If you like RTS games (the kind where you build big armies and attack each other, like Starcraft if it didn’t suck), you need to play Supreme Commander. Even if it means buying a new computer to run it. (And unless you have a really good modern gaming computer, it probably does.)
This is one of those games, like its predecessor (Total Annihilation) and SimCity 4, that will be much more popular a few years after its release when a reasonable amount of people can actually run it. SupCom was released a year ago already, so we’re getting there. It’s also coming out on Xbox 360 next month, but being an RTS, it will probably suck on consoles.
As I discover awesome things about it, I’ll probably post them here. I’m only a few missions in, and I’m already blown away. There are far too many reasons to list here, but here’s a subset:
You can zoom smoothly, using the scroll wheel, from an almost-first-person level all the way out to the world map. I find that this replaces panning for me - I zoom out, move the mouse to my destination, and zoom back in.
You can queue up build orders infinitely. This applies to both factories and structure-building vehicles.
Unit and group orders (move, attack, etc.) can be queued up infinitely.
You can give factories a repeating build loop, such as “2 tanks, 1 anti-air vehicle, 1 missile truck”, and never think about it again.
Resources are accumulated at a constant rate (metal is mined from things that sit on metal patches, energy comes from power plants). There are no resource-gathering vehicles, and the resources are never depleted. You can focus on your armies instead of your stupid ore trucks.
This was the big surprise to me this week. In most RTSes, maps with water-separated land-masses become huge air battles because it’s prohibitively tedious and time-consuming to transport land units across the water.
Here’s how you solve this problem in SupCom:
- Build a handful of cheap transport planes. They hold 6 units each.
- Select your tanks and the planes.
- Click where you want them to go.
That’s it. The transports will share the load and will automatically pick up the tanks and drop them at the destination.
Like most of SupCom’s mechanics, this works the same way whether you’re operating on 3 units or 300.
I just played a complex mission on an island map, and the only planes I built were the transports. Instead of becoming massive plane battles, a real island assault is actually possible: use ships to clear a spot on the beach, then drop a bunch of tanks there and conduct a land assault. It’s a lot more fun that way.
The game is balanced to encourage this, too - the planes are weak and anti-air guns are cheap.
I don’t understand why any serious RTS players tolerate Blizzard’s simplistic, unbalanced, micromanagement-heavy games. Total Annihilation was far better in 1997, and Supreme Commander is far better now. Blizzard games are the Windows PCs of the RTS world, and Supreme Commander is the Mac Pro.