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Supreme Ruler 2020 GOLD (PC) artwork

Supreme Ruler 2020 GOLD (PC) review


"Supreme Ruler is a decent game, so long as you can get your head around it. Old school, die-hard management fans may really get to grips with this title, but most of us will be left out in the cold."



Supreme Ruler 2020 GOLD Edition is a combination of both the management and strategy genres. Players take control of a country as it vies for power in a futuristic world. The aim of the game is to become an unstoppable superpower and dominate lesser nations. Events happen in real-time, although you can plan commands in pause mode before watching your actions play out. As this title is published by Paradox, I expected a Europa Universalis clone set in the modern era. In reflection, I was overly optimistic. Supreme Ruler retains the detail of its publisher's other strategy titles, but fails to be as accessible. EUIII was awarded an 8 because I ended up investing tens of hours into playing as Castile, building an African empire while destroying the Catholic Papacy. Conversely, I spent my time with Supreme Ruler with one eyebrow raised and it took ages to do anything. It was an experience I don't wish to repeat any time soon.

Firstly, let's focus on the positives. As Will mentions in his review of the original, Supreme Ruler's interface is streamlined so all the controls you need are instantly available from the start. You're free to do whatever takes your fancy and there's tools here that allow every little feature to be adjusted and tweaked so the country runs precisely how you want. Dislike micromanagement? The key departments can be run by helpful AI ministers. This allows us humans to concentrate on the one thing that matters: War.

As the bloke who always struck first in Defcon and used Loki in Age of Mythology, taking the offensive in strategy games comes second nature to me. Fortunately, Supreme Ruler makes it very easy to invade unsuspecting neighbours. Military options are easy to find and use, unlike their economic counterparts. Creating units then giving them orders is very simple. Watching wars is an enjoyable activity, thanks to the heavily detailed world map. Just make sure not to deploy all your forces to one area, otherwise the graphics collide into each other, forming an ugly-messing mess. Other nations mainly react how you'd expect them to, and I received many sanctions from the United Nations for invading France as Germany. Thankfully for me, the computer appears to have the memory of a goldfish, as warning for illegal invasions are handed out one minute and retracted the next. I managed to take most of central Europe before Russia took notice and the US sat idly by when I attacked the UK. Decisions made by the international community are usually sane and consistent, but sometimes countries will do something silly and unrealistic.

Similar titles in the genre excuse poor enemy intelligence by offering up a competent mulitplayer mode so humans can go against people of equal skill level. Supreme Ruler only has LAN compatibility, meaning you can't even play online. The chances anyone owns this title has a friend with a copy who also enjoys it are very slim indeed. This causes direct-to-IP multiplayer to be an unnecessary addition to the main menu. Regardless of whether you play against the computer or a human, turning the entire globe into your vassal is a hugely satisfying experience and should be tried at least once.

Now for the negatives. Deep down, Supreme Ruler isn't a bad romp. It just has a lot of issues that could have been overcome with some testing on the average gamer. The main overview is simplistic and you're only ever a few clicks away from where you need to be. This is good, but the problem comes in what to click. Frankly, the mass of unhelpful tooltips is intimidating and only serves to confuse players more. There's a tutorial, but its twenty stages lack any interactivity. By the time I was thrown into the main game, I was already bored and had forgotten what to do.

Dealing with domestic affairs is pointless as most tasks can be handled by the AI. The expansion (Global Crisis) includes an expanded tech tree with more options to control government. However, unless you have a great grasp of the basics, these new features just form a new layer to the haze of confusion that shrouds every action the player takes. It takes hours for the effects of any decision to show through, which makes fiddling about with all these new options pointless unless you want to wait around. This is realistic, but also terribly boring.

Other reviewers have moaned about how difficult Supreme Ruler is. I disagree; this game is not hard, its just illogical. Third world countries will offer you resources your country already possesses, Israel will be best mates with Palestine and world leaders will change their attitudes on the fly. Nations react well to your actions, but sometimes contradict their own decisions minutes later. This unpredictability is probably caused by the computer having to juggle so many variables at once. When a machine gets perplexed by so many conflicting elements, what chance does a mere human have? Adapting to these constantly changing events is the main challenge in Supreme Ruler, but this turns into an non-issue if you own half the world.

Maybe I approached this title with the wrong expectations. I wanted Europa Universalis with nukes, but I got a glorified spreadsheet accompanied by repetitive gunshot sounds whenever I enter battle. If all the ridiculous, pointless statistics windows were stripped away I believe Supreme Ruler 2020 would have been a good game. Taking over smaller nations and bashing heads with bigger ones is really fun. The developers have simply tried too hard to add a lot of pointless detail to proceedings. I imagine most players will pick a political alignment for their administration and national religion before creating a few tanks and sending them off to attack the Middle East. The expansion should have made things simpler and more refined but managed to accomplish the opposite.

Supreme Ruler is a decent game, so long as you can get your head around it. Old school, die-hard management fans may really get to grips with this title, but most of us will be left out in the cold.

Rating: 6/10

Melaisis's avatar
Freelance review by Scott Constantine (October 03, 2009)

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BattleGoat posted October 05, 2009:

Hello,

As a small studio, we are certain thankful for the reviews we get, however after reading this review I found my own eyebrows were raised. There are some notable mistakes in this review that should be corrected. First of which is that, while Paradox Interactive are the publisher, BattleGoat Studios are the developer. We have created this title, sink or swim it's our work.

The review indicates that the game has only LAN support. This is wholly untrue as the game has always had internet MP support up to 16 players and with the release of Gold we have partnered with Game Ranger to assure our game works on their system. Game Ranger is a matchmaking service that has been supporting Macintosh users for a decade and last year also crossed over to the PC side.

The review also indicates that "dealing with domestic affairs is pointless" citing the AI's ability to handle this however plenty of games use a system like this and rarely do players hand over all aspects. Our title strives to reward the players who choose to micromange the right things. Micromanage everything and you'll overlook something but if you manage some specific areas you can often squeeze out a little extra money which could mean extra units in a key battle.

I am also seeing a lack of understand on Mr. Constantine's part about the features added by the expansion pack and the Gold Edition. He cites that the expansion contains "more options to control the government" when this is not an area that was expanded at all. The expansion adds lots of content and some key improvements such as the Battle Groups system for managing large forces which go unmentioned here. All of this is included with Gold and a few more features to further improve the interface.

There are also some game elements he finds illogical which I fully support. If a third world country's only export is a product in which I'm self sufficient they may still offer it to me in hopes that I will make the trade based on relations. Every interaction in the game affects country opinions so buying at a higher price can be useful to court a reluctant neighbour. And Palestine does not even exist in the game.

Despite all this, there are some comments in this review - good and bad - that I would agree with, and as a development studio with intentions of continuing the franchise we are certainly listening to what is said. If anyone wishes to add specific suggestions our development forum is public. And to anyone curious about the game I suggest checking out the demo for the Gold Edition.

Chris Latour
BattleGoat Studios.
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Melaisis posted October 05, 2009:

Thanks for your critique Chris. I always appreciate feedback from developers and this is something which happens quite frequently with independent titles. I always value the opportunity to give new studios press, which is why I end up reviewing stuff like SR. Allow me to address some of your worries.

Regarding the LAN multiplayer issue, I'm not sure if this was a problem with no one playing, my understanding of the system, or the system buggering up itself. The listings showed nothing when I had a deek, so I simply assumed that it was accessible only by LAN and direct-to-IP. I'm not sure if it was the GameRanger interface or my connection which was buggered up, but it appeared obvious to me that the functionality was LAN and direct-to-IP specific.

The micromanagement comment is subjective. Hopefully in the review I came across as a grand strategy fan who likes to blow stuff up. This means that people like me will simply not sit around, tweaking buttons when a fully-functional automated system already exists. Its just not worth it and is thus pointless. Some people will love squeezing those extra pennies out of the economy. However, the minister system works, so why deal with domestic stuff when the player is happy to sit back and attack other places? Its hardly a complaint and could be perceived as a testament to the AI - something I praise in the paragraph prior.

Onto the expansion's features! You say that it includes no adjustments to government, yet allows for more effective control over your troops? Isn't that a contradiction? I consider anything that expands the capabilities of the player to be an extension of government - as the game constantly suggests itself. Perhaps you feel I was being a little too vague here, which is the cause of your worries. The same perhaps applies when I use the Israel/Palestine example, where I opt to make a point about the fickle politics employed within the game to the wider audience, rather than focus on details.

You may have found the review too general, which is where I think a lot of your comments stem from. Most of the piece was spent establishing the point of the title and really digging my nails into what could make this a good or bad game, which is why I focus so much on the interface and leave out extras like mentioning the expansion's other features. You could have all the greatest micromanagement and Battle Group systems in the world, but they're not worth a damn if they fail to be accessible to the average strat fan. Developers being adverse to my writing style is nothing new, but its important to step back and think who I'm talking to with such scathing reviews. I believe you've created a tremendous, vast product here which will fit perfectly in the right hands, but I do not believe that those hands belong to the average strategy fan. Maybe we'll have a game sometime if GameRanger works out. ;)
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BattleGoat posted October 05, 2009:

Hi Melaisis,

thanks for the reply, you did clarify some things that I was interpreting differently when I read them.

And if I did come off highly defensive, I do apologize, I'm sure all of us developers will give our dying breath for our work. And thanks for the praise, I did not miss it in there and our team appreciates it.

Regarding the government controls, you did catch me there, I was interpreting government as being more the internal workings, taxation and production type stuff, but you are correct that the entire GUI could be seen as "government controls". As I saw it we did not include enough new GUI elements to really affect the game's complexity one way or the other as content was the primary focus of the expansion. I will grant that feedback as a general area is something we've recognized as our weak point to the game, much thought is going into how future titles can strengthen this. The Scenario system we already include was created to provide players with a more structured play to deal with some of this.

As for the multiplayer gaming, I now understand where the confusion was created. Since we do not have our own matchmaking service and discovered Game Ranger after release of the original, it could not be integrated into the game's multiplayer lobby. Game Ranger is an external application with its own start menu short cut. It reminds me greatly of my early days on gamespy finding Quakeworld maps.

I do hope that the game grows on you a little more and if you are on Game Ranger, I'd be happy to include you in one of my matches. Just look for Balthagor.

Cheers,

Chris Latour AKA Balthagor
BattleGoat Studios.

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