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Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance
Eight months after its release, your PC might finally be able to run Supreme Commander, the stellar big boy RTS from those ladies and gents at Gas Powered Games (and Chris Taylor, the loudest man in gaming).

If you have indeed shelled out 400 quid on getting your box up to speed, you're probably figuring out then just how epic and mouse-smashingly intense RTS games can be with a couple more cores pushing them along. But the fact of the matter is for as absorbing and stupidly massive as SC's battles are, sometimes they can become a little too demanding.

That's the first port of call for expansion Forged Alliance; making the whole epic ballet easier to coordinate, stopping you from buckling under the pressure. It's meant to be fun right? Not work...

Immediately we noticed the expansion's massive overhaul in the UI department; The interface bars are cleaner, you can hide and expose them on the fly and it's generally a lot easier to see where everything is. Plus it's fantastic to finally get rid of that dirty great bar hogging the bottom of the screen.

This goes deeper than just prettier menus though; Forged Alliance lets you fire up drop-down menus at will and check what you do and do not want to see in your intel, military and UI info. When managed properly there's less clutter filling up your view of the battle, which results in less hair being pulled from your head.

The Seraphim (Transformer-esque, badass newcomers to the faction rosters), play slightly more laidback than the other three sides as well, mostly because their units are so bloody beefy you don't need as many to send your enemies flaming on the battlefield.

Their main land master, the Othuum Siege Tank is slower than the nearest enemy equivalent but packs significantly better fire power than the competition - and it can move through water as well.

Its primary cannon is slow firing but inflicts massive damage, so you don't need as many on the battlefield to put up a decent fight - so there's less mousing around to get your army to move where you want it.

GPG says it's tried to make the jump from Tech Level 1 to Tech 2 more significant, which is exactly what they've achieved if our hands-on time is anything to go by. Tech 2 units are ramped up significantly from the original game and it takes longer to access the goodies in the third level. This time around, Tech 2 is where most of your fighting is going to happen.

Seraphim's sleek Sniper Bots are just plain awesome. When positioned on a decent vantage point a team of three of four bots can take out an entire undefended army in no time. We even managed to bull's-eye an enemy ACU before it could even uncover us on the map!

A decent mix of artillery will counter cheeky campers, but when the enemy becomes wise to your sharp-shooting ways you can still use your Sniper bots to take out enemy power and mass extractors to devastating effect. Sniper bots, we salute you.

Still big
That said Forged Alliance is still about the big battles and even bigger units, which is what made us fall in love - and sometimes gasp - at the original. In fact, Taylor and his team have gone and made them even bigger.

The Seraphim Experimental Bomber is the size of an Aeon saucer (which in case you didn't know, fills half the screen on its own) except it's not slow and it doesn't have to wait three tension-building seconds to offload its weapons - it just fires off bombs with great abandon.

You can easily ground someone's base. If one of these makes it onto the battlefield, you'd better send everything you've got at it.

In the bizarre corner there's the Experimental Assault Bot; the Colossus' skinnier, machine-gun wielding brother. But unlike the other giant mechanical the EAB has a trick up it's sleeve even after it's kicked the bucket; after death it drops a renegade energy ball that attacks everything in the surrounding area in a flurry of pink electrical death. Better think twice before sticking a damaged one of these in your army, then.

There's reason to be excited for both fans and critics then; the expansion seems to go some way in both smoothing out the sometimes demanding mechanics of the original, while (bizarrely) on the other end adding even more chaos-dealing super-toys to play with.

Can both camps truly be satisfied? We're not sure. The game's out soon though, so no need to have a heart attack (until you play it).

by Andy Robinson


Supreme Commander - Forged Alliance - The Story
"Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance is not only the continuation of the epic story that is unfolding inside the game's universe, it is the continuation of our goal to move the bar for RTS gaming even higher than ever," says Chris Taylor, CEO of Gas Powered Games. "Forged Alliance offers over 100 new units, more maps and an entirely new faction...we are stuffing this game with all kinds of new features!"

Scheduled for release in November 2007, Forged Alliance is a standalone title that will not require the original Supreme Commander.

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