SuperPower 2

Failed nations in failed empire-building games.

The mere existence of a Superpower 2 is something of a miracle. The original was a bug-filled curiosity that had tiny nations fighting each other from half a world away, in-between frequent crashes; Superpower 2 is best seen not as a sequel, but as a remake. The game boasts of how Golemlabs used the CIA Factbook and “other classified sources†in compiling the data that underlines the game engine. Leaving aside the troubling thought of a small Canadian game-maker getting close to classified material, this claim highlights everything wrong with Superpower 2. In a drive to make running a country look real, they seem to have abandoned any effort to make it feel right.

Snap17Not that the domestic level detail is not impressive. If you want to know how many Belgians speak French, this game will fill that trivia. All this realism goes for nothing, though. With so many numbers to change and manipulate, it is nearly impossible to understand why, or even if, anything is happening. What makes the stability of a country grow, homogeneity or tolerance? Both are cited by the manual and scenario tips. Why is my approval rating so high with a 70% tax rate? Things have to get pretty bad before your people rise against you.

The much-touted “realism†vanishes entirely once you get to the military phase of the game. The domestic level number crunching seems to be only peripherally connected to the simplistic war mongering that is really at the heart of Superpower 2. You can set national abortion policy or legalize drugs, but not take any military action short of war, and no war ends short of total conquest. There are no air bases, no transport capacities that limit troop mobility, and none of the real-world tactical concerns that leaders have to think about. It’s as if they built this detailed soundstage for a strong simulation of global politics and decided to play Risk instead.

There are fewer of the inane “Iceland vs. Sudanâ€-type wars that crippled the original game, but this is more of a check on the AI than on the player. There is little to stop you from crossing oceans with a few guys in a rowboat to attack weaker countries. Millions of men can be moved around the world at breakneck speed, and engage in battles that bear more resemblance to countdown clocks than real battles, as the numbers under poorly drawn troop types tick away. The AI has no interest in retreating to save an army, so every battle is a matter of getting your best killer stack into position.

System Requirements: Pentium III 700 MHz, 256 MB RAM, 32 MB Video, WinXP

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