There is the ongoing debate that Westwood Studios Command & Conquer series was the best RTS game franchise ever created. Those who bleed Ore and Tiberium will defend the question until their last units drop. While the series has seen some darker days ever since the gaming juggernaut in EA bought the franchise, we can still enjoy the time spent commanding our troops to face off against the enemies’ (or good guys’) forces across our PC screens. Today in this special edition of Time Warp Thursday, we will see where it all started in the original game and see why the Command & Conquer franchise has earned so many medals and conquered the hearts of fans everywhere.
The plot involves two different factions in GDI (The Global Defence Initiative) and The Brotherhood of Nod and their struggles to conquer an alien substance only known as Tiberium. While both sides claim different beliefs on this new material, the battle comes down to the two factions as the radical group in Nod wages terrorist attacks around the globe. It is now up to the generals from both sides to complete the ideals of both GDIs’ missions and up to Nod’s campaign to bring the world under one banner. Peace Through Power!
The gameplay is what you’d expect from a traditional RTS games of its time. Collect resources and built a base and army to confront your adversaries. While this still has the same fundamentals for many RTS games to date, Command & Conquer refined the standard for all RTS games. Instead of having a convoluted system of obtaining several materials, it only had one item to collect, Tiberium. Not having to worry about X amount of resources, you could simply pick up Tiberium through your Harvesters and deposit them at your Tiberium Refineries.
Wait? What are Harvesters and Tiberium Refineries?
Well, in Command & Conquer you have many units that have specific attributes for different tasks. Harvesters collect the Tiberium needed to purchase other units and defence structures to build your bases. While not the only important unit in the game, the only way to collect funds is through Harvesters and without them you will not be able to fund your forces to further on in your mission.
Ok, so Harvesters help you create your units, but what about the units and other structures in the game?
Well, the Command & Conquer series follows a tech tree. That tech tree is built in a specific way: only having certain buildings will grant you the ability to build new ones. Your main base of operations is through the Construction Yard. This building alone is your source of building anything, and without it, you will not be able to build any buildings. After that, you will need Power Plants to power up your other buildings and Factories to build tanks and Tech Centers to build stronger units.
Hey! Stop! Construction Yards, Harvesters, Factories to built all these different things… I’m lost…
Okay, lets take it down a peg. Your Construction Yard is your base of operations. Without it you can’t build any buildings. Tiberium Refineries help you obtain funds for purchasing those items, and Factories are used to build tanks and other forces to help attack and defend against your foes. Now you get it?
While it may seem like a very complicated idea to have all these different things going on, it’s actually pretty simple–once you get the hang of it. Having fewer resources to depend on was a blessing for what was a very confusing and convoluted structure for RTS games, making the game much more accessible to many other gamers and not for the dedicated conquerors who took the time to understand all the principles of the game.
The game might be easier to understand, but it does keep the standard of keeping the RTS game’s brand as tough as nails. Sure, the learning curve might be easy to get, but take too much time in preparing your forces and be prepared to say goodbye to your hard-earned base in a blink of an eye, especially if you start off as Nod. The game’s AI wants to conquer you as much as you want to progress and will not make it easy for you to get by without a fight, so be prepared (especially later on) for a bit of an unfair cluster of Mammoth Tanks coming at your door.
The game is set up in two factions; the recommended first campaign is the GDI one and then as Nod. You will play through several missions as the commander of your forces and try to achieve the mission objectives throughout each mission. While the main focuses of each mission are just about eliminating the enemy forces, be ready to have to do escort missions and have survival levels thrown into the mix. These missions can prove to be even tougher than trying to wipe out your enemies’ ones, as with limited resources and just a few units to complete the mission with, it becomes less of a struggle of having the bigger force and more about who dies so you can move on and if you can sacrifice one soldier to go forward.
Multiplayer was also implemented for the game, and online for play up to four players was also available for those fortunate enough to have enough Internet power to play it. You could also test your skills and resolve through Skirmishes and play against either very easy foes to almost unbeatable commanders through set maps that even the battlefield for each player. Going back to the Online Multiplayer — if you had problems with Online games now, imagine having dial-up internet and going toe to toe with 3 other folks that had dial-up. It’s almost unthinkable 20 years later that games like this even had features of Online Multiplayer, but as rare as Tiberium, Westwood managed to make it work.
When Command & Conquer came out almost 20 years ago, it was at the pinnacle of graphics for RTS games everywhere. Its (stellar) environments and unit design just look good for the time. The simplified layout had a major factor in this. Rather than trying to make a flashier game, they stuck to simple colours more on the grey scale, which was proven more beneficial in the long run.
What became an iconic trademark was the series and subseries for the Command & Conquer franchise: the corny B-Side movie cutscenes. As cheesy as they are awesome, the game’s overtop acting all started over 20 years ago in a was setting, one that doesn’t usually see a whole lot of comedy put into it.
We all had to live with the fact that the gaming juggernaut in EA bought out Westwood Studios and the Command & Conquer series and possibly shut the door for any new game in series after they (ruined) the Tiberium series with the last abomination. The former employees of Westwood Studios has moved on to form Petroglyph Games who released Star Wars: Empire at Wars and have just released a new title called Grey Goo. Even after the fallout of Command & Conquer, the group who worked on the many titles in the series would not stop their passion to make great games and make new and innovative RTS games for everyone to enjoy.
Back before EA bought out the Command & Conquer series, the creative group behind the franchise made countless new IPs in the series. They also continued the Tiberium timeline with great games like Tiberium Sun, and made what many consider to be the best RTS game of all time in the alternative Soviet universe: Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2. The series also included expansions for almost every game, even the 1995 release of the original Command & Conquer. This entailed an even tougher campaign in the The Covert Operations expansion pack, which featured more grueling missions and new units. This is a model that has followed for the many games in the series to this date.
We might never see another Command & Conquer game ever again, but we can always look back and still enjoy the countless hours spent building bases and conquering our foes for global dominance on our computer screens. The Command & Conquer legacy will live on through new RTS games with the many standards that the original game refined. A game lost in time, Command & Conquer will be remembered as the Commander of all RTS games and gamers everywhere.
This review is based on the PC version for Command & Conquer. The game was also released on DOS, OS, Sega Saturn, PlayStation and Nintendo 64.