While Bad Company 2 was released last week on March 2, another sequel that I was greatly anticipating came out that day as well: Supreme Commander 2, the follow up to 2007’s large-scale strategy title. I’d been hearing mumblings going into its release that it was going to eschew the heavy system requirements necessary to render the huge battlefields of the previous game, but I doubted that Gas Powered Games was going to stray too far from the formula of the original. After all, there’s something unique and cathartic about building up a huge base, stocking it with top tier defense guns and shields, then pummeling the enemy’s fortifications with a gigantic navy. The game had a charm that could only come from a prohibitive resource management system, but I loved it all the same.
Now that I’ve had a chance to play Supreme Commander 2 a bit, I can’t help but notice how severely pared down it is from its original inception. I wonder when I became vogue to start taking formerly complicated games and trimming all of the fat off of them. While this trend has been seeing movement for a while, there is another recent example of a game series that started off as bloated with genre tropes as you can possibly get then got whittled down to the bare essentials: Mass Effect. Like I mentioned in my recent post about the upcoming DLC, I’ve been playing the original and the differences in the inventory and level management system are staggering. The same thing is true with Supreme Commander in that there are no more tech trees and the unit upgrades are managed through a simple interface as opposed to a constant advancement of technology.
I don’t want to give the impression that I’m complaining about this turn of events, but part of me wonders if this is really a good thing for the industry. Take the upcoming Command & Conquer 4 as another example: there is no base-building at all; instead, you kit yourself out with a specialized commander unit then follow your army around pumping out units. There’s no resource collecting or base building at all. Essentially, it’s starting to look very similar to Dawn of War II which features no base management and focuses entirely on unit management.
Without rambling on forever, the point I’m trying to make is that the more streamlined our gaming experiences get, the more they will start to blend together. If one series makes improvements in a certain area, other games are sure to follow in a manner which I’m starting to call the “God of War complex”. All I’m saying is that there has to be something that makes your game unique. What do you guys think about this? Am I on the right track, or am I just crazy? What do you think of all this streamlining?