This last week has seen an update or two to Supreme Commander 2′s AI, and bluntly, it’s fucking terrifying. I am scared of it. It’s skynet gone mental. Alpha and Omega. And if you think I’m being overly dramatic, let me put it into context.
I’m a seasoned veteran of Sup Com 1, playing it more than I’ve ever played any strategy game. Dozens upon dozens of skirmishes honing build orders, economy management, logistics, strategy. A few of us fairly-regularly played grand matches against the hardest AI it could muster. It was hard. It would hit you with several of the biggest units in the game at once. It would co-ordinate attacks with other AI on it’s team. It was relentless. Eventually though we got to the stage where we won pretty much each time, but it was never easy and very rare that we would all survive. Then as we started to hear more about Sup Com 2 the original got shelved, it started to feel old and drab when compared to vidoes of unit cannons and robot dinosaurs.
On launch the AI in 2 was disappointing. I beat the hardest it could do (without a ‘cheating’ setting which I just don’t agree with) the first time I put it on a map – I’m still trying to figure out what tech does what and what the difference between mobile artillery and missile launchers are, and I’m beating this AI easily. It meant that once the novelty of new robots to play with started to wear off, there was little joy in fighting the AI here, something which set in SupCom2 fatigue early.
I had all but stopped playing a week or so ago but then a 7 player game got set up (Me, Thom, Tom and Ed vs 3 of the guys I used to play Sup Com 1 with an AI for balance). Ed had bought it a while back, but never so much as installed it so this was his first ever game. It became clear that he liked it a lot, and later that night Ed coerced me into another game – just me and him against the AI.
We had a few games of us versus one Normal and one Hard, and we crushed them easily. In fact – and I’m not saying this to boast, just to illustrate that it was still easy going really and Ed had only just started playing – I mostly beat them before Ed could do anything. Then, a few days later we played again, but in this gap the AI had been updated.
I didn’t realise until it was too late. Again we set up one Normal and one Hard, put the Hard on my side of the map and off we went. I was crushed in minutes.”Oh dear.” I exclaimed. “How uncouth. The AI seems to have grown some balls.” And from then on SupCom2 has been a whole new, distinctly better, game. We fought back tides of assault bots, hammered fortified bases with masses of artillery only to have transports drop small armies onto our flanks, we struggled. But we won out.
Then, last night, it got updated again. I don’t know if it was because of the map we were playing or the AI got that much better, but…Jesus. We were going against 2 Hard on a map that lends its self to turtling. Nothing could prepare us for what the AI did. “Strategic Launch Detected. Strategic Launch Detected. Strategic Launch Detected. Strategic Launch Detected.” Nuke after nuke after nuke. Sometimes 4 at once. We had three games on the same map, each time trying a different tactic and each time we were countered and destroyed.
Supreme Commander 2 is now a fresh challenge, and a better game than the original. It’s faster, less fussy, and still hard as nails. I have a burning inside me to go back and murder that fucking AI, but I’m scared of what it’s going to do to me. I’m hearing “Strategic Launch Detected” in my sleep. I’m terrified of what it’s going to think to do next.