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Supreme Ruler 2020 (PC) artwork

Supreme Ruler 2020 (PC) review

"Supreme Ruler: 2020 is exactly what I adore: a strat title nearly unapproachable due to its level of depth, but promising months upon months of diverse enjoyment. I do so love a challenge."

Supreme Ruler: 2020 is exactly what I adore: a strat title nearly unapproachable due to its level of depth, but promising months upon months of diverse enjoyment. I do so love a challenge.

Sequel to the similarly named Supreme Ruler 2010, this ten-years-later iteration places you in command of your very own real-world nation on this ball of dust we call home, and the international community is, as it always seems to be in video games, poised on the brink of all-out war. As any nation must, you are charged with overseeing matters of foreign policy and diplomacy, allocate funding to industry, research and military projects, exploit and acquire resources to keep your country alive and prosperous; there's a lot going on while you're playing. And, thankfully, the game can be easily paused to permit one to get one's bearings.

But I'm sad to say that while the interface is very carefully streamlined to minimize confusion, very little is done to acquaint the player with it. Tutorials are included, but they consist of little more than pointing out various functions in no particular order and instructing how to complete basic tasks. It's a little like being taught how to drive by having a mechanic explain how the engine works and what all the readouts on the dashboard mean - informative, certainly, but not very helpful without context.

This leaves the player rather...floundering. Thankfully, while the tools to control every aspect of your nation's government are there, most of the micromanagement and minor policy decisions can be handed off to very competent AI-controlled ministers. These ministers have their own agendas and political leanings, though, and their vision of utopia may differ from yours. But if you're not keen on checking up on your cabinet every once in a while, you can modify their level of autonomy, have them clear certain decisions with you first or simply lock them out of specific policy areas altogether.

Enemy AI is just as smart as these ministers, and in an offline game you'd best be prepared to fight tooth and nail for every advantage and resource you can get your grubby little fingers on. It could be I don't know quite how to play, but I found the AI extremely challenging.

And, you may recall, I love a challenge.

Once I got my head around how to play (to some primitive extent), I found myself in a deep and extremely detailed sandbox world. The hundreds, possibly thousands of real-world cities dotting the map, diverse regions and resources to exploit, and smart enemy AI added a lot to the sense of immersion. Of course I quickly led the great nation of Egypt into ruins, having only the vaguest idea what to do, but it was fun while it lasted.

Supreme Ruler 2020 does not have what anyone can call a gentle learning curve; you can expect to pour a long series of weekends into this game before you start to play it competently. Fortunately the AI can still lend a hand and stave off defeat for a little longer, but gradually you'll want to disable minister control of important stuff. It's a good learning tool, but as anyone with a copy of Master of Orion 3 can tell you it's no fun watching a game play itself.

(If any of this sounds appealing to you, dear reader, I suggest seeking the playable demo and giving it a spin; you may find it more informative than my valiant attempt to distill a deep and complex strategy title into a series of words)

WilltheGreat's avatar
Freelance review by Will Roy (March 12, 2009)

Will is grumpy, sarcastic and Canadian. He occasionally crawls out of his igloo to cover sci-fi and strategy games. Has a love-hate relationship with cats. And the colour purple.

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Lewis posted March 12, 2009:

For what it's worth, I thought you succeeded. An excellent, concise review.
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WilltheGreat posted March 12, 2009:

Thanks, Lewis. I was afraid I might have made it a bit too short, actually.

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