Review: Supreme Ruler: The Great War09 Aug 2017 0
Review: Supreme Ruler: The Great War
Released 01 Aug 2017
Awe. That’s really about the most applicable word I can think of for subject of this review – awe, and maybe a little shock as well. I am talking about Battlegoat (no, have no clue) Studios' newest edition to their Supreme Ruler franchise, Supreme Ruler, the Great War (or SRGW), covering World War I plus. Given the subject, the boss asked me to step outside my comfort zone and review this grand strategy game, an echelon of command not my favorite. The result was a rewarding, if frustrating experience, but overall I’d say I’m very impressed.
Like most games at this level, the player is not a military commander, but the ruler of his/her country and as such a resource manager. Given a certain amount of money collected in terms of trade and taxes, the player allocates their revenue so as to properly build and maintain industry and infrastructure, produce and support military units, make treaties and keep the civilian population content and loyal. In doing so s/he can stockpile enough power to wage war and gain more territory, as well the resources therein. It’s the same for SRGW, but as with other systems, it’s the way the game does this that sets it apart as special. So with a nod to Italian director Sergio Leone, let’s take a look.
Because SRGW generally works the way other strategic level games do, I won’t go into a blow by blow description of a turn sequence (there isn’t one anyway) or similar. Instead I thought I would pick out those things that caught my eye, both good and lacking, to briefly discuss. Starting with the positive we have:
Installation: Unlike some of the older AGEOD games I’ve played, installation was a snap on Windows 10 with no modification required and no glitches. Hardware requirements are absolutely rock bottom. Right now I am playing SRGW on my ASU’s (assigned spousal unit) Lenovo mini work station that has an Intel Pentium Quad 2.41 MHZ processor, 8 GB Ram, 465 GB hard drive and a standard Intel on board HD video card. And if the player manual is correct, this is WAY overkill. Gameplay is smooth and faultless.
Scope: This is one of two areas that really blew me away when playing this game last weekend, and I have played some excellent WWI strategic PC games before, notably AGEODs To End All Wars and Matrix's Guns of August. However these games confine the contest to Europe and the Middle East, from about 1914 thru the end of the war in 1918 and perhaps a little beyond. SRGW, however, covers the entire planet in excruciating detail, and here we are talking about over a million double bordered hexes to include Japan and China. Should the former declare war on the latter because of Peking’s attack against Japanese ally Russia, don’t expect an AI sideshow. You actually play it. Likewise, while you can play historical campaigns that last up to 120 months, you can also flip to sandbox mode and play from 1914 or 1917 until eternity minus one day. I was wondering why the player’s manual and production interface included listings for nuclear weapons (although if you’ve seen the Wonder Woman flick, it could happen, right?) and battle mechs with pulse lasers, and it’s because you can start at Sarajevo and continue non-stop until 2017 and beyond.
Detail: OK, this is the second area. If you are thinking about producing general minerals or heavy artillery units, guess again. Such things become petroleum, timber, rubber or 130 mm cannon or 152 mm howitzers or types of aircraft by historical designation. And military units can not only be built from scratch, but standing reserves can also be mobilized. The game also includes a complete, AI controlled weather system that can obscure a map that literally zooms down to individual railroad track and tree sprite level. A complete domestic model manages not only things such as food, but also education, healthcare, powers of the national police and more. Other areas such as diplomacy, research and so on, are the same, and if the player does not manage them properly, they will impact his ability to produce the war material needed for victory. Famine, for example means less immigrants in, more citizens leaving and overall less young men to conscript into the army. There is not only a listing for every country worldwide in this game, but also an individual data sheet for each of their colonies, so it’s that kinda detail we’re talking about.
Scale: Each hex represents 16 km across, but the time scale is semi-real time. The game actually plays similar to RTS games like Command and Conquer in that a time clock runs continuously with every 20 seconds or so representing one 24 hour period in the game. The player can actually speed up or slow down the clock, but the idea is that you simply can’t make decisions on a static turn by turn basis. Yes, hitting the ESC key will bring up the main menu and pause the game as will certain things like information alerts, but once you execute you do so while the clock runs in the background. So if building an ammo depot starts a day late due moving clock hands, completion is delayed as well.
Objectives: Time is also important because the game AI will periodically assign the player historically based objectives to complete by a certain date. Not doing so won’t absolutely prevent victory, but getting them done certainly helps. Fuse Scale and Objectives, and if you want a reason for copious amounts of alcohol when gaming, this is it.
Movement: Best I’ve seen ever IMHO, much better than area or point to point movement. Click on a unit and a green line immediately appears emanating from the location hex. Stretch the line to the destination hex and the computer calculates the best path for movement, draws it on the map, and then starts the process.
Government: The countries available for play are rated as to type of government, be they democracy, communist, monarchy or something else. Each government type has different attributes that directly impacts how the computer AI translates all those “Details” mentioned above into events and actions. Democracies, for example, have less chance of a military coup occurring, while communist governments can expect cheaper labor costs. There is also a listing for governments in exile, which can form partisans in occupied territory.
Cabinet Ministers: Know why the Germans created their vaunted Great General Staff? To fuse the intellectual genius of their officer corps into a formal system, as there would never be another Napoleon. Nappy was that unique genius who could run not only the Grande Armee, but the whole damn country pretty much by himself. You aren’t Napoleon, neither am I and at some point you will have to shove some of your responsibilities off on a Cabinet Minister. The game itself is organized around cabinet level departments such as defense and finance, so clicking a couple of buttons will allow your minister to run things. But in a neat little twist, you can also click one of several buttons to set a priority for the gentleman in charge. For example under defense related production the choices might be something like build defensive weapons or offensive weapons or reduce spending over all. Trust me; get to know this process #upcloseandpersonal.
I could go on here, but sheer mass of options the game provides makes this impossible. Hopefully, this will whet your appetite for the feast waiting, even if extra spices are needed.
Because of the complexity and scope of this game, I would strongly recommend you read the player’s manual and go through the tutorial before you flip the switch and march into Belgium. Unfortunately, I found these two parts of the package a bit lacking IMHO. Now part of this may be because I was playing the final pre-pub beta (the manual has references to Supreme Ruler 1936), but nevertheless it is something to be aware of. The manual is a must if only to become familiar with the many icons used in the game, and given the detail it needs to cover it is quite long. However, there is no index or table of contents and I would have thought this a must. Also, while each individual model (diplomacy, finances, event notification messages, etc) run by the game is covered pretty well, there doesn’t seem to be any chapter or guidance as to how these all work together to initiate and continue gameplay. Having the content organized into outline style would have also been beneficial.
The tutorial, where you play the Ottoman Empire, is for some reason run as part of the help screen instead of its own pop up, and I found it did not do a good job at helping the player locate all the buttons and screens they needed to be familiar with. Starting the tutorial meant clicking on the highlighted Acceptance box which actually turned out to be the Objectives box. It was not labeled as such and the tutorial did not indicate otherwise. Likewise, when looking for areas to build an ore mine, the tutorial did highlight in red areas favorable for construction, but did not inform the player this was what they were. It was almost as if the tutorial and manual expected to be a veteran of previous games in the series.
The interface - OK, while not exactly ugly, I found it to be a bit cumbersome and non-intuitive, at least for me the novice. The actual control panels are done in a very attractive 1914 field radio design, but in doing so some of the purely aesthetic buttons and knobs look like actual gameplay elements. Also the interface seems to use several non-standard icons and does so inconsistently. For example, while the tutorial might indicate a Minimize button, on one panel the familiar Windows _ is present, but on another it’s a right pointing arrow. Likewise, to get to the actual screen to perform an action you often needed to click through thrice, and right clicking on a map element often lacked a convenient popup as a substitute. Perhaps a touch-up is in order?
Overall, I feel the good vastly outweighs the bad and the ugly, so it has my strong recommendation. When running the software and its AI has absolutely no problems doing its job, and doing it quite realistically. On the research and coding side, these Canadian lads have pretty much nailed it and then some. However, some caution is advised. SRGW is not a game, but a full-fledged simulation that could easily find a home at the Pentagon. Seriously, this game recommends saving and restarting after 30 hours of continuous play, so prepare to make an investment. While others may whimper, if this is the type of game you enjoy, then trust me, at $19.99 US on Steam, it will be love at first sight.