Actually, flexibility is the name of the game in Supreme Commander 2. In the original, early units were rendered almost totally obsolete as you gained tech levels. Now, tech upgrades affect existing units, and new tech trees will let you outfit units with things such as additional (or longer) barrels, antiaircraft weaponry, and more. These skill trees are another of Demigod's features that inspired Supreme Commander 2, according to Taylor. You will also be in charge of the all-important ACU unit, just as before. Its upgrades also allow for a more flexible approach. For example, you can add artillery to the ACU's shoulders, grant it torpedoes, perform a "core dump" ability should you fall under nuclear attack, or even pop off its head if you need to quickly escape from battle (the benefits of such a move remain unclear). Of course, there are all-new units as well. For example, though experimental units return, there are also mini-experimentals, such as an Illuminate unit that Taylor affectionately referred to as an Ear Canal. These snail-like units look as if they would have been at home in Star Wars: Episode One, and were cool to watch as they moved across the map. We also saw a standard experimental unit called a Cybran-zilla, which looked appropriately draconic. There will also be naval units, but we weren't able to see them in action in the demo.
The economy has been tweaked as well. Energy and mass are still your two resources. However, now you will be able to purchase a unit or upgrade only if you can afford it, rather than queue it up as you could in the original. This means that players are less apt early on to paint themselves into a corner that they can't escape from later. Additionally, you will be able to earn experience by attacking other units. This experience can be used to research upgrades (though so can other resources). This means that if you prefer to turtle up, you will still have access to upgrades, though players who want to get into the action immediately will still be able to tech up as well. Pathfinding has also been improved. According to Taylor, when you have hundreds or thousands of units in play at one time, it's more difficult for a PC's processor to keep up with the pathfinding needs of the game. Newer software technology and multicore processors will now lead to better pathfinding, wherein units will adjust their path even before reaching the object in their way, much as you would notice someone walking directly toward you and move to the side, rather than waiting until you are directly in front of him or her.
What we saw of Supreme Commander 2 looked great. The stronger art style serves the game well; the bland, austere environments of the original have given way to a more interesting, artistic feel. We saw impressive details everywhere, from the smooth animations of mass extractors to excellent lighting and shadows. And of course, the battles were huge, raging across enormous vistas just as big as those in the original. Taylor wants the game to run--and run well--on three-year-old hardware (the first game brought even some then-modern systems to their knees). Sadly, we didn't get to see any nukes, though Taylor assured us that nuclear warfare is back and will remain the most powerful attack in the game.
Taylor also talked briefly about the "neural net," an evolving database that lets the AI adjust for actions that you make during battle. For example, if the enemy spams gunships and you keep taking them down, it will use what it learns from the net to adjust its strategies. Clearly, Gas Powered Games aims to make Supreme Commander 2 just as big as the original while streamlining its complexities in ways that make sense for both veterans and newcomers. We'll have to wait and see if Gas Powered Games can succeed: Supreme Commander 2 is due for release for the PC sometime in 2010. There will also be an Xbox 360 version, developed concurrently within the same studio, though we learned no additional details about that version. We'll bring you more on this hotly anticipated strategy game as details become available.
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