It took me longer than most to board the Command and Conquer train back when RTS games were quickly becoming the preferred choice for competitive gaming over Counter Strike. I was much more a Warcraft/Starcraft guy, and the C&C series, while undoubtedly awesome, was a very different style of game.
It was the first Generals title that grabbed me; actually, it was Tob who got me into it. It took me a few weeks to fall in love, but eventually I did, and I’ve been a staple supporter of the series ever since. I even went back to the original titles, and played that terrible FPS title they made – but it wasn’t until I started playing Tiberium Alliances that I feared for the future of the franchise.
I understand why it was made; with the current trend in resource management games in the social/casual market, it’d be silly for a company like EA to ignore the potential here, and let’s face it, the last few C&C titles weren’t exactly memorable – but still, when I logged into C&C:TA for the first time, I was expecting to see something a little more ambitious than a Kabam game made within the C&C universe. Sadly, that’s exactly what C&C:TA is – a resource management sim, browser-enabled, with basic macro, no micro and a mostly unimaginative combat system.
Which is to say: it’s probably going to do really well. By comparison, it takes the concept of an online, social browser game to a new level. First, Command and Conquer is a well known name in gaming; and second, with EA’s budget, there’s really no limit to what they can achieve. And going in, it’s obvious that these elements played a large role in shaping the game.
The interface is clean and crisp, and the opening tutorial is simple enough to be completed by a 5 year-old – click this, follow this, watch this – making it the perfect pick-up-and-play browser experience it strives so hard to be.
Conceptually, it’s identical to its competition. You build a base composed of several buildings designed to increase your income, you train an army and use it to capture nearby territory, allowing you to expand and grow. And, if you’re keen, you use your credit card to increase any of your resources at any time, effectively creating an impassable balance curve that allows the rich to gain advantage at any time.
Oh, right – I forgot to mention the oh-so-complicated combat mechanics, which allow you to choose the location and order of your units before sending them into battle. You make these decisions by looking at your opponents defences, and positioning your units accordingly. Skill? Not likely. Credit cards will win this war, of that I have no doubt.
And that’s really all there is to it: the tutorial will explain the basic uses of each building and unit, and teach you how to create or join and alliance and defend your territory from attacking players. It’s disappointing to see a mammoth like EA back Phenomic in the development of a completely unoriginal, lackluster title like C&C:TA – but it’s obvious that such innovation would provide no monetary benefit here.
C&C:TA is exactly what it needs to be to fill a gap in a particular market; and if you, unlike me, prefer your games simple and easy, capable of being played in your free time, a minute here and there, then it’s likely that you’ll find a lot to love about this one. It’s just a shame to see the license wasted; there’s a lot to enjoy about the C&C universe, and it hasn’t been captured in TA at all. Maybe next time we’ll see an actual RTS running in a browser… you know that’s possible now, right, EA?