This is a significant upgrade to the SupCom engine, making everything appear much more polished and smoother, especially with fog of war. Along with balance changes and new units, it's like a whole new game, rather than an expansion. My favorite part of this game is how it offers a mesmerising view of a futuristic battlefield. How it allows you to zoom up, watch individual parts of an unit move and fire true projectiles. That might not seem to be not that special, but the level of amusement I get when I see projectiles hit things they're not supposed to hit is goofy high. I can spend hours zoomed in just to watch the animations of units, even small things like energy storage growing taller as more energy is stored, and how engineers tilt their wheels to float on the water. I wish every game had strategic zoom like this game, with such polished visuals.
The user interface is still rather basic, but much improved over the original, giving you much more space to see the battlefield. It requires 3rd party add-ons (UI mods) to allow things such as keybind remapping, to display health bars all the time, managing templates easier, and upgrade helpers. I highly recommend at least getting GAZ_UI (I used version 6.1). I had to adjust my build order with the changes that took place, such as starting with a factory first. It wasn't until FA that I seriously started to look at deciphering all the + and - numbers on everything, and learning how to balance energy income with mass income, depending on what I wanted to build. A lot of reading tooltips, looking at unit stats in the unit database web page, and a bit of math helped me out, which is akin to doing spreadsheets.
This game seems to love Intel processors, or those with great "single-thread" performance. Playing on a laptop or AMD CPU will result in some slow-mo action before the end. Even if you have a good CPU, playing in a game with another with a slow CPU can make it agonizingly slow for you, especially if you're used to it being faster. The game doesn't run smoothly at full speed if there's someone else in your game with a poor or unreliable connection as well. I felt like I couldn't play big 8 player games with air battles and 1000 unit cap, until I got my PC upgraded (from AMD X3 720 to i2600k).
The gameplay itself is a handful. It's a challenge to multi-task. The objective is simple, to destroy the enemy commander, but achieving it is another story. You should manage to progress your economy, never settling with a certain amount as "enough", and considering how there's 3 tech levels of it and the hugeness of how maps are, you quickly find out how difficult it is to keep track of anything spread out. Staying compact will allow you to progress through tech at a manageable pace, but this is not an ideal way to achieve victory. Until you get used to things, to the point they become subconscious actions, your strategies will be extremely limited. I resorted to gambling with basic strategies, such as building up dozens of tanks, outnumbering the enemy, and using an upgraded commander to spearhead the assault, looking to surround the enemy commander. At first it was successful, but as maps get bigger and enemy teams get more members, this becomes less effective. Using a dozen tech 2 bombers or gunships to just simply fly in and bomb the enemy commander was a gamble that was easily countered by a shield and a few flak units. Once I got the hang of quickly upgrade my mass, I tried getting out an experimental as quickly as possible, but this strat could be beaten by a zerg rush. Sneaking a T3 commander with a transport as soon as possible was a huge gamble, but seemingly was the only strat that worked if I could land it where I wanted, without endless practice in other parts of the game.
Multiplayer is still barely alive. I was able to register my product serial on Steam to play there, but a competing 3rd party lobby seems to be sucking players away with its advertising. If you choose to play multiplayer on that other lobby, "FAF", I hope you have thick skin and have great luck! I'd describe it as being an active volcano. Be extra cautious and watch out for eruptions. Go in with low expectations, else you may be disappointed, as their advertisements are clearly biased. They lose as many users as they get new ones, due to how toxic and unwelcoming they can be to some, especially those who go in expecting too much. Stick it out and endure the frustration and you'll be able to play one of the most noteworthy RTS games with some actual players.
After playing this, I haven't found another RTS that has impressed me enough. SupCom2 was okay for a short while, fixing some issues I had with Forged Alliance, but was not close to being a FA killer, since it just didn't have the same scale and felt cheapened overall, such as with the cheesy sound effects (ex. commander explosion) and Aeon unit names that sounded cheap and unoriginal. I can't wait for a real update to SC:FA.