Genre: Real-Time Strategy
Publisher: Paradox Development
Developer: Battlegoat Studios
Release Date: May 13, 2008
As most of gaming tends to focus on the legions of fanatical console fanboys who seem to roam all corners of the earth, gamers (and developers) have begun to neglect the PC market. The very medium that brought gaming to the forefront is now often an afterthought, home of lazy ports and infinite Sims expansion packs. However, there are a few genres where the PC still dominates, and strategy is definitely one of them. Battlegoat Studios, makers of the brilliant and unimaginably deep Supreme Ruler series, has returned with their latest entry, Supreme Ruler 2020. You may as well stock up on junk food and Red Bull now because once this game comes out, you won't put it down for weeks.
When talking with the Battlegoat crew, the first thing they like to point out is that they didn't do a great job when it came to accessibility in Supreme Ruler 2010. Newcomers to the series were thrown into a very complex game, and strategy veterans were shorted out of true global conquest by only being able to have a certain number of zones active at any given time. All of those problems are gone, as the world is now wide open from the outset, and new players will be welcomed with a number of scenarios and missions designed to get them acquainted with the various aspects of running their own country.
For the uninitiated, Supreme Ruler 2020 features so much activity and potential micromanaging that it makes the Civilization series look like nothing. You have the capacity to control virtually all aspects of your territory's military, economic and diplomatic policy, and keeping all of the balls in the air can be quite a challenge. For example, if you need oil, you can turn on a couple of filters, and the map will show you which territories posses the resource, as well as whether or not they are friendly to you. Once you've picked a trading partner, you will engage in negotiations until you both come to a friendly arrangement, and then the goods will begin flowing.
While that seems simple enough, remember that you aren't the only player on the global stage, and the actions of others can impact your prosperity as well. To use our above example, imagine you are the United States and you receive oil from Saudi Arabia in return for the design for a new fighter aircraft. Suddenly, Israel declares war on Egypt and invades. Since the U.S. is an Israeli ally, and the Saudis side with Egypt, you may suddenly find your oil supply cut off and your own fighters bombarding Israeli cities. Of course, without oil, you can't fuel your war machine, so now it's impossible to drop into the hot zone and solve it by yourself. Meanwhile, an election is coming up, and with a war-weary populace, it's going to take a lot of campaigning to keep your party in power and your position as leader intact. As you can see, it all gets quite hectic rather quickly.
You're not on your own, however, as the game offers several helpful Cabinet ministers who will take care of the day-to-day work, if you'll let them. The ministers also each have their own political leanings, and left to their own devices, will run their department as they see fit. For instance, a liberal interior minister will likely raise taxes to spend on social programs, while a conservative defense minister will divert most of the treasury to building up a strong army. Of course, you can overrule decisions and set your own objectives if you wish, but the minister system really allows you to be as hands-on or hands-off as you wish.
Supreme Ruler 2020 is shipping with two distinct modes, each of which will play quite differently. In the Shattered World scenario, you take on a very small territory, such as the nation of Texas, and attempt to build it into a regional and world power. The other mode, World 2020, will allow you to take over as the leader of a modern nation with all of that country's strengths and weaknesses. Playing as the U.S., for example, gives you a strong military and industrious populace, but a lack of oil and a dwindling treasury. The developers also joke that they are trying to teach a lesson about deficit spending, so you'd better fill those coffers quickly if you don't want your projects to stall and end up losing power before you even truly wield it.
The country you select at the outset will likely determine how you attempt to win, as it would be very difficult to achieve a military victory while playing as Luxembourg. To help balance the inherent power differences between nations, Supreme Ruler 2020 includes separate difficulty sliders for the military, economic and diplomatic components, allowing you to make each leg of the game just as easy or as hard as you would like. This will be a much welcomed feature for new players trying to get a feel for things, as well as for more casual strategy gamers who just wonder what it would be like if someone in Japan managed to take over the world. Also, the game will be very mod-friendly, so you and your friends can devise your own scenarios and then put them out there for the whole world to try.
On top of the incredibly rich single-player mode, Supreme Ruler 2020 will support up to 16-player multiplayer, as well as regularly released downloadable content. The Battlegoat guys are discussing ways to incorporate current events into downloadable missions, much as they did in the previous Supreme Ruler game. Given the always volatile state of world events, this should make for some very original and possibly thought-provoking content.
I could go on for pages discussing all of Supreme Ruler 2020's intricacies, but they're better appreciated when seen. This is the title that hardcore strategy gamers dream of, with full control at their fingertips and no one to blame but themselves for their ultimate success or failure. The first Supreme Ruler game was used by a teacher at West Point as a learning aid, not on military strategies, but on international relations and how the actions of one nation affect others. I'm sure that teacher is ready for the upgrade into 2020, and all other strategy gaming fans should be ready, too. Be it by war or peace, sword or olive branch, prepare to take over the world later this spring.
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