Supreme Ruler 2010 is a strategy game where the goal is world domination. In the year 2010, the world's greatest nations have been reduced to bickering economic and military regions. The United Nations has disappeared, replaced by "The World Market." With the world in disarray, regions are at war with their neighbors as each tries to gain control of more land. Supreme Ruler 2010 has players choosing one of more than 200 regions before battling with the rest of the world.
Over 60 scenarios are available in the single-player campaign, while multiplayer games support up to 16 players via Internet. All of the game's maps are based on real-world information provided by satellite imagery. For players looking for more variety, a map and scenario editor is also included. Active military personnel and foreign military consultants assisted the developers with detailed information on military units, and the game features video content from the archives of NATO and other military sources as well.
Your first thought on booting up Supreme Ruler 2010 might be, "What on Earth have I gotten myself into?" This turn-based/real-time grand strategy game seems designed for macroeconomics professors and CIA analysts, not your average gamer -- or even your above-average gamer. Your goal is to lead a region to economic and military supremacy in the near future. To do that, you'll analyze pages of data, pore over massive maps, and wade through a seemingly endless sea of menus, submenus, and sub-submenus. Top that off with a dry presentation and some major gameplay flaws, and you get ... a darn compelling game. Yes, despite its initially overwhelming complexity and problems that will have you tearing your hair out, you can easily find yourself clicking away for hours as you try to beat the game -- even if you're not always sure what's going on.
Part of what makes Supreme Ruler 2010 interesting is its near-future setting, which in many ways feels chillingly realistic. Worldwide economic chaos and the fall of the UN have left nations fragmented into smaller regions. While boundaries may have changed and economies collapsed, today's technologies and real-world economic principles still apply. You'll recognize familiar military units and have to deal with the sorts of domestic and foreign issues that challenge today's leaders. For an interesting twist, the game sports a fictional world power that is supposed to have risen in the place of the UN -- but it's more ready to intervene in any way necessary to get what it wants.
You get to play missions, scenarios, or full campaigns based in any of 200 truly unique regions, and you can choose from a wide array of settings and victory conditions, so the game offers huge replay value. The A.I. should definitely challenge you, and the game offers online matches for up to 16 players. We had a very hard time finding opponents and connecting, and lag was an issue when we did, but it was good fun to match wits with a human opponent.
One of Supreme Ruler's biggest strengths -- and weaknesses -- is the magnitude of things you deal with: diplomacy, international trade, taxation, social policy, military spending, etc. Countless menus and charts and sliders and buttons let you delve way down into the minutiae of running a country and its military. Even with a lengthy printed manual and a series of (painfully dry) tutorials, it's a lot to digest, but being able to bend so many things to your will certainly gives you a feeling of power.
It can be fun to learn and master all the details and options Supreme Ruler offers. You get to monitor or control everything from immigration policy to bond markets to individual aircraft payloads. You manage eleven real-world commodities, control research across various fields, wield an array of sophisticated weapon systems, and more. Combat is challenging and stimulating because of its realistic supply model and the need to use skillful combined-arms tactics to win.
To help you keep a handle on game's many facets, you get ministers with their own personalities and strengths to manage each important area of concern, like defense or commerce. You can let them do their own thing or give them priorities, like "trade for new technologies" or "improve lines of supply" -- not that they always act wisely. In fact, they sometimes seem to do next to nothing.
Even beyond the ministers, much of the game will run itself if you let it. Military units, for example, will carry out logical actions most of the time if left to their own devices, though you can issue detailed orders for movement, rules of engagement, and so forth. In fact, the partial autonomy of the game can make it frustrating. On the one hand, it helps you manage what would otherwise be a staggering work load when dealing with big regions. On the other hand, the gameplay can lack a sense of focus, even when you opt for turn-based play instead of pausable real-time play. A massive amount of stuff just seems to happen of its own accord, and you can end up feeling like a spectator. When you do intervene, you have to fight your way through the game's cumbersome interface to do simple things like choose which units to build.
It might have been nice to have gameplay divided into more discrete elements or phases: now it's time to deal with A, now it's time to give orders to B. Even more so, it would have been nice to get full-screen overviews that detail important info and immediate concerns for each department. As it is, you have to work through a slew of small screens to track and manage a lot of things. Controlling military building, deployment, and orders is particularly cumbersome.
A more serious problem with Supreme Ruler is diplomacy. In theory, the game offers an extremely impressive diplomatic model, with the capacity to offer and request a broad range of treaties and deals. Scientific research, specific categories of goods, cash, land, military units, and more -- it can all be put on the table. The big problem is that you often have to make outrageously generous offers to get anything in return. You shouldn't have to trade away $500 million in oil, the secret of eternal youth, and the president's daughter to get a box of cereal, but that's what it feels like. Almost all the time, your offers are rejected outright with no suggestion of what you should do to sweeten the pot. There's no real dialogue, and not once did a neighboring country initiate an offer with us.
One thing that could also use help is the presentation. During battles, you hear combat effects that get the job done nicely, but otherwise you just hear the occasional bleep or bloop, and that's it. The visuals are totally underwhelming: not only are the graphics bland and dated, but the map and unit icons don't offer as much clear, useful info as they should.
Supreme Ruler 2010 is admirably ambitious, yet also a victim of its own ambition, suffering from information/feature overload and a less-than-stellar interface. The learning curve is steep, and the game can make you feel more like a harried bureaucrat than a supreme ruler. Yet if you're a hardcore strategy gamer and give Supreme Ruler a real chance, you'll likely be sucked in by the game's epic scope, challenging combat, and intriguing (if daunting) level of detail.
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