In the realm of the Arm and the Core, there is only one acceptable outcome: total annihilation. The two factions have battled against each other for so long their resources are exhausted but only one will triumph -- it's up to you to lead one of the forces to victory. Total Annihilation is an impressive contender in the real-time strategy genre. An easy-to-use interface, coupled with intelligent AI, establishes the game as one of the best of its kind.
In a matter of seconds, you can build solar and metal collectors to gain the resources you need to build up your army and begin your attack. Each side has its own forces but you choose how to play them. You begin with a commander, the backbone of your operation who starts creation of all of your projects, building power plants and resource construction areas. He can even walk on, or more precisely, under water. One option lets your game end if he dies -- protect him at all costs.
First-timers or gamers who crave a solid storyline may want to begin a new campaign, which functions as a tutorial taught through a series of missions. The tutorial offers a brief synopsis of the current situation -- in the first scenario, your troops are cut off from the commander and you must rescue him from his captors to begin the process of turning the conflict in your favor. It's a great start for new players since the mission is focused and lets you learn as you go, introducing you to basic movement commands rather than dealing with building and maintaining bases. Reach the commander and he assists you in retaining control of the galaxy.
At the end of each of the ample 25 missions, statistics are provided on your kills, losses, energy and metal production, excess energy and metal, as well as a score, which gives you an idea as to where you need to improve your game. Once you're comfortable with gameplay or simply crave an apocalyptic rush, start a skirmish. It's important to check out the many options available for control including difficulty level, number of opponents, whether or not to end the game when the commander dies, fixed or random location and more. A wide variety of maps offer worlds of desert, metal, lava, water and green forests.
Prior to the annihilation, your commander must begin "nanolathing," a process that converts metal and energy into buildings to collect resources and factories to build forces. Later on, factories produce new and advanced construction units to increase the variety of destructive power.
Veteran gamers of the real-time strategy genre will find the format familiar and comfortable. The interface utilizes an intuitive point, click and drag system, complemented by many keyboard shortcuts. For example, you can attack with all units available in the game or just those on your screen, all units of one type or allow tracking of a unit or a group of units automatically as it carries out your command.
The interface makes it easy to cue up commands so you're not constantly waiting for tasks to be completed, which gives you time to further assess your situation and decide what needs to be done next. The less time you spend assigning tasks, while retaining the ability to control them, the easier it is to annihilate the enemy.
When it comes to building your forces, Total Annihilation gives you a wide variety of destructive power from which to choose, including different types of units, bots, armored vehicles, air craft and naval vessels. It's up to you to select how many of which kind to build. Forces are maneuvered easily by establishing a designated destination upon completion and a specific area to control, as well as fire orders. If they run into trouble, select any unit to check its vital signs.
Total Annihilation's only minor drawback is the inability to have all selected units set their pace to the slowest bot which can mean trouble if you're planning a big attack. Obviously, it's not very helpful if your smaller, faster (and often weaker) ships arrive at the battleground before your bigger and slower warships are there for back up. But, savvy gamers can even work a minor oversight such as this into their strategy and with the extensive replay value of the game, a flaw so insignificant shouldn't put a wrinkle in your plans for interplanetary domination.
The graphics, while not exactly eye candy, are detailed and fully animated with options that allow you to toggle aliasing, shadowing and animations to accommodate lower-end systems. Overall, it's a pleasing visual atmosphere. So, brew a pot of coffee, put the kids to bed and get the excuses ready for your boss -- you'll be up all night planning mayhem, carnage and, of course, total annihilation.
Graphics: Vibrant and detailed graphics with full animation make watching the destruction of your enemy fun.
Sound: Sound effects are crisp and detailed, with a score that sends drama coursing through your veins.
Enjoyment: Who doesn't enjoy the smiting of one's enemies? Especially when victory means control of the galaxy.
Replay Value: Extensive capabilities of the units and multiple graphic tile sets keep you coming back for more destruction.
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