I found Supreme Commander, a RTS game that I played the demo of as it came out one year ago in the low-price-box on my super market. It features three campaigns. One for each of the three factions. Each campaign includes 6 very long missions that require good resource management and unit coordination. It remembered me so much on Total Annihilation from the late 90s until I found out that Chris Tailor, the lead designer for TA, made SupCom, too. It was clear for me that I am going to buy it someday until its available for a low price. But this article isn’t about Supreme Commander. Follow me back in time and take a look through my eye on SupComs predecessor.
Total Annihilation is a award-winning real time strategy game, developed by Cavedog Entertainment and published by GT Interactive in 1997. It features hundreds of units and very long and intense multiplayer matches. TA was also the first RTS game with models and terrain in 3D.
In 2008, two Expansion-Packs came out: The Core Contingency added over 75 new units, 25 new missions for each side and continued the story of the main game. Battle Tactics included 4 new units and 100 new missions based on tactical aspects instead of base construction. Cavedog also allowed the player to download new units on their internet platform.
The two campaigns begin on each sides home world and lead the player through 25 missions with stereo typical mission objectives like destroying specific structures, capturing enemy units or annihilation of the enemy. But he doesn’t need to play all the missions in order to win the campaign.
In the first Arm mission for example, the player commands a squad of units that need to reach the planet’s galactic gate to escape annihilation by Core. The main-plot continues then in mission 5 when this units finally arrive to assist the Arm Commander to take over another galactic gate. The four optional missions in between are just fillers in which the player can collect battle experience, trying out new units or plan new tactics before he continues with the next even more complicated plot mission. It’s sad that the player doesn’t need to finish the optional missions and to unlock new unit’s there first that later can support him in the following main-plot mission.
TA featured a real economic system.
Both armies have to collect metal and energy to manage base and unit construction. The player needs to manage a constant changing in- and out-rate. The higher the in-rate is, the more resources can be used for construction. Without enough energy, the construction of multiple units and structures takes very long. The Commander is supported by multiple helper-units of different level, able to build structures bound to their tech-level.
There are many ways to get resources during a mission, depending on the battlefields landscape. Energy can be created through ordinary Power Plants or with alternative power sources like water-craft or wind-craft. Especially the gathering of metal is easy on artificial moons, while on ordinary planets, the player has to search for metal veins which were limited and sometimes protected by the enemy.
The 3D terrain allows the player to use different high ground as cover for structures from long ranged fire, to slow down enemy movement or to use natural passages as well defended entrances to the own base. The added physics engine also takes indirect effect on each units ability to shoot, to move or to fly. Shells will fly slower and not too far on planets with high gravity. Wheeled-vehicles can’t drive up hills as fast as hoover-crafts and flyers drifting away south if the wind is blowing south.
„Total Annihilation“ describes the multiplayer perfectly. Experience long and intense battles with your friends. I can remember that I played hours over hours against my best friend in LAN-mode. We used metal moons to get a good metal in-rate very quick. Sometimes we had to save our multiplayer match before we could continue on the next day. Without the unit-limit, we could build 1.000 unit large armies, facing each other on large plateaus. A lot of wrecks were lying around after the fight. This large junkyard forced us to start converting the wrecks into new metal first, before we could send out our troops again for another intense battle. Matches could be won by destroying the opponents Commander.
Total Annihilation deserves the over 50 awards it has won. Multiplayer is still played today, 13 years after it’s release. It’s a great experience, never seen in RTS games back in the time. The music is an action driven orchestral explosion that keeps you alive. It‘s lots of fun for fans of total war with a massive amount of units. 1.000 units per side are ready to receive your orders. Command them, Commander!
Over 10 years have passed and the ex lead-designer of TA Chris Taylor got a comeback with Supreme Commander. The game uses the old technologies that was used in TA. Taylor and his new team upgraded the TA engine, allowing the player to zoom in and out a large range. From satellite view down to 3 meters above ground. The same energy and metal management is included, too. I didnt started to play Supreme Commander yet. But I cant wait to get my hands on this baby.