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Posted on Apr 1, 2005 in Electronic Games

Supremacy – Four Paths to Power – Game Review (PC)

Armchair General

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Overview

Supremacy: Four Paths To Power is a turn-based strategy game wherein one or two players take direct command of alien forces either in space or on the ground.

With a choice of four different alien commanders to choose from (hence the game’s sub-title), each with their own unique histories and skills, players must attempt to use their best strategies to dominate the stars lest they be crushed beneath the heel of alien oppressors.

Successfully merging space exploration with tactical combat and even planetary invasion, Supremacy is effectively two games in one. Battles take place in the depths of space as well as on the ground, indeed some of the scenarios that come with the game are pure ground campaigns.

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With the option to "mix and match" unit-types from all the different races (dependent on which planets you have conquered), it is possible to create your own unique, customised military force, thus allowing for an impressive number of different strategies.

Gameplay

As can be seen from this main screen, there are different game types available within Supremacy, ranging from simple Conquest (control every planet on the map) to Rescue The Hero type missions. One mission-type is simply called Body Count and requires the player to destroy more enemy units than they lose themselves during the time limit of the game, a nice idea. Players can select how long their games will last, as well as how much time is allotted to each individual move. If you are playing the AI and like a bit of risk in your life, you can randomise the character with whom the AI will play.

Gameplay, both in space and on the ground, takes place on a two-dimensional plane which is divided up into squares like a gigantic chess board. However do not be put off by the two-dimensional aspects since the map is fully scrollable and rotatable and can also be viewed from any angle. In space, you can even view the map from below. Unit movement is simple, each unit has a specified number of moves allocated to it, and the movement range of each unit is displayed for you when you click on them.

Planets and space stations are littered around the map and are ripe for conquest. Conquering planets allows a player to expand their economic base. There are four types of planet, each one producing a unique resource. Factories can be built on these planets which will convert these resources into building materials for constructing your war machine. Owning all four types of planet allows the player to expand the construction options open to them and build gigantic Battlecruisers to smash their enemies aside. Space stations can be captured by your Science vessels to perform instant upgrades on your forces. These upgrades are never cheap but can be worthwhile – unfortunately, only one upgrade is allowed per space station, thus necessitating either constant expansion to capture more stations of careful husbanding of your resources to compensate. Taking an enemy station automatically causes them to lose the upgrade attached to that station, and you to gain its advantages, something of a "double-whammy".

Selecting an individual unit displays its characteristics. Units, such as this "Sentinel" each have varying ranger, attack power, defensive capabilities and of course build and maintenance costs. Not only does my "Sentinel" look rather swish, it also has an extended attack range, making it useful for deep, slashing attacks against the enemy. Fabulous! The red blocks above the ship show how "healthy" it is. This ship is brand new and therefore completely functional. As units fight, they gain rank based on the number of successful attacks they have mounted. Rank symbols are displayed next to your ships so you can easily identify your most prized assets. The higher the rank, the higher the bonuses afforded to the unit – such as its attack value. This is a nice feature as it means that you can create an elite force to be reckoned with, handy if you need to crack those planetary defences. It also makes yo care for your forces, you’ll get truly upset if your most decorated ships are ever lost.

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Once you are in your game, up pops the nicely animated CO to give you some friendly words. In this scenario, a ship containing a stupendous weapon of mass destruction has become stranded some distance away and it must be returned to base. Unfortunately, your enemies know about it too and are out to destroy it. You must stop them!! This is one of the largest of the scenarios on offer, and when I ran it I must confess to some slight irritation that I was forced to sit and watch the AI carry out its moves in front of me one by one. Being an impatient sort, I would have preferred the option for the AI’s move to be conducted in one fell swoop with a summary given to me at the end. Here’s my budget report telling me whether or not I can actually afford to operate the vast fleet at my disposal. Luckily, not only can I afford it, I can build even more ships – time to crack open the whip and get those planetary shipyards working!

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Here’s a ship undertaking a move. Rather unusually, you’ll see that the vessel is undertaking a turn to follow precisely the lines of squares in the map. Whilst I appreciate that this is how the actual movement cost is calculated, I was never quite sure why the game could not at least display the ships moving in a straight line. But maybe that’s just me. Assigning a move to a ship also allows you to give orders to that vessel once it is there – eg: if an adjacent square is occupied by an enemy vessel, you can order the ship to attack, or just tell it you’re done if you don’t want to engage at that time.

Some ships have the power to "teleport" themselves across vast distances in space. Sneaky things like this can cause havoc to your battle plans. Make sure you keep a force in reserve well behind your front lines to counter this kind of thing! Furthermore, combat tends to attract Space Pirates who are out to salvage damaged vessels. Pirates can cloak their ships and are very difficult to track – but they are never anything more than an annoyance. Keeping a few small squadrons of ships patrolling your lines is an effective anti-Pirate deterrent.

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