RTS games nowadays are a dime a dozen. Seriously. Just google RTS, and this big list of games just popup on your results. Finding a decent RTS, on the other hand, is a different matter entirely. The browser gaming market is filled with these options, but there are only quite a handful of decent games that offer some ounce of substance near the level of gaming greats, such as Red Alert or Battle Realms. What makes one RTS game different from the other? Is it the story or the setting? Or is it how combat is done? Peeking at one of this year's latest RTS releases, Star Supremacy fights its way to answer those questions and find its place in the long list of RTS games.
Colony in the Stars
Alright, here's a mouthful. Star Supremacy is a 2D browser-based sci-fi MMORTS game. It's like a cross between Macross and Starcraft, where your character is part of a colony trying to expand its intergalactic territory. As expected, there are factions fighting for that coveted intergalactic plot of land. And the only way to completely expand your territory to astounding levels is by going against the other factions, staking your claim to the newfound-land, and taking over it by hook or by crook. Like any other RTS game, Star Supremacy is all about building your massive army from the bottom-up, exploit the area's natural resources, build structures for your colony, and ultimately take over the universe. (Right, so that last one's a bit tough...)
The Final Frontier
A big part in your Star Supremacy life will involve developing your plot of land and taking over the planet's resources slowly. A new game starts with an NPC asking you some questions. How you answer will determine the faction and the commander recommended for your play style. The recommendation can be overridden with your choice, however. There are three factions: UEO, Altairian, and the Seeker. Each faction has their own story (with UEO probably the most Neutral Evil of them all), with corresponding faction bonuses too. The game will also prompt you to select the galaxy you wish to put your colony in. The selection also puts up an estimate percentage of faction presence in that galaxy. If you're lucky enough, your faction choice is 33% right, considering population density (I had the unfortunate mistake of choosing the faction with the lowest population).
The game starts with a nice battle tutorial. It's basically a one-on-one showdown between spacecrafts. We'll get to that later. Anyway, after apparently landing in an uninhabited piece of space land, your colony does the right thing, takes over its natural resources and claims it as your own. A series of building and micromanagement tutorial quests will be a mandatory itinerary for the first half hour of gameplay. After these introductions, the quests suddenly shift into objectives that may take a few hours or days to complete, depending on your pace. This only signifies… you're on your own now. Nevertheless, the quests seem to appear automatically on the quest window, and some are shown on the quest tracker sidebar. Some of the quests are worry-free, with getting them done as your colony gradually expands. Others lean on the absurd, like sending a message on the chat window. The rest of the work comes from battles and obliterating other colonies.
The unit selection is satisfactory enough to warrant an in-depth exploration and prolonged stay in the game. Trade platforms, commercial centers, space ports, and even something called a hydroponic chamber are some of the structures available in game. Naturally, most of these units require a certain research level and a decent amount of available resources. Typical harvesting units are also in place: mines for ores, and farms for food, drills for fuel; while living quarters increase the colony's population. These structures are easy to build, but the wait time for upgrading will certainly bore you. Although you can multitask your micromanagement duties, there's not much to do when you're just waiting for everything to finish up. Time-reduction items give a temporary reprieve from the long wait, but the stocks are almost always scarce. Resources are far too limited as well. Ore, grain and fuel harvesting on your plot of land alone won't sustain your colony for long. This entails scouting the planet and taking over available resource nodes, setting up trading ports, and waiting for your fleet to harvest the necessary amount. It's a horribly slow process, and oftentimes, you're left with nothing to do but wait until a slot in the task queue opens up.
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