Command & Conquer returns the long-running real-time strategy series to resource management and building, as three factions clash together in globe-spanning, free-to-play battles.
The latest Command & Conquer game, previously known as Command & Conquer: Generals 2, is the first title in development from Victory Games. The new Electronic Arts studio, headed up by ex-Trion Worlds chief Jon Van Caneghem, has taken the bold decision to return the series to its roots.
After Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight ventured into pastures new in 2010, the latest game puts focus back on strategic base building and resource management to underpin those huge and powerful armies. We tried out the real-time strategy title's multiplayer game, and found some promising signs.
Pick a faction, become a general!
Command & Conquer focuses on three factions based around loose geopolitical areas - the European Union, the Middle East-centric Global Liberation Army (GLA) and the Asian Pacific Alliance (APA). Each faction has a different flavour, such as the EU being more technologically advanced and the GLA being more brutal and aggressive.
The game tasks you with becoming a general, and building not only an army but the structure to support it. Everything in the game is powered by resources, such as gold or oil. They sustain your fighting force and also keep you one step ahead of the competition.
If the resources run out, or you have not built sufficient infrastructure to harvest them correctly, then you are irrevocably weakened. But manage resources effectively and you can dominate the world.
The arms race!
We tested Skirmish mode across two different maps playing against the computer in a Player versus Environment (PVE) match. Command & Conquer moves at quite a lightning pace, and there is no time to hang around in building your army.
There are neutral resource dumps dotted around the maps and it is essential to start harvesting one of these with trucks or helicopters (depending on the faction) as soon as possible.
You start each match with a harvester, an allotted resource dump and a supply centre. You assign the harvester to bring the resources (gold) to the supply centre by right-clicking on it, and you can build additional harvesters to work the same dump to speed up the process.
To get the power on, it's then about placing oil derricks on oil patches. After laying these foundations, you can start building the infrastructure of war by going through unit construction and base building. First, get a command centre up and running, and then a barracks and a war factory, and so on.
All structures are placed with drag-and-drop controls, and are constructed with some really cool-looking animations, which are again different for each faction.
The EU has advanced cutting and welding kits, whereas the GLA instead bangs things with hammers. Whichever your side, while you are building your war machine, remember that the enemy is also building theirs.
Let battle commence!
In Command & Conquer, if you don't have things set up pretty early for defence, the match is going to be over quickly. You must create initial units of troops (particularly anti-tank soldiers) and light armour to provide a layer of protection from attacks, and give enough time to ramp up your operation.
Building a tech lab generates research for breakthroughs, first to produce tanks and then later for an airstrip for attack helicopters. The combat controls are pretty straightforward, involving shifting around the units and directing attacks.
You can drag-select all units in an area, and then press 'control 1' so that they all move as one - a key ability when you have built enough power to expand.
The idea is that you consolidate and protect your position, and then look to conquer additional resource dumps on the map. You can then start harvesting the new sites, and expand your territory even further.
Of course, the more gung-ho players can instead just build a big enough army and then look to wipe the enemy completely off the map.
As you play and earn experience points, you unlock 'general powers' such as air strikes and healing bonuses, which can be activated in-game. The powers range right up to building a weapon of mass destruction, meaning you can really give the opposition something to think about.
EA says that Command & Conquer will be free-to-play, but users will pay to access additional generals, tools and upgrades to make their army more powerful.
More details on that are expected closer to launch. From what we have seen, the strategy series appears to have benefited from going back to basics.
Command & Conquer is expected to go into beta in the first half of 2013 on the PC.
Source IGN + Digital Spy.