Every Monday, we’re going to take a short look at a classic game that redefined, embodied, or perfected a genre.  This week, we revisit Total Annihilation.

Command & Conquer, Warcraft, Z, Dune II…all classic RTS titles in their own right.  However, it wasn’t until the September 1997 release of Total Annihilation that we got a taste for truly dense RTS battles.  Armies could become movable fortresses, with numbers in the hundreds traversing the battlefield, navigating over terrain and around rusted hulks of destroyed vehicles.  One look at a screenshot from Total Annihilation makes it clear that the name was well deserved.

The scale of the battles were massive back in 1997, especially when terrain was taken into consideration.  Depending on the map, you would sometimes encounter a situation where there wasn’t even a front line…there were just lines.  The chaos and over the top firepower present in large skirmishes was truly breathtaking in 1997, and even today Total Annihilation manages to impress with the widespread carnage it offers.

Total Annihilation wasn’t a big departure from its RTS brethren just due to its size; it also played an integral role in turning units into “faceless tools”, mere widgets that were cranked out of factories and sent to their doom.  The whole point of the game was to send out your units, lose some in battle, reclaim the salvage from their blasted remains, then use that material to make more war machines.  In a way, Total Annihilation offered up a scenario that could easily be perpetual war, something similar to the World Devestators used in the Star Wars: Dark Empire series and Rogue Squadron game.  This revolving door of material collection and unit production paved the way for truly epic battles, some of which could last for hours if each player was dug in with solid defenses.

You weren’t only stuck with the built in units, however: a HUGE variety of custom units are available for the game, numbering in the thousands.  These units range from small walking units to massive warships that take up a quarter of the screen.  These custom units completely change the experience, and can make the hectic battles become even more intense.  If you’re looking for custom units or mods, check out tauniverse.com.

Total Annihilation has aged quite well, still offering up hours upon hours of strategic battles, explosions, rusted warmachines, and energy production.  Thanks to the style of its visuals, it still holds up graphically to boot.  If you enjoy RTS and never got around to playing Total Annihilation, I highly recommend you pick up a copy.  Luckily, it just became available on fan-favorite gog.com, which should prevent you from having to jump through hoops to play it on a modern system.  It’s only $5.99, so buy it today!