Supreme Ruler 2020: Global Crisis (PC) Review
Title: Supreme Ruler 2020: Global Crisis
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: BattleGoat Studios
Genre: Real Time Strategy/Government Sim
Rated: E 10+ (For anyone aged 10 or over)
Available on: PC Only.
*‘Supreme Ruler 2020: Global Crisis’ is an expansion pack which requires Supreme Ruler 2020 to run.
Ever noticed how the vast majority of entertainment reviews seem to be introduced by a story with seemingly no relevance? You read an article expecting to find an in-depth appraisal of a movie or game, and somewhat bizarrely find the column on ‘The Dark Knight’ open by talking about the intricacies of basket weaving in Mongolia. The purpose of this device is almost always to make an elaborate point which both sets the tone for the rest of the review, and allows the reviewer to display to the world his mad weaving skills.
Baskets aside, today’s elaborate point, oh-so-loosely connected to ‘Global Crisis’ (the first official expansion pack released for RTS ‘Supreme Ruler 2020’) is language. In particular the evocative language developers pick to describe their upcoming games. Buzz words (Immersive! Original! Intelligent AI!) are thrown around like boomerangs, which almost always flutter back to thwack their owners soundly in the head when the game doesn’t live up to the hype. Yet this isn’t always the case. Occasionally the walk, as they say, lives up to the talk. The buzz word in this case is Intensity – a word that can be used to describe Supreme Ruler 2020: Global Crisis perfectly.
For those among us unversed in the ways of Supreme Ruler 2020, allow me to fill you in on the back-story. In 2005, BattleGoat studios released Supreme Ruler 2010, a strategic game at who’s core lies the disturbingly plausible fear: “what if everything in the world that could go wrong, does go wrong?“. Enter Supreme Ruler 2020. The player finds themselves grappling once more with the same economically dysfunctional world, differing from SR2010 only by having an additional decade of disaster thrown in to spice things up. The game play is as simple in idea as it is in execution. You’re the ruler of a country, and it‘s your job to rule. Do as you will; make alliances, expand, trade, manage your budget, panda to the needs of your electorate, invade Canada – you can do it all.
Before we go any further, I feel the need to point out that Supreme Ruler is a real Jekyll and Hyde game. On one hand, if you’re willing to invest a huge amount of time and effort into the game for no immediate gain, eventually you’ll be rewarded with one of the most detailed and intense strategy experiences that the PC can offer. The level of detail, and the depth of statistics SR:GC provides will create the closest experience many of us will ever have to being a world leader. Unfortunately, by being as user friendly as a landmine, many people will have given up on the game long before its positives can be realised.
With that out the way, let’s hop to the grind shall we? Grind may not be a poor choice of words, as ‘Global Crisis’ and the Supreme Ruler franchise is one for which it’s fair to say that any fun you have is a result of extremely hard work. Really. This game is hard. On the off chance you‘ve misunderstood or confused the last 2 sentences, let me clarify: if the idea of micromanaging enough stats to make Microsoft Excel groan under the sheer weight of data on offer makes you swoon, then the chances are that Supreme Ruler 2020 is not only the game for you, but a game you’ve owned since its original release mid-June 2008. While Global Crisis does nothing to make SR2020 any more accessible or enticing for the newer players, it adds a shed load of new content for the pre-existing megalomaniacs to experience.
The action in game takes place on a giant world map, which is incredibly detailed and well researched. What gives Supreme Ruler the edge over its competitors is how the world reacts dynamically to your decisions. If you elect to be more neutral than the Swiss and demobilise your military in favour of domestic niceties and economic abundance, then don’t be surprised when all your work falls out the window when your neighbour comes knocking at your door in a tank.
Supreme Ruler offers us two main styles of play; Campaign and Scenario modes. Campaign mode is essentially one large sandbox (albeit one full of nuclear weapons) for you to frolic around with, determine the conditions of victory, etc. Complimenting this is the more intense, criteria driven Scenario mode. Global Crisis offers a praiseworthy 20 new scenarios for players to get to grips with; especially impressive in light of the fact that the original SR launched with only 18. Over the years expansion packs have attained a bad rep for offering little value for money (And it’s entirely your fault ‘The Sims’). Kudos must therefore go to BattleGoat studios for more than doubling the amount of content at the player’s disposal.
All of this content will be experienced through an obscenely large HUD interface. There are roughly 47 clickable screens choc-full of information you’ll need to successfully run your government. 47! Unless you’re either a seasoned veteran of this series or channelling the spirit of Napoleon, you’ll have to play through 18 tutorial levels before you can even attempt the tactical challenges of the main game. Each tutorial is dedicated to demonstrating the uses of a different section of the interface. On an amusing side-note, my tutorial on Environmental Spending froze up every time I attempted to play through it, leaving me entirely in the dark on how to be green my with green. Whether this is an insightful nod towards our current world leader’s ineptitude over all matters environmental; or a beautifully ironic bug remains to be seen.
Despite suffering from a chronic case of the borings, the tutorials do a good job of putting into plain language what each section is responsible for. It’s all very well knowing how to change a policy, but unfortunately it’s never really explained why we should. In order to counteract general player ineptitude, Global Crisis provides an advisor system through which day-to-day tasks are performed automatically by 6 different computer controlled cabinet members. In some respects, the job they do is too good. Theoretically (It works! I tried it in Campaign mode.), one could sit back, leaving the game running in the background and return to it 10 hours later to see a moderately successful nation plodding merrily along. This completely undermines the level of detail in the game, and makes it seem shallow. By allowing the computer to make every decision, you’re ignoring 99% of the content on offer. Conversely, attempting to take on this content without the assistance of the AI is just impossible for anyone not born with ninja skills.
Graphically, the game is poor. What it lacks in beauty, it makes up for by being playable on any machine this side of the millennium. Everything is clearly defined and easy to make out; except in battles when things can become a little confusing and jumbled. Yet I feel that criticising the graphics of Global Crisis is like criticising the pieces on a chess board for having no personality or emotional depth; not to mention gather in opposing racially segregated teams. It misses the point. This isn’t a game that needs to push your graphics card to the limit. This is a game made special by little details. You say fancy graphics; I say the cities in each country are transliterated (spelt in English how they’d be spelt in their Mother tongue – Moscow’ is ‘Moskva’, ‘Jerusalem’ is ‘Yerushalayim’ and so on). You want detailed explosions; I say Global Crisis improves on Supreme Ruler 2020 by making it easier to identify units, with each now bearing the flag of its home country. This helps alleviate the need to click on every damned unit to see who it belongs to. While Global Crisis doesn’t need fancy graphics to function, its impossible not to say that the overall product would have benefitted from a little more time being spent in the prettiness department.
Acoustically, every continent has its own culturally specific songs. Therefore you’ll hear very different music when ruling India from when you’re ruling Australia. This helps give each country a little personality. My personal favourite was Russia. Brilliantly, the Motherland is sound tracked by Prokofiev’s “Montagues and Capulets” (You’ll recognise it when you hear it!). Invading Poland to sound of this classic gives you the same warming feeling inside as going on a rampage to the tune of “Welcome to the Jungle” in GTA. Could it be that Global Crisis is an educated mans destructive sandbox? Why run over a hooker in a Jeep when you can annex Mexico in the click of a button? Why whack a petty mob boss when you can launch ICBM missiles at Sicily!? Why take over a city when you can take over the world?!!?…Sorry. Got lost in my own thoughts a bit there.
While music is covered quite nicely, the sound effects GC forces upon us get annoying very quickly. As we all know, wars can go on for a long time. Now picture, if you will, a 2 second long sound clip of gunfire playing over, and over, and over, and over again for hours on end. This will be the accompaniment to every single battle you’ll ever fight, unless you turn the effects off on the sound menu.
Global Crisis isn’t fun in the conventional sense. You’ll really have to work at it in order to have any. If you do well with this game, it’s more a sense of satisfaction you’ll feel than a sense of fun. That being said, war is the most immediately rewarding aspect of GC – but even then, this game pales in comparison to the battle simulations of other games. You simply click ‘declare war’ on a nation, and wait to see what happens. While it’s possible to individually select units and tell them where to attack, this represents just about the maximum level of influence you can have over war. Battle outcomes are calculated by contrasting unit stats (of which there are 24 to examine at your leisure) against one another. That’s not to say that fighting isn’t just a little bit fun though. There’s relief from politicking to be had in watching your efficient German tanks blitzkrieg Belgium in 6 days flat. Interestingly, neither the United Nations nor Jean-Claude Van Damme made any attempt to stop me.
This game is like modern art. To one man it’ll be a masterpiece, and to another it’ll be a meaningless pile of …stats. You can take as much or as little away from it as you’d like. It’s really up to you. It’s a difficult game to recommend. If you’re anything like me, it’ll be like slogging through a 6,000 page history text book when you’re only interested in finding the pictures of the tanks. As an expansion pack, Global Crisis does its job well, and without fuss. BattleGoat studios have crafted this additional content specifically for the fans. If you liked the original game, then buying this expansion is something I recommend strongly. It’s got 20 new scenarios, a ton of small additions, and increased multiplayer content (supporting games of up to 16), spawning games that will inevitably last longer than your average game of Monopoly; and may just involve more bloodshed. If you played the original and didn’t like, then Global Crisis won’t be your ticket to the Promised Land of gameplay happiness.
|Graphics||5.0||A graphically simple game. Makes up for its lack of ambition with a colourful map.|
|Gameplay||5.5||Once you’re in, it can be rewarding. It’s difficulty curve is monstrous. Not for the casual gamer!|
|Sound||6.0||Props for including Prokofiev, but repetitive battle sounds grind on you.|
|Lasting Appeal||10.0||Global Crisis offers more content than the original game! Enough content to keep you occupied for a long time.|
|Fun Factor||4.0||It’s more rewarding than fun. If you like a serious challenge then this could be the game for thee.|
|Overall||6.0 [ Average ] legend|