Supreme Ruler: Cold WarPlatform: PC Games
Category: Simulation, Strategy
This past week, I've spent some quality time with Supreme Ruler: Cold War, provided to me by Paradox. This strategy/simulation game takes place, as the title would suggest, during the Cold War. In the campaign mode, you can control either the United States or the Soviet Union, and in the sandbox mode, you can choose any nation. The goal is to use diplomacy, trade, espionage, research, and economic policy to influence the nations of the world. You can take full control of everything from policy to actual unit control. I had never put any significant amount of time into this type of game. I knew I was going to be in over my head, and boy, I was right!
To start playing, I jumped directly into the main campaign as the United States. I didn't know what I was doing, but I wanted to experience the game without any knowledge. Some of Supreme Ruler was self-explanatory. There was a mini-map in the corner and an information center in the opposite corner with a huge amount of statistics and buttons. Along the side of the screen, important notices were displayed, grouped by category. Some were simply informational while others required me to make a choice. For example, I might be able to choose whether I support a decision of another country, condemn it, or refuse to comment. I also realized quickly that I could right-click on the terrain to bring up a menu. From there I could build new structures.
Let's interrupt here to discuss the game's polish. It ran fairly smoothly on my PC, and I definitely didn't run into any bugs. On the fastest game speed, there was occasional slowing if I did something to a high number of units at once, but this seemed quite excusable to me. The music and sound were fine; however, I have to admit that the graphics looked dated. I'm not usually harsh on graphics, but if I had seen screenshots without knowing anything about the game, I wouldn't have believed the game was released within the past decade. That said, Supreme Ruler is definitely not about the graphics. It's about simulation, and it does that very well.
After getting the raw experience, I read through the manual to get a feel for how to control things and then jumped back into the game. An interesting aspect of the game is your advisors. The advisors make decisions for you. You can choose whether to let them make decisions or lock them from making any decisions, letting you do it all yourself. Even if you choose to let them make decisions, you can still influence them. You can also choose what areas on which to focus by deciding how much money to give to it. I also enjoyed the space race aspect of the game. The space race was an integral part of the Cold War. In Supreme Ruler, you can choose whether to focus on it heavily or ignore it. I still have to admit that after hours in the game, I didn't fully understand what was happening. I was playing it, but I wasn't in full control.
Included in my press copy of the game was a save file to start directly before the Korean War, a key part of the Cold War. Using what I learned from my earlier play in the campaign, I decided to try it out. After North Korea made its move, I increased the priority of the regions around Korea and immediately saw troops begin to move. I then publicly condemned North Korea and increased military funding. I especially enjoyed watching the border between North and South Korea. As the war waged, the border would change shape. Taking direct controls of my troops, I sent most of my troops to take out a single base. This aspect of the game was a lot of fun, while the macro-management of policy seemed tedious to me.
There was one important aspect of the game that I hadn't yet tried - thermonuclear war. North Korea was going to get it, so I pressed the red button. Yes, there was a red button. Of course, I forgot to reassign my targets, so the US launched missiles at the Soviet Union, and the Soviet Union immediately retaliated. The United States was condemned by the world community. After increasing funding substantially and raising military production, I ran out of money and had food and other resource shortages. It's a good thing I saved ahead of time.
Supreme Ruler: Cold War is a superb simulator. There are a ton of things going on at once. You can control things at a macro level, influencing policy, and you can control things at a micro level, moving individual units. Of course, everything between the two is fair game as well. In fact, it felt like there was too much to control. It's hard to keep track of everything, and there's no real way to know how to go about reaching goals. In a game, the player is given a goal, taught how to reach the goals, and finally allowed to try to reach the goal. Supreme Ruler: Cold War is more simulator and less game, showing users an in-depth simulation and welcoming them to see what effects their actions would have. Unfortunately, frequently there's little way to know what most actions would ultimately do. Supreme Ruler: Cold War gives you a ton of control over every little thing, but please, read the manual and be patient! It's available now through digital distribution for $29.99!