So, I’ve been exclusively playing Forged Alliance with the Total Mayhem 1.20 mod: and there have been some pretty awesome games, and some unexpectedly bad endings. Let me clarify a few changes the mod has implemented, for anyone who has played an unmodified version of FA and happens to wonder why this outdated RTS is so damn captivating NOW. First off, each faction has 1-3 new units per tech level, usually a heavy ground unit or even additional aircraft or (rarely) a naval unit. These new units are factory produced, so you have to build and tech-up a factory to get access to them. NURP. Next, in addition to these factory-bound units, each faction has 4-7 freestanding individual units they can build PER TECH LEVEL. Your commander and all subsequent engineers you build will all have the ability to do this, producing some of the game’s best units, like devastating battle mechs, very very large and well armed tanks, and behemoth aircraft that obliterate everything in their way. These units take some time to construct and usually require several people to come help in order to have them done in a timely fashion. Well worth the price, mind you. These units are hard to stop, or at least, some of the larger ones are. There are smaller, less powerful options as well; allowing the possibility of making lots of units versus just one big fucking-chonga-huge game-ender. So, it expands the strategy options, either way you look at it. More units = more like TA which is the greatest RTS ever. Duh.
Like I was saying; the unmodified version is limited by comparison to Total Mayhem. I love having diverse armies, especially with Aeon’s options: two heavy one assault tank at tech 1, and the same at tech 2. Plus more medium and light options. If desired. Heavy/assault units tend to have spectacular weapons. Aeon weapons are all charged particle emitters and high energy lasers. PERSONAL FAVORITES! Especially Tech 2 fixed defenses. They have a sexy high-energy particle emitting laser and it damn near kills anything of consequence with a single shot. And from… over there, as well.
So, the game is diverse. You have a lot more to think about than in most any other game. It’s not a clear-cut BO every time. My Build Order changes rapidly based on circumstance and the AI type I’m playing. I do rather well against Rush AI in its various permutations. Sorian Rush dies nearly every time because of an over-stretched commander wandering WAY too fucking far out there doing no good at all. I NEVER LEAD WITH A COMMANDER. It seems pretty obvious to me that if we’re going to have a knife fight, I better not shield myself with my testicles.
My commander is always at home somewhere, or in the kitchen absorbing map-bound resources. Or if I’m feeling zippity-doo-da daring, I’ll run him out there and absorb front-line corpses and wreckage that is usually found in areas of contention. I’ve recently been testing whether it’s prudent to upgrade the commander’s independent systems (an innovation from it’s counterpart TA), like making the commander capable of building tech 2 stuff, or maximizing the range of his primary weapon, or making his overcharge (see, nerfed d-gun) more effective. I’ve been giving him the ability to go tech 2 once my factories make it there and my economy is doing well. His engineering suite, I assume, is the best, so there’s no reason not to have him help build or independently construct T2 shit. If needed, mind you.
I’ve never made him more offensively useful, though I can only imagine that someone out there uses the commander that way. Fuck, if the game allows you to do it, someone has “that way” of winning all figured out. And someone is already figured the best way to win with an upgraded offensive commander as the lead dog in the vanguard. Why the hell not I say? Isn’t that what a good RTS is all about?
So, I’ve had some practice against Sorian Rush AI, classic Rush AI, and Sorian Adaptive AI all on either 10km or 5km maps. 20, 40 and 80+ are insane. I don’t even understand how you can just “well, OK then” play on such a giant ass map. You’d be to T2 before you even bumped faces with your foe. Which is boring, and managing so much BASE. MAH BASE IS HUUUUUUUUUGGGGE. I’m not really a fan of that, so 10km is plenty of wiggle room, and 5km is a heated scrap. No game-timers running past 25 minutes. UNTZ *FLEX*.That’s how we DO IT.
So, these previously mentioned AI settings all lead commander, which as you know, I think is silly. So, therefore: I tend to win via stupid neglectful over-maneuver by said AI. My T2 gunships get commanders almost every time I play on 10km maps, because the middle is JUST TOO FAR from safety at the 20 minute mark. No AI builds decent stationary defenses, with the exception of the Sorian Turtle, which I have yet to defeat. Either way you look at it, it is more often than not a bad way to die by losing your commander as part of your front line defenses. Losing him to a nuke or powerful unit is another matter entirely. Acceptable, yes, not IDEAL to die, but it happens.
This is my pickle: I can’t beat the Turtle AI. Its got a better build order than I do. Now, if you’ve come this far, maybe you’ll go a bit farther and review my Build Order variant to check it for strategic flaws.
1x land factory
1-2x adjacent mass extractor
3-5x adjacent power generator
5x T1 Engineer
1x T1 Assault Tank
2x T1 Heavy Tank
Commander repeats w/ Air Factory instead of Land Factory
Air factory IMMIDIATLEY goes T2
4 T2 Engineers
5x T1 Engineers fan out capping mass and building AA turrets all over the place. Hydrocarbon if it’s around, surrounding with power storage and surrounding mass with mass storage.
At this point, I’ll send commander to make a second Land Factory and have it go T2 as well. Economy permitting. I’m usually in the red on mass for some stretch of this tactic, but having a few engineers break off and reclaim trees, rocks (whatever happens to have mass and be reclaimable) and just do that for a while until I can get some stuff built. Once a mass extractor with 4 mass storage goes T2, I flatten out and go green in mass.
I don’t start building T2 independent units until after my factories are producing T2 tanks consistently. Then when I do go, I start in on the Aeon’s T2 Advanced Battle Mech. It’s sturdy, and kills damn near everything it bumps into. Commanders included.
I’ve either won if I kept my mass out of the redline long enough to get to T2 extractors, or I died from any number of foul-ups along the way. Like not absorbing enough mass to get through the T2 transition, or popping off to many auto-builds at one time, or having 5 engineers cranking on various long-term projects simultaneously. My economy being crippled by early agitators is also another way to lose, and lose quickly. I’ve surrendered 1 commander kill, due in large part to aggressive gameplay, and straight-up neglect. I forgot about WHERE he was patrolling, and he got wiped out by some T2 tanks in a bushel. Bah. Not my fault. I was focused on my blob of units making it’s way through his outer defenses. And I got gut punched in the guts and now my guts hurt. Narm.
Anyway, this is certainly an arbitrary review and gameplay theory rant.
I’ll conclude by stating that the better the RTS game is, the more free one is to individually craft a gameplay style from the available resources of the game’s interface and capabilities. To have an RTS which captures the essence of Total Annihilation by preserving a diverse array of units and build orders, while also innovating enough new game features to captivate us all over again, is truly a great thing. Forged Alliance might be a bit outdated, but honestly, I couldn’t ask for a more unique and unrivaled gameplay experience. It is truly designed with an RTS gamer in mind. The absence of the minimap is terrifying, UNLESS you can zoom out and see every single thing on the game-field with the scroll wheel on your mouse. NO NEED for a minimap now. And strategic icons, because units get too small to see individually. INNOVATIVE I say. So far, I have run up against a firm challenge in the Turtle Sorian AI, so I shall surely have something new to write about soon.
Farewell gamers, and long live your commander.
As Gandalf would say:
“Keep it secret. Keep it safe!”