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Appeared : Oct 1997
Developer : CaveDog
Editor : GT Interactive
Distributor : GT Interactive
Official Web Site :
My opinion : I still play this game. In my opinion, in the RTS style there is nothing better.

The title page
Single-player game
Multiplayer options

This is the reference against which all Real-Time Strategy games should be measured. Command & Conquer was good, of course. But TA tops it and still does as far as user functionality is concerned.

TA was the first RTS title who's AI was worth it. All other titles (including C&C) had laughable AI. The typical example was when you set your troops to go somewhere. If ever they got shot at along the way, it was out of the question that they return fire or move away from the killing zone. No, they just kept on going and kept on getting shot at. That meant that your attack could be shredded before even getting into position.

Cavedog changed that. In TA, not only your troops return fire, but if you have enough of them, some can peel off from the body of your army and tango directly with the enemy with the goal of removing the threat. And that was before game hackers put a fix on the AI which made it even worse (=> better at defending & killing things).

TA was a revolution in user friendliness. There were so many things you could do, and you never needed more than the six basic commands : attack, stop, guard, repair, build, recover. A small list, but any of these can be chained with the Shift key to target multiple units, or multiple locations. So, your terrific group of wardogs could go off to battle with an aerial cover that could selectively guard the most important units one after the other. Oh, and you could assign as many units to a group as you wished. All of them would follow your subsequent orders. Patrol paths ? A cinch to set, as complicated as you liked. TA still laughs at some other titles with their limit of ten waypoints (or just two, like in the Age of Empires series).

This game thrilled me, as it did for many others too. Never before had an RTS title been so involving, so deeply strategic. It was followed by two add-on packs that added even better AI and a whole bunch of maps. Hours of fun. As cherry on the cake, the visuals are stunning (okay, for the time).

Never tried it ? Don't know anything about it ? Maybe here I can convince you to give it a go. Once you have done that, you can check out the Explosions Museum for a piece of the action.

Building up the base
Check those explosions !
More mayhem

Did this game have problems ? Well, some people I know were put off by the entirely mechanical sounds of the game. You will agree that, if the game environment does not appeal to you, it is a major hindrance. But aside from that, this game was a gold-medal winner. One thing I would have liked to see, though, is the possibility to order the construction units to Guard and Rebuild. That would have made maintaining the defences a breeze.

The one other drawback of the game is the ease with which you can chain orders to a unit or groups of units. It is so easy that you often find yourself with a unit that has obsolete orders and is doing something that has no more interest. It is the price to pay.

Finally, construction units set to guard an area have the irritating tendancy to try to repair a damaged unit that they cannot catch up with. If Cavedog could have forbidden them from going out of their guard zone, or told units under repair to slow down until fully functional, it would really have been paradise. And never mind that you do not see any cool greens or other 3D-enhanced lighting; this is about war, not eye candy.

But never mind, I still prefer TA to any other RTS title of today. I'll see how long that lasts.

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All images here are taken from in-game screenshots. Total Annihilation is installed with both Core Contingency and Strategic Battle expansion packs, as well as TA Unit Independancy Pack.