There could be no better example than Total Annihilation of why Apple should keep trying to bring PC games to the Mac more speedily. At the time of its initial PC release in late 1997, this real-time strategy game from Cavedog was the hottest thing going. In the two years since then, Mac gamers have had the opportunity to play three other outstanding real-time strategy games: Bungie’s Myth and Myth 2, and Blizzard’s StarCraft. Although Total Annihilation remains a terrific game, the innovations it introduces are not nearly as impressive now as they might have been two years ago.
Total Annihilation closely approximates the model of real-time strategy games that Blizzard’s WarCraft (the predecessor to StarCraft) set forth. It asks you to mine metal and energy and then use them to build structures that create more-powerful and more-varied armies and armaments. As with StarCraft and both Myths, Total Annihilation imposes a line-of-sight restriction: if an object lies behind an obstruction such as a mountain or forest, you can’t see it until it’s within the sight line of one of your units.
In Total Annihilation you fight on land, at sea, and in the air.
Groundbreaking when the game was first released, many of Total Annihilation’s features are still impressive, although more-recent titles execute them better. Total Annihilation’s attractively rendered terrains make a real difference in game play. As in the Myths, those who command the high ground have an advantage: not only do projectiles travel farther when fired from above, but shots fired from below are less effective. The game sports an additional environmental challengeforests, which not only impede the progress of your troops but can also hide the enemy. Of course, if you find forests inconvenient, you’re welcome to set them ablazealong with the forces hiding therein.
The game includes both single-player Campaigns and multiplayer Skirmishes you can play on the Web, across a network, or against a computer opponent. Unfortunately, because the Mac and PC versions of the game use different networking protocols, Mac players can’t take on PC players.
But dry those tearsyou may never get to the multiplayer game, because MacSoft has included not only the original game but two expansion packs as well: The Core Contingency and Battle Tactics. With this addition, you can now play through 175 missions with more than 250 units.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
Although fans of Myth and StarCraft may wonder what all the fuss is about, Total Annihilation is still a terrific, if belated, title for Mac gamers. And with the included expansion packs, it’s a great value as well.