By Graham Smith on May 15th, 2014 at 7:00 pm.
This is not the mod I intended to write about when the day began. I had great plans to write about “kitchen sink” mods, which abandon narrative coherency in favour of cramming borrowed ideas into a joyous, lunatic mess. Then I couldn’t get my key example to work, and spent four hours stumbling over error after error until I was forced to give up. I’m telling you this now because it seems like a worthwhile lesson if you’re going to attempt modding beyond the safe boundaries of the Steam Workshop; sometimes it requires patience, sometimes it creates nothing but frustration.
Quick pivot. What can I get running now which will be fun? Think, think, got it: the Supreme Commander 2 Revamp Expansion Mod. Wish Gas Powered’s robotic RTS sequel had been more in-line with its predecessor? This is the mod for you.
Supreme Commander 2 is a frantic, mentally taxing game. It requires high actions-per-minute if you’re to expand your base to match or beat the economic expansion of your opponent, be they human or AI. It requires a lot of multi-tasking, if you’re going to deal with battles at your base, on the frontlines, at sea, on land and in the air. It requires quick decisions, if you’re going to walk a path through its research trees as efficiently as possible and reach its game-ending, sun-blocking experimental units.
It’s great. Except that it was a child’s game compared to the original.
SupCom 2 was my entry point to the series and I love it, but I graduated from there to Supreme Commander 1. The original game had far larger maps, greater unit counts, and a more complicated economy system that was more flexible and less forgiving. Its expansion, Forged Alliance, is my favourite strategy game.
Some of the changes SupCom 2 made were designed to bring in new players – the introduction of a tech tree with routes through it unlocked via research points simplifies the game in a way that arguably makes it more fun, as the game’s best units can be reached in 15-20 minutes instead of 45-minutes or not at all.
But other changes were made because the game had to run on consoles, and the consoles of the time weren’t powerful enough to run Supreme Commander 1’s absurdly vast maps or absurdly complex AI calculations. Your PC can though. There’s a good bet that, four years after release, your computer can run vanilla SupCom 2 without breaking a sweat.
The RVE mod aims to change that. Most significantly, it changes the speed and scale of the game’s units so that they’re smaller and so that maps feel consequently larger. If you thought Seton’s Clutch felt dinky in the sequel, this helps. It then increases the unit cap, so that each team in a battle can have up to 3000 units, instead of the previous cap of 500. (This smaller mod goes further, letting you set the unit count as high as 10,000. I haven’t tested it.)
It also ports features and units from the previous games, such as allowing every faction to build a mass fabricator, or adding UEF’s untouchable Novax Satellite from Forged Alliance. It adds wholly new units too, like a Cybran Heavy Tank and something I haven’t yet tried called a “Quad Anti-Air Defense System Skystalker.”
Lastly, it makes dozens of small changes behind the scenes, tweaking balance and AI in ways which, to be honest, I haven’t noticed in the few games I’ve played.
When you play, you do notice the scale and unit cap changes. Supreme Commander 1’s battles could feel epic like no other game. The distance between bases on some of the larger maps forced you to set up ferry points to move your units to the frontline, and to be constantly pushing out to set up new, forward bases. SupCom 2 traded that in for a faster pace, which made it far easier to play during a lunch break but lost what was unique about the game.
RVE feels like a mixture of the two. The maps still don’t as big as the original, but it does allow for and demand larger battles than in the base game. If you’re looking for an excuse to return to SupCom after some time away, this is it.
Here’s a video of a game I played earlier this afternoon:
You can download RVE from its entry at ModDB. It’s a straightforward extract-to-install job, but check the included instructions for details of a few files you should back up before you go overwriting things.
And I’ll be back next week with something less panicked.