Supremacy (Overlord) Review
by, 07-30-2010 at 03:48 PM (1301 Views)
Welcome to my review of the space strategy game Supremacy.
Its full title is either Supremacy: Your Will Be Done or if you’re in the US you would know it as simply Overlord.
It’s a strategy game designed by David Perry and Nick Bruty and produced by Probe Software for the Commodore Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, DOS and the NES.
The Amiga and Atari ST versions were released in 1990 and are pretty much the same game, and in that same year the Commodore 64 version was released and although not as graphically impressive as the other two, understandably, it is the exact same game with nothing taken out.
The DOS version was released in 1991 and contains an end sequence that wasn't present in the other games but it only appears if you defeat the hardest level.
Finally the NES version was released in 1993 and it was graphically quite different from the other versions, it uses less screens, has fewer sounds and simplified controls. Also, the NES game is interesting because it is one of the few NES game cartridges to have an internal battery pack in it to retain game saves, and it was also among the last titles released for the platform and it is also quite rare.
In Supremacy you are the ruler of the Epsilon Galaxy, and during a scientific experiment your scientists discovered four new galaxies called Hitotsu, Futatsu, Mittsu and Yottsu which are gateways to four dimensions, each containing barren planets. What you have to do is pit your wits against the rulers of these four alien dimensions to preserve your power in the Epsilon Galaxy.
Well that's the blurb covered so basicaly the aim of the game is to build up, nurture and protect an empire of planetary colonies while a computer opponent tries to do the same. The game has four skill levels that are represented by a different enemy race, each one obviously featuring a progressively stronger opponent. Higher skill levels also give you a greater number of planets in each star system.
As with most strategy games the controls are mouse driven, apart from the Commodore 64 and the NES, which both use a joystick or D Pad driven mouse pointer.
When you start a game you first pick your opponent which, like I said, dictates how many planets there are in the system, the skill level and aggressiveness of the computer opponent and also the types of spacecraft and equipment you can purchase during your game. The star systems contain either eight planets, sixteen planets or thrity two planets.
The player and the computer both start off controlling a single colonised base planet at opposite ends of the star system and all of the other planets in between are uninhabited and essentially up for grabs. What you have to do is to set up and maintain thriving colonies on as many planets as possible, and build up different industries and eventually a military strong enough to fend off the computer opponent. The initial setup of a star systems planets is random so each game will be slightly different though the end goal and the way in which you set about it will be roughly the same.
The first thing you need to do is to generate some income from your starbase's population so you can set a tax rate, and obviously the higher the tax rate the higher the income from each citizen but the population will not thrive as well as they do with a lower tax rate which obviously generates you a smaller income per citizen, and you will have to find the balancing point at which your population thrives while still generating a healthy income which is measured in a single unit called credits.
Taxation affects population growth, so too much and the population decreases, too little and population increases but is not as financially efficient. A taxation level of about 40% will give you 0 growth which is good for a steady and stable income.
Once you have established a sustainable system on your base you need to start expanding your horizons and the first thing you should buy is a Terraformer. An Atmospheric Processor.
You then send this Processor to the nearest planet and leave it to do its work terraforming the new planet so that it is inhabitable. Once you do this you will get a nice warning message from your computer opponent who wil be a bit miffed with you for taking over a planet that he wants and he openly declares war on you. Throughout the game you receive messages that affect some or all of your planets, your ships, your equipment, or your storage levels on different planets. Some messages are beneficial and others, like this declaration of war are harmful, and nearly all of them need immediate attention.
You'll be told about things like your researchers making Technological breakthroughs such as drugs that make your population grow more quickly, new engines for ships that make them more efficient, new mining or farming methods that make processing plants more efficient.
You get warnings about negative events like acid rain on a planet causing damage, medical side effects of technological breakthroughs, major enemy military movements or a toxic gas leak on a planet that kills off the population.
System reports give you information about things like saving a game, a spacecraft arriving at or departing from a planet, your total number of credits, a population uprising on a planet and ion storms in the planetary system that can either generate or deplete energy supplies.
Military updates tell you when a battlecruiser has reached an enemy world and is ready to attack it and they will also tell you when a planet has either been successfully defended or has been taken by the enemy.
The best bit about these messages is the sound when the computer tells you that you have a message. The digitised speech on the Amiga version in particular is excellent.
Back to the terraformer that you left on your nearest planet then, while it does its work you can check on your base population and spend their tax money on solar satellites which direct energy back to your base and that energy can be used to power the farming plant which you need to buy in order to feed your population. In truth you will need several farming plants in order to maintain a full population and a few satellites to power them. The other thing you will need to buy is an oil refinery to manufacture your own rocket fuel that will power your future fleet of spacecraft.
This is where the randomness of the star system's planets will begin to affect your game because each planet that is terraformed will be one of five kinds of planet. It will be either a fertile paradise, a volcanic wasteland, a dry desert, a bustling metropolis or a starbase.
Each of the planet types are best at producing one specific item. Fertile planets are great for farming on and are very good for producing food, Volcanic planets are mineral rich and great for mining on and making fuel. Desert planets are great for producing energy and metropolises are good for industry and will generate a high amount of tax revenue. The starbase type planets offer the best overall but they are very rare.
The game features the usual resource management and there are five resources you need to keep an eye on and they are; credits, food, energy, fuel and population.
Obviously credits are used to buy equipment, food is vital so that your population can survive and thrive, energy is required to run your farming and mining units, fuel is used to power your space ships and battle cruisers, as you progress through the game you also need fuel, minerals and credits to buy equipment and your population are what provide you with your taxation income.
As a planet's population grows and pays more tax you can send it all to your starbase with one button, and you should do it every so often because if one of your planets gets captured you will lose all the tax credits that are there, as well as any farms, mines or other craft that are there as your enemy will take them over. This can work both ways though because if you have a planet that you don't need you can remove all your credits and equipment from it and let it get captured, then when your enemy has run the planet for a while you can recapture it and usually there will be some supplies and equipment left behind.
You need to use other tricks too in order to keep a full population thriving on several planets because you provide food by buying and placing farming stations on a planet or by transferring them on starships as cargo. Energy comes from orbiting satellites, but it can also be transferred as cargo. Cargo shipments consume fuel, so you also need to make fuel by running mining stations. Balancing these resources and your fleet is what makes up the main challenge of the game.
I find that the best way when you get a volcanic planet is to just use it for mining and transport all cash and resources from it and forget about sustaining a population there. Instead, just keep thriving populations on fertile planets where they need less management.
As you expand your empire you have to think about defending your planets, especially the ones important to you, I find it's best to have a few useful functional planets rather than lots of under utilised planets. That's also true because you have a limited number of craft in your fleet which includes satellites, cargo ships, battle cruisers, farms and mines, so use them wisely.
To defend your empire you need to build and maintain an army of soldiers on each planet. If you want to attack another planet you’ll need to buy a battle cruiser to carry your troops. To defeat an army and capture a planet you must eliminate all of its ground defences, but to finally defeat your opponent and win the level you have to attack and conquer the enemy's starbase. Likewise, if your own starbase is defeated, the game ends and you lose.
Before you can use troops though, you have to train them which simply means transferring citizens from your home population to military training where you can let them train all the way from raw cadets, advancing their way up the ranks to become 5 Star Generals. Once they are trained you have to equip them with one of 4 sets of armour and weapons. Obviously they increase in effectiveness and price but I would always pay for the best and most expensive because the number of troops you can have at one time is limited, you can have 24 platoons of 200 men each and outfitting them with the best equipment will cost you 109,000 credits but believe me its worth it to have the best and you should have the best troops you can. Once trained and equipped on your starbase you can load them into battle cruisers to deploy them.
Once deployed, the soldiers will automatically defend the planet they are on against any attacks and if you unload them on an enemy planet they will automatically attack the enemy. When they are in battle you can set their aggression level which affects the way they fight. The more aggressive you make them the stronger they are but the more careless they become, though just how much that affects the outcome I'm not too sure to be honest but I always set them to the maximum aggression setting and watch the battle in the form of short clips on the control panel.
On the easier difficulty levels the enemy will not attack your Starbase until you have lost all of your other planets so you should use that to your advantage and always try to keep at least one other planet under your control, even if it doesn't contain anything. The enemy will try to attack planets that are useful to him so you must defend your key planets usually by keeping 4 full platoons there and when they survive an attack replenishing them with more trained and equipped troops from your starbase.
All of this micro management and juggling of activities is done through simple icons, most of which appear on every screen but if you need to get back to the main screen you can get there with a single right click to do things like loading, saving and spying on enemy planets. Despite all the things you have to do the controls are not difficult to pick up and soon become second nature and will actually become quite fun to do. It is complex enough to provide good gameplay and entertainment but simple enough so as not to be confusing.
It's also worth listening to the main theme because it is recognized as being one of the best pieces of SID music ever made and it reached number 52 out of almost 30,000 entries in the High Voltage SID Collection.
Some reviews of the game from back in the day were quite complimentary and even some of the gaming sites that cover retro still have good things to say about it because it has both aged well, and it is clear to see that it inspired a genre and a method of gameplay that remains popular.
Reviews describe it as a mix of genres such as Adventure / Strategy / Action / Exploring / Economy / Management etc. that makes it an all round perfect game.
LEMON 64 for example give the game 9 out of 10 for graphics, 10 out of 10 for sound, 10 out of 10 for playability and 10 out of 10 overall. They describe it as having "Very nice graphics, one of the best graphical games for Commodore 64." The sound they describe as "Great. In my opinion the best intro tune for Commodore 64. Apart from that just sound effects and some more tunes, but I can't give sound anything else than the highest score.
Compare that with the review Flyingomelette gave the NES version. they gave it a rating of 2 out of 10 stars, saying "It isn't often that a game comes along that challenges my notions of just how bad a game can really be. What appeared to be a very promising simulation and strategy game for the NES, ends up being a complete disaster, due to the many elements that all work against you, all at once, much too quickly."
While I can't confess to having played the NES version, of all the versions out there, it isn't the platform or the control method I would choose anyway, so you may be well advised to pick a different version. My preference would be the Amiga version which is the one I've completed several times or failing that, the ST or DOS versions as they are is also mouse driven, but after spending a few minutes playing the Commodore 64 version the joystick controls will feel very natural and you'll be navigating the icons and menus with ease.
My recommendation is pick the game up, or failing that, emulate it and from the moment the theme tune starts, you'll realise you're about to play something quite special.