Supreme Ruler 2010 Hands-On Preview

This ambitious geopolitical strategy game will give you complete control over an entire country.

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Supreme Ruler 2010 is an upcoming geopolitical strategy game with an interesting--though highly unlikely--premise: What if the United States and other countries split apart, and the newly independent regions waged war on one another? In this "new world order," Colorado could fight against Nebraska; Northern France might invade Southern France; and the provinces of Australia could battle it out for control over the southern continent. Premise aside, Supreme Ruler 2010 is, without a doubt, one of the most comprehensive strategy games we've ever seen, and it's potentially one of the most rewarding for serious fans of the genre. Take a complex strategy board game and multiply its complexity by 10, and then you'll begin to get an inkling of the depth that developer BattleGoat Studios is building into the game.

This M1A2 tank battalion can take the rivalry between Washington and Oregon to a whole new level.
This M1A2 tank battalion can take the rivalry between Washington and Oregon to a whole new level.

You'll play the head of state of a nation vying to compete against its neighbors--who may be controlled by a computerized opponent or by other human players in multiplayer. As chief executive, you'll have to balance all the needs of society to a degree rarely seen in a computer game. On the domestic front, you'll have to worry about infrastructure, education, research, welfare, and immigration, among other things. On the economic front, there are taxes, import and export duties, inflation worries, foreign investments, loans and credit. Diplomatically, there are peace treaties, military alliances, economic treaties, and social treaties. You can even choose to isolate a country militarily, and you can send open or covert aid to allies.

There's a staggering wealth of options in the game. For instance, if you stick your citizens with an income tax, you can set the tax rates according to wealth bracket. If you select a military unit, such as an M1A2 battalion, you can send it to receive specialized training, like that involving desert warfare. You can even have the battalion designated as a reserve unit, which means it will cost you less upkeep but will take longer to activate in an emergency. And if you depend on too many reserves units for your military, you'll drain the economy of valuable workers during wartime, which will have ramifications in other parts of society.

You can create virtually any conflict. Here, Madrid wars against the rest of Spain.
You can create virtually any conflict. Here, Madrid wars against the rest of Spain.

Many players may find the task of having to micromanage everything to be daunting, so Supreme Ruler 2010 will have computer-controlled cabinet advisers that you can assign to run various departments. There will be 36 distinctly different advisers, spanning the political range from liberal, moderate, and conservative. Each adviser has strengths and weaknesses, so it'll be up to you to assign the one with the best military IQ to serve as your defense secretary, while the adviser with the best economic IQ should serve as your treasury secretary, and so on. You can then assign these advisers priorities, so you can tell your secretary of state to work mainly on forging economic treaties or military alliances with your neighbors. Or you can tell your defense secretary to work on improving the logistical capabilities of your military, or you can have him or her focus on building defensive capabilities.

Everything you do will cost lots of cash, so you'll need to keep an eye on the economy to ensure that spending doesn't outstrip revenue. If you run out of funds, your society will slowly grind to a halt. Research will be suspended, production will slack off, and civil unrest will build. If you decide to boost taxes, you'll increase revenue, but you'll decrease happiness, and you'll stifle the economy. However, if you decrease spending, you'll boost the treasury at the cost of the long-term health of society. As a result, spending for education, health care, and infrastructure will drop off. There are so many competing priorities in the game that you'll probably gain a new appreciation for what real-life lawmakers go through.

Ultimately, your goal will be to conquer your neighbors, and that's where the military portion of the game comes into play. You'll be able to research dozens, if not hundreds, of vehicles, aircraft, and naval vessels that you'll then be able to construct--assuming you have the necessary industrial capacity and infrastructure. All the weapons and equipment in the game come from the real world, so you'll be able to build F-15 fighters and Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, to name just a few. Real-world locations and bases are also modeled, so at Fort Lewis, Washington, you'll find a battalion of Army Rangers at your disposal, in addition to various armor units.

When it comes to combat, you'll actually be able to choose how much input to provide. Micromanagers will have the option of controlling every detail, while those who wish to focus on the big picture can hand the job of fighting to the AI. During military operations, you'll need to keep an eye on supply, which plays a critical role in the game. In one scenario, we watched as an invading country tried to carve a bridgehead into a neighboring country. The defending side shifted units and cut off the attacker's lead elements. Cut off from supply, the lead elements ground to a halt and then had to try to fight out of encirclement before being destroyed.

Northern France's offensive into Southern France is stymied.
Northern France's offensive into Southern France is stymied.

Supreme Ruler 2010 will run in continuous time, and there will be three speed settings, in addition to pause. At the fastest setting, the game will advance at the rate of about one day every 12 seconds. You can pause the action at any time to conduct your business, and then you can unpause it to see the results. BattleGoat apparently plans to model more than 200 real-world regions, so you'll be able to create pretty much any conflict you can imagine. And in terms of multiplay, the game will support up to 16 players and can be played in either real-time or turn-based modes. Each player will control a country in a battle for domination, and each can issue orders to units and cabinet ministers. In turn-based mode, players will only be able to issue orders at the beginning of each day, and then they'll have to watch the results as the game plays out for a 24-hour period. Hopefully BattleGoat can deliver, because the ambitious scope of Supreme Ruler 2010 could very well cater to fans of serious strategy games. The game should ship later this year.

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