The Command & Conquer series of games has been going on now for quite a while. Ever since the first title hit shelves 13 years ago, the series has remained a staple of how to make a good RTS game. Although usually not the first title to take a particular direction (for example Warcraft had upgrades for units a while before any C&C title), it has always implemented whatever they could into a nice and tidy package.
Now we have Kane’s Wrath, the expansion to Tiberium Wars, and, to be honest, seems like a hodge-podge compilation of things that worked in previous instalments combined into one, and this is not one of those cases where the whole is more than the sum of its parts.
The story behind this is, to be honest, something that a fan of the games could have written. Basically, it kicks off shortly after the events of Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun. Kane, having somehow not bled to death following his stabbing by McNeil (Kudos to anyone who remembers that), turns directly to you and says something along the lines of ‘We are all that remains of the Brotherhood of Nod. I need you to help rebuild, and bring us to our former glory’. Then, you get sent off to Rio where you get control of a small base with a conglomerate of troops. Just where exactly those troops came from when you and Kane were the only ones left, I don’t know. From there, though, it’s your standard C&C fare: harvest (collectable) & kill (opponent). In this case, the collectable is Tiberium, in either its green or blue forms, and the opponent is the Global Defense Initiative (GDI) as well as newcomers to the series, the alien force Scrin.
This is where we get to the first recycled element of C&C: the splinter factions that behave eerily like the countries option from the first two Command & Conquer: Red Alert titles, and more-so like the Generals do in C&C Generals: Zero Hour. Depending on which faction you are is what units you will get. GDI’s Steel Talons rely on older technologies (which means you can use Titans and Wolverines from Tiberian Sun!), but have less infantry and don’t use sonic weapons. ZOCOM is better for the turtle player (i.e. someone who focuses on attack only once they have a fully equipped base) as they get better high-end technologies such as specialised Zone Troopers and Orcas. Nod’s Black Hand focuses more on infantry, losing all of their stealth and aerial technology in the process, whilst the Marked of Kane also focuses on their infantry, except going for more all-round capabilities for each one. The Scrin get Reaper-17, which has better ground assault armor at the expense of their mind control powers and air forces (which is a surprise, given that air power was the Scrins main strength in Tiberium Wars), whilst Traveller-59 is almost an exact opposite to Reaper-17, instead focusing on mind control and air power, in the expense of shield technology.
That’s not to say that the main factions aren’t entirely unchanged too. GDI now gets sonic tanks (a welcome nod back to the Disruptor from Tiberian Sun) as well as anti-air hovercraft, Nod gets a bunker-car that is one use only, and the Scrin get... something new. I don’t really know, as I don’t like to play as them. I’m more of a GDI guy.
The epic units are also new. Each side gets 1 epic unit (though if you’re like me and take over a different factions base, you can build theirs too, even if you’re basically the same side) that, when used properly, can turn the tide of a battle rather quickly. GDI’s M.A.R.V. is essentially a giant freaking tank, capable of harvesting Tiberium just by driving over it. Nod gets the Redeemer mech, which can turn enemy units against one another (much like the Chaos Drones from Command & Conquer Red Alert 2: Yuri’s Revenge), and the Scrin get the Eradicator Hexapod, a walking monstrosity that can gain money for each enemy unit blown up within a radius of the Hexapod. Each epic unit can be perma-garrisoned by a number of infantry units (The M.A.R.V. handles 4, the Hexapod can hold 3 and the Redeemer can only support 2) that give the unit special abilities, depending on the unit in question. Generally, however, one will put at least one Engineer (or the equivalent) into their epic unit, as this provides limited self-healing properties. Care must be taken however, as although these units are mighty in their power, they do have their limits. Garrison a M.A.R.V. wrong, and you could find it lost to a large airstrike, for example.
I doubt I need to go too far into the aspects of gameplay for this review, as it really is rather same-y. Neither will I go too far into the aspects of the new Global Conquest game mode, as anyone who has played C&C Tiberian Sun: Firestorm’s similar gametype will know what it’s basically like. It’s a turn-based game similar to that of Risk, only with C&C units instead, and bases providing units that you ask for instead of auto-generation of armies. When you battle, though, you can go into a skirmish-esque battle where you fight the enemy in standard C&C gameplay. Again, it gets oddly familiar very fast.
The graphics are pretty good, though if you’re getting this game you’ll need C&C3, which has exactly the same graphics, so there’s not much I can go on about for this. Live action cutscenes are aplenty during the single player campaign, but that’s again standard flair. Joseph Kucan again plays the role of Kane, the charismatic leader of the Brotherhood of Nod, and again has a somewhat attractive blonde serving him (like he did in C&CC&C3, though this year’s model does seem to show a bit more skin than the last one) as he plots his sinister plans to fight GDI and the sort.
The soundtrack is still pretty dull, aside from the remix of Act on Instinct, one of the original tracks from Command & Conquer, which can be used as an accurate metaphor as to how this game is really the same old game in a new wrapper.
The system requirements for Kane’s Wrath are slightly more than they were for the base game. I managed to play C&C3 with only 512mb of RAM, and get quite far into it without many troubles, though for this one I did need to upgrade in order to get past the first level. I now have 1.5 Gb of RAM, and the game runs fine.
Overall, I was somewhat pleased with Kane’s Wrath. I’ve been playing the series for all 13 years, and it is still one of the best RTS games you can get on the market. It does get a bit stale oddly fast due to the recycled content, but if you don’t think about that too much you’ll have a bit of fun with this installment.