Chris Taylor, formerly of Cavedog and now of Gas Powered Games, creates beautiful, complex and epically scaled real time strategy games. Think of him as the Thom Yorke of gaming, you either love or hate his pretentious anti-pop approach to designing. Now imagine what it would be like if Yorke tried writing a sequel to Radiohead’s OK Computer as a tween-centered Jonas Brothers-esque pop album.
That’s the feeling you get when you play Taylor’s Supreme Commander 2, the sequel to a extremely epic, complex, and esoteric game that instead of becoming more ornate, instead takes a sharp turn towards approachability. Instead of being Taylor’s opus, Supreme Commander 2 (ported to the Mac by TransGaming) is the kid version of Supreme Commander.
But first, some back story: Chris Taylor was lead designer of Cavedog’s Total Annihilation, one of the most underrated games in history. The first real time strategy game to offer 3D graphics, its scale and impressive array of units were beyond anything else at the time, and the numbers of strategies meant that you weren’t funneled to the same tactical choke points of Blizzard or Westwood’s franchises. Simply put, Total Annihilation was a brilliant, underrated game that some critics actually preferred to Starcraft.
When Total Annihilation’s Cavedog went under in 1999, Chris Taylor later went on to Gas Powered Games where he helped design 2007’s Supreme Commander, the spiritual successor to Total Annihilation. Disappointingly, Supreme Commander never made it to the Mac. Instead, we get 2010’s Supreme Commander 2 only months after it launched on Windows.
It’s important to understand the back story on the game because traditionally speaking, this is a series of games meant for a very specific, dedicated real time strategy audience.
So, yes, fans of the series will be disappointed. Supreme Commander 2 cuts out many of the units from the first game, simplifies the research system and even manages to reduce the scale all the while being less graphically complex. While the game still looks great and on my iMac i7, never hiccupped even when engaged in full scale battles with hundreds of units, it’s disappointing to see that the maps are generally smaller and the battle systems so genuinely altered.