Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance Review

Usually when you see an expansion game released about nine months after the original game it's not a very good sign. The developers will add a few new units and some extra missions, put a $20 price tag on the box and call it a day. Luckily that's not the case with Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance. Forged Alliance comes with new units as expected, but it will probably be a surprise to you to see just how many have been added to the game. You also get new missions, but they come in the form of a new campaign every bit as long as the original game's - if not even longer and more challenging. Add to that a new faction that's playable in skirmish mode or online, improved graphics, and a redesigned interface and you've got an expansion pack that really packs a lot. And the game doesn't even require the original Supreme Commander; it's a completely standalone game.

Forged Alliance picks up shortly after the end of the story in the original game. The three warring human factions have banded together to stave off extinction at the hands of the alien Seraphim. The human factions forming this "forged alliance" are the technocratic United Earth Federation, the cybernetics-obsessed Cybran Nation, and the alien culture-embracing Aeon Illuminate. If you played Supreme Commander this will all be familiar to you, but if not you'll be more than a little in the dark about all this. Forged Alliance doesn't provide you with much background information on the events of Supreme Commander and when the campaign opens you'll immediately be forced to select your faction - by their logo, no less. In this case it doesn't really matter which faction you select; there are only minor differences in the campaign between each faction.

Your choice of faction won't have a major impact on the gameplay because Forged Alliance suffers from the same issue as the original game, namely that the factions are virtually identical in terms of units and tech. The units may look a little different, but you'll use the same strategic approach to the game no matter which faction you are controlling. Even the new faction, the Seraphim, is more alike than different when compared to the original ones.

Supreme Commander players will appreciate that the campaign is challenging right from the start and that almost all the units will be at their disposal from the get go. There are no missions that let you get your feet wet or that are designed to teach you to work with a particular subset of the available units. New players have the option of playing the tutorial that covers game basics, but that's about it.

Like in Supreme Commander the game's missions are long, evolving affairs in which new objectives are added and new sections of the extensive maps are opened several times over the course of the mission. It's not uncommon for it to take two hours to complete a mission, and that's not because there's a lot of downtime. The battles can be pretty intense affairs, requiring managing hundreds of units on multiple fronts. The upside is that if you really enjoy strategy games then you really get your money's worth out of the game. There are no lame escort missions here. The downside is that it can all be difficult to manage and that you'll spend a significant amount of time playing at the game's highest camera angle. I love the way that the game seamlessly zooms from unit level all the way to a high-level strategic map, but I much prefer to watch my various mechs and tanks march into battle rather than order around colored squares on a flat, monochromatic map.