World Supremacy Review
World Supremacy, the new “light strategy game of global conquest” from Shrapnel Games, is an interesting but derivative hybrid. It pulls out elements of games like Risk, Civilization, and even Heroes of Might and Magic, layers them onto a bizarre-looking map (where Paris sits adjacent to North Dakota), and then lets players whack away at each other with modern military equipment until someone controls the entire shebang. As a value proposition ($29.95 through shrapnelgames.com), the game may suffer, but it’s easy to admire many of the game’s ambitions.
World Supremacy is a casual grognard’s dream, presuming such the casual grognard exists. Though at first the level of statistics and information presented can be dizzying, just a little experimentation and the game’s core is exposed: a Risk-like map players conquer with tanks, planes, ships, and artillery. To construct these engines of war, players build fabrication sites and support their campaigns with cities, radar installations, and various other structures that confer bonuses, usually readily apparent. Though the game comes with a fairly comprehensive manual, a brief introductory tutorial would’ve done wonders for players looking to dive in and immediately blow things up. Though the game’s UI and manual do a fair job of surfacing most of the central concepts, a couple of playthroughs are needed to give new players a sense of what they should be doing and when. This gives WS a bit of that much-desired (by developer standards, at least) “easy to learn, difficult to master” dimension, making successive playthroughs increasingly satisfying. There is, however, a fairly dramatic plateau. Once you’ve beaten the pants off the AI a handful of times, there’s not a lot left to learn or experience. World Supremacy is a game that would have benefited greatly from another layer of strategy, like a technology tree or some measure of unit/army progression. Only very detailed-oriented, mathematically obsessed players will spend more than a few moments glancing at unit cards before deciding to mass bombers and annihilate opponents through strength of numbers.
Battles occur on a simplified grid, with opposing units deploying on the far left and right. When combat starts, players take turns maneuvering their units to within striking distance of their opponent and then attacking enemies within range. Each unit has a specified movement and weapons range, and since units are unable to move and fire on the same turn, combat quickly becomes a dance in which both sides try to lure their opponent into striking distance so they can attack first and annihilate enemy stacks before they retaliate.
Against human players, the combat is boiled down to two scenarios. Either a long détente would persist until someone, usually out of boredom, decided to push recklessly into their opponents' range and get cut to ribbons, or both players would move their entire battalions gradually forward, suffer initial casualties, and then retaliate en masse. While variations on these two themes are surely possible, few were more effective, regardless of what mix of units we brought to a fight.
Sadly, one of the game's major flaws would have been fairly simple to remedy. The UI is so poorly designed that at times it interrupts or blocks the gameplay, with giant text walls and cumbersome menus popping up at inopportune times. Text in the unit descriptions overlaps, tool tips blot out crucial information, and menus and shortcuts are counter-intuitive. The net result: World Supremacy is one ugly beast. Functional, but far from sexy.
In short, World Supremacy is fun to play but painful to behold, an ugly prom date with a “great personality." It’s simple, fun, and terribly bland-looking, but if you’ve got that strategy itch and are reluctant to invest in a more complicated or lengthy game, then World Supremacy is worth a look.