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Reviewed: Total Annihilation: Kingdoms: The Iron Plague
Author: Chris Kim       Date: March 29th 2000
Page: 2

The follow-up to the latest Total Annihilation game is The Iron Plague. This new expansion set adds several new features and enhancements to the already solid Total Annihilation: Kingdoms game. This review will not cover the aspects already covered in the original review of Total Annihilation: Kingdoms, but rather just the new features and enhancements found within the expansion pack.

With the original release of Kingdoms, many players complained about the extremely poor performance and reliability of the game. Since then, the game has undergone many changes, more than just cosmetic, but actually deep inside the game engine, which was addressed in several patches that has brought the system requirements of the game down significantly since the version 2.0 patch. The Iron Plague brings the version of the game up to 3.0 with even more engine enhancements (the version 3.0 patch is also freely available to gamers without The Iron Plague expansion from the Cavedog website). Also included in the expansion set is every map and unit that has been released since the game's original release back in July 1999 on the CD up until the golding of the CD. The expansion also includes the Darien Crusades, a very large dynamic battlefield multiplayer game to play over Cavedog's Boneyards, but this was also freely available at Cavedog's website, just for ease of installation it's all included on the game CD.

Story Telling Contiunes
Flying Builders
Escaping the Coast

So what is exactly is changed in this expansion pack? Included are twenty five new maps, twenty five new units, and a brand new race called the Creonites from the land of Creon (think that comes from the Greek story of Creon the King?). These new maps are all woven together in the form of another single player campaign that combines another excellent storyline that takes place in the form of a storybook, as did the original game. A simple warning ahead of time, the campaigns are a lot more difficult and contain many more objectives than that of the previous game. The new units integrate into the rest of the game very fluidly and make a transition that isn't too problematic. Each unit fits into the technology tree very easily without any major hiccups during the gameplay and enhances the game enough to slightly alter the strategies and ways to approach the game without completely destroying the flow.

Despite all these other additions, the main focus of the game is quite obviously the fifth nation, the Creonites from the nation of Creon. This new race is dramatically different from the other races as they are not an organic body, rather, they are a scientific group that uses mechanics and non-living objects for battle. Since these units are mechanic, they dispose the need of using mana as a form of attack, the only use of mana to them is building units. Because of their lack of mana usage, the Creons are a physical fighting force, with their main power lying in the ability to attack with weapons. Units such as the Automaton, which is the equivalent of the Warrior, fights with an axe, or the Shock Trooper, that plays the same as the Crossbow Man, attacks with a lightning strike.

Exploring the Desert
Creon Head Builder
Battling off Creonites

However, don't think that because the Creonites don't use magic that they are inferior or superior to the other races. Cavedog has always been known to have very well balanced games, and this introduction of a new race doesn't change that in anyway. The new race is extremely well balanced with the other races. Many of the units seem to be modeled after the other units. Despite these units having similar functions, they are still a lot of fun to play with because of their new appearance and slightly different approach to the game. While the new race doesn't drastically change the way to play Kingdoms, it does change the game enough to where the domination points of the maps are different with unique strategies having to be developed to conquer an area.

Basically the new single player campaign is a joy and wonder to play because of all the new enhancements made to the game. One of the major focuses of the game was to make everything even more balanced than before, which Cavedog has seemed to accomplish very well. Most significantly, the Veruna Dirigible has been down-graded significantly to make it less effective than before, this is just one of Cavedog's commitment to making better what was wrong. The game pretty much picks up right where the original game left off. With the whole land of Darien left in ruins and up for grabs, this is where the Creonites step in and attempt to claim the land for themselves. As the game progresses, the very well done storybook plot drives deep into the game and makes logical connections to the rest of the game playing world. Every event that happens in the game seems to be something that would really happen, whether it is rash or rational reasoning.

Fire Wagon Attack
Don't Invade
Bomb Sprinklers Attack

For the most part, multiplayer gaming remains the same without any drastic changes aside from being able to change strategies slightly against Creon players. Other changes include a slightly enhanced graphics engine, which is also included in the 2.0 patch. Since the system requirements are down from the original release, the game is now actually playable with 3D Acceleration and high resolutions. Before, trying to approach the 1024x768+ resolutions was incredibly difficult, now the game can be played even at higher resolutions like 1600x1200 (although why someone would play a 2D game at that big is yet to be known). All of the animations and details that went into the original game before are still there and as beautiful as ever. The new Creonite land is a very nice looking land and has a distinct detail to it that makes it really feel like where mechanical beings would belong. One aspect about the game that always caught our attention was the animations of all the new units. Similar to how all the other units in the game had a solid animation to them, these new units all move fluidly and have unique characteristics that make them even cooler to play around with.

Despite all the improvements made to the original game, there are still a few weak points. For one, the pathfinding AI is still a bit iffy. A waypoint system like the one that Westwood implemented into Tiberian Sun would have been nice. Another complaint was the slightly complex and hard to use interface with all these complex keystrokes. This hasn't been addressed yet, and may cause some confusion. Aside from those little quirks, there really is nothing else that is terribly wrong with this add-on, although it cannot be stressed enough that the expansion pack doesn't make the game drastically different.

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Added:  Wednesday, March 29, 2000
Reviewer:  Chris Kim
Page: 2/4

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