Reviewed: September 30, 2002
Released: March 27, 2002
Tired of the real world? Then play the real world! For those of you scratching your heads right now, listen up. Superpower is a real-time strategy game in which you can play any one of 140 real-world countries. You control the economical, political, and military aspects of your great nation, and you win friends with your smooth glad-handing or subjugate your enemies by way of your countless armies.
Be warned though; this game is not for those that canít control themselves. If you find yourself prematurely encapsulating your games because you finish them too quickly in your excitement, this game is NOT for you. If you like games that will stay on your desktop for a year or more, then swear into office and read below.
The objective of the game will vary, depending on what you choose to play, but it is basically to firstly stay in power, and secondly, dominate the world. Itís not easy though, you may have no sources of income, or you could have rebels savaging your country. Further throwing a wrench into the engine, the damn computer actually plays intelligently! What the hell? I plan on sending a letter to Dreamcatcher games.
Iíve been trained for years in real-time strategy games, and once I learned the system it was as easy as shooting womp rats in Beggarsís Canyon. Now though, the computer doesnít bend to my will (as much as Iíd like it to, at least). Dreamcatcher has developed a new EHEóa ďEvolutive Human EmulatorĒ that does two cool things.
The first is that it actually, honestly plays computer controlled countries. How many games blatantly cheat just to keep up with you. Admit it, you know exactly what Iím talking about. Youíve got your enemy completely surrounded, cutoff from all resources, and they still manage to produce troops to throw at you. Also, the computer will actually attack other computer controlled countries, without influence from you! It goes against the laws of RTS-nature!
The second aspect of EHE that is cool but spooky, is that it tracks your actions and will respond accordingly. It isnít perfect, but it is certainly noticeable. I, personally, have a bad habit of building up to the point of ridiculousness, and as Arnie would say, ďdrive my enemeez bevore me und he-ah da lamentations of da vomen!Ē After watching me crush Guatemala and El Salvedore, Panama actually launched a pre-emptive strike on me. It was futile, but the right move to make.
On the negative side, this game progresses VERY slowly. I think, that in an effort to emulate real-world conditions, they donít have countries respond to events very dramatically. I actually assassinated the leader of Papua New Guinea, mainly because I could. I framed myself in the deal, and my overall relationship with PNG only dropped a fraction. Now, I donít give two hoots about Bush personally, but if some bushman from the Pacific sticks a spear in his eye, Iím going to sink their island and make a museum over their dead country.
On the same note, I literally threw enough money at Albania to pave the streets in gold, and they went from tepid to lukewarm towards the US. Turns represent only one week of real-time, and obviously, counties donít change that quickly. However, considering that some countriesí have a lot of money, and along with that can take a lot of actions, so turns can take as long as ten minutes a piece. At that rate, change can be measured by weeks of playtime, and even for me that is too slow.
As is all too common anymore, the mouse is your only real controller of the game. I am a huge keyboard fan; in a game where many diverse and unique commands are available, command keys are essential. Unfortunately, that efficiency-promoting tool is sadly missing. On the other hand, the other commands are easy to figure out, and have large, easy-to-find buttons that make figuring out your options pretty easy. The learning curve is a little slow compared to your average RTS, but I attribute that to the fact that this game is very complex.
As complex as SuperPower is, youíd think there would be a right-cool plot for the game. Unfortunately, there are only four possible objectives. You can choose to a) stay in power, b) eliminate your internal enemies, the armed rebels, c) reach economic stability, or d) conquer the world. There are a few other options; there are about 7 scenarios that have you accomplish one particular goal, such as restoring democracy in Haiti or making Taiwan an ally, but I would like to see more varied and more short-term scenarios, such as seizing the Straight of Gibraltar or getting two other countries to start a war, as well as simply more scenarios overall. That not withstanding, the concept of the game absolutely rocks, but thatís from a political science graduate so I just might be a little biased.
All plot and objectives aside, the graphics of this game are severely wanting. There is no actual motion in the game with the exception of the combat, and in that units are depicted with tiny circles and squares. Well whoopideedoo! Crikey, I can do better with stick figures and a notepad. The rest of the screen is simply a world map which you click on countries and have semi-opaque information pull-out graphs over.
In itís defense, Superpower is a mental game, not one that needs flashy graphics. But in all honestly, I think that there definitely should have been more effort to have something to look at.
The sound is better. First of all, they have the standard dominate-the-world ponderous classical sound that repeats every three or so minutes, and it is pretty good and unobtrusive, while filling out the background. The really cool thing is that the game has an option where you can program in MP3 tracks as your own background music. That is a truly nifty concept, considering that again, this is a game that attracts people seeking a mental challenge, not excitement through intense music.
At a retail price of $29.99, this game will certainly give you enough hours to give you your moneyís worth, as long as it can keep your interest. The pace of the game is incredibly slow, but on the other hand, it allows for incredible detail. It requires more thinking than any other RTS that I have ever had, which I believe is the point of an RTS. Furthermore, the coding work done for the engine of the game is extensive and impressive, and is very rare in games on the current market.
Superpower also has the online option to play against other humans. While potentially very cool, the pace of this game makes that somewhat difficult. It would require a set of dedicated players that could meet at the same time regularly for at least a week to get anything accomplished. That would be a virtual impossibility.
Overall, this game is an excellent game for the analytical mind, willing to dedicate long hours to achieve abstract goals. Filled with almost endless possibilities via political deals, secret service mission, economic treaties and manipulation, and military conquest, you can finally rule the world from your Caribbean palace, or have your Bank of Switzerland have every country as a customer.
However, if you want a game you can master and put away next week in time for your mastery of the next game, put this back on the shelf. Youíll spend a month on it, conquer perhaps one continent, and leave it half-finished and still installed on your hard drive.