To be honest, I was a little bored by Supreme Commander. It wasn't quite brash enough for me. And really, all three sides were very similar.
Universe at War doesn't have that problem. It's loud and bold in all kinds of ways. It's being made by Adam Isgreen, a chap who has a decade of experience making the Command & Conquer games and is now going hell for leather to make the most imaginative sci-fi strategy of his career.
If you've played any RTS in the last ten years then you'll know what's going on here: unit production, resource gathering, base building. But that's not a bad thing. Universe at War shakes things up with esoteric and adaptable factions, none of which are a human faction with helicopters and tanks, despite the war being waged on modern-day Earth.
The first faction we're shown is the Hierarchy. These chaps have a single base structure, a contact point from which they produce 'glyph burners'. These burn crop-circle patterns onto the landscape and summon down walking monstrosities the size of skyscapers, which make up the rest of the Hierarchy base.
Yep: leviathan walking bases brought down from orbit. That's a pretty big opening shot, and Universe at War follows up with a modular upgrade system, giant enslaved sharkmen, a sinister floating monolith which can teleport across the map, a stiltwalking radiation pump and a tripedal resource gatherer that sucks up people and cows with a giant hoover.
The second faction are the Novus, a kind of hyper-tech information culture based on energy physics and quantum computing. The Novus build energy networks, a little like those in Perimeter, which allow their units to be uploaded and distributed in an instant. If
resources are on one side of your base, and your collection facility on the other, the nanotech collector machines will dematerialise, fly though the network of glowing nodes and rematerialise on the other side.
Similar tactics can be employed with combat units, allowing you to download whole armies into enemy territory. Even more impressive are the stealth units: hackers that can virally infect enemy units to damage or control them, a stealth aircraft that can
upload and download lesser units, and a walking energy cannon that can transform into a shield bubble, cloaking nearby units from prying eyes. Command & Conquer it ain't.
Universe at War might harbour the click-build-harvest core that so many games depend on, but this game's strength is going to be giving us new challenges, and new possibilities. Each faction has wildly different capabilities, and the tactics you will need to grasp victory will be unlike anything you've done before. For a game that looked so generic, so alien-invasion-bynumbers, I've come away with a thrill of excitement. This one could be really, really good.