Command & Conquer Preview [E3 2013]
If you’ve been reading IncGamers for a while then you’ll know that I have a soft spot for the Command & Conquer franchise. Unfortunately my relationship with C&C over the years has been a troubled one, complete with some real highs and lows. That relationship hit rock-bottom a few years back with C&C4. In fact, we split up. I was devastated.
Looking back at the high points of the relationship there were plenty of memorable moments. The release of both the first C&C and Red Alert were joyous times, but that love was soon lost with some average sequels. Then Generals and the expansion Zero Hour came along to reignite my Real-Time Strategy spark. That didn’t last long though. EA soon broke my heart for good with C&C4; an absolute shitting disaster for the franchise.
After C&C4 I actually thought that EA should put the franchise out its misery. After all, it never managed to compete with Blizzard’s StarCraft and WarCraft franchise which captured the imagination of eSport gamers. EA never really helped the series, with pretty poor community support and the fact that after a few months of release you were half expecting the servers to be taken offline. This fear of online service closure was a reflection of the poor quality of the latter games.
But hang on! C&C is back! EA are rebooting the iconic franchise through developer Victory Games and it’s going to be free to play. Yes, free to play. That automatically means it will be crap right? Well, maybe not. Not all free to play games lack quality, especially if they manage to resist the temptation to offer ‘pay to win’ schemes.
This new C&C sits firmly in the Generals C&C universe timeline (it was previously called C&C Generals 2, in fact) and that is fairly evident when you see the game. It has that real Generals look and feel, which is a step in the right direction for a franchise that has managed to disappoint RTS gamers for many years.
Much like the upcoming Company of Heroes 2, and the original Generals: Zero Hour, there’s a focus on special command units: your Generals. These “characters” give players access to special units or abilities, and it’s through these Generals that EA plan on squeezing money out of the game.
The C&C factions this time around include the European Union, Global Liberation Army, and the new Asian-Pacific Alliance. Victory Games are keen to stress that these factions and Generals are all being balanced against each other carefully. The Generals can also be acquired through in-game currency if your bank balance isn’t exactly overflowing.
As this is a F2P game there’s a focus on the multiplayer to encourage microtransactions, but it appears there will be a single player campaign too. At this stage though, it all sounds a little sketchy. Victory and EA are treating this new C&C as a “live” game which will receive constant updates and additions based on feedback from players once it launches. There is of course the usual vs multiplayer and co-op, but it would be a crying shame if a campaign wasn’t released early on.
This new C&C is driven by the impressive Frostbite 2 engine which has been enhanced slightly for this game. DICE’s latest engine is actually Frostbite 3, but that’s only just being rolled out for titles like the highly impressive looking Battlefield 4, and forthcoming new Mirror’s Edge. If you’ve taken a peek at the new E3 trailer for Command & Conquer then you can’t help but be impressed with what the engine brings to the game. Building destruction and fairly realistic looking physics all look gorgeous. What is impressive is that the C&C look and style has been maintained, which should keep die-hard C&C fans relatively happy and hopefully entice players back.
So am I completely convinced by the new C&C? Not entirely. Free to play is a concern. If the game doesn’t take off (and, let’s face it, there’s not as much love as there once was for the C&C franchise,) EA may simply pull the server plug. Then all the lovely money that players had spent on cosmetic items or microstransaction Generals would be gone. It was done with their Facebook games, and titles like Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes, so who’s to say this new experiment in the RTS genre wouldn’t suffer the same fate?
So as not to be too negative here, at least Victory and EA have recognised that following what other games are doing in the genre is not the way to go with C&C. Look what happened when they removed base building from C&C4 and set a unit cap. Horrible. This time, there’s good old resource collection and base building; core features that define a C&C game.
With TRION’s End of Nations mysteriously disappearing in-house at the end of last year, a quality free to play RTS that steers clear of ‘pay to win’ would be good news for PC gamers.
My truck is loaded!