SuperPower 2 Review

SuperPower 2 seems like the strategy gamer’s dream. You can control any nation on Earth, running the country’s political, economic, and military spheres, and take it wherever you want. Want to see if the third time is the charm, leading Germany in an invasion of Western Europe? Want to try and build an alliance between China and Taiwan? Want to turn Haiti into a world economic power? You can try any of these things and anything else you can dream up. Unfortunately what should be a dream game is closer to a nightmare for many reasons…

Some of your enthusiasm for the game will be drained right from the start thanks to the game’s obnoxious copy protection scheme. After installing the game you have to reboot before playing – the game won’t run if you don’t. After rebooting, the game will prompt you for the longest serial number I’ve seen when you launch the game. Once the game is running, the first time you try to start a scenario or tutorial you’ll be swapped out to the desktop as the game launches a secondary application to verify your copy over the Internet. You then need to manually switch back to the game, where you will find that you are back to the main menu. After going through this process several times and at about the point that you think that the game is broken and will never load a scenario you’ll finally see a message indicating that the scenario is ready to play. I can appreciate companies’ desire to prevent piracy, but this is obnoxious. What’s worse is that once you finally get to play the game you’ll wonder why anyone would want to pirate it in the first place.

Looks like someone's really pissed at Belarus.

SuperPower 2 is played from a 3D globe that is easily the game’s best feature. You can easily rotate the world and zoom in to a surprising level of detail. You can also apply a number of overlays that allow you to see at a glance the state of the world from a number of political, economic, and military aspects. You can easily select countries, provinces, and military units directly from the globe and pop-up informational windows that will tell you all you want to know about the country in question. Slowly swirling clouds and a rotating sun and moon add nice graphical touches to this world view.

SuperPower 2 boasts that it is built on real CIA models and there certainly is a lot of detail in the game. There are options, sliders, and buttons presented to you in a myriad of cascading windows that give you the illusion of a powerful simulator and a high degree of control, but in reality turn out to be an obscure interface to an even more obscure simulation model. Little adjustments here and there lead to small and not necessarily intuitive changes to statistics such as “stability” and “popularity”. Larger adjustments don’t always lead to larger swings in the state of your country and there doesn’t seem to be much logical sense to it all. You’ll also find that things run pretty well when just left as is, leaving you with a boring geopolitical simulator that runs on autopilot. In this case the game is still apparently chugging away doing something as you always receive a constant flood of messages informing you of important world events such as a good harvest in Albania or a 5% tax hike in Uruguay.

The game comes with nine scenarios, three each with political, economic, and military goals, and an open-ended mode. The scenarios aren’t really scenarios per se; they just provide you with a goal to accomplish such as getting Turkey into the EU. The open-ended mode has no goals, leaving you to do what you want until you grow bored and want to restart.

When playing the game the illogic of its simulation engine continues, but this time on a macro scale. As an example, let’s look at my experience with the military scenarios. I started with the Easy rated scenario which requires you to play the US and takeover Iraq. Did I have to try to build alliances or bring in UN support? Did I need to work the press to get support at home? Did I have to secure staging bases? No, no, and no. I just began selecting the military units based in the US and sending them into Iraq. There’s not really anyway to mass units and send them in in a coordinated attack. You can only send them in piecemeal and hope they arrive in the same general timeframe. Also, it did not seem to matter which province in Iraq I sent units to, I could drop an armored division into Baghdad without worrying about the surrounding provinces under Iraqi control. Also, the world did not generate a hiccup of alarm when the entire US military pulled up stakes and started crossing the ocean. Oh, I think Italy cut its income tax by 5%. However, when the first unit arrived in Iraq the true bizarreness began – Armenia, Bahrain, and Cypress declared war on the US. Yes, the home of the US 5th Fleet and a small island nation declared war on me in protest. In retribution I sent two divisions to Cypress to teach them their place in the world and promptly conquered the island – even though it took longer than it should of since for some weird reason the tiny island is divided into four or five provinces. The world reaction to this aggression? A message that a flood occurred in Bangladesh. If picking up the 51st state is this easy we should have done it a long time ago.