Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance is the follow-up stand-alone expansion to Supreme Commander developed by Gas Powered Games and designed by Chris Taylor. Forged Alliance is set to take place directly after the events of the original game. There are long descriptions of the storyline available out on the web but it doesn’t take a strategy veteran to realize that the story in this series takes a back seat and, at least to me, doesn’t seem very important. After putting many hours into this expansion, I would project that fans of the original would enjoy the add-on but people who are looking for a less time-consuming game will be disappointed. This new expansion touts many new units, supports more players in multiplayer mode, and of course offers the new faction: the Seraphim.
I have to state upfront that I have not played the original Supreme Commander but did investigate what organizations and people thought of it. This fact made writing this review somewhat difficult, which is why it has taken a while to finish. The general impression I received was that the original was a great game and that the main negatives were long build times, steep learning curve, lack of a meaningful storyline. Apparently, it took a while to get into the intensity the game offers, and the system requirements were a bit steep.
I wasn’t much of a strategy fan until I installed Company of Heroes. The genre has a history of being extremely time-consuming, and even though Gas Powered Games has apparently lessened build times for this expansion, it still takes a long time to get everything built and set up. Can a game be discounted for this? The people that love these more complex and expansive strategy games would argue no. So, I’ve decided not to discount the game in a major way in that respect, but I give a fairly prominent warning to the strategy fans who like the direction where games such as Company of Heroes have taken the genre.
One of the primary differences between the original game and this expansion is that the intensity is there right at the beginning. I was somewhat shocked at how, after a very simple tutorial about collecting mass and energy, I was thrown into battle with limited resources and facing an enemy that was difficult to overcome. In fact, there were a couple of missions where I had to completely start over after being decimated by the enemy (save often!).
|"...the intensity is there right at the beginning."|
I didn’t know much about the different factions at first, so I somewhat randomly chose the Cybran Nation. The units between the factions look almost identical, but there are gameplay differences between them. I found some good comparisons online, and it seems that each has its own slight advantage, even if it all seems the same. As I went through the campaign, my faction was also able to capture new technology, which kept things interesting. I did enjoy using the experimental technologies… after I found them in the interface, that is. Some of the reviews for the original Supreme Commander stated that the learning curve was steep. In this expansion however, the interface has been re-done and while it looks a bit complex at first, you really can get the hang of it quite quickly. Once you figure out the interface the game plays like most strategy games.
The only gameplay complaint I really have is the long build times. I personally like to set up a strong defense before going on the offense, which seemed to be the smart thing to do after having new enemies come in and leave you hanging on with barely any resources at several points. Missions in Forged Alliance work like this: you defeat an enemy in one area and then the map expands to reveal new enemies. In most situations, you are rescuing an ally, so not only do you have to defend yourself but you have to make sure that your friends are holding up. When you first start off, it’s difficult to get things up quickly so that you have a chance at fending off the well-equipped adversary. Building simple tech level 1 AA guns seemed to take at least one to two minutes per gun. Even with plentiful resources, building tech level 3 items can take a very long time. For example, I quickly found that the level 3 artillery gun was extremely effective. The time it takes to construct it however, is probably around ten to fifteen minutes. I could be exaggerating a bit but this is what it at least seemed like. Don’t even get me started on the missile defense system. I started building one of those in one of the early levels and after at least an hour of playing it hadn’t been finished. It may have been a lack of resources during that mission, but in general I’d have to say that things take much too long to build. Missions are drawn out much longer than they need to be, which makes the game seem more like work that entertainment a great deal of the time. I’m not saying that the game isn’t fun, because it is, but not all the time.
|"...things take much too long to build."|
Graphics have been improved in this expansion, and they seemed adequate to me. You still have the ability to zoom in at a high level and then zoom all the way out where your units and buildings are represented with colored dots on the map. This seems to be the best way handle this type of game, because you can build up many units and the scope is quite large. The problem however, is that when you are zoomed in during intense battles, you’ll likely find major computer performance hits. I used an AMD 6000+/2GB RAM/8600GT to play the game and was forced to zoom out during these massive battles. When reading about the first game in the series, I found that this is a recurring issue. So while the graphics are good, be aware that you’ll need a really powerful machine if you want to play with the graphics on high settings.
The sound seemed good, and I received the impression that these futuristic weapons, machines, etc., were well represented. Music also plays the entire time, and while it can be annoying in some games, it seemed perfect for Forged Alliance.
Overall, I’d have to say that Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance definitely isn’t for everyone. Be prepared to commit two to four hours per mission in this game, which for people like me seemed slightly preposterous. I know that some people really enjoy this, so discounting the game in a major way for this reason doesn’t seem fair. It can be very fun and there were several things that I enjoyed. If the build times were just decreased a lot more, I think I would have been able to appreciate it a great deal more. The storyline just really isn’t there enough, so there has to be a deduction for this, and the game feels slightly generic. There are also some performance issues that I would like to see improved upon for the next chapter in the series. If you’re really into in-depth and expansive strategy games then this game is for you. However, if you can’t or don’t wish to spend hours upon hours playing a game that takes a long time to achieve accomplishments, then I would advise to avoid this title.