Supreme Ruler 2020
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Khaki tanks are all the rage in Egypt

It was probably Tears for Fears, who said it best, but everybody wants to rule the world and here is your chance. Hot on the heels of strategy deities such as Sid Meier’s Civilization, Age of Empires or even its ancestors like Populous, Supreme Ruler 2020 is a military-based strategy bonanza that’ll have you planning wars and brokering foreign deals. Quite uniquely for a game of this genre, Supreme Ruler 2020 puts you in charge of virtually any nation in the world and the action is set in real-time ala Sim City, as opposed to a turn-based system. The game world (as you may have gathered from the title) is a very modern one – if you want to build your empires from scratch, then look elsewhere as Supreme Ruler puts you very much in the thick of things.

 Players can choose either the “sandbox” Campaign mode with either no or customized victory conditions, or go for the rather livelier scenario route. In terms of longevity, Supreme Ruler is somewhat unparalleled – with the ability to rule every nation in the world, multiple settings and even different pre-defined nation settings, this is one title you won’t be completing in 10 minutes. Control freaks should celebrate too, for those that love to get their hands dirty or who aspire to be Prime Minister, you have almost autocratic control of everything from increasing taxes to building roads – never since the likes of Premier Manager, when you could put energy-saving bulbs in your stadium’s floodlights, have you ever felt this in charge.

 Rather thankfully, the game comes with a rather detailed tutorial which will teach even the most blood-thirsty warrior the importance of diplomacy. Here you will learn everything from how to make trade agreements to launching nuclear weapons, there’s even the laughable ‘word of warning’ that the United Nations may take a rather dim view of any radioactive aspirations you put into practice.

 If it’s been awhile since you last looked at a map (though I’m guessing the average Supreme Ruler gamer will have a minimum of six globes from five different eras of world history), you’ll be pleased to know that every country around you has a flag (with the name) on the map, in case you were curious as to who’s just vowed to bomb you to smithereens. I do think SR could have adopted a Civ-style colour-code here as it can be rather time-consuming zooming out and in on the satellite-image-generated game map just to get a grip of things, but it seems being a living and breathing modern version of Risk was more important to the developers.

 Your day-to-day business is conducted mainly by opening up breadcrumb icons into more sub-menued icons. Communication from other leaders, cabinet ministers and such is done rather hi-tech via a virtual email system, throwing up the odd chortle, especially when it sets war declarations to ‘medium’ importance. The general setup of the game is fairly logical, once you get used to it, though the real-time clock is painfully slow. Even at ‘very fast’ you’re still waiting nearly a minute for a day to pass.

 Sound in the game is generally what you’d expect – atmospheric and regionally realistic, though I must object somewhat to the ‘Middle-Eastern’ twang that will haunt your dreams, should you choose an applicable nation, such as Iraq. Graphically, to be fair, is rather poor, this is particularly noticeable when you engage in combat. Essentially you are just looking at a humungous map of the world with your average 3D man and tank slugging it out.

 Gameplay-wise, if you always wondered what it would be like to play Risk in an interactive PC environment - then by all means jump in, but even the average strategy fan will notice an essential element of the genre is sadly lacking here - growth. If you gave a garden-enthusiast a fully-stocked greenhouse with a resident gardener and told him just to manage the place, he’d tell you where to go, and the same principles apply here. There is simply no creation, you’re given the world to manage and that’s basically all you do, albeit in an extremely detailed way.

 This is really a title for the slow-burning strategy fan. If someone declares war on you, don’t even expect them to turn up the same week, though you had better be ready when they do. Fans of the original Supreme Ruler 2010 should be pleased though, as there are several significant improvements here to enhance the experience. As far as its niche market goes, they are very well-catered for; every nation has some sort of tensions, conflict and generally loose cannons around them ready to explode unexpectedly, which should keep the core base very happy indeed. With online play as well, Supreme Ruler 2020 certainly offers a rich war strategy environment for its market, but for most, this is going to be a very baffling and unfulfilling experience. The makers of Risk would be so proud