‘Taking the EU to Task’ | Command & Conquer Preview

Published on February 26th, 2013

New developer and a revived universe, but same satisfying gameplay.

Taking the EU to Task | Command & Conquer Preview

Once a build order is intiated, scaffolding is quickly erected and soon your building quickly comes to life.

“The launch is just the beginning,” says Tim Morton Development Director on the plainly named Command & Conquer. Westwood’s historic franchise has been bussed around multiple studios and has taken on various forms since it was concieved way back in 1995, but Victory Games fresh take almost feels like back to basics for the legendary RTS series.

Let’s get the controversial stuff out of the way first though. 2013′s Command & Conquer is a free-to-play. online-only release supported entirely by microtransactions. These items will come in the guise of XP buffs and visual customisation items, but the game itself will be free with almost no barriers to entry.

Frankly it’s the kind of fresh start this series has needed for a long time, with Victory Games emulating what EA and Tim refer to as “the most popular C&C universe” – Generals. As massive fans of Red Alert we’ll kindly disagree with Mr Morton, but this focus on modern warfare makes sense for this release which utilises Battlefield’s Frostbite engine.

Gone is Command & Conquer 4′s emphasis on class and base specialisations with instead gameplay following the traditional resource collection, basebuilding and army formation tropes. Within moments of us first sitting down to play a skirmish mission we understand the basics of gathering fuel from nearby oil rigs to fund our war effort and plonking down tech centres to unlock additional unit options almost instantly. In addition to air, infantry and vehicle options becoming available when the respective facilities are added to your base.

Where Victory Games take on C&C gets a bit different is in the way they’ve weighed the three different playable classes.  There’s the well financed all-rounders representing the European Union, the Asian-Pacific Alliance who specialise in super powered infantry and finally there’s the Global Liberation Army who use strength in numbers and guerilla warfare to get the jump on their better equipped rivals.

Taking the EU to Task | Command & Conquer Preview

The Generals universe is lacking in the 'Insanely Overpowered Tanks' department.

Sneakily we chose the GLA for a basic 1 versus 1 skirmish mission and despite regularly sending out cheap yet effective suicide bombers to take out enemy tanks which encroached on territory and rocking multiple units of sword-swinging militia to scope out more oil extractors, our stronghold still succumbed to a tank rush from the cocky EU faction.

Command & Conquer’s trademark cheekiness is certainly alive and well in this competitive multiplayer reboot. Multiple times we replayed this mission and multiple times we got stomped by the computer for not building up our base defenses and forces quickly enough. Even on medium difficulty the AI aren’t any chumps and that’s exactly how Victory Games want it. This is Command & Conquer after all, with AI that’s built for replayability.

Taking the EU to Task | Command & Conquer Preview

Victory Games are being coy with regards to story details regarding this new Command & Conquer, but they do have plans for a single-player campaign post-launch.

The multiplayer modes we sampled were fairly generic but Tim told us that in this field Victory Games are looking to really innovate with Capture the Flag, wave-based survival modes and more unrevealed game types set to be offered when the Command & Conquer finally launches.

As you’d expect from an online only title there will also be a detailed progression system tied into the each players profile via unlockable generals. These avatars you take with you into battle have their own set of perks, buffs and bonuses which add more nuance to competitive play. Some generals will boast special units, whereas others will have their own support powers – all giving players something additional to think about before they take their forces into battle. This is all obviously geared towards rewarding long term play, and in addition to this mechanic there’s also XP accumulation, player rankings and competitive matchmaking. All these elements are a crucial part of building a viable long-term multiplayer ecosystem and Victory Games are talking up their community interaction by promising tournament support, Twitch integration and clan support post-launch.

What was clear from our hands-on is that there’s still a great deal left to do in Command & Conquer’s development, but the foundations of an engrossing strategy experience is here. Sure there are occasional connection drops and AI routing bugs, but that’s all part of sampling software that’s still in a pre-alpha state.

What really excites us about this reboot is Victory Games long term plans for Command & Conquer with NOD, GDI and Red Alerts more elaborate array of units, including our favourites war bears and dolphins, eventually being added to the free-to-play service along with single-player campaigns – which if we’re being absolutely honest is what this RTS franchise has traditionally always been about. The team even told us that they have their own stories and designs which they think would be a good fit for an all new C&C universe down the line – very intriguing.

Taking the EU to Task | Command & Conquer Preview

What the GLA faction lacks in firepower they make up for in numbers and vigour.

Often plans are just exactly that until they’re implemented, but Tim Morton and his pals at Victory Games are certainly making all the right noises when it comes to the long term viability of this new take on Command & Conquer, which seeks to simultaneously breathe new life into the series while playing up to Westwood’s legacy.

That’s something a lot of new entries in this series have attemped to do before, but you know what? We have a good feeling about this one. If nothing else it’ll be very interesting to see how this undoubtedly ambitious endeavour progresses. “The launch is just the beginning,” says Tim and we really hope this game has a good one as we want to see what else Victory Games has in store for C&C down the line.

Command & Conquer is set to enter open beta later this year, with a full launch before the end of 2013.

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