What began as a conflict over the transfer of consciousness from flesh to machines escalated into a war which has decimated a million worlds. The Core and the Arm have all but exhausted the resources of a galaxy in their struggle for domination. Both sides now crippled beyond repair, the remnants of their armies continue to battle on ravaged planets, their hatred fuelled by over four thousand years of total war. This is a fight to the death. For each side, the only acceptable outcome is the complete elimination of the other.

Story / Background

In the distant future, the galaxy is ruled by a central body of humans and artificial intelligences called the Core (a contraction of “Consciousness Repository”). The Core’s technological and economic triumphs have allowed humanity to colonize most of the Milky Way and enjoy peace and prosperity. However, the balance is broken by a technological breakthrough that allows the consciousness of a human being to be reliably transferred into a machine, thereby theoretically granting infinite life, in a process called “patterning.” Following a mandate imposed on humanity by the Core requiring everyone to undergo patterning as a public health measure, a rebel band is formed out of colonies from the edges of the galaxy (hence their name, the Arm), whose members refused to leave their natural bodies to join the Core’s machines. A war lasting 4,000 years followed, with the Arm mass-producing clones as pilots for its vehicles and the Core duplicating consciousness-embedded microchips to pilot its own machines.

Key information

Total Annihilation (TA) is a real-time strategy (RTS) video game created by Cavedog Entertainment under the guidance of lead designer Chris Taylor. It was released on September 30, 1997, and was the first RTS game to feature 3D units and terrain. Two expansion packs were released: The Core Contingency on April 30, 1998, and Battle Tactics exactly 2 months later on June 30, 1998. When TA was released, the minimum computer requirements were a Pentium 100 MHz processor and 16 MB of RAM. Of course, these requirements were for computers in 1997; modern day machines easily exceed those recommended specifications, but it is still recommended to have a 1 GHz processor and 512 MB of RAM for the updated game engine.

Game features

    Upon release, the original TA game boasted:
  • Fully-articulated 3D units and buildings, with a diverse complement of unit types — for example, aircraft, amphibious tanks, infantry bots (kbots), vehicles, hovercraft, ships, submarines, unit production factories, powerful stationary defenses, and long-range weapons. A unique tracking feature allows players to follow single units, entire armies, or even projectiles across the landscape.
  • True 3D terrain that units can climb over, into, and around, on extra-large 3D-generated maps. TA runs comfortably in high resolutions and even on modern dual monitor setups, so players can see more of the battlefield.
  • Numerous world types to do battle on, such as grasslands, forests, deserts, archipelagos, open water, lava, metal, ice, crystal, acid, and even moons.
  • More than 150 official units and 25 official missions per side in a single player campaign. The Core Contingency expansion pack added 75 new units (including the infamous Krogoth), 50 new maps, 25 new missions, and 6 new world types. Battle Tactics added 4 new units, 6 new maps, and 100 new missions. A final patch (version 3.1c, and included here) added 6 new units, including a resurrection kbot!
  • Detailed and exciting campaigns that focus on their respective side’s leaders, the Commanders. The stories of either the Core or the Arm start with an effort to defend the protagonist’s home world and initiate a turning point in the war, followed by a series of battles on numerous planets and moons (using Galactic Gates as a form of faster-than-light transportation), before a final strike on the enemy’s home world: either on the Arm’s bucolic Empyrean or the Core’s artificial Jupiter Brain world of Core Prime. Mission objectives include protecting a vital structure or area, capturing a pivotal enemy unit, or simply eliminating all enemy units. More powerful units and weapons are gradually unlocked throughout the campaigns after specific missions or events.
  • Single-player skirmish battles and full multiplayer support, allowing players to watch and join battles, and form allied teams to share resources, information, and units.
  • Highly advanced weaponry, including lasers, energy machine guns (EMGs), starburst missiles, plasma shells, lightning pulses, paralyzers, and nuclear warheads.
  • Variables such as gravity, tides, and wind to disrupt the effectiveness of certain weapon types or to enhance resource production.
  • Intelligence measures to detect or jam enemy units using radar and sonar, the ability to cloak or provide stealth shielding for units, and the means to revive destroyed units from their wreckages.
  • Over the years, the TA community has created literally thousands of third-party units and hundreds of maps to customize a player’s TA experience. Numerous utilities, missions, mods, and factions have also been created to rebalance or totally convert the game; many of these units are still in competitive online and skirmish play today. Modern modifications to the game push the venerable 16-year-old TA engine to new limits with complex scripting, allowing for mass unit transporting, instant map-wide teleportation, upgradeable units, and true shields — plus much more. Don’t forget to visit File Universe and Unit Universe to download and test the TA community’s many maps, missions, mods, races, standalone units, utilities, and other extras!

More information

You can find more detailed information about the many aspects of TA — including the perfect installation, troubleshooting techniques, and tutorials on how to use / create third-party mods, units, maps, and missions — in TA FAQ. Further reading — about the gameplay, story, Jeremy Soule’s eponymous soundtrack, reception, and the 58 awards that TA received — can be found by visiting the TA article on Wikipedia. You can also find entries on TA’s expansion packs, The Core Contingency and Battle Tactics there.