After being inspired by Engadget (ripping off) I am toying with creating regular Top 3 lists.
With no further ado, I present my Top 3 Personal Computer based strategy games form the 1990′s.
3, Z (Bitmap Brothers, 1996)
Grunts reporting! Psycho’s reporting!
I remember this being billed as a rock hard by PC Zone, but after thrashing the demo and seeing the hilarious cut scenes, I knew I had to get it. Developed by the Bitmap Brothers (creators of Speedball), the game starred a couple of Californian surfer stoner robots under the command of a Full Metal Jacket drill sergeant Commander Zod. The aim is capture the entire map by balancing defence and attack simultaneously. The more of the map you controlled the quicker troops are produced . This meant that speed and cunning were the only way to get through Z.
A great game that now lives on via iOS and a PC remake. I have bought the iPad version and find it an adequate take. Whilst the controls feel clunky it is still playable and I am confident that they update the app as time goes on to improve the experience. Meanwhile the PC remake can be found at http://zod.sourceforge.net/ , it doesn’t have all the humour of the original but it does capture the core gameplay.
2, Command and Conquer : Red Alert (Westwood, 1996)
This needs no introduction.
Just a conclusion – I loved the cut scenes but hated the levels with just Tanya. Soviets will always beat boring Allies - Mammoth tanks and Tesla’s over light tanks and freedom.
1, Total Annihilation (Cavedog, 1997)
Apart from being impossible to spell, this Chris Taylor designed master piece still for me is the ultimate RTS.
Oddly, one of its big innovations was hills. You could place a turret on a hill and it would get a larger range, troops would pass over them at a slower rate, and the would be used for cover from artillery. You could build anywhere, which gave the game much more freedom. It was even great online, I used to play over a serial cable from my PC to my sisters Windows 98 laptop. I think I was more surprised I managed to make that work that anything else.
Lastly it had amazing scalability. As computers got better the unit cap was lifted, the maps got bigger and the units themselves were added to. Official expansions like Core Contingency introduced wonders like the Krogoth, however it was the online fan base that created many thousands of new wonderous units. One of my fondest memories was of getting my dad to draw a map, I would go and build it for him, using the easy to use level editor.
How do I know it was the best RTS of the 90′s ? I still play it now.