You see this? This is a dark fusion reactor. With energy production like this, the Combine could create any utopia they could ever dream of - if only they allowed their people to dream that is. That's the problem with the Combine. For all their branding of advancement and exploration, they actually fail to encourage a lot of it. Even Dr. Wallace Breen, arguably the highest regarded human in the Universal Union, eventually found his intellect enslaved and essentially rendered into yet another pawn for the empire (as hinted in the unofficial Episodic 3 post). Look at this absolute waste of resources. A being arguably more intelligent than a human is forced to sweep trash. The Combine have the technology to transcend dimensions, but they can't even transcend their own working population. The cop behind them is the perfect face of the Combine: completely unnecessary and regressive oppression to a point where it hurts them more than it protects them. There's a very good reason why slavery was mostly eradicated in our own world and that's because slavery doesn't work. It fails because most sentient people don't want to be enslaved. Eventually slaves rebel and when they do, they aren't looking for some good-ol social reforms, they are looking for blood and destruction. That's why a lot of rich people today actually advocate for more equality, not less. After all, the Soviet Union wasn't built on equality, it was built on inequality. If the elites during that time decided to give in to a few critical reforms, they could have prevented the whole revolution from happening, while still ensuring they could live in their comfortable mansions. Why should the Combine care you say? They defeated humanity in seven hours. Their military technological might alone could squash any rebellion. Maybe so, but if the Combine are only after domination, they would have wiped out humanity long ago. No, they need something from us, they need our ideas. The Combine can do something we cannot, teleport between universes, but we can do something they cannot: teleport within the same universe. Thus the Combine needs to either manually extract this information from us or - ideally as any successful empire based around assimilation - would get willing volunteers. That's where they fail. Nobody really wants to join the Combine. You might join the Civil Protection for better food, housing, or some family insurance, but you don't really want to be part of the organization. At the end of the day, your living standards have dropped drastically since the Combine took over. Here is a civilization that has near limitless power and they can only provide a standard of living akin to post-famine North Korea. And get this. Here's what will convince the Soviet-esque masses to convert to our great Combine overlords: infertility and being an immortal drone! Wow, Breen sure knows his audience. If he wanted to sell an appealing lie, he should have promised free sex and 72 virgins or something. Instead he offers a vague "eternity among the stars". To add more insult to injury, the suppression field actually reinforces rebellion rather than preventing it. They could easily with their resources permit controlled and limited reproductive planning. If China can do it, so can a multidimensional alien empire. They could give citizens a more appealing diet, much better housing, at least more than one television channel (Late Tonight with Dr. Wallace Breen anyone?) easily with the resources available to them. They could essentially convert the masses by sheer standard of living improvements alone. The video above illustrates this idea. Why rebel when your so-called oppressors have actually made your life better? Heck, it might even convince you that political soverignty isn't really that big of a deal and at the end of the day you just want to relax in a nice climate controlled living room with your Netflix and pizza. Who cares if you're ruled by a fascist dictatorship if it provides you the good life? Of course they rarely do, but if they want to last, they absolutely have to do just that in order to prevent their system from collapsing. Breen in "Episode 3" hints at this issue in the Combine. He hints that there are dissenting voices, very under the radar, but still there, like cancer growing beneath the skin. This is what North Korea provides their elites. Way better than anything the Combine would ever provide you with the exception of whatever "non-mechanical reproductive simulation" means. Coming from the Combine, it probably is not what you would expect. You see though, this is why the Combine ultimately suck. They provide no meaningful reward to the people they hope to convert - even though they obviously have the means of doing so. They are unnecessarily cruel to a point of being senselessly sadistic. Citizens have no property and the spaces they are allocated are constantly raided by sadomasochistic masked sociopaths who have beating quotas - implying torture is arbitrary. Why the hell would anyone aspire to join their occupiers under those conditions? The Combine don't even provide them decent showers. Here's the unfortunate thing though. Despite all these failings, the Combine will probably never be defeated for a very simple reason. They are very likely the most advanced civilization in the entire multiverse, so advanced that they will prevent others who are thousands of years behind them in technology from ever hoping to compete. We humans in the real world face a similar situation. We haven't discovered aliens yet. That doesn't mean that aliens don't exist, but it does mean that potentially there are no aliens that are currently at our level of telecommunications. That means we are in a unique and very important position to set ourselves as the leading intelligent civilization. So, the Combine may very well appear to be successful and the most advanced civilization for the simple fact that the barrier to entry is too high for anyone else. If any other civilization as technologically advanced as the Combine that provided even just warm hot showers on a daily basis, the Universal Union would stand absolutely no chance. The measure of a civilization's survivability isn't based on its ability to destroy and conquer, but rather to foster innovation and growth. I'll take North Korea over the Universal Union any day and that is really a telling sign you've seriously screwed up as a civilization that can literally open portals into other universes.