Review by ArabArcadia
This was one of the best RTS games I've played. The reason for this is because Total Annihilation (TA) has two good things going for it. First, its graphics contribute to the dynamic and strategic aspect of the game. Second, the game's use of a commander and non-intrusiveness of its resource management system culminate in a game that focuses more on strategy and less on micro-management.
Before elaborating on these two spectacular aspects of the game, I would like to note the TA's other noteworthy attributes. The game, being old by today's standards, runs fairly smoothly even on low-end PCs. This is an added plus considering that the game doesn't look bad at all. In fact, the 3D terrain has never been handled this well until only recently. Furthermore, water effects, explosions, lighting, and other special effects all look great. Though your robot units may look a little blocky, they do a good job of keep the action fast paced and actually animate very well. You can often see your robot's arm lift and move as he prepares to fire or even a spider robot's legs move individually as it traverses different types of terrain.
Sound quality is fair although the sound of robot movements may rake on your nerves after a while. Explosions sounded good, though, and would contribute to the rewarding feeling you get from blowing up giant structures.
Finally, control is dead on. The clicking and dragging is kept to a minimum since is easy to build and control your units. Although the control scheme is pretty much standard for all RTS games, with this game's stress on strategy rather than micro management, the overall control is more palatable.
A few problems are the TA's sometimes smart, sometimes not, AI. Enemy patterns are predictable and the typical probing and mass rushes are what you can expect for most battles. In fact, a lot of victories can be had because the enemy gets locked up or failed to find an obvious weakness in your defense. The game does, however, throw some sneaky bits at you, like where the enemy tries to usurp your control of resources or building closer to your base. In sum, you will definitely need strategy, but not much more than other RTS games.
What really sets TA apart is, among a few other things, its graphics. The terrain in this game, because of its excellent use of 3D, is a major factor that must be taken into consideration when planning an assault or building your defenses. High positions are key for surveillance purposes and are harder to attack. Also, mountains and hills make natural barriers preventing enemy attacks or innovations. These features coupled with your unit's ability to make indestructible walls can lead to some interesting defensive designs. When you add to the fact that the 3D terrain graphics look really good, this is a winning feature that propels this game into greatness.
Two other noteworthy aspects of this game is its commander system and resource management system. The commander system is a system where your main unit is a powerful commander robot that can build buildings. It is the commander unit that is used to start the production process. Although the commander unit cannot build everything, he does have a decent variety of options to work with and is pretty much self sustaining. What is cool about this is that if your base and units should get wiped out, so long as your commander survives, you can regroup and build a new base. This leads to some interesting comebacks and sneak attacks. Also, the commander is a walking war zone. He his capable of dealing some major damage and can even win battles single handedly, sometimes. Don’t get too cocky with him, though, because if you lose him, you lose the battle.
Finally, the resource management system is very user friendly and requires little to no intervention once its set up. The main resources in the game are metal and energy. A few solar power plants (or one fusion reactor) can generate all the energy you need so you don’t have to worry about energy too much. As for metal, once you build a metal extractor on a metal site, you automatically generate metal. Two or three metal extractors on a high concentration metal area is all you need to win most battles. The ease of this system significantly cuts down the micro management required on your part and allows you to focus on fighting enemies.
To conclude, I must say that this is a real gem of a RTS game. Its certainly not the best, but considering when it was made and what is required to run it (very little) I can only highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for something a little different and a pretty good.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 07/21/03, Updated 07/21/03
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