Second time’s the charm. In the case of the mega-expansion pack, Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance, it’s an aptly altered colloquialism. It was less than 8 months ago that the original Supreme Commander was released but somehow Gas Powered Games was able to create a huge add-on that improves the user-interface, sharpens AI, polishes the graphics, tweaks game balance, and offers an entirely new race. It’s an excellent addition to the series and a must-buy for any self-respecting SupCom fan.
The highlight of the show is the new race – the Seraphim. Long thought lost forever, they make a dramatic appearance via a space/time rift, determined to kick everyone’s collective hineys. SupCom‘s previous three races: the Aeon Illuminate, United Earth Federation (UEF), and the Cybran, join forces to fend off the superior technological might of the Seraphim units. The new campaign is fairly short (only six missions long) but just like the original game, these are huge, sprawling multi-part missions that, together, easily take between 10-15 hours to complete due to the huge variety of combat operations (and units) involved. There are a few surprises in the mix but for the most part, the AI succeeds primarily by consistently routine harassment and utilizing well-defended bases.
Considering that this is an entirely new race, you’d be forgiven for expecting something wildly different from the original trifecta of combatants but you’d be disappointingly wrong in that assumption. The Seraphim have a shiny new look but other than their two powerful super weapons – an uber Nuke and a wicked strategic bomber – they feel remarkably similar to the preceding races. It’s a bit of an opportunity lost but it’s a mild complaint at best since the race is still quite enjoyable to play.
The user-interface has been revamped and made less obtrusive than in the previous incarnation; the UI is now context-sensitive, freeing up far more screen real estate for your viewing enjoyment. Even the in-between mission load screens feel more informative and helpful than before. I felt a wee bit more connection to the story’s characters this time around, too, though that’s to be expected from playing an expansion pack.
Multiplayer is still handled just as exceptionally as it was in the original game by the GPG Net matchmaking service. It allows for a wide breadth of player-matching services and informational tools showing everything from a player’s records to their foibles and it works like a charm. More RTS developers should pay attention to how slick GPG Net works because it really enhances and eases the multiplayer experience for the community.
In order to play with all of SupCom‘s races in multiplayer, you’ll need to keep the original SupCom installed on your system – without it you can only battle as the Seraphim in multiplayer action but even if you choose to just purchase this standalone expansion, you’ll feel like you received a fully-featured and superbly enjoyable product. Gas Powered Games has ramped up the action in their technologically inundated universe and the high-powered conflict is just as enjoyable in this follow-up as it was in the original. Isn’t that the whole point of an expansion pack, anyway?