I love strategy games, but sadly I'm a so-called "turtle"; I love building up my forces, but I hate to send them into battle. Most games have a tendency to punish you for this kind of behavior. Fortunately, Supreme Commander 2 isn't like most games.
Unlike its predecessor, which was one of the most difficult strategy games I have ever experienced, Supreme Commander 2 is nothing except a joy to play. The predecessor could render armies of up to 1,000 units, but Supreme Commander 2 has been toned down to a level where it still retains the charm that made number one as well, but at the same time turning the game into something everyone can have fun with.
The mechanics are as follows; you operate an ACU (short for Armored Command Unit) which serves as the main base. A robot on two legs, which can build factories to pump out units, defenses or other useful aids that will help you win the war. The goal is to destroy your opponent's ACU. The robot can be used in combat, and has several special passive and active properties to research. And as in all other RTS games, it's all about rock, paper, scissors when it comes to what unit beats who. The fighting takes place on land, sea and air, so balancing your troops accordingly becomes essential.
As in all strategy games, you must also think ahead and react to what the enemy does. Knowing what they're up to is as important as looking after your own affairs. Should I use a lot of resources to get myself am Experimental, or should I rather pump out thirty tanks and anti-AA instead? Are the enemy building nuclear weapons? Should I build defenses against it, or should I just fly in to destroy it with the 50 planes I have which might be a good offensive move but will weaken my defensive capabilities. Those are the kinds of questions you will be asking yourself throughout the game.
One of the most exciting changes is the way you upgrade your army. The tab button opens a menu where you choose what you want to research, which is divided into five groups. One for each of the different armies (land, water, air), one for your ACU and one for your buildings. These are of course different depending on which race you choose to play as. Some gives you a strong primary weapon, or additional secondary weapons, while others increase stuff like health or unlocks new units and buildings. Amongst the later ones you find nuclear weapons or the Experimentals mentioned above; giant UFO's or tanks or gigantic robots with laser guns.
One of the game's biggest weaknesses, and one that is quite critical, is that at times the game is a bit on the easy side. You can defend your base and pump out enough units to take down your opponent's ACU rather easily. Most of the time they will focus on getting a certain type of unit instead of doing warfare with all three groups. Personally I found a tactic where I'd just build 50 planes and then devastate the opponent in two waves of attacks.
Although this is a pretty big weakness during the single player campaign, it becomes less important when you are playing against others who also know what they are doing. The complexity and depth of the gameplay might not come into its own during the campaign, but I'd still recommend playing through it. It is well-structured and will introduce you to the game mechanics so you can start playing online a lot easier. The story is certainly thin, the lessons you learn are extremely important.
The graphics have been upgraded since the first game, but in a world with Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight released and Starcraft II on the way, they still feel outdated. It has a lot of nice details, even though the map design can get a bit boring and the brightly colored units at times reminded me of playing with Lego. The reason is probably because you need to be able to see who is who when you zoom all the way out, so I don't really fault the game for it as such. If you have an extra monitor, you can use that as well; that way you will have an overview map on the second screen while keeping the game itself on the first. I had to turn off the music after a while though, since I got a bit bored with it despite it being fittingly epic.
I was a bit disappointed that the game wasn't directly associated with Steam, even though it accepts the code. No way to invite friends to a game via a simple menu, in other words. The multiplayer feature is also pretty simple, and it doesn't take skill level in account when setting you up with opponents - sometimes you will meet players that are a lot better than you.
Supreme Commander 2 is an enjoyable experience for those who love RTS-games, but also for those who might not have mastered the genre. There is a lot of fun to be had in the game, and the balance that Gas Powered Games have managed to create is incredibly rewarding. They have found the red line between casual and hardcore, something that most other companies struggle to do. The game is not too difficult, but not always too easy either. For those you who live and breathe real-time strategy, it probably be seem too easy. But if you play online, the game offers weeks of fun. If online is not your thing, there is still a couple of good hours with the campaign. All in all, it's well worth the money.