Although the real-time strategy genre is one of the oldest in the industry, few games that belong to it are built on such a scale to warrant the “strategy” part. In most cases, everything boils down to insane micromanagement, partly because the units are too stupid to take care of themselves on the battlefield and partly because if you lose a major battle, you also lose the match.
Total Annihilation took the gaming world by storm in 1997 and changed a lot of these concepts, while its expansion, The Core Contingency, further expanded the strategic possibilities to a whole new level, the result being a community which is still active ten years after the game’s launch. Since then however only the Total War titles have come close to equaling the scale of the battles found TA… that is until Chris Taylor decided that it was time to start working on the spiritual successor for what is probably his best known game.
Being one of the most highly anticipated and hyped about titles of the year, I would be very surprised if there was any RTS fan out there who hadn’t heard, even by mistake, about Supreme Commander by now. But even if you haven’t, the game’s title gives you a pretty good idea about what can you expect: the command of huge armies fighting an all-out war, this however ending up to be a two-edged sword. That’s because Supreme Commander will force you to reconsider some of the RTS stereotypes that you’re used to… and you can either adapt, or be defeated, especially in multiplayer.
Although Starcraft proved that an RTS too can have an engaging storyline and interesting characters, the single-player campaign in Supreme Commander can be considered at best a more elaborate tutorial, which introduces the three factions that are fighting for supremacy – United Earth Federation, Cybran Nation and the Aeon Illuminate – with you each time taking the role of the brilliant, up-and-coming commander who eventually wins the Infinite War for his people.
Unlike Starcraft, were we had three distinct races, the fight in Supreme Commander rages on between humans, with each faction having a different philosophy: the United Earth Federation wants to unite the galaxy under one rule, the Cybran Nation wants to free its enslaved people while the members of the Aeon Illuminate seek to spread „The Way” to all non-believers. And apparently, these goals also include the utter annihilation of everyone who stands in your way. Thanks to the impressive size of the maps, each mission in the single-player campaign progresses sequentially, with certain parts of the battlefield being revealed as soon as you complete certain objectives. Your access to higher tech levels, units and building follows the same principle. As such, a mission can last quite a long time without having to see any loading screens.