Reviews: The fitting title makes for a redundant campaign.
Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance is Gas Powered Games' stand-alone expansion pack to their early 2007 RTS, Supreme Commander. Designer Chris Taylor stated that he feels the genre has been mislabeled, that most games labeled as RTS are actually real-time tactical titles. His goal for SubCom was to take the battle to the next level, by raising the scope and scale of warfare to incredible heights. Taylor stated
that "the goal with Supreme Commander was to really deliver the strategy, by opening up the game to an enormous theatre of war," thus having SupCom as one of the first true RTS games. In his eyes. With the expansion pack Taylor handed off the Designer job to Bradley Rebh who was tasked with refreshing the epic struggle for galactic supremacy.
Expansion Pack Or Sequel?
Being an expansion pack, Forged Alliance definitely adds some new twists to the large scale battles. The biggest change is the introduction of the Seraphim as a playable race in multiplayer. The new units introduced by the Seraphim, along with an assortment of additions to the other three factions, bring the total to over 100 new units for Forged Alliance, with returning factions receiving ten each.
Backing up that impressive feat is the overhaul to the title's graphics and performance. Forged Alliance's units feature more detail than its predecessor in conjunction to additional graphical effects such as heat blur and additional shader effects
. All of these additions and somehow Gas Powered Games managed to keep the performance on par with a patched version of the original title.
A bit of air defense in an early mission.
Opponent AI has also been ramped up in the expansion pack. Previously, beating the hardest setting for a capable player was not that challenging. The introduction of FA gives the AI a bit kick in the brain, although the computer players can still be a bit predictable.
The expansion pack certainly brings a lot to the table, but it is still the same basic gameplay. The additional units each play to their races strengths, including the new experimental units. The addition of the Seraphim - the first "alien" race in the SubCom universe - does not drastically change the gameplay either. However, GPG does deserve credit for adding another incredibly diverse race, gameplay- and art-wise, while still maintaining balanced gameplay.
Shields...and more shields are a great defense. Use them.
Play It, Rinse & Repeat
Real-time strategy games are hardly known for their story telling abilities. Genre staples such as the Command & Conquer: Red Alert franchise even poke fun at this with their campy full-motion video cutscenes and ridiculous units like armored bears and intelligent dolphins. Blizzard and Relic Entertainment's titles have taken the genre in a more serious direction with deep, interweaving stories that tickle this critics brain. Unfortunately, Forged Alliance does not hold up to the standard set by the title that started it, let alone the 10-year old StarCraft.
Fans of the original who played through the campaign surely enjoyed the various intricacies of each faction. While Forged Alliance has a good, lengthy main campaign, there is little reason to bother playing the other factions campaigns. The story line remains the same for all three playable races - the Seraphim is always the enemy and therefore not playable - with only the secondary objectives changing.
During the course of the campaign, gamers will run into and team up with a slue of allies. While the opponent AI has been improved, ally AI does not seem to do any better than before. Over the course of a few maps I had well defended allies demolish themselves by holding off a basic defense with the ACU instead of allowing defensive structures, or his units to do the dirty work. The AI coupled with the lack of multiple, distinct storylines, and a canned "teaser" ending make the Forged Alliance campaign pale in comparison to SupCom.
This is the same screen as the one above, just zoomed all the way out to show the title's incredible scope.
Bread & Butter
An RTS expansion having an average story is not the end of the world by any means. This genre is heavily reliant on well balanced, fun, gameplay which the franchise has in spades. SubCom: FA not only adds an entire new race to the mix but a full 10 new units per faction as well. Additions to each faction played to their respected strength, with the UEF getting stronger defenses while the Cybran Nation receives a new multipurpose Tier 3 bot.
As expected, FA's addition of the Seraphim caused my old strategies to become useless at worst, or in need of modification at best. The re-tooling of strategies causes a new infusion of replay-ability; exactly what an expansion should do. The one catch to being a stand-alone expansion pack is that you do not have access to the full range of options. Gamers who pick up Forged Alliance - and only have Forged Alliance - should know that they will be forced to use the Seraphim in multiplayer skirmishes.
This actually from SubCom, but we wanted to show off the native support of dual-monitors. Map on one, battle on the other.