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Time for some history. When ID made Wolfenstein 3D, they had made something unseen and revolutionary. But after Doom, first-person shooters started to be called Doom-like games. When Westwood made the first real-time strategy Dune, it was mix of adventure and strategy and "real-time" still wasn't used as expression. True defining of nowadays well-known genre came with its sequel, which brought real-time strategies to life. But there still wasn't a game that made this genre popular enough to launch a video-games market overflowed with its clones. Not before Command & Conquer.
C&C was the first game in a series that would become the most popular in this genre. You have probably heard of Generals, Red Alert or Tiberian Sun. Well this is how it all began. Actually, it is in many ways very similar to Dune 2. You "harvest" in order to earn cash, which will permit you to construct buildings and buy units. At that time, starting with Dune 2, this will more or less be the principle in all real-time strategies: building and expanding your base and army, by gathering various sorts of supplies. Usually in this type of games the winner was the one who had more money. Also, prices of basic units and structures are similar to the ones in Dune 2 (barracks are 300, gunner is 100...). Still, programmers managed to keep C&C from becoming "just a clone". At least, they took care of the story.
Comparing it to the few games in this genre that came out before C&C, well, C&C was more superior in every way. Better graphics, excellent sound, more units and movies between levels that makes up an interesting story (original C&C came out on 2 CDs that were mostly filled with animations; this would become an usual practice by Westwood in the future). But the biggest and the most important innovation was the possibility to select and move as many units as you desired. In previous games, if you wanted to send 10 units in attack, you had to perform the same ritual for every single unit. Even in Warcraft 2, only real-time strategy that could compete with C&C, you could select a maximum of 9 units. Now, attacks were easier to perform and more complicated attacks could be made. The aim of the strategy-genre has always been to show a player a realistic picture of different warfare, and this was a big step forward.
Tiberium is very strange plant. Certain scientist discovered that it consists of various substances, and that some of them can cause serious degenerations to the human body. Other substances showed to be extremely worthy. One man, called Kane, had formed the Brotherhood of NOD, and started collecting Tiberium. Soon, NOD started to use it for their vicious plans. They gathered tons of money to buy tons of weapons, and soon they became a small army instead of a small sect. Their strength grow rapidly in Africa - a continent without a great army to stop them and soon Kane turned his attention to Europe. Whole world started to shake and it was clear that he had to be stopped. Rich western countries formed Global Defense Initiative, or simply GDI, for a single purpose: to stop and destroy the Brotherhood of Nod. The war had begun.
More or less, that would be the story. At the beginning, you choose which side you want to lead. Naturally, GDI is stronger as they consist of different armies, so they produce weapons and have various aids during the war, like air strikes and the awesome Ion cannon (a laser beam from satellite). On the other hand, NOD must buy weapons and build defenses as they fight more powerful GDI forces, until they grow strong enough for an open war. I guess this give you a feeling of what's going on. GDI attacks right away - before Kane grows too strong. On the other hand, NOD tries to first establish their ascendancy amongst the civilians (for example: first mission in NOD campaign is to terminate a leader of a certain village, since he's making trouble). When GDI comes, you'll have a hard beginning in some of the levels, only to conquer the small and undeveloped GDI bases and use those installations for your own purposes. So both GDI and NOD represent what they should, and for me that part of the game turned out real fine.
In the GDI campaign you fight for Europe, and in the NOD campaign for Africa. Every level takes place in a certain country, so before the level starts you receive info about the chosen country (totally irrelevant, but leaves a good impression since you are in war). When I said chosen, it means that from time to time you can choose different levels. That doesn't really mean that you skip some of the levels, just that there are more maps for certain levels (whoever played Dune 2 should be familiar with this). Well, sometimes you get different jobs, so it can be interesting to play C&C over and over again. In both campaigns there are 14-15 levels. Yes, the number of levels can change depending on certain missions, but you need to dive deep into this game to find it all out. I guess it would be wise to save the game on different slots before finishing each level, if you desire to play all the available maps. There are three different maps for the last level both for NOD and GDI, but in the last level there is no variation in mission goals.
When I saw C&C I started to seriously think about buying a PC. Little fellows doing exercises when they have no orders, small explosions and war cries. Civilians with houses and churches. Fire-effects whenever a tree is burning or when oil is burning in a civilian refinery. Also, the programmers made a special effort to make Tiberium, the plant that is the base the entire game is build on. It is like crystal grass and grows by spreading its roots, and from the seeds of certain Blossom Trees. If a human unit moves across the Tiberum, they will loose energy, but vehicles can cross these fields with no problem at all. Tiberium spreads, so you might want to let it grow in order to gather more of it (yes, this dangerous plant is providing money). Harvesters are harvesting until they are full of the precious substance, but small and young Tiberium plants have no crystal and lacks the substance you need for money. Irritating enough, harvesters are always gathering young plants and thus prevent the Tiberium from spreading. So you should pay attention on your harvesters.
This is also the worst part of the game. AI is simply to poor. This is why harvesters can be irritating, and why you'll probably be able to "read" opponents strategy and focus your defense on each level, and it is why you will be able to rush into their base fighting with the enemy, while several enemy soldiers will just stand a few inches away (monitor distance is measured) just cleaning their gun. Also, the computer is not capable of performing more complex attacks, still it has some tricks. Well, this doesn't make this game too easy. Actually, it is hard, but only before you establish a strong base. Then, you probably have the enemy in your hand, well, if you have enough resources that is. Still, don't take it for granted, since computer hit me hard a few times when I already had a strong defense. Know that you don't build your base in every level. Actually, programmers were really successful with keeping you attached to the game following the story. Levels are much more interesting that way.
As for capturing the enemy structures, well, I don't know if this is bad or good. You use engineers for that. Unlike in other Westwood strategies, here you simply need a single engineer to capture any building that you like. Naturally, they die easily, but it is still horrible when a vehicle with some engineers arrives in your base and they capture some of your buildings (it's unlikely that the computer will perform this as an usual attack). On the other hand, it's very fun and effective when you do the same to your opponent. Now, I should mention that the Construction yard is the most important structure in any base. It allows building of other structures, so if it's destroyed and you don't have any structures to fight you'll be beaten. That goes for your opponent too. You can produce a MCV (a vehicle that transforms itself into a new construction yard, but it is expensive (5000) and can only be produced if your tech level is high). Now more about the tech level.
The tech level increases as you progress through the game. It keeps you and your enemy at certain technology levels, which means that you can't produce all the structures and units that exist, unless the tech level is at its highest. I guess that anyone who has played any real-time strategies is familiar with this. It means you produce weaker units in the beginning, and stronger ones at the end. The same applies for your enemy. Why is this important when you surely know this already? For multiplayer mode, of course. Like every strategy it's more fun to play against a human player. Actually, it is only in multiplayer mode that the tech level is at its highest. Which means that you can produce commando units, and or fire nuclear missiles with NOD. I think that Westwood made a good job with giving you the option to choose the tech level. Well, that's just my opinion since none of my friends have ever lowered it. If you capture an enemy Construction Yard or a structure for producing units, you will have access to enemy structures or units. In one word: great!
Now that's about it. Little raw and colorful graphics (VGA), great sound, couple of things that can be very fun and a game that is not too hard. Well, it was very hard for me when I played it with my best friend. No one was used to real-time strategy back then. Although level goals can vary, whoever consider himself as a experienced player with this type of games should be able to finish it, sooner or later at least. Also, those who already have played other sequels are used to have many units and structures. Well, C&C has enough units but Red Alert and Generals have much more, so I should mention this.
At the end this is a legend that, like I already said, started a great series. To me it's still a lot of fun, so my advice is to definitely give it a try. Too bad there are no movies because they are really something. I doubt that anyone who has played C&C can forget Kane, styled-evil with a smooth smile.