SuperPower 2 Updated Hands-On

We have fun nuking other countries while playing a near-final version of SuperPower 2.

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SuperPower 2 isn't a traditional real-time strategy game by any means. In this geopolitical strategy game, you can take control of any modern-day nation and then control its economic, political, and military destiny. Sure, you can try to take over the world, but you'll find that a difficult feat, even with the United States. We've been playing around with a nearly complete version of the game and checking out what you will be doing in SuperPower 2.

You can form military alliances, research partnerships, and trading blocs with other nations.
You can form military alliances, research partnerships, and trading blocs with other nations.

You can play the game free-form as any nation and tinker around as the ultimate ruler if you wish, but you'll also have a series of goals that you can work toward. For example, you may have to promote world peace by bolstering military alliances, or you may work toward improving the global economic situation by forming trade zones. There will also be a variety of scenarios in the game, some peaceful and others that aren't. One will challenge you with improving an African nation's political stability, while in another you assume the role of the United States in its bid to take over Iraq so that it can then occupy the Middle Eastern country successfully. While you're worrying about accomplishing these goals, the unpredictable nature of global events may add to your worries. An earthquake may devastate a third-world nation, or a drought could affect grain production at home.

Managing a country is no easy task, but the interface is designed to let you make political, economic, and military decisions fairly easily. For instance, with just a few clicks, you can outlaw certain religions, place a limit on the number of children each family may have, or slash all health care spending. Every decision you make can have effects elsewhere. We took over the United States and faced a budget deficit of about $100 billion. To balance the budget, we cut taxes and interest rates but also boosted spending in education and in the infrastructure; then we sped up the time dilution. In just a few months, we were projecting a budget surplus (in this respect, SuperPower 2 isn't exactly realistic). We then used the money to boost research and development in new weapons systems.

Each nation will start off with a fair representation of its modern-day military strength. For example, the United States has about a dozen aircraft carriers and thousands of tanks and fighters at its disposal. If you have the funds (or if you're willing to drive a budget deficit), you can build new military units. However, if you do so, you've got to incur the cost of construction as well as upkeep and training. The game will ship with designs for existing military equipment, or you can design your own military equipment. In the case of a tank, you can mix and match different parts to come up with a new look. More importantly, you can determine how accurate and powerful the canon is, or you can decide how thick the armor is, depending on how much research you've done in these fields. But if you design an übertank, don't be surprised to see the unit costs go up astronomically.

If you decide to take military action against another country, you can wage war simply by selecting the units you wish to use and deploying them into combat. The units will automatically figure out a path to that country and then invade. There's a new battle mechanic in SuperPower 2, so when two armies collide, a small series of explosions will show up on the map, signifying a battle. If you click on the battle, you'll be brought to the battle screen, which displays the units involved in battle, as well as a map on the bottom of the screen indicating control of the battlefield. You can give generalized orders to your units--such as telling them to execute a full assault or telling them to maintain distance by using ranged weapons--and you'll see the results unfold on the screen.

...or you can skip the talking to simply invade other countries, in which case battles like this will occur.
...or you can skip the talking to simply invade other countries, in which case battles like this will occur.

When all else fails, your nation can use its nuclear arsenal--if you've managed to procure one. Strategic warfare is a very dangerous game, because you'll make plenty of enemies and open yourself up to nuclear retaliation. However, it's fun to watch. When you target an enemy country, you aim for military or civilian centers, and then you allocate how many missiles to employ in your assault. After that, you hit the shiny red button to watch your missiles arc around the globe.

From what we've seen, SuperPower 2 looks like it will improve on its ambitious-though-flawed predecessor quite a bit. Developer GolemLabs has rethought the game's interface, and its mechanics have matured. The game is almost done, so fans of grand-level strategy offerings can look forward to SuperPower 2 shipping soon.

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