The Supreme Commander ACU - Armored Command Unit
The ACU is the core of Supreme Commander. Born from the Commander unit from the old Total Annihilation series, the ACU is the player’s starting unit in every Supreme Commander scenario and skirmish. In addition, it also functions as the player’s in-game avatar in the campaign mode: if the Armored Command Unit is destroyed, that’s the end of the game in Supreme Commander. ACU units are unique to each faction, whether they be Cybran, Aeon Illuminate, or UEF. Each comes standard with the ability to build tier 1 structures, some resource generating capabilities, and a basic weapon that can fire either standard laser bolts or an overcharge mode that annihilates most structures or units in a single blast.
The ACU isn’t useful exclusively in the early game thanks to the inclusion of several upgrade paths that serve to keep the ACU relevant in latter stages of a game of Supreme Commander, when the ACU is easily overpowered by experimental units, and allow for customization specific to the player’s chosen faction. As a spiritual successor to the Commander from TA, the Supreme Commander ACU is actually more useful in the late game than the Commander due to these upgrades.
ACU Tips: Customization for Dominance
Each Supreme Commander ACU generally has two upgrade pathways: Combat or Support. The former involves modifying the unit to possess a wide range of personal defense and offensive weapons modifications. Usually these come in the form of shielding, physical regeneration, damage boosts, and even additional weapons designed to make the ACU more powerful on late game battlefields. As an example, the Cybran ACU can equip torpedoes and incredibly damaging laser weaponry which makes it a potent fighter in the late game.
Support pathways generally upgrade the tier level at which the ACU can build structures and add economic boosts to metal and energy production. For more defense minded Supreme Commander players the ability to maintain a well protected and mobile resource generating unit that can also aid in construction is often quite attractive. The Aeon Illuminate ACU boasts an extremely efficient resource allocation system that lets late state Aeon economies pump out ever more powerful units and structures at a rather alarming rate.
Proper utilization of each faction’s ACU upgrade strengths can make all the difference in long games of Supreme Commander.
Supreme Commander ACUs by Faction
Cybran ACU: Cybran units tend to be quick, stealthy, and multirole. As an outnumbered minority caught between the UEF which enslaves them and the Aeon which cleanses them, the cyborg Cybrans are masters of hit and run attacks and guerrilla warfare. Supreme Commander ACU specialization benefits the Cybrans greatly, as their ACU can be upgraded to include a stealth field generator that keeps the ACU hidden from radar and to some extent visual detection as well. With the addition of a torpedo launcher or an upgraded laser cannon the Cybran ACU is easily one of the most lethal ACUs when upgraded fully. The tradeoff - relatively weak resource allocation support and construction speed.
UEF ACU: The UEF generally specializes in durability and longevity and the UEF ACU is no exception. This unit is unique among Supreme Commander ACUs in that it can be upgraded to fire a powerful tactical nuclear missile which does not activate enemy strategic defense systems and does a great deal of damage. It can also mount a shield generator that projects out a fair distance, allowing it to shield friendly units on the attack. But where the UEF ACU truly shines is in base construction support: when fully upgraded it is the fastest building unit in the game.
Aeon ACU: The Aeon Armored Command Unit rounds out the selection of the Supreme Commander ACUs that shipped with the original game. Not designed for front line combat, the Aeon ACU has the best sensor upgrades of any mobile game unit and hands down the best resource allocation system when fully upgraded. A combat oriented Aeon ACU focuses on range and shielding, allowing it to slowly destroy enemies from afar while remaining undamaged.
Supreme Commander: Aeon Illuminate Faction
The Aeon Illuminate faction is dedicated to the cleansing of the galaxy and the indoctrination of all its inhabitants into a spiritual practice known as The Way. Sort of a strange, militant form of alien Buddhism on a galactic scale, The Way is forced upon worlds whether they choose to accept it or not. The only faction with no real connection to Total Annihilation, the Aeon are similar in philosophy and even play style to the Sins of a Solar Empire Advent faction
The Aeon faction boasts some of the most aesthetically oriented units in Supreme Commander. Aeon Illuminate units are sleek, metallic, with vibrant colors and high technology. This does not mean that they are pushovers on the battlefield, however. The Aeon forces tend to emphasize slow firing weapons with extreme range and firepower - and their units are specialized to perform particular roles extremely well.
Aeon forces are led, same as the other factions, by an ACU on the battlefield, but the Aeon ACU is distinguished by its sensors, weapons range, and extremely efficient resource allocation systems that, when upgraded, pump out as much metal and energy as all the structures in the core of most bases.
The Supreme Commander Aeon Illuminate ACU
The ACU of the Aeon faction is one of the deadliest units in Supreme Commander - and not in the sense of firepower. Even more than with the other factions, the Aeon ACU is the heart of the faction’s forces.
More support oriented than either its Cybran or UEF counterparts, the Aeon Illuminate ACU can be upgraded to pump out dozens of metal and thousands of energy units per second. While this may not seem powerful in comparison to the Cybran ACU which can be made as deadly as an experimental unit, analyzing relative capabilities from a cost-benefit bent shows that where the Cybran ACU can defeat an Aeon ACU one on one, the ability to simultaneously construct more aircraft, tanks, and cruisers (not to mention experimental units) means that the Cybran will have to fight through waves of foes before coming close to the Aeon. And where the Cybran ACU can be in only one place at a time, the multitude of units pumped out by factories supported by an Aeon ACU more than compensates for individual firepower in most games of Supreme Commander.
Aeon Illuminate ACU tactics tend to be fairly straightforward - upgrade to support the economy. But the incredible resource boost offered by a fully upgraded Aeon ACU offers another tactic: building a second, hidden base in an unexpected corner of the map. Often an opponent will be so concerned about knocking out an Aeon player’s main base that a second base producing experimental units or nuclear silos will go unnoticed until it is too late..
Aeon Illuminate Tactical Tips
Some tips when playing the Supreme Commander Aeon Illuminate:
Specialization is the order of the day. Aeon units are meant to perform one task very well. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can rush an enemy naval base, for example, with a dozen ships of one type. As soon as your opponent figures out which unit is attacking, the counter will be produced and ruthlessly applied. Same goes for land and air battles.
Mixed unit tactics must be utilized. This is effectively a corollary to the above - send more than one type of unit into battle, and hit your opponent in more than one dimension at once. Keep fighters and gunships escorting your ground units, and bring up naval firepower and bombers to hit behind the lines.
It’s the economy, stupid: The Aeon ACU is the most resource efficient unit in Supreme Commander. Aeon Illuminate bases rely on a constant flow of powerful units, so get the economy humming and get those ACU upgrades installed.
Escort the experimental units. This bears repeating: escort the experimental units! The Aeon Colossus is incredibly powerful, but a gunship team can knock it out. Specialization lends itself to powerful units that are good at what they do, but vulnerable to attacks they weren’t designed to handle. Aeon experimental units are not the Krogoth - they can’t do it all.