Big Game. Big Mods
Supreme Commander is a very big game. The spiritual successor to Total Annihilation, Supreme Commander’s trademark is huge maps filled with huge numbers of huge units. So huge is its hugeness that this becomes its primary drawback as a game - you need one heck of a system to run a long game of Supreme Commander on a medium or larger map. But if you’re got a PC with enough juice to calculate the trajectories of a few thousand pieces of shrapnel, then you’ve probably found yourself enthralled at one point or another with the sheer carnage the game lets loose.
But eventually that carnage becomes dampened. Dulled. Watching a row of what appear to be walking toasters explode like flaming roses under the laser death-gaze of a a gigantic robot beetle does eventually lose some of its edge. When that happens, you may want to put the game down - but don’t. Supreme Commander, like its predecessor, Total Annihilation, does host a modding community, filled with people trying to make the rapid-fire destruction of Supreme Commander even more difficult to keep pace with.
Black Ops Unleashed
Although the title of this mod - Black Ops - hints that it has to do with spy missions and other secretive stuff, you’d be wrong. This is Supreme Commander, remember - subtle means walking only one giant robot into your opponent’s base, rather than five.
What this mod is really about then, is units. This makes it technically less of a mod and more of a unit-pack. But let’s not get to picky about the semantics, because the fact remains that even if it is “only” a unit pack, it is a very popular one. It includes numerous units, some of which are insanely destructive and fun to use. In total, there are over forty new units added by the pack, including my personal favorites - user made dreadnoughts. Black Ops includes several, including the not-so-creatively named Bismark, a UEF battleship with massive cannons capable of raining down destruction from far, far away.
Besides the mega-units though, Black Ops also includes some utility players, like the Advanced Air Station, which is a sort of front-line resupply base for air units. Its not as exciting as massive battleships with a billion cannons, but its still useful.
One of the longest-running and most popular Supreme Commander mods, Phantom-N - an evolution of Phantom - has less to do with changing units, maps, or stats, and has more to do with changing how the game is played. Like a special game mode found in many shooters, Phantom-N changes the rules so that it is no longer a deathmatch, and instead a game about politics, trust, and war.
The rules of Phantom-N are simple. One third of the players in a game are Phantoms. They’re chosen at random and no one knows who they are. They receive a bonus to their economy, and some UI improvements applicable to them. Other players are innocent, who receive no bonuses at all. For the Innocents to win, the Innocents need to survive while all the Phantoms are vanquished - all Innocents win once the last Phantom dies. On the other hand, Phantoms can only win if all opposition is destroyed. Including other Phantoms.
Intriguing? You bet. On larger maps, it reminds me of playing a board game like Diplomacy or Risk. Players are often conservative, creating secret alliances and pacts as they try to decide who they can trust and who is ultimately out to get them. If you have Supreme Commander, you simply must try this mod.
4th Dimension is not so much a mod as it is a complete overhaul, aimed at refining the game while adding new units and graphical effects. That it exists is hardly surprising, considering that Total Annihilation eventually inspired multiple mods which majorly changed the game and even resulted in the creation of a free 3D RTS engine, originally built to re-create Total Annihilation with a 3D overhaul.
The claimed aim of 4th Dimension is to make the game more realistic. I don’t think it does this in any way, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth your time. One thing that 4th Dimension focuses heavily on is balance, and this including changing things like unit speed and the way projectiles behave. The end result is a game that is somewhat more balanced that the original. The changes to the health of air units and the movement speed of some units were particularly needed, and have a noticeable effect on gameplay.
4th Dimension also includes a number of enhancements that have nothing to do with balance. This includes improvements to the graphical engine, which despite being very impressive in 2007, has started to look a bit dated on more modern PCs. Explosions, fires, and projectiles are bigger and brighter. Some units have been made bigger, and some smaller. A few of the graphical changes are, to be honest, a bit over the top. Tacky? Maybe. But in this game, it just fits.