It's not a game; it's an obsession!
So brazenly declares the box cover of Battle Tactics, the new add-on pack for cavedog's real-time-strategy-game, Total Annihilation. Pity, that's just the problem. Total Annihilation is very good and there are plenty of people for whom the game has become an obsession. It also has made Cavedog a truckload of greenbacks and they seem to think that since the game is so damn popular, that they can throw anything linked to it on the market and score a quick cash infusion.
Battle Tactics is a quick, basic, uninspired add-on pack that consists of nothing more than 100 new maps slightly geared to cultivate specific play skills, 6 new skirmish maps, and 4 new bland units. That's all, no new story, no new terrain types, no new factions or races to throw to the mix, nothing. Blink.
You'd think that after the original Total Annihilation and the expansion pack The Core Contingency that Cavedog would give us something more in an add on. Core Contingency gave us 75 new units, 25 new story-linked maps, and 6 new terrain sets, making Battle Tactics look even more depressingly anemic. The basic premise of Battle Tactics, which raises it slightly above shovelware, is that the maps are designed to train the player in advanced Total Annihilation tactics.
Each side, Core and Arm, are given 4 new campaigns: very short, short, medium, and large maps. The small maps are there to teach you one very specific skill (Also, for all the maps, there is a little "Tactics" section is the Scenario box). Then as the maps get larger more complex combinations of skills are necessary.
For instance, in a small map you might learn how to use the D-Gun effectively and in a larger map you have to be able to carry out a D-Day invasion effectively... in theory. In practice, I found that for the most part Battle Tactics was just 100 badly designed maps, sometimes with interesting enemy placements. Rarely would a map give you any real options as to how to beat it, leaving you only with the skill of how to beat that map, but not how to kick ass and take names in an all important net game.
To add to the banality of it all, almost all of the battles take place on basic flat landscapes with the occasional landmark, nothing interesting though. They all feel like skirmish maps. Also, several of these training scenarios fall through.
For example, there was one map in which the task was to take out a well-fortified enemy compound with a pre-determined force and only 25 minutes to do it in. En fin (that's French for 'In the end' for all you uncultured swine), it turned out that all I had to do to win was to select all of my very large army and blitzkrieg the enemy base.
Another element of Battle Tactics that makes it non-recommendable is its area of appeal. A training package would theoretically appeal to TA players who aren't good and want to better their skills. However, these players probably wouldn't care enough about TA to want to shell out cash for Battle Tactics. On the flip, Battle Tactics would seem to appeal to the more advanced players who want to hone their skills. But, since Battle Tactics doesn't really teach any useful net skills (which can only truly be learned in a net game), it doesn't really appeal to the good players either. Having beaten the single player game, they mostly just play on the net.
Also, it's a little too hard for players who suck at TA. So what you're still left with is 100 uninteresting maps (save a few), 4 new units that wont leave you singing hosanna, and 6 new skirmish maps no better than the ones that came with the original game.
The only people who might want to buy this are those who don't have net access (and therefore aren't reading this) and can't download the many good new units and maps available on the good 'ol corny World Wide Web (I shudder to say it). Also, the one-time install of Battle Tactics takes up a not-too-easy-to-live-with-and-possibly-intolerable 180 megabytes of hard drive space.
It seems that Battle Tactics is the product of Cavedog being massively full of themselves after their success with TA and the fact that everyone with any talent at Cavedog is working on the Total Annihilation sequels (Kingdoms and TA 2). It is an uninspired scar on the TA name that we'd all do a lot better forgetting about.