Cavedog's Total Annihilation real time strategy series just released in 97 and 98, showed to be a very impressive game. The graphics being revolutionary in nature, with 3D units, structures, and a true three-dimensional ground, where units will climb hills and maneuver around objects. The massive amounts of soldiers included and still provided through the Cavedog's web site, featuring more downloadable units, and maps constantly enhanced the RTS genre and overstepped technology boundaries. With Kingdoms set in a mystical fantasy world, expect even more and will again lunge into a et of new concepts.
The game is based on the power struggle between 4 brothers and sisters, each who command a certain element (Earth, Water, Air and Fire). The element that each commands has a direct affect on the types of units they can employ/build.
Play as the monarch of one of four unique civilizations, each with its own combat strategies. Command vast armies of skeletal archers, undead foot soldiers, magic-casting wizards and dragon riders. Campaign through 3D environments that include lush forests, marshes, rolling hills and swamps. Lay siege to castles and cities filled with wondering monsters and magical life forms. Hardware support provides enhanced graphics and special effects. Play Free on Cavedog Entertainment's Boneyards, a new online gaming community.
Building units are intriguing. There remains the usual TA way of building a unit (clicking on a building several times to produce X amount of units), but now you can also build certain units the same way you'd build buildings in TA. For example, a "Beast Tamer" can "summon" certain creatures. To do this, you select the creature you want and the tamer will begin to "summon" it. To summon more than one, you hold the "shift" key down and begin to click on the places where you would like the animal to be summoned (similar to the way you built structures in TA).
Believe it or not the can lead to some interesting strategies as you can, in effect, build a wall of creatures. I found the AI to be nothing special and nowhere near as challenging as the TA AI. I don't know if the people at Cavedog tweaked the AI or not, but something needs to be done to make it stronger. As I stated earlier, the AI is just a summoning machine. It builds and builds and then swamps. Not much fun.
Gameplay itself was intriguing, but reminded me far too much of Warcraft. Maybe it was the atmosphere, maybe the types of units, but the Warcraft feel never left me. It definitely does not feel like a "Total Annihilation" game. I was a bit disappointed with magic in the game, as I found that magic did not play as much of a role as I had hoped. Warcraft 2 made much better use of magic and the combinations that could be done with certain types of magic in WC2 really set WC2 apart from TA: Kingdoms.
The single player story mode has a fascinating plot, and the in-between sequences are populated with exquisite artwork. The atmosphere created by the voice actors and the artwork is superb. My only complaint with the story mode is the constant switching of sides. Unlike MOST simulation games of this nature, you are not allowed to choose one side and then play through the story as that side.
In TA: Kingdoms the side you play changes with each scenario. The scenarios play through in chronological order, but you bounce back and forth between good and evil. So just after you finish smiting the evil lord Lokken, you must suddenly take up his banner and push back the armies you just controlled. It robs the player of his partisanship and his sense of direction. When you play as one side, you know exactly whom the enemy is and what you want to do. You know the story and you are able to learn all the intricacies that come with that side. You learn the build proficiencies and the overall weaknesses of certain units. You live and die with your allegiance.
By bouncing the player back and forth between the four sides you become more of a mercenary who seeks only to win the mission at hand. There is no loyalty and no chance to build a liking to any one side. An interesting idea that has never been done before (in my knowledge) but that in the end just doesn't work.
The 3D terrain in Kingdoms is looking to play a major role in how you plan your strategies and carry them out. For example, using archers atop a hill, facing a force of barbarians on the bottom, your archers will likely come out victorious since they have the advantage of being on higher ground, while the barbarians have to climb up to reach your units. This terrain sometimes makes the difference between a grand victory and cold defeat.
The sound FX, were not that great. Kind of boring to be exact, but you are treated to excellent voice acting. The Music Tracks, will save you from the sounds. Which is a nice rhythm to keep you happy, and devious.
TA: Kingdoms does represent the next level in the Warcraft style of game. Despite the fact that the engine is supposedly an "improved" version of the original TA engine, I still would not put TA: Kingdoms above TA or even on the same plateau. Many will enjoy TA: Kingdoms, and I believe the game will take to the internet like wildfire, but I also believe that many TA fans who were expecting the game to be more like the TA they love and enjoy will be somewhat disappointed.
People who downloaded Total Annihilation: Kingdoms have also downloaded:
Total Annihilation, Total Club Manager 2005, Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos, Warcraft 2, StarCraft, Dune 2000, Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, Black & White
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