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Posted on Nov 23, 2007 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance Game Review

Armchair General

Passed Inspection: The same command interface, but improved!

Failed Basic: Not quite sure why the strategic overview has been placed in a different context.

It’s here at last! Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance has arrived through my letterbox and I couldn’t be happier.

Forged Alliance is a strange beast – at face value it’s simply an expansion pack to the original Supreme Commander (reviewed by this writer here) but it might also be considered a true sequel because (here’s the best part) players don’t need the original SupCom to run the game – this is a stand-alone expansion, literally a game in itself.

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This is great news because it allows new players to easily get into the game and what’s more, now that the high-spec’ equipment needed to run SupCom is a little cheaper since the original title was released, it means there’s no obstacle to a gamer new to SupCom picking Forged Alliance and getting started straight away. It also gives us veterans something new to chew on at a reasonable price.

The alliance referred to in the title is a reference to the storyline in the new single-player campaign. An alien race, only hinted at in the original game, has arrived to cleanse the galaxy of all human life. The three warring factions from the original Supreme Commander must join forces to defeat this new menace or find themselves exterminated…

Where SupCom upped the ante’ for RTS games, Forged Alliance, somehow, improves the model even more. Yes of course there are new units to play with but that’s not all, new overlay functions allow players to display the battle map in cartographic mode – switching the image on screen to a contour map – useful in a game which uses Newtonian physics and true line of sight. It’s also possible to toggle the resource display on and off so that players can quickly locate areas where mass and energy can be exploited and then deactivate this level of display when combat becomes the priority.

Other tweaks to the game include the way defensive arcs are shown on the screen – whereas before, selecting a series of identical artillery positions would show individual weapon ranges, FA now merges those into one display, making it easier to determine where weak points in defences lay and allowing the player to quickly send construction robots to plug the gaps. There’s also an option to mark areas on the map where players want allied forces to attack – so if an enemy strongpoint is causing problems, simply call in the cavalry.

The AI is as clever as before – perhaps even more so – it’s not unknown for the AI player (even on easy mode) to sucker a human into producing ground units to soak up an early tank rush, only to then pile on the misery by launching an air attack on unprotected structures to the rear. Add this to some gorgeous new maps and this game has a lot going for it, even if you have the original title.

But of course it is the addition of a whole new faction to the game which will probably interest most players. The Seraphim are an evil bunch, a warrior caste who, in order to fight for their species, must detach themselves from the very ethos of their culture and become brutal killers. With the Seraphim using advanced quantum weapons, the combined forces arrayed against them must use every trick in the book to defend themselves and press home their own attacks.

Forged Alliance now includes orbital weaponry, new experimental units and an improved map display that removes any criticism I had of the original title. Well, OK, that last element was actually improved massively in a patch shortly after my original review, but this is an opportunity to shout about it – there is no clunky interface here – scrolling in and out of the battle is as smooth as it ever was. Enemy fighters pinwheel through the air and crash to the ground in flames in a grim crushing finality and the explosions and debris scattered over the battlefield look even better than before. My ONLY gripe is that the fully zoomed out strategic display is now presented, not as if the player is looking down on a planet as it used to be, but as if it’s some kind of display on a holographic board. This is fine in itself, except that zooming down to ground level now shows up details of the items projecting from the edge of the playing map – which to me slightly ruins the immersive nature of the close-up. Shame.

But never mind, if you missed out on the original Supreme Commander (and why on Earth is that?) and you want a hardcore in-depth RTS with an intelligent and often devious AI, then Forged Alliance won’t see you wrong. If you are already hooked on the SupCom universe, then I shouldn’t have to tell you to pick this title up. You won’t regret it.

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