schemes for the Xbox are impressively intuitive. For a beginner they are complicated yet easy to master, and experts will quickly dive into submenus, patrol- and chain commands.

Supreme Commander 2 was indeed a fun entry into the franchise FOR ME [as a hardcore gamer I got into it quickly]. I can even understand the streamlining principle behind it in order to get the game to a wider audience. HOWEVER  the simplifying process of SupCom2 turned out bad for the majority. Fans of the first game were unhappy because the sequel of their beloved and complex game was made too easy, and for people new to the franchise SupCom2 was still too complicated.

Not only mechanics-wise, the story of the first was interesting and tense, befitting of a complex and deep game, while the story of the second is kinder macaroni easy, befitting of a brain-dead Sasha Baron Cohen movie (you know Borat or Brüno style).

FLAVOUR

SupCom2 has a decent flavour to each faction. Several units and limitations will evidence the differences. And, although many units ARE the same they look VERY different and with faction unique upgrades they behave significantly differently in the middle game. As you unlock units during a game you’ll get access to more specialised units that’ll make the difference between factions even bigger.

The Universal Colossus Experimental Assault Bot is the zenith of fire-power in the world of Supreme Commander 2.

supcom2_uciab

Each faction has so called experimental units, basically giant super-effective units and these will vastly demonstrate the uniqueness of each faction. What is really cool is that not all “power-units” are attack units per se, but you also have transport, shield, interrupt, cloaking options and others.

The Buhbledow Experimental Shield Destroyer is a powerful building that can deplete opponent’s shields at a distance, and that is a neat thing to do…

supcom2_unusual

… Including unorthodox methods to surprise your opponents and maybe even, steal a victory from an otherwise straight forward battle.

Although each faction has its own thing, they all look human (lame) and all their units look robotic (boring).

GAMEPLAY

Supreme Commander 1 had a “complicated” Tier Level system. It took time and effort to unlock higher levels, but each tier granted you access to better units, even basic ones. Streamline comes to the rescue (-sarcasm-). In SupCom2 you have an independent Tech Tree for each type of units (naval, ground, air, building and commander) meaning that single power-units and upgrades can be unlocked faster. This Streamlining sounds good in theory but in practice it has two mayor flaws. 1. Unlike Supreme Commander 1, unlocking power-units is an easy feat. and so these units loose epic value to them. And because power-units are easier to unlock they aren’t as effective as they used to be in the previous game. 2. You have to go deep into a Tech Tree to get the really cool power-units making it almost impossible to make combos with unlockable units of different Tech Tree.

You need to spend resources on four different Tech Tree elements to unlock the Poseidon Cruiser in the Naval Tech Tree of the human faction [top-right]. To make it worth-your-while it would be advisable to spend some resources on upgrading your naval in general.

supcom2_techtree

By then you are in the middle game facing specialised forces of your opponent. It would be suicide in a competitive game to even dream about “wasting” resources in unlocking units of a different tech tree (let alone upgrade them). And so the Tech Tree discourages combos and interactions between different types of units.

BALANCE

The Xbox version is broken. There are easy glitches to get infinite resources and stuff like that, thus online matches are a joke.

The game in general (Xbox, PC) suffers from some really bad balance issues. One of the, only three factions is useless [the so-called Illuminates]. They have programming errors, are overall underpowered and suffers from flavour disadvantages. Single illuminate units are weaker than their counterparts in other factions, they have no long range weaponry, no naval units and poor transport options.

VERDICT

Supreme Commander 2 is not a game for everyone. Its a fun experience if you are a hardcore gamer but in the best case scenario it’ll make you only curious as to Supreme Commander 1. If you aren’t into RTS or if you are a casual gamer SupCom2 will frustrate and bore you. Squinix (Square Enix) tried to make the game accessible to a wider audience, but instead they flipped the bird on SupCom-fans and frustrated newcomers of the franchise. The game can be summed up in: Streamlining is BAD.

Mr. Towelhead personally liked it. I would dare give it a 8 / 10 for my very personal taste. But being objective and considering the disentchantment of the fans, being true to the fans SupCom2 deserves:

6 / 10

It’s a good strategy game, with a horrible story, some unforgiving balance issues, broken glitches in the Xbox version and a very poor sequel to an otherwise great game. Supreme Commander 2 may have reached a wider audience only push them all, fans and newcomers, away from the franchise. Well done Squinix! Thank you Streamlining!

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3 Comments »

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