Originally released in 1995, the first entry in the Command & Conquer series took the gaming and Real-Time Strategy worlds by storm. Its fast and furious, yet simple, style meant that gamers would have to stay on their toes if they wanted to win. Nearly thirteen years after the release of the first game, Command & Conquer 3: Kane’s Wrath still holds the core values of simple and engrossing gameplay at heart. While the game’s single player campaign is more of a fan service than anything else, the new factions, units, and game modes breathe new life into the series, both online and off.
Real-Time Strategy (RTS) games have been around for a while, they are one of the older genres in modern gaming. The general goal of most RTS games is to defeat the enemy with your army, all while managing and protecting your own assets. It is an experience unlike any other and at its highest levels is not much different from a dignified game of chess. Command & Conquer is an RTS title that is centered around the construction and defense of a base. Your base is where everything happens and the management of your base directly correlates to whether or not you win or lose. Base buildings are used for everything, from supplying electricity to creating tanks and training infantry. As well, certain structures in your base give you access to special abilities like airlifting units to a location or the keys to deadly nuclear arms.
So that is a basic outline of how Command & Conquer is played. To an outsider it can sound somewhat complex and maybe even overwhelming, however after a single ten minute game most people will pick it up without much stress. Command & Conquer was not built on gameplay alone though, its story and highly developed world are one of the pillars of the series’ success. As a rule, Real-Time Strategy games have never been very good at storytelling; however Command & Conquer has a story that has kept fans captivated for over a decade and is better than some Hollywood movies. The secret to the success of the Command & Conquer story is in their presentation. Live action movies with real actors and actresses are used to move the story along. These plot sequences sport high production values and attention to detail, it works well in making the player believe that their actions actually have an effect on the game world. Through this extremely enjoyable presentation, the player literally sees the struggles between The Brotherhood of Nod, the Global Defense Initiative, and the Scrin acted out before them.
Say hello to Brother Marcion! Once you’ve submitted your will to him he’s really not a bad guy!
The first mode most people will tackle is the single player campaign. This campaign is solely dedicated to The Brotherhood of Nod, one of the game’s main factions, and is somewhat short. You will control the armies of Nod and receive orders from its seemingly immortal leader, Kane. Kane is a central character in the series as well as the namesake of the game, the story delves into three separate time periods of Command & Conquer history and attempts to fill in holes left behind by the other entries in the series. Needless to say to understand the plot line of this game some previous experience with Command & Conquer is highly recommended, otherwise you are going to have no idea what is going on. This is perhaps the game’s greatest flaw, someone simply cannot just pick up Kane’s Wrath, play it, and expect to come out of it clear headed. Fans of the series will love this game because of the old questions it answers and the new ones it asks; however newcomers are likely to be totally repulsed by the plot’s onerous nature.
That said, the single player campaign is a great place to learn the ins and outs of the game. Again though, the game hits another problem area: the campaign only concentrates on the play-style of one of the factions, The Brotherhood of Nod, leaving the other two factions out in the cold. This is remedied though by the inclusion of Command & Conquer’s tried and true Skirmish mode. Skirmish mode allows the player to control any faction they wish and duke it out against computer controlled opponents of varying difficulties and dispositions. Anyone worth their salt will take the time to play a few skirmishes if to learn how each faction handles. On the topic of the game’s main factions, another new feature comes into play. Each faction has been further split into two sub-factions, each with their own special units and abilities. The new factions are tweaked ever-so slightly but the impact on player strategy is profound. While one sub-faction would roll up to an enemy base with some heavy tanks and deploy a few teams of infantry behind enemy lines, another sub-faction may send a fast scouting unit to quickly acquire a target and then lob artillery shells across the battlefield towards it. Sadly this new level of play is only briefly seen in the single player campaign however it absolutely shines in the game’s other two modes: Global Conquest and Multiplayer.
C-could you hurry up please? I’m kind of double parked…
A serious attempt was made to flesh out the single player options for Kane’s Wrath. Included with the game is a brand new mode that has never before been in Command & Conquer, this mode is known as Global Conquest. It’s just what it sounds like, you select the faction you wish to lead and try to dominate the world. This mode plays much like a game of Risk or a watered down version of Civilization. A world map is shown and on it you’ve got your bases, your enemy’s bases, and a whole mess of cities that are ripe for capturing. The key elements of this mode are your bases and your strike teams. Bases are used to acquire resources and special powers. Strike teams are your way of combating those who oppose you. When a strike team is within range of an enemy strike team or base a battle will ensue. Battles take place just like any skirmish, campaign mission, or multiplayer round. You are moved over to the battle screen where you take control of your forces and fight it out. Also included is an “auto-resolve” button that will automatically fight the battle for you and determine a winner. This method is not the preferred way of doing things as the battle simulators are somewhat inept and only fight with the raw numbers, throwing tactics to the wayside. Each faction has their own specialized victory conditions in Global Conquest mode. Destroying all of your enemies will also garner a victory however that can take some time. On the whole, Global Conquest mode is clunky, slow, and a tad lacking. Not to say that you can’t enjoy yourself with it, but there is more fun to be had in the other modes that the game offers.
And so we come to the final game mode and arguably the reason someone would buy Kane’s Wrath: Multiplayer. Command & Conquer is about as good as it gets when you’re talking about online multiplayer. Kane’s Wrath is no exception to this rule as the new sub-factions mean that battles are highly unpredictable. Fighting against a computer-controlled opponent is alright, but nothing can compare to meeting a fellow human on the field of battle. All of the stops are removed for online play and the tide of battle can turn many times before a winner is actually found. The online system works well and there is always a game ready to be played. Matching is also a quick and painless experience and it works as one would expect. Since it’s online you can’t always account for the other players but that’s a risk inherent in the system. Overall the online experience is very very good and where the game truly shines.
Balance-wise the new factions hold up pretty well. Each unit has its weakness that another unit can exploit and it all still works fine. A bunch of new abilities have been added, some of which are almost like secondary and tertiary super weapons. Along with these new and powerful abilities comes the “epic unit”. The epic unit is a massive weapon that can be constructed after the proper conditions have been met. These weapons can be amazingly helpful when it comes to waging war and if used smartly they can completely decimate enemy forces.
Kane wants to know: Joey, have you ever been to a Turkish prison?
As far as polish is concerned, Kane’s Wrath does not disappoint. The game runs at a very brisk pace and has few slowdowns however you’re going to want a pretty beefy machine to play on the highest graphical settings. Each and every environment is distinct and recognizable and the use of colors and effects are spot on. The world comes alive thanks to all sorts of great ambient sounds and the random comments made by your soldiers are pretty clever. Much of the music from Command & Conquer 3 was recycled for Kane’s Wrath but that was to expected. Much to the game’s benefit though, there are several new tracks as well as remixed versions of classic tracks. Overall the package feels very complete and well done, you won’t feel like you’ve been ripped off.
Command & Conquer has gone through many twists and turns over the years, sometimes it was good and sometimes it wasn’t. Kane’s Wrath is an example of a good twist to the series. Plenty of new features have been added to break up the monotony of old, and the things that made the series great are still present and still great. Fans of the series will enjoy Kane’s Wrath immensely, first-time players will be very confused with the single player campaign and probably leave with a bad taste in their mouths.
If you are familiar with Command & Conquer you should BUY this game.
If you have never played anything from the Command & Conquer series you should NOT BUY this game. Yes, to play Kane’s Wrath you need Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, but I know there will be some people out there who get both of them together and skip right to Kane’s Wrath. DON’T DO THIS! You are going to end up confusing yourself! At the very least play Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars first!
Also, a small aside to fans of Command & Conquer: If you purchase Kane’s Wrath soon you will be given a code that will grant you access to the Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 Beta. This is something that I urge any fan of the series to do, it looks like it will be amazing.