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Supreme Commander

Entry updated 21 August 2012. Tagged: Game.

Videogame (2007). Gas Powered Games (GPG). Designed by Chris Taylor. Platforms: Win (2007); XB360 (2008).

Supreme Commander is a Real Time Strategy game, much influenced by Chris Taylor's earlier Total Annihilation (1997). As in that game, the availability of resources at any point on the battlefield and the wide range of air, sea and land units promote a flexible, open style of combat in which opponents are constantly attempting to outmanoeuvre each other with novel strategies. The game is set in the thirty-seventh century, during a civil war in a human Galactic Empire. None of the factions is clearly morally superior to the others. Instead, each has its own justification for war: the reunification of the remnants of the Earth Federation, a crusade to spread an alien derived pacifist philosophy by force, and the desire for freedom of an enslaved group who have cybernetically augmented their minds. The player can choose any of these factions and play through the last days of the war, or fight other players online.

Supreme Commander is interesting both for the enormous scale of its battlefields and the realism with which it deploys many of the conventions of RTS games. Engagements begin when the eponymous unit, a human piloted bipedal Mecha, arrives on the battlefield through a Faster Than Light quantum Wormhole. This unit can then construct a variety of combat and support Robots using Nanotechnology, expending energy and mass resources obtained by such means as drilling geothermal boreholes and salvaging destroyed enemy equipment. As an industrial military complex is built up, more advanced units can be assembled, ranging from amphibious naval destroyers which walk on land to mobile factories. The size of the maps makes it a more truly strategic game than its predecessors, which have generally concentrated on tactical warfare with interpolated strategic elements. The large numbers of units under the player's control are made manageable by the inclusion of a high degree of automation in the interface, enabling such actions as automatically coordinated attacks and programmed transport of units to the front line. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the game, however, is the way in which the scale of the maps used will abruptly expand during a mission, forcing the player to make rapid mental readjustments as their understanding of the local situation is repeatedly transformed.

Related works: Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance (2007 GPG, Win) designed by Bradley Rebh, Chris Taylor is an expansion to the first game which can be played alone. It adds various enhancements to the gameplay of the original, including orbital bombardment weapons, to support a storyline that focuses on the return of the aliens who inspired the aggressively pacifist principles of one of the groups seen in Supreme Commander. This race, who were thought to have been exterminated by the genocidal Earth Federation but had instead retreated to a quantum sea underlying the physical universe, devastate the various splintered factions of humanity, whose survivors unite against them. The player, in the role of a soldier for one of the original three groups, must help resist the invasion.

Supreme Commander 2 (2010 GPG, Mac, Win, XB360) designed by Chris Taylor is a sequel to the original game, set after the coalition formed in Forged Alliance has broken up, leading to a resumption of the universal war. Games of Supreme Commander 2 are similar to those of its predecessor, but faster paced and arguably simpler. The Infinite War Battle Pack (2011 GPG, Mac, Win, XB360) is an expansion which adds new locations and combat units for competitive play. [NT]


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