(PC) Total Annihilation: A Simpler Time, When the F2 and Pause Buttons Meant Something

Disclaimer

I LOVE RTS (Real-Time Strategy) games; slow and fast, hard and easy, past and future and old and new. Total Annihilation is an older game, it’s slower, can be challenging and it’s futuristic. I have early memories of this game, back when floppy disks were more than hipster coasters. This game was remarkable, and quite large for the time. It clocks in at 1.1GB, and when my hard-drive was 20GB at the time, that sucked; but, the constant cleaning/purging was worth it in the end. This holiday season I am grateful for companies like GOG and Steam to allow me to experience my childhood again and again, and for minimal pricing.

RTS/Classic Game Addict

It’s true, I am certainly an addict. Whether it’s Age of Empires/Mythology to classic StarCraft; I am in love with the old school games that have fantastic mechanics and stay true/relevant years later. Total Annihilation did not disappoint.

Warning: This game is not a reboot, not an upgrade, nothing. It’s simply the original game, uploaded on Steam for a low price of $3.49 – $4.99 MSRP (Cheap). If you’re looking for a graphical successor the closest ones are Supreme Commander and Planetary Annihilation. Each of these games have plenty of enjoyable hours to follow, but they don’t capture that simplicity, yet hard to master gameplay that TA offers. It’s a magical game that even though it’s 18 years old, it still has something to offer all gamers.

Boot-Up

I am often a risk-taker when it comes to buying these games. Months ago when I saw that Roller Coaster Tycoon was offered on Steam, I immediately purchased the whole bundle. My whole childhood was based on that game; it was my mother’s favorite game when she was still with us. When she was sick in the hospital Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 had just released; so I would write messages out of roller coasters, gardens, paths etc. wishing her better health. Needless to say, that game collection was my connection with my mother. Well, after it installed it was having a hard time running with my PC setup, and it took forever and a lot of modding to get it to run properly; same could be said for Star Wars Battlefront II. However, with TA I wasn’t even concerned, whether it ran or not, I knew I wanted it in my collection, for nostalgia sense.

Once it was purchased and installed it surprisingly booted right up; in fact it automatically changed to 16/32-bit color and worked on my center monitor (remember, 3-monitor setup) with no issues. I was pleasantly surprised. So I jumped right in and started a simple skirmish. Settings were based accordingly for a newb (easy, ally, etc.) and the battle had begun.

Wait, what were those controls again?

It took a little bit to gain control of the game from the beginning. I understood the basics essentially but the control mapping threw me off. It used the classic Red Alert control scheme where your left button pretty much did all of the heavy lifting. I remember that I could change it, but there was a problem. How do I open the menu mid-game? I tried F10 since that was standard, no luck. Then I tried ESC, also no go. Finally I decided to reach out for help. Thank you Google. F2, wow… I hadn’t used F2 in years for a game, or really for anything. But, once the menu opened up there was the option to change my mouse controls in the input section. Let the games begin! Oh and the Pause button on your keyboard actually pauses the game!

Fond Memories

Like every other nostalgia game in life, there are certain stories. Such as the Roller Coaster Tycoon one with my mother. Well, this game is no different. When exiting the game it always asks “Do you want to Surrender and quit?” Regardless if you save, etc. it will always ask that. I remember in my snotty middle school days, my father and I always clashed; we’ll just say we had a difference of opinion, and that often attributed to pointless and silly arguments.

Well one day I was playing TA in the living room and we were planning on leaving to the store soon. So I was saving the game and quitting, when my dad saw the option to surrender. I should state that my father is a past Marine veteran and he’s not a fan of video games… at all. Needless to say, he thought it was stupid that it said I was quitting/surrendering, even though I was planning on continuing it later with my saved game. I’m not sure why I felt the need to defend TA… I knew it was a good game, I certainly didn’t need approval. Well, needless to say I walked into the trap. My father and I argued for pretty much the entire 30-minute trip. I specifically remember my mom yelling at both of us telling us that we were being ridiculous (as always, mom was right).

Regardless, when I saw that menu choice I immediately chuckled a little as I clicked Yes, I was sure I was ready to surrender.

What makes it stand out?

Honestly I’m not sure. It’s a well designed game and it runs well. The graphics are expected for a 1997 game. The build choices are fun and the sound is fairly well done. The nuke drops with your bass turned up sounds pretty good for the age. Having a commander that must survive is a fun feature. It’s similar to the Age of Empires II king; but the commander actually does things other than run around real fast. It builds, harvests, scuba dives and its attack is pretty strong. Overall it’s a fun game, for $3.49 it’s definitely worth it, especially if you enjoy RTS games.

Controls take a little bit to master again, but they work fine once you get the hang of it. In the end, it’s a cheap classic RTS game that allows you to show your allegiance to one of the founding RTS games, that resulted in new-age classics such as StarCraft 2, Age of Empires III, Planetary Annihilation, etc. It’s good to show your respect for the classics from time to time.


 

Rent or Buy? Just buy it. It’s $3.49; if you’re unsure of whether or not you like RTS games, then this is a good cheap test. If you can enjoy this game for what it is, then you’ll be pleasantly rewarded when you play the newer ones.

Alternatives: If you are a graphic junky, then I would suggest any of the Supreme Commander titles or Planetary Annihilation which I really liked, against most opposition.


 

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