I’ve menitoned Age of Empires II obliquely many times throughout this blog but never actually written about it directly. Which is actually a massive oversight, because it has the dubious honour of being the first PC game I ever bought, so it’s a foundational influence in how I started to dream of making my own worlds — it did, after all, also include my very first level editor.
So twenty-odd years later, with lockdown madness causing a spiral ever deeper into nostalgia, isn’t it high time we took a proper look at a true classic?
I might spend most of my time gushing over story-driven role-playing games and shooters, but I’m still partial to a real-time strategy every so often. I like building up a base and training all the little people and sending them off to conquer in my name.
The thing I don’t like about RTSes is that they’re all designed to be played against other people in fair and balanced short-form matches, whereas I like sinking into stories and experiencing them at my own pace. I want an RTS without that multiplayer pressure, one that has the time and space to ride all the way into the sunset.
I’m too busy building Exon to even consider a different project, let alone one of such magnitude, but it’s fun to think about these things now and again. So let’s talk about the RTS that I’ll never make…
On the subject of my latest Exon video, I was told it “looks a lot like Warzone 2100“. I replied that I had never heard of this game, let alone played it, but if it’s an a late-90s/early-00s 3D game then I’m interested.
Turns out that not only is it a grotty old 3D RTS, but it was open-sourced in 2004 and is now patched-up and totally free. Jackpot!
I was interested in C&C4: Tiberian Twilight, despite all the rumours of its horror. The core concept — trading standard base building and assault for a mobile super-vehicle — seemed quite interesting to me. For a man that favours the ultra-versatile solo operatives of RPGs and FPSes, the conceit had legs.
The game did not deliver anything of what I imagined; it is exactly as bad as everyone says. So instead of delving into that den of iniquity, let’s indulge instead in what it could have been, had somebody with dreams more like mine been at the helm…
All right then. If Tiberian Sun is the unassailable classic of the Command & Conquer franchise, what of the sequel that emerged seven years later? Built merely by “EA” rather than Westwood Studios, is C&C3: Tiberium Wars a dead husk wearing the skin of C&C or a genuine continuation?
Ho ho ho.
Real-world associate Chris McPhail and I might have been going through Star Wars in our Close, But No Biscuit podcast of late, but there’s another piece of cultural media that deeply affected my robot designs — Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun. The goody-goody Global Defence Initiatve forces had several grungy, industrial, brutalist, utilitarian hulks that evoked power and strength and resilience so much that I took my first faltering steps into 3D modelling trying desperately to ape them. If Star Wars set the robot wheels in motion for me, then Tiberian Sun gave them life.
Look at it this way — if I’d known the Final Sun level editor existed at the time, I’d have cut my modding teeth on Tiberian Sun over Age of Empires II. Oh yes.
Ah yes, the middle-tier title. Mechs & Mercs: Black Talons‘ name alone caused me to pick it out from the crowd as a potential crimbo target — I mean, everybody loves mechs and mercs are suitably sci-fi… As for Black Talons, well, that is the ridiculous tacticool part I can’t deny that I do enjoy now and again.
When I went into Game, they didn’t have any copies of Legacy of the Void on display. It seems like everyone was so caught up in Fallout 4 and its midnight launch parties that poor old SC2 got lost in the noise. When the assistant had to go and rummage in the back room for five minutes, I did wonder if I’d have to go home and — horror of horrors — purchase a digital only copy.
Luckily they did have physical boxes, not that it made a difference since I had to download the game anyway. One day, I swear Blizzard will fix their stupid installer… But until then, it’s PROTOSS TIME!