Supreme Commander Single-Player Hands-On--Economy, Base Building, and Warfare

This highly awaited real-time strategy game features epic battles, gigantic maps, and plenty of strategic depth.

For fans of real-time strategy, 2007 couldn't arrive fast enough, and now that the New Year is here, the eagerly awaited Supreme Commander is that much closer to arriving. Supreme Commander is a sci-fi real-time strategy game from Gas Powered Games and THQ. It's also the brainchild of creator Chris Taylor, who also created one of the most popular real-time strategy games ever made with 1997's Total Annihilation. However, even without that impressive pedigree, Supreme Commander would still be on many anticipated lists, thanks to its vast scale and promising gameplay. You'll command armies that consist of hundreds of tanks and robotic war machines, air forces that consist of nimble fighters and strategic bombers, and navies that feature battleships and submarines, as you fight for control of alien worlds. Supreme Commander is currently undergoing an open multiplayer beta test, but we had a chance recently to check out part of the single-player game.

Supreme Commander will let you attack your enemies on land, at sea, and in the air.

Supreme Commander is set in a distant future. Humanity has colonized the galaxy and splintered into three warring factions. The United Earth Federation (UEF) represents the old order, cybernetic humans have banded together as the Cybran Nation, and an alien-influenced faction has organized as the Aeon Illuminate. This translates into three single-player campaigns that will let you fight as each faction, as well as skirmish and multiplayer modes. We only had access to the UEF campaign and a few skirmish missions in the work-in-progress version of the game that we played. Still, this gave us our first solid hands-on with the single-player portion of the game. It also gave us a chance to get a feel for the gameplay and the scale of the action.

The UEF campaign centers on your role as an up-and-coming commander in the UEF military. Hard-pressed on multiple fronts and battling both the Cybran and Aeon, you'll be quantum teleported from planet to planet to hold the line. Each mission starts off with a bang--literally--because your arrival on each world is welcomed with an explosion, which is a result of the quantum teleportation. In the midst of the smoldering crater is your armored command unit, otherwise known as a supreme commander. The ACU is the keystone unit because it not only houses you, but also lets you create, from scratch, a sprawling base and a mighty military with which to crush your enemies.

Because the game is set in the distant future, humanity has figured out how to replicate matter out of energy and energy out of matter, which is an important concept in figuring out how Supreme Commander's resource system works. The two key resources are mass and energy. The former can be recovered from certain spots on the map where mass extractors can be built. You can also turn energy into mass by using mass fabricators, but this is an energy-intensive process. Energy is generated mainly by energy and fusion generators, which can be constructed anywhere. The goal is to maintain a positive flow of energy and mass, because if you run a deficit, you'll eventually drain whatever reserves you have and find yourself suffering from slowdowns in your economy.

The beginning build order might look something like this: Place mass extractors on the handful of mass-extraction sites on the map, then place energy generators to provide power. With those basic building blocks in place, you can then put up a land factory to provide ground units, an air factory for air units, and a naval factory for warships. While the ACU can construct most basic buildings, you'll need to construct specialized engineer units to access the more specialized structures, such as sensors that can detect distant units and more advanced forms of defensive turrets.

While you have plenty of room to build a sprawling base, location counts. Specifically, proximity does wonders for production. If you build a factory without placing other facilities near it, it'll manufacture units faithfully; but if you build energy generators next to it, you'll get a production boost from the proximity of those generators. This means that you'll want to concentrate your facilities together, though the downside to this is that you're putting all your eggs into a very small basket. With one nuclear blast, much of your production can get wiped out. Even if your opponent doesn't use a nuke, it's still fairly easy to watch your base get flattened by a mass air attack, so defenses count.

The impressive scale comes across in such scenic vistas as this.

All of these initial structures are what the game calls "tech level 1," which means that they also produce "tech level 1" units. These are the most basic units in the game, and they're good for the initial phase but can become obsolete as the tech level advances. As you reach tech level 2, you'll unlock new structures and new units, and you can upgrade existing buildings. The maximum tech level is level 3, at which point you get access to the most powerful buildings and units. If at tech level 1 you were playing with light tanks and small attack aircraft, at tech level 3 you'll be able to construct heavy tanks and strategic bombers. You'll also have access to some of the most powerful weapons in the game, such as strategic artillery, which can hurl a shell across vast distances, as well as nuclear weapons.

Future Warfare

The more powerful or important a building, the longer it takes to construct. A nuclear missile silo can take more than an hour for a single engineer unit to construct. Thankfully, you can assign multiple engineer units on each project, cutting down construction time considerably, but it'll still take a while to put up some of the high-value structures. At the same time, the more valuable or expensive a structure is, the greater amounts of mass and energy are required to construct it, which means that your economy can be put under great strain simply because you're trying to construct something like strategic artillery. This puts an emphasis on continually building up your economy by constructing mass extractors wherever possible and building expensive energy generators. These require considerable amounts of mass and energy to construct as well, and you can see just how the economy can balance the game. While it might seem that you have limitless energy and resources, you can find yourself suddenly facing all sorts of production issues as you try to pay for everything you need.

Combined arms is important, so you want to engage your enemy with tanks, air power, artillery, and more.

While you're busy doing all of this, you'll also need to fight a war. Much has been said and written about Supreme Commander's impressive scale. This is a staggeringly big game at times. The smallest map in the game is still as large as the largest maps in most real-time strategy games, which is good news if you want a strategy game that offers plenty of room to maneuver armies. On some of the larger maps, you can play hide-and-seek with opponents by shifting forces secretly around the battlefield, which makes it all the more important to constantly scout and patrol large portions of the map. Geography also plays an important role because bodies of water, mountain ranges, and more will dictate your strategy.

The UEF is a faction that bears more than a passing resemblance to today's militaries. Even though the game is set thousands of years in the future, to keep things relatable, the combat is essentially based on modern-day warfare. You have tanks (traditional and walking), fighters, artillery, missiles, bombers, submarines, destroyers, battleships, and more. There's some exotic stuff as well, such as energy shield units, but everything pretty much fits in a combined arms strategy. The key to success is balance. If you build too much of one unit, the enemy will build the counter to it, and you'll have to start over from scratch. But if you throw a balanced force at the enemy, you can overwhelm it.

The first missions gradually ease you into the many different concepts of the game, but you'll still find yourself with your hands full. In the beginning mission, your task is to establish your first base on a planet and build attack groups to neutralize an enemy outpost to the west. Once that's done, you'll have to go on the offensive to rescue a settlement under siege from Cybran forces. The good news is that if you can capture an enemy power station located to the southwest, you'll secure enough energy so that the besieged defenders can bring their artillery into the fight. After that, you must attack and destroy the enemy's ACU, and the easiest way to do that is to send a group on a flanking attack. The key is to bypass the formidable line of fortifications and destroy enemy air defenses in their rear. Once those are down, you can send attack aircraft after the enemy ACU.

We were impressed with the performance of the artificial intelligence, and one of the things that we noticed is that the AI doesn't appear content to do the same things over and over again. For example, in one battle, the AI correctly recognized that our main base was lacking in air defense after the bulk of our mobile air defense units were moved away to protect armies in the field. Just as we launched a huge offensive on the enemy base, a fleet of aerial gunships appeared to ravage our base, forcing a withdrawal. In another battle, we raced to construct nuclear missiles first, only to discover the enemy countered with antimissile defenses. Because both sides were separated by a large body of water and enemy air defenses were so heavy, our solution was to build strategic artillery to try to knock out the antimissile defenses and then let the nukes fly. However, the enemy also built strategic artillery and both sides exchanged shells. We also made the critical mistake of neglecting to build our own antimissile defenses, at which point an incoming nuke wiped out our main base. In other words, the AI performed solidly.

You can build hundreds of units before you hit the level cap, which means that some of the battles can get quite crazy as large masses of ground and air forces mix it up. The action is incredibly fast-paced at these times, and before too long, the burned-out hulks of wrecked vehicles litter the battlefield. One of the nice things about Supreme Commander is that this wreckage doesn't disappear over time, but it remains, so you can always recognize the sight of a huge battle.

Trying to maintain perspective on such a huge battlefield would be problematic in most real-time strategy games because the cameras in those games don't let you pull back far enough to get a view of the entire battlefield. This is not the case in Supreme Commander because you can keep pulling the camera back to the point that units are replaced with military-style icons, and you can see the battlefield in its entirety. This strategic view also lets you retain full operational control over your units. It's fairly easy to select icons on the map by simply clicking on them or dragging them, and giving them movement or attack orders. In fact, you could almost play the entire game from this perspective, which gives Supreme Commander a cool "war room" feeling. It's easy to imagine yourself as a battlefield commander, analyzing the map and figuring out a plan of attack.

Make sure to defend your bases, or else your economy will take a major hit.

While the large scale of the game is impressive, it naturally raises concerns about the system requirements. The good news is that on our fairly high-end test machine, the game ran smoothly for the most part, though the graphics stuttered a bit during huge battles. Keep in mind that Gas Powered Games probably still has optimization and tuning to do before the game ships, as well. The visuals look great with all the graphical options turned on, but even if you tone down the detail for better frame rate, they maintain a solid look. This is a huge game in both scale and gameplay, and the sheer amount of strategic depth is exciting. This is certain to be one of the major strategy games of the year, and we won't have to wait too much longer for it to ship. Supreme Commander is scheduled for release in the first quarter of the year.

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Discussion

128 comments
icecoldkilla78
icecoldkilla78

is the economy strategy the same as company of heros?

_Sam_
_Sam_

I think that this game is looking good. If they are going to do a demo, I'll check it out

redsoxman05
redsoxman05

With C & C 3 and SUPCOM being released around the same time, I'm gonna have a lot to occupy myself with. It's gonna be interesting to see which game comes out on top. I just read all of the previews for this game in an hour and a half, and I am very impressed, to say the least. I have an Athlon 64 X2 4600+, 2.4 GHz, dual-core processor and 4GB of RAM, along with an x850XT PE video board (which will be upgraded to dual DX10 cards in May or so), so I should have no problem with it.

mryakan
mryakan

BeyondItAll, I read t he tutorial buddy but nothing is intuitive. I know what a beta is, I work in the software industry after all *sigh*, my point is that there is so much going on, it will scare off many rts fans and create a barrier to new people playing the game, which is not a recipe for a huge success. Don't get me wrong, I still like the game to play it and I will play the single player missions. I am not sure I will have the patience to keep up with the hardcore online and I believe many will share my frustration and quit which is a shame for such a nice game. P.S. I am not the only one complaining about missing the battle action because you are always zoomed out (maybe unless your rich dad buys you a 2nd monitor). Check out the preview of another Game*** review site. It just a shame for such an ambitious game.

farnes
farnes

nice article. the more i read and see about it the more i want to get my hands on the final version of it

BeyondItAll
BeyondItAll

Cnc 3 is going to be complete crap Weekend :lol: EALA makes nothing, but complete trash RTS games :lol: just look on any CnC site and all you will see is people bashing CnC 3 for how much it is going to sucks. Mryakan, maybe you should idk try the dam tutorials? The game has a TON of features to help you manage everything, features your likely do not even know exist. The beta is for hardcore fans buddy, the final game will have a ton of interactive tutorials that will make learning the game a breeze. Heres a link to the tutorials http://www.fileplanet.com/169530/160000/fileinfo/Supreme-Commander-Tutorial-Movies-%5BFilePlanet-Exclusive%5D

mryakan
mryakan

So I've played the multiplayer beta several times so far, but I have yet to be able to see the units with any clarity. If I zoom in enough to see the units, the area covered is too small to do anything meaningful and if I zoom out to see a good portion of the battlefield, the units become icons which is not attractive or engaging at all. Add to that the hugs number of upgrades and units you need to keep track of, not to mention a full time job to maintain your economy and it seems to me this game is too demanding and hardcore even for some hardcore gamers. I am curious to know what resolution and screen size gamespot is using and wanted to also note that the screen shot they give are not of live gameplay persay since they have to title the camera angle to get these magnificant shots, unless I missed a setting to make this a default view. My thoughts, this game may be too demanding (both in time to learn and system resources) and too ambitious that it might backfire on the developers. I feel almost compelled to try another game but everytime I do, I come out with a bitter taste n my mouth. I guess it is one of those love em or hate em games!

darklight86
darklight86

Yes completing a big bertha to decimate an enemy on the other side of the map was very satisfying

gacmyver
gacmyver

Wow, sounds EXACTLY like total annihilation! Which is ubergreat! TA Kingdoms belongs to the most-underappreciated-games club :( It was truly a great game for its time!

plamberton
plamberton

I got my copy pre-ordered at EB GAMES and they told me the game comes out on March 21/07 which is a few days b4 the new C&C 3 game is due out. It's looking like another banner year for RTS games.

SveNitoR
SveNitoR

Nice article. looking forward to playing the game when it arrives. Still remembers when I built the Big Berthas in TA... such a good feeling.

raf4000
raf4000

Iv been playing the beta for months now and it works very very well

hrah
hrah

thank you for your comment washburnwi14, but I didn't have time and money to finish my rig the way I wanted, with christmas and all the gifts, I had to cut some corners in order to stretch the money, but on the bright side, that videocard is just temporarily, I already have the money for the 8800 gtx, and i hope my pc will be ready in time for the new generation of games, About the game , you got to be pretty quick building mass and energy, if you don't, this will slow you down, and you won't have a moment to catch up, as soon as you build a land factory , build 6 or 7 engineers or more to help you build the rest of the buildings, remember that everything you build from a factory these engineers can help you build faster if you grab an engineer and click on the factory, then you got to build some protection, tanks, flak artillery ,mobile shields, as much as you can, remember they're coming faster , also don't forget to build the second level or third if you forget that you're done for , if you manage to scape the first batch or two of enemies, you will have a chance to continue, once you have a established base , get to the more serious weapons, AND FOR SOME PAYBACK !!!, things will slowdown a little to let you breath but you got to be prepared for everything, hope it helps. When you play online in other games there's always someone trying to beat the others first, rushing the game, I just wish I could see the faces of some of those people, trying to beat the cpu with this game jaja they're in for a surprise, it would be hilarious to see their faces.

washburnwi14
washburnwi14

dude i think ur x300 is holding u down you need a more balanced computer try not to buy parts that will end up bottlenecking ur computer ps i really cant figure out how to play this game well i build a lot of stuff but its a whole lot of work its ridiculous i end up being 6 times behind my opponent in points and its the easy AI too! whats going on? what are ur strategys?

hrah
hrah

jajajaja, it works with my pc, I thought that with my videocard and my processor i was toasted but hey it works , i 've been playing for hours with no lag at all, of course effects settings are very low but at least i can wait playing until i get my 8800 gtx my core duo e6700 and my new psu, if your wondering about my pc it has an ASUS P5W DH DELUXE motherboard 2 gigs OF KINGSTON DDR 2 667, a PENTIUM 4 660 3.6 mhz with Hyper-Threading, and an ati X300 videocard, I have heard so much about the beta game slowing down even the best processors, that i thought that my pc was't up to the challenge , but I was wrong, hope it helps some of you to try the beta on your pcs if you have a similar setting, Well pc settings aside, the game is AWESOME EVEN WITH MY SHI---TY VIDEOCARD , but i have to warn people the game has a very high LEVEL of difficulty and the AI is unforgiving if you make a mistake, i have played a lot of rts games and this is by far the most tricky AI i ever seen, i like the fact that you can put energy shields all over your side but don't let those mechanical spiders get too close or its game over.

GuMMie_101
GuMMie_101

There seems to be allot of questions about spec form you guys, i say relax... You know buy looking at the gameplay its going to need some type of good all-round pc! I would think playing the game with all candy enabled would need some serios spex! But sure, if you just want to play the game with ok setting the im sure you'll need about 1GB ram, a dual core processor, a 256mb 7600GT, and enough space.... a 1 TB hard drive is not going to improve gameplay. Im really looking forward to this game, and well 2007 looks pritty good with titles such as crysis and all! I dont wanna even know how crazy this game is going to be with 2v2 multiplayer or even 2v2v2! It looks great if you ask me, now its just time for them to release it so we can blow some stuff up! gumm from the i to the e ................

Fireboy78
Fireboy78

I hope my computer will work on this game, mine 217 GB HD, 2.80 GHz, 1010 Mb ram. Most game not work in my computer because of my video cards. All my requirements item is fine but one thing is video cards! I thinks video cards is too much money to pay on this small things. I know this is powerful video cards such as ati radeon. This game is look like awesome game so that look like I have to get better video cards. :'-(

BeyondItAll
BeyondItAll

Guys go into the Supreme Commander forums on the top of this page, their are plenty of threads in their that will answer you spec questions. Ajad, sorry, but I'm not going to let anyone try to promote another game in this thread without taking a shot at the game, especially when it's a trash EA game :P

BarXPS
BarXPS

I think this game is just going to suck up my XPS!!! though i hope it will run it .... Pentium IV 3.2 GeForce 6800 1GB RAM 160GB HD

frank20910
frank20910

"do u think it would run fine on my comp the specs r: dual core amd athlon @5.2 ghz(total) 2 gigs of ram 250 gig hard drive nividia geforce 6150LE " im also getting a 6800 gt soon so.... do u think i could run it then?

frank20910
frank20910

fuzzy 901 i have an amd athlon x2 5200+ and my comp is an hp pavilion i think but i dont know which version of hp pavilion i have.

ajadoniz
ajadoniz

"I said it earlier and I will say it again this is not for discussing other RTS games anyway.".......................................... great job sticking to ur word

BeyondItAll
BeyondItAll

Wrattman cc3 looks like complete trash, that EA game will flat out suck like all other EA rts games. No company has a more consistent record of developing trash RTS games then EA, and from what I have heard at least about the core gameplay of cc3 from people in the industry is that it is for the most part a remodel and reskin job of generals only the timeframe in which it has been in development reflects that too as it has been in development for less then 1 year. Their are a billion other reasons why cc3 will suck, but I'm not going to go into them now. Contrast to Supreme Commander that has been in development for over three years with a few hundred people on it and you just can't compare them, great RTS games can't be made in a year, they take years. I mean look at Company of Heroes, that game WOULD have sucked if they had done it all in one year, but they gave it 3 years and the end result was one of the best RTS games ever I said it earlier and I will say it again this is not for discussing other RTS games anyway. And Tom, I think your computer just meets the specs aside from the ram in which you have plenty of, but if I was you I would spend a hundred dollars or so on a dual core CPU if you want to run the game well.

EmrysJ
EmrysJ

This is going to own so badly.

exorzz
exorzz

i love this kind of massive scale warfare i played total anihilation and that game was soo cool in those days i hope that supreme commander will be even better now only hope that my pc will run it :)

Tomdogg
Tomdogg

Could someone send me a PM telling me if I can run this game? I have... ATI RADEON X1300 Pro w/256 MB video RAM 2GB of RAM Pentium 4 Processor 3.0ghz 80GB hard drive

wrattman91
wrattman91

this game looks so sweet, but cc3 looks better and i can run cc3

raf4000
raf4000

frank20910 you cannot run this game sorry

pedram_8077
pedram_8077

oh,man THQ will going to blow the rts world,1st DOW and now SC,great after great !! but i have to say something:remember that generals and zh still a great games .i hope cnc3 too!

princegee4
princegee4

i have a dual core prosecoer runing at 2.8 Ghz ,7600 GT 256 mb,1 GB ram DDR2.so i hope i can play this game with good grapgics settings and good frame rates.(My fingers r crossed while saying this)

BeyondItAll
BeyondItAll

Vypro AMD 64x2s do not slow down at high unit numbers, any dual core will run this game great!

fuzzy901
fuzzy901

frank20910: Where did you find an Athlon X2 able to run at 5.2 Ghz?

vpyroman2
vpyroman2

For the Spec Seekers, the current beta runs best on Intel Dual Core Processors, AMD 64s slow down at high unit numbers, and Athlon XPs causes sync errors in online games. On the plus side, any 3D card seems capable of running it, from a single 6600GT to an 8800GTX.

TheMarker
TheMarker

This actually looks very promising, I played the TA but this will be sooooo much better =D Unfortunatly my computer can't run this game =( BUHUHUUUU!!! I'm so gonna buy a new in the end of this summer, with Vista and a DX10 supported graficcard. Then I'm going to pwn everyone. =) At that point it's noot far from the release of Spore, I wonder what game of those that will keep me up all night just cuz it's too freaking fun to quit ;P Anyway, I won't hesitate to buy Supreme Commander when I can enjoy playing it, I just can't w8 6 months, u guys can feel lucky having to w8 just too the release by march.

dgs1324
dgs1324

You ever played the one before? Total Annihilation?

bobman221
bobman221

this game sounds REALLY SWEET!!!

frank20910
frank20910

do u think it would run fine on my comp the specs r: dual core amd athlon @5.2 ghz(total) 2 gigs of ram 250 gig hard drive nividia geforce 6150LE

mattacks
mattacks

omfg.. this game looks awesome. 2007 is a benchmark year in pc gaming. wow bc. SC. spore... wat next!

raf4000
raf4000

i just posted a link right under you comment

blackhammer77
blackhammer77

WHERE THE HELL IS THE DEMO? WHERE IS IT? I WANT TO PLAY THIS AS FAST AS POSSIBLE.

raf4000
raf4000

yeah the requirements are pretty hefty, my core 2 duo at 2.2 is almost maxed out on this, GPU wise anything abouve a 6800gt does the trick even maxed out, my 6800U handles it maxed so its jsut cpu, ram you need. if you want to try it. Beta Download http://www.rebelz-nation.com/modules.php? name=Downloads&d_op=search&query=supcom#searchresults

Ol_skool_Gamer
Ol_skool_Gamer

Simmy, there are no space battles. However, I think someone at GPG while talking about that mentioned "the future". It looks like it's shaping up. I can't wait for it either :)

Mohamed_h
Mohamed_h

why is this so different from any other RTS ? because of the massive number of units ? sorry but that doesn't mean it would be a great game at all !

opollo
opollo

I was a betatester too and its gonna be brill, i havent played it for a while as i didnt want to spend much time on it as i want to buy it and enjoy it. If i had carried on playin i might of got bored & not enjoyed it as much..

Shundhit
Shundhit

I am a beta tester of the game, but it looks like SC is nearing to release so I will give it up.

runejedi
runejedi

carnt wait either any word on system requirements?

SimmySamSam
SimmySamSam

i wonder if there are space battles with like star cruisers and what not... Looks pretty sweet though. im getting this along with spore this year. thank god of '07!!!