Written by  :  Robyrt (54)
Written on  :  Jan 31, 2001
Rating  :  5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars

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3 years old and still up to the challenge.

The Good

It's the only real-time strategy game that allows you to control 500 units individually at the same time, and it still manages to be easier to use than games like Command&Conquer.

This game has twice the number of units as all the races in Starcraft, combined. It's great to play a completely new tech tree: you can build 10 different kinds of aircraft, and the number of units only goes up from there. You also gather resources in several different ways (mining, metal-energy conversion, wind power, tidal power, even fusion power), so controlling the metal patches isn't an automatic win. Defense systems are more varied than in any other strategy game, with several different kinds of laser, missile, plasma, scout, etc. turrets. Superweapons really are super-powerful (nukes take out the whole screen, for example), but come with a super-price as well so multiplayer is only enhanced.

This is the first 3D real-time strategy game, and it still boasts a very nice physics engine, which not only allows spectacular explosions but gives another level of realism. Forest fires (which you can start) spread according to wind speed and direction, damage units in their path, and leave burnt trees behind.

TA's most hyped innovation is the Commander, an entirely new way to start playing a strategy game. You start with your Commander, the most powerful unit and fastest builder in the game, but when he dies, he takes everybody else on the screen with him. This totally eliminates the super-early rush (a Commander can take out 10 light tanks easily).

The dramatic orchestral score by Jeremy Soule adds a great touch to the game; I enjoy listening to it on my own as well.

The interface is leaps and bounds ahead of the competition, even 3 years later. Just holding the Shift key down allows you to queue up an unlimited amount of orders to any unit(s) you wish. Want your units to come on a patrol route straight from the factory? No problem!

Cavedog's unparalleled customer support means they released a new unit or map, for free, every week. Want to test out some units from the expansion pack, or completely new stuff like a resurrection bot? Get them from the Web!

The Bad

The sound effects are a bit cheesy, but don't appear that often so they can easily be ignored.

The story leaves a lot to be desired (you could write the plot on a matchbox), but as the first-person genre has proved, you don't really need a story anyway.

The computer is stupid and slow, even on the highest difficulty; since the third-party AIs are very good, it would have been nice to see some effort here.

The Bottom Line

This is the best real-time strategy game ever, bar none.

The sheer number of options (over 120 units without the expansions) means that whatever cool feature came out in the latest RTS, it's likely Total Annihilation had already implemented this, and has epic battles too!

Even Starcraft fans accustomed to an intricate story and simplistic tech tree will enjoy this, especially in multiplayer when the winner is not the one who can click "light tank" the fastest, but the one who can fight with gunships, heavy tanks, and scout mechs at the same time.