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Zoombie
07-28-2009, 09:49 AM
Total Annihilation is debatable one of the most awesome RTSes ever made ever. It came out about the same time as Starcraft and was, unfortunately, eclipsed by the far inferior game.

Like BETA and VHS, Starcraft and TA came out to fill a niche in the RTS market...but whereas Starcraft had huge advertising and hype (due to a large warcraft fanbase), the far superior, better game of TA was forgotten.

Which is a real shame, as TA has over 350 unique units, realistic three dimensional graphics (well, realistic for the time), amazing explosions, an attempt to realistically have infantry, tanks, airplanes AND navies all work in cooperation, an orchestral soundtrack that I still listen too TO THIS DAY, and nukes that did more than bunny farts. Serious, Terrans...what the hell is up with your nukes!

Fortunately, the creator of TA, Chris Taylor (who also worked on such games as Fallout 1 and Dungeon Siege), went on to make Supreme Commander, which is a worthy update to the TA idea...though, um, it didn't really quite reach its full potential till the expansion pack, which fixed all the problems I had at the get go.

However!

The story of TA did not end with its expansion pack, the Core Contingency.

No, there is a game between TA: TCC and Supreme Commander that almost everyone seems to have forgotten.

Total Anhilations: Kingdoms.

This took TA and made it fantasy...but it also did far more than that!

It created four unique and well thought out sides, each with their own focus. It created a brand new world, set after a massive magical Apocalypse. It looked awesome, AND IT ACTUALLY HAD A STORY!

TA's story was an afterthought, jammed in to make an excuse for two robotic races to be fighting eachother. It was almost as deep as the story to Transformers (pre Michal Bay), but it did the job.

But Kingdoms?

Kingdoms has, hands down, one of the most well put together and awesome storylines in a fantasy RTS ever.

It was not merely awesome because it was well constructed and had stuff we actually cared about going on. No! It was also told in a way that was refreshingly innovative, immersive, and actually made sense.

It is told from the perspective of...well...a historical documentary is the best way I can describe it. Elegantly painted artwork pans across the screen as a soothing narrator tells us about the history of the conflict, complete with different voice actors reading quotes from famous figures. And what is more than that, each mission takes place from a different side.

Rather than simply playing through one side till the end, you jump from side to side. Wherein one mission will have you storming a beachhead and setting up camp, the next may have you play from the other team, attacking and retaking the beachhead.

This solves a logical problem I have seen with many RTSes: You never lose.

See, most wars have victories and defeats for both sides...its rare that you see a side with absolutely NO defeats. And in most RTS, that's what you see! You just win and win and win and win. Its a bit absurd, imo.

But, playing this way, you always "win" missions, but that might be bad for one side or the other.

However, none of this would work if the core gameplay didn't shine and it does!

There are four factions, each one led by a different immortal sibling. King Elsin, the eldest, leads Aramon, a faction of knights and chivalry, of technology and science. They are strong, slow, expensive and have access to gunpowder...but they also have the worst magic of the four factions. This is offset by their powerful gunpowder weapons, their sturdy armor (they're really hard to kill!) and their brave knights. Elsin can also raise the dead!

Queen Thirsha, the second child, leads Zhon, a privative land of jungles and ancient ruins. She is the most physically frail of the four siblings (if your sibling dies, its game over), but she has wings, can fly, and her army is the most mobile and diverse in the game. Its made up of monsters, like kraken, trolls, walking bears with spears, goblins...and best of all, its the ONLY team in ANY RTS I've ever played which has no buildings! No, every unit is built by other units, in the Zhon army. This makes them potent, deadly, and really hard to pin down.

Lokin, the Necromancer, is the third child and strongest of magic, leads Taros, a bleak land of the undead. His army has some of the coolest magical units in the game, such as Ghost Ships that can fly through walls while carrying troops, or Mind Witches that use telepathy to control enemies. Lokin can also turn invisible and use fire magic.

And lastly, we have Kirenna, the marinara, who leads the island nation of Vernua. Vernua has faster units than Aramon, but they share gunpowder technology. Vernua has very few flying units, but to make up for it, they have the largest navy in the game, including galleons and trebuchet ships and all sorts of fun stuff!

The plotline concerns a war that is sparked when Taros invades Aramon with hoards of the undead. Zhon, which has been pissed off at Vernua since time out of mine (Verunen explorers keep stealing their shit) decides to attack Veruna and all out war is declared.

The story missions are all quite fun, with some highlights being:

Attacking a Verunen port with Zhon Fire Drakes
Sending a brave knight on a quest to retrieve a holy artifact to battle the Taros hordes.
Sneaking a Taros assassin through a Aramon city to kill their head alchemist.
Testing a new Aramon weapon (cannons) on a huge horde of zombies.


Multiplayer is also a blast!

Alas, it looks like Chris Taylor has forgotten TAK...which is a shame, cause I think its one of his finest games ever.

Hopefully Kingdoms 2 will come out some time in the distant future...hey, it combined with Suprime Commander's scale and TAK's world and gameplay...that could be really awesome!

So, if you're a fan of RTSes, you'd be remiss if you didn't check out this forgotten gem!

K. Andrew Smith
07-30-2009, 03:52 AM
I played TA and SC. I have to admit to disagreeing with you. SC was by far the better game.

Zoombie
07-30-2009, 11:24 AM
Bah!

QuantumDrone
11-21-2009, 01:51 AM
Finally someone who agrees with me. To me starcraft was overrated and TAK was by far a better game. Also I love the soundtrack from the game and I also listen to it even now (Jeremy Soule is awesome). And since TAK works on vista (which you can't say for most old games) I can still play it. YAY :) Anyway great article and good points.

Zoombie
11-21-2009, 04:13 AM
Hurrah!

Dario D.
12-14-2009, 10:31 AM
I never played TA: Kingdoms (because I heard bad things about it, years ago), but Total Annihilation is one of my favorite games of all time. I have no idea what the enjoyment factor would be today, but, back when it first came out (over a decade ago, now), it was a nerd's dream.

They should remake it, with the gameplay mostly unchanged (just natural updates, like much better AI, etc).