Total Annihilation first impressions: You see, there are 5 video genres that I usually express hatred towards. They include sports games, JPRGs, point-&-click adventure games, MMOs and RTS games. RTS games have a good concept; give games like Heroes of Might & Magic and Civilization real-time action instead of turn-based action. It's a great idea...in theory, but pretty much every RTS released don't have the elements that made turn-based strategy games fun to play; like the achievement of finding resources, or having a strategic battle system. In RTS games, all the resources are given to you from the start of base-building, and are essentially unlimited, and the battle system require nothing more than rush tactics.
Every problem that I find in RTS games can be traced directly to Total Annihilation, one of the most praised RTS games in history. Since you can already tell that I despise this game, I'm not going to waste your time describing the short amount of positive criticism I have. So in that case lets get on with all the hate-filled rhetoric that I'm going to give Total Annihilation.
One criticism I have for Total Annihilation, and RTS games in general, is the total lack of strategy. You can pretty much play through any round in an RTS by just sending out dozens of the same units on the battlefield with no worry what so ever. And no game makes use of this "tactic" better than Total Annihilation. There are three things that contribute to this overall lack of strategy. The first (and most obvious) contribution, is the absence of limitations for the amount of units you can have on the battlefield. This may seem like a good idea, because you're now only limited to the amount of resources you have, but in actuality it just encourages endless rush tactics (mainly due to the resource-collecting model, which we will discuss later). The other contribution is the utter lack of variety in the units you can have. Oh sure, they look different and they individually cost different amounts of resources, but all-in-all, they all just play the same, and there are no visible difference among them. So in other words, you can basically play the entire game (single or multi-player) by endlessly using the same unit.
So you may be wondering what's the third contribution to utter lack of strategy in Total Annihilation? Well, that leads to our next problem with Total Annihilation/RTS games; Resource management. Resource managment has always been a major element with RTS games, but the resource management pales in comparison to turn-based strategy games. In TBS games, you get a sense of achievement for finding resources, mainly due to their scarcity. When it comes to RTS games....well..there is no sense of achievement. Anyways, continuing with Total Annihilation. I've read an article in gamespot.com, writing about how Total Annihilation's resource management is very competitive experience, but this doesn't make sense to me because the resources are essentially unlimited. And do you know why they are unlimited? It's because there's a capacity to the amount of resources you can have. In other you can only carry around 500 units of resources. Now I don't know about you, but I think that having a game with a small capacity of resources is a bad game design idea (i mean, did anybody really praise the fact that you could only carry 99 gold in the Legend of Zelda games?). This makes resources essentially unlimited and makes the game more tedious than it already is.
Also, I'm curious why the press would always call Total Annihilation, the "first 3D RTS"? Despite the fact that an RTS game called, Dark_Reign came out one month before Total Annihilation's release. Dark Reign featured 3D terrain and units as well as being one of the first RTS games to allow you to queue production of units and set rally points. (sarcastically) Sadly, we all know that if it doesn't make it on the sales charts, it doesn't count as being the first. Speaking of 3D, I think that the only reason why Total Annihilation was praised so much was because of its 3D graphics and the immense number of units you can send into battle, as well as gamers thinking only about what reviewers say, and to not think for themselves.
However, there is only one thing that I can give compliments to Total Annihilation, and that's the development history behind the game. It's the beautiful, rags to riches story of a group of people who eventually developed one of the most successful RTS games in history, and than sadly, that success fails. Yes, this sound very silly, but I must say that the development story would make great for a novel by David_Kushner.
Now just because it would make great for a biographical novel, it doesn't make it great for an actual video game. The game-play is shallow, tedious, and just isn't fun overall. Total Annihilation is nothing more than a case of style over substance. If you have a craving for an RTS game, I would recommend playing something like Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War, or one of the Total War games. Both games/series offer the ability to command a large number of units, as well as having a cinematic atmosphere to them, like Total Annihilation. Hell, why don't you check out Dark Reign? It's available as freeware, and is allot less shallow than Total Annihilation. Or better yet, go to buy a Turn-based Strategy game.
+ Interesting development history
+ You are not forced to play this game
- Endless rush tactics
- Week resource management
- Lack of diversity among the types of units
- Better games in the genre
- Style over substance