Total Annihilation

Tagged: Game

Videogame (1997). Cavedog Entertainment (CE). Designed by Chris Taylor. Platforms: Win (1997); Mac (1999).

Total Annihilation is a Real Time Strategy game, noted for its innovative design. It introduced many new features to the gameplay seen in previous RTS games such as Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn (1995) (see Command & Conquer), including three-dimensional landscapes with lines of fire affected by terrain elevation and the ability of combatants to take cover behind destructible features. As is typical for RTS games, the player acts as commander of a small military force, controlling combat and support units such as tanks and repair robots. The game includes an unusually wide range of air, sea and land units; the versions available to the two sides have broadly symmetric characteristics (see Worlds in Balance). Players need to draw upon two resources, metal and energy, to build new units. These resources are available anywhere on a battlefield, though easier to obtain in some places than others, a design that often leads to long games featuring constant conflict and sudden reversals of fortune.

The game's setting is appropriately nihilistic. In the distant future, a galactic civilization has split into the Core, who wish to enforce human immortality by Uploading, and the Arm, who insist on retaining their organic bodies. After centuries of war between replicated minds inhabiting Robot bodies and cloned warriors using high-technology armour, both sides are almost exhausted, feuding over the remains of a ruined galaxy. The single-player game is set during the last days of the war, and is playable from the perspective of either the Core or the Arm. The story development is somewhat thin, however, and the computer controlled opponents are not very challenging. As a result, Total Annihilation is most popular as a game of player-versus-player combat in temporary Online Worlds, where it has been highly successful.

Related works: Total Annihilation: The Core Contingency (1998 CE, Win) designed by Chris Taylor is an expansion pack which continues the Arm version of the story beyond the end of the first game, in which an apparent victory is achieved. Many new units and maps are included for multiplayer games. The less well received Total Annihilation: Battle Tactics (1998 CE, Win) designed by Chris Taylor is another expansion pack, focusing on predesigned battles rather than the more open scenarios of the original game. The Spring project (2007 Swedish Yankspankers, Lin, Win) includes an open source remake of Total Annihilation, updated to use fully three-dimensional graphics. [NT]

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