Command & Conquer has long been one of EA's iconic core franchises. While never quite as big as Blizzard Entertainment's WarCraft and StarCraft franchises, its 20th- and 21st-century sci-fi/military tone and focus on wider strategy have given it a niche, aided by its distinctive branching lore and setting. It is perhaps no surprise that, even after the relatively weak Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight, EA is returning to the franchise with a new developer.
The first thing that the developers talked up at E3 2013 was that the game would follow EA's pattern of being a live service, with constant updates and some progression elements. The game uses the Frostbite 3 engine, and the demo was full of DirectX 11 effects, with real-time physics to give the game a standout look beyond what you normally see in real-time strategy games.
Then, it was on to the gameplay. For this demo, the focus was on multiplayer and co-op. The game features three factions: the Asia-Pacific Alliance, the European Union and the ragtag Global Liberation Army, which is now an international force. Each force has several variants, each adding a few units and special abilities that can shake up the match.
The gameplay is classic real-time strategy, with base-building, resource gathering, and building forces to crush your enemies. The developers emphasized that the strategy involves both micromanagement and macromanagement. Your APM (actions per minute) rate matters as you rapidly expand to attain objectives. There's also an emphasis on map awareness and a fairly wide array of units and structures to contend with.
The three armies play in distinct factions. The high-tech EU builds its bases around power plants, while the numbers-centric APA has a similar power limit. The highly varied, but usually low-HP GLA has neither limitation. Between these differences and the generals, there's room for a detailed metagame.
The title has a few minor shake-ups. Build crews finally have shoes, and collection is automated so you don't have to deal with it once you've set up the appropriate structures. Further, bases and collection resources run out as gameplay moves on, forcing movement from area to area more than in previous titles in the series. Units can "garrison" in any building for defense to make base attacks slightly more difficult.
Command & Conquer looks to be a worthy challenger to Blizzard's recent real-time strategy creations, and it should enter formal beta testing soon, with a launch planned for the end of the year.
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