The economic changes aren't for the worse or even necessarily for the better, but they do place the focus squarely on moment-to-moment battle decisions in favor of convoluted economic tweaking. You spend less time speeding up production times with engineers and more time spreading your units around and reacting to your opponents' actions. Matches might last for well over an hour, giving you a chance to play with different ideas and a reason to use every unit at your disposal. If you like turtling, shield generators and long-range artillery will buy you time to amass a large force. If you like harassing the enemy, stick to the air and put your bombers on a patrol route. Your base building isn't restricted to a specific region, and the research trees are generous and robust, so there's plenty of room to be creative. And this is where Supreme Commander 2 shines most brightly. The flexibility leads to a ton of fun because on the best maps, no game plays out the same way twice. An intense battle may erupt when you least suspect it, or you might foil your nemesis' plans with a well-timed artillery barrage. And if you can't decide whether to be conservative or aggressive, spread your forces quickly and be both at once. Imagination is often rewarded with shocking and exciting victories, though crazy strategies may naturally lead to soul-crushing defeat as well.
Yes, it's big, and no, this isn't the entire map.
The game-changing experimental units give you even more flexibility and can change the flow of battle in awesome ways. Some of them, such as the UEF's returning (and slightly tweaked) fatboy and the gigantic King Kriptor robot, are offensive powerhouses and as subtle as a destructive blast to the forehead. Others, however, take a bit more skill and produce much more unexpected and enjoyable results. A well-considered placement of the Illuminate's loyalty gun will convert invading experimentals to your cause, so that a hulking Cybranosaurus might end up mowing down its previous comrades. The space temple teleporter helps you take your enemy unaware, and using it multiple times in a row may lead to several concurrent scuffles. If you want more dramatic invasions, however, you can build some ground units within the UEF's land cannon and shoot them across the map into enemy territory. It sure beats a boring old transport ship.
Rarely would you ever call Supreme Commander 2 boring, however. The net result of the changes--the adjusted economy, the speed at which you can earn experimentals and upgrades--is that you don't need to wait a long time to get the fun units in play. It takes time to unlock high-cost experimentals, but the less-expensive ones are fun to watch and fun to use, and you can put them in play early on. This is a game in which you can pit colossal robots and hulking metal dinosaurs against each other, and the pace of the campaign is excellent, keeping you excited to see what toys the game is going to give you next while making it fun to use the ones you have. The game's conventional but rousing soundtrack and excellent sound effects enhance this drive forward, and the resulting tension is constantly relieved by massive explosions and frenzied masses of tangling aircraft.
After you cut your teeth on the single-player campaign, you can easily jump into online play to challenge human opponents. The GPGNet interface has been jettisoned for a clean in-game multiplayer interface that lets you get into a match quickly or join and host games in a more traditional manner. There is a healthy number of great maps; some of them are pulled from the original Supreme Commander, and conflicts can include up to eight players. Online matches perform as smoothly as offline skirmishes and let you tailor the game using multiple specifications, from speeding up the tempo to removing nukes from the equation. Online play provides the game's finest pleasures, mostly in the broadly designed maps that smartly avoid a lot of chokepoints and narrow walkways. A seemingly staid opponent may suddenly launch nuclear death from above, teleport in a couple of powerful assault blocks, or take out all of your air units with a few antiair experimentals. Everything can go from cerebral to stimulating within a moment's notice.
The best way to avoid pathfinding flaws? Stick to the air!
The narrow walkways of other maps highlight Supreme Commander's most notable problem: pathfinding. Ground units may have trouble figuring out how to arrange themselves or get through not-so-narrow gaps, even performing occasional dance routines as they attempt simple move orders. An experimental might get stuck on a defeated unit's charred remains or your armored command unit may wedge itself between structures, though most pathfinding flaws are far less problematic. These moments might happen even when you've taken care to avoid them, and micromanaging units just to get them to where you need them to go is not a welcome diversion. These frustrations aren't common, but they are noticeable nonetheless.
Whether you're a newcomer or a veteran tactician, you'd do well to overlook these flaws and enjoy Supreme Commander 2 for how entertaining and exciting it is. The game maintains a difficult balancing act, providing the scope and flexibility of the original Supreme Commander with a user-friendly makeover that lends some freshness and personality. This is the kind of game where you glance at the clock and discover that hours have passed and you're still waist-deep in assault bots and antiair turrets. Do yourself a favor and get lost in the fun and flash of it all.