Supreme Commander 2 first impressions

Supreme Commander 2 arrived earlier today in the mail, and naturally, I’ve been playing it, in the same reflexive manner as how, upon reaching the surface of a pool following immersion, I take a breath. I don’t have nearly enough experience yet with the game to attempt a full review, but here are my absolute first impressions, in the order that they occurred to me. Note that I’ve spent a lot of time playing Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance recently; as that game is fresh is fresh in my memory, comparisons are inevitable.

And if I’m wrong about any of the points below, please (politely) correct me in the comments below. I’ve only played the first two missions so far, so I could easily be wrong on any of a number of these points. Also, let the rest of us know your own first impressions.

  • The plot has a much more human aspect to it. This isn’t necessarily a positive or a negative, it just felt a little bit jarring to see the dude inside the Supreme Commander controlling it. I don’t see the point of introducing his family though. This is SupCom, dammit, not an RPG or a soap opera!
  • I heard by far the most groaning about the switching of the economic model to pay-up-front, but upon actually playing the game, it doesn’t seem to be that big of a change (with an important caveat being energy; see next point). Basically, the game is for the most part still flow-based, it’s just on a coarser level of discrete units instead of individual resource points. But mass/energy comes in at a certain rate and is spent at a certain rate by unit production factories set to infinite build. So long as your flow isn’t negative, it’s pretty much identical to Total Annihilation or Supreme Commander, and if your flow is negative, then factories automatically pause themselves. Basically it’s incredibly more newbie-friendly than the resource starvation mode of the previous games, and this change totally makes sense to me. Now, granted, long building construction queues are out the window, but it’s not a huge change.
  • I don’t like the change made to energy though. Energy seems superfluous now, identical to mass, except without the strategic considerations because, unlike mass, it can be generated anywhere (like metal on a metal map in Total Annihilation). Energy was very important in Supreme Commander — if you didn’t have enough juice to power everything, shields would flicker off, radar and stealth systems would flake out, even long-range artillery would reload more slowly. Energy added a tactical depth to the game, as it often made sense to target an enemy’s energy-production facilities first to knock down all their shields. This strategy appears to be no longer valid.

  • Research points are effectively a third resource. They’re generated in exactly the same way as energy (from a dedicated building, the laboratory, that can be built anywhere) and spending them makes your units better. Now, granted, research points are absurd; you can’t exactly do basic research on the battlefield, and it doesn’t make sense that all of the better units would need to be reinvented afresh for each battle (e.g. the Abrams tank was not invented in Iraq in 2003). Supreme Commander’s tech tree at least made sense: higher level construction units are needed to construct more sophisticated units because the basic engineers don’t have the advanced machinery necessary. But whatever. Supreme Commander 2 is far from the first RTS to have on-the-battlefield research, and as a gameplay mechanic, it works, so I’ll give it a pass.
  • You can’t select multiple engineers and have them build anything anymore. That sucks. You have to first select N-1 engineers, tell them to assist the Nth engineer, and then order the Nth engineer to do your bidding. I imagine this change has something to do with the change to a pay-up-front model. But I wish the feature hadn’t been dropped.
  • You can’t see the health of enemy units. This actually makes sense, and seems like a good gameplay addition. It adds to the Fog of War, if nothing else. I wonder if there’s going to be an advanced intel unit later on in the game that lets me see the health of enemy units? That would be clever, but judging by the trend of having fewer types of units in this game than in the past one, I’m guessing not. Edit: Scratch that. The health of enemy units can be seen through health bars, just not in absolute numbers.

  • The maps are better and more flavorful than in Supreme Commander. The first two missions really drove that home. Kudos to the map designers. It’s nice to have free-form large-scale structures forming part of the landscape.
  • Individual factories now have micro-managed upgrades?! I can’t figure out what the point of this is. I hated how micro-intensive the Support Commander upgrades were in Supreme Commander, and now every factory has a range of upgrade options, many of which are simply duplications of what other buildings already do? Thankfully, and this is a big win, multiple factories can be selected and all upgraded simultaneously. This is a big win over the Support Commander situation from SupCom.
  • I’m not sure but it appears that the adjacency bonus is gone. That’s a shame. The adjacency bonus was a fun gameplay mechanic. I loved the deliberation required over the trade-off between increased susceptibility to damage versus increased resource efficiency.

  • Bombers are less powerful than in SupCom. A tier 1 bomber in SupCom could decimate a decent-sized formation of tier 1 land units in one bombing pass. Now they do less damage and hit fewer units. But to compensate, they’re cheaper/faster to build. This isn’t necessarily good or bad; it’s just a balance change.
  • The Idle Engineers key (period) is useful. I can’t remember if SupCom had it?
  • Where the hell did Quicksave go?!?!
  • For that matter, where the hell did on-the-fly adjustable game speed go? Single-player games just got a bit more tedious.
  • This game has much better mass appeal than SupCom. It’s all-around more polished and it’s more accessible to a larger audience. I’m sure a lot of the points I mentioned above were concessions in this direction.

So, pardon my wall of text there, but that’s my unedited look at all of my first impressions from playing through the first two missions of SupCom2. If you’re wondering, yes, I was taking notes on paper while playing. Overall I’m enjoying the game so far (it really is all about the fun ot it), and I think a large part of the some of the poor user reviews on MetaCritic is just a reflexive reaction to the changes since the previous game. A lot of things are a bit different, but you just have to accept them as they are, and realize that the game is still fun, it’s just a little bit different than what you may be used to.

7 Responses to “Supreme Commander 2 first impressions”

  1. Cyde Weys Says:

    One thing I failed to mention is that SupCom2 performs a lot better on my computer than SupCom did. It seems like GPG took all those criticisms about SupCom’s unplayability on a large percentage of hardware at release to heart and improved the engine drastically.

  2. scotchtape622 Says:

    Hey Cyde Weys! I’m glad to see that you’re back! I remember reading this site all the time back in the day. Nice write up!

  3. Gryphyn Says:

    I echo the point on quicksave, if it is there I haven’t found it. The game speed is now the + and – on the number pad, at least in skirmish. I haven’t played the campaigns yet. Bombers are less powerful, yes. However, they also have homing bombs now so they don’t miss. I think they had to lower the damage because if this.

    I think I’ve noticed units costing a lot of energy toward the end of the game in a skirmish, so harrassing your opponent’s energy could still make it difficult for him later on in the game; but if you’re in his base, there are better things to go after, really. I agree, it was always great to find a way to take out a reactor cluster and watch the shields drop right before gunships or bombers come in…can’t do that anymore.

    It does run better. Way better. Playing with friends in a comp stomp with 4 AIs, the game didn’t slow down a bit. I think the streamlining of the game has greatly reduced the amount of options the AI has to weigh and track, and the pathfinding changes reduce the cpu load as well. Also, the scale of the maps has been greatly reduced.

    Looks like there are some balance issues to take care of for competitive play, but for my part I haven’t found anything game breaking. Aeon, sorry, the Illuminate not having a navy is interesting. The AI doesn’t seem to be hard enough yet. Really wish there were more 8 player maps. Seatons is the only one I have, and that gets old.

  4. Resin_Smoker Says:

    The lack of modding support, smaller maps, dumbed-down economy and the Xbox feel of the game are big turn offs for alot of players expecting the familiar play style of FA.

    Resin

  5. Cyde Weys Says:

    Here’s something I just realized: you can’t hurry building construction (i.e. use more than one engineer). You can, however, have engineers assist factories in producing units more quickly.

    That leads me to a question — does the commander build at the same speed as engineers, or is he faster? If he’s faster, it seems like you should always use him to build those end-game artillery pieces and experimental units.

    Speaking of artillery … it’s really bad now? Well, the medium range one is fine, but the Big Bertha is baaaaad.

  6. MeDDish Says:

    yes the commander builds faster, a lot faster….

    as for the arty, UEF’s ‘long range’ arty is long, most of the map for any 3v3 maps, the cybran is shorter and the illuminate dont seem to get one, in favour of the cheaper TML which is defeated quickly with any sort of anti missile unit and have much shorter range!

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