So I loaded up the demo for Supreme Commander 2 the other day to try it out and I am still pretty excited about the release next Tuesday. As with any sequel, I am quite nervous about how well it will stack up against its predecessor. From the demo, I think that the game will be a worthy successor.
The demo gives you two tutorial and two campaign missions. The tutorial missions are extremely helpful for those new to the way SupCom handles the RTS genre. The campaign missions provide a nice sampling of land, air, and naval combat from the UEF perspective.
New Research System
I was very impressed with the new research system. You acquire research points from research facilities and may spend them in the tech tree to upgrade your units and structures. Tanks can be upgraded with anti-air missiles and shields to improve their effectiveness. Once an upgrade has been purchased, all units instantly benefit from it, even if they are currently in battle. Climbing up the tech tree is no longer solely dependent on how well your economy is performing like the first SupCom. I foresee an interesting multiplayer experience since knowing what upgrades to research first will give you a considerable advantage.
New Tactical View
In the first game, zooming out from the battlefield brought up the ‘Tactical View’ where all of the on-screen units were represented by icons and you could more easily control your theater of war. This view has been enhanced by auto-grouping nearby units. Auto-grouped units have a numbered disc above them that will select the grouped units when clicked. Hot-keying control groups is still beneficial, but this new feature gives greater control over the battlefield, especially in hectic situations. It is entirely possible to fully control your units without ever hot-keying them into a control group.
The Square Enix Touch
The new maps in the demo’s campaign missions are pretty cool, especially the second where you fight on a series of platforms floating in the sky. This is one of the more noticeable influences of Square Enix on the game. They have also made the voice acting and some of the characters a bit campy, but that is Square Enix for you.
New Resource Management System
The major grievance I have against the demo is the new resource management system. In the first game, you collected and expended resources in real time. As you built a unit or structure, it would draw out from your resource pool at a constant rate. Now when a unit or structure is built, it immediately pulls out the full amount from your resource pool. This forces entirely too much micro-management when building a base and base-building is already micro-management enough for any RTS game.
With the previous real-time system, you could queue up a long list of structures to build and let your engineers run wild. Of course, this required you to plan ahead and not overstate your limits, but that is the nature of true strategy. Now, if you want to queue up a series of structures for an engineer to build, you must have all of the resources for all the structures at the time of queue creation, or you cannot add them to the queue.
This also extends to unit production. Unit production factories still have the awesome repeat order where you can give it a build order to constantly repeat, but if you do not have the resources to build that particular unit at that time, the factory will pause all production indefinitely. You must constantly watch all of your unit factories to make sure none of them have paused production. Periodically un-pausing them gets really old really quick and is a stress I do not need during battle.
I am still pretty optimistic about the game. The new tac view and research system will add a lot to the multiplayer experience. I think the story is only going to be so-so, due to the campy Square Enix style, but thankfully RTS games are more about gameplay than story. Chris Taylor and his superb studio, Gas Powered Games, have certainly brought out a game that will easily contend with Starcraft 2 for top RTS this year. I will try to write up an official review in a couple of weeks after I have fully torn into the game.