Supreme Ruler: Cold War review
I have been sitting on a copy of Paradox’s third instalment of the Supreme Ruler for over a week now as I had to give it the attention it so firmly deserves. Supreme Ruler – Cold War is set during the time that makes the title relevant, and is a classic example of Paradox’s ability to publish giants within the RTS scene.
Put yourself in 1949, the very beginning of the Cold War. The intolerable Hitler and his evil flying monkeys have recently been defeated, and what would seem like a gaping wartime hole has been left. The USSR, the once ally of the Western democracies (mainly the US) now view the western world as mortal enemies as the differences between the two appear to be too much to tolerate. So 45 years of Chuckle Brother’s war-games ensued on a global scale. On paper it would appear to be a very stable foundation to an epic strategy game. Try and think of a RTS set within the Cold War… it is tricky.
There are three possible settings to play Supreme Ruler – Cold War; the obligatory Campaign Mode’ where you can choose to play as either the USA or the Soviet Union and jump straight into full on gameplay. Sandbox mode sets you in a scenario where you play as any other country than the aforementioned and try to survive, co-operate or take on the crazed giants. Scenario mode is a short fire gameplay approach where you have certain tasks / objectives to complete within a certain timeline of the war. These options are key variants to making the game approachable to all. Campaign mode is perfect for those of us who like to get stuck in, or to the veterans of the genre as there is a distinct lack of tutorial. Sandbox gives you the ability to get to grips with Cold War whilst playing a more manageable country during the conflict. Scenario allows you to get straight into combat if that appeals, for example the Korean War.
There are a few things to keep your eye on whilst working through this tome of a game, one being the Sphere of Influence (sounds like something one finds in WOW) which shows which countries are aligned to democracy or communism, as well as those choosing to be neutral. You can choose yourself to be either a NATO or a Warsaw Pact nation, either way one of your tasks is to draw the neutral’s government to your way of thinking. Battlegoat Studios haven’t left out the dirty schemes used in the ‘real world’ – foreign aid, propaganda and insurgencies are all at your fingertips to influence and strengthen your cause by destabilising other nations, and leaving them no option but to join forces.
At the top of your screen will be the ever looming DEFCON meter, measuring the level of enmity between the West and East. Do not feel safe playing as either the USA or USSR, as any country can affect this meter and cause a full-scale nuclear burnout, or heck go mental and cause it yourself. A smug look will be in firm position as you do so… unless it was an accident. Ooops!
Those of us unfortunate to remember the Cold War will remember a couple of massive elements that lead to some actual amazing events. The Space Race and the Arms Race are both massive aspects to your game, and your headway within these areas could decide the final result between you and your foe. I would say try and keep on top of the Arms Race as being runner up along the way results in a cocky and hostile opponent.
Upon first glances the game is frightfully detailed within gameplay, with so much to manage within your land including but not limited to political matters, diplomacy, economic stability, defence and espionage. You can appoint cabinet ministers to take some of the load off but beware, keep an eye from time to time as the AI might not be your best friend and it could be a particularly important part of your stable infrastructure. I suggest if you are a newcomer to the strategy genre to take the help as you can get it, as this is no walk in the park because the park is actually a vast ocean. It is probably one the most painstakingly detailed real timers out there. Graphically the game is not so meticulous, but that is not so important when gameplay is so gargantuan and grand. The re-play value with Cold War is huge as well, with the many avenues and scenarios to play through.
However gamers that want to dip a toe into this ocean for the first time should probably look elsewhere. The effort that goes into this micro-manager massif will be a real shock to those with no experience within this niche gaming market, and I would steer clear. But those who enjoy convoluted and complex strategy games I recommend getting stuck straight in and prepare to lose hours. The inquisitive inbetweeners… go for it…