Command & Conquer is back
EA and Victory Games are bringing back the classic Command & Conquer series to PC gamers everywhere, but not in the way you might expect. The new C&C is going free-to-play, and the developers are promising some big things for the franchise and the return of some fan favorite features. C&C is going back to its roots, and bringing all of the full-scale warfare and destruction that the series is known for.
We took an early look at the game in a recent visit to EA, talked to the developers, and played some of the game for ourselves. Victory Games is taking on a big project here, and it seems to be far more ambitious than anything they've done before. Here's everything you need to know about the next Command & Conquer.
It will be free-to-play
Victory Games is moving EA's premiere real-time strategy series to the free-to-play space. Now, we know what you're thinking. You're wondering if you'll be nickel-and-dimed into spending way more money than you want to purchase armies, expansions, and what have you. But good news: C&C doesn't require you to buy anything to stay competitive.
Players will be able to purchase in-game content for gameplay, customization and convenience modifications, all bought by using earned in-game currency or real-life Benjamins (well, maybe Lincolns--the developers haven't announced price-ranges yet). These items will come in the form of Generals themes for gameplay (we'll explain this later), unit skins for customization, and money and experience bonuses for those who don't have much time on their hands. Plus, other than microtransactions, and being completely free-to-play, C&C's new game model has a few more advantages--but more on that later.
It's built on the Frostbite engine
Frostbite has been adapted from the first-person shooter-centric engine used in Battlefield 3. And with it, unit animations, overall visuals, and in-game physics have gotten a noticeable boost. In addition to being able to fully realize highly detailed environments in the upcoming RTS, EA's Frostbite engine allows players to completely destroy buildings and other parts of the environment.
As a result, Frostbite's destructible environments affect gameplay strategy. Being able to blow buildings to smithereens and drive through the rubble drastically changes the strategy of taking over enemy bases. But the gameplay still feels decidedly old school. Tanks and vehicles turn on a dime, making the gameplay incredibly fast-paced with precise, instant unit movements. Unit paths still aren't entirely realistic and there aren't any unit formation options available (yet).
It holds true to the core gameplay of the series
Anyone who has played the old C&C strategy games will feel right at home. You'll start a match, gather resources, build yourself a base, create an army, then go out to demolish the competition with a cavalcade of tanks, troops, and aircraft. The controls are fairly standard for an RTS, but the developers are making an effort to create an interface and mechanics easy enough for beginners to get the hang of. At the same time, there seems to be plenty of complexity with unit upgrades and determining efficient build orders to keep the veterans satisfied.
In addition to sending your units to victory or death, developing your base quickly is a huge part of winning a battle. Standard structures can be upgraded, allowing you to build advanced structures, giving you better units, and more powerful armies. From our playtime with the game, it seemed that the more aggressive player took control of the battle more easily than a player that turtled behind base defenses.
The Generals, Tiberium, and Red Alert universes will make a comeback
At launch, Command & Conquer will include the factions and gameplay elements of the the Generals universe--meaning the themed Generals will be making a return. Generals allow you to customize your faction with the special themes, like toxic weapons, air force, laser, and nuke, that give you specific powers, units, and structures, which will greatly affect your play style. Even more Generals will be added regularly through the live service, giving you plenty of ways to alter your factions.
The Generals themselves also have a personality that comes with them. In game matches, the Generals will taunt and threaten players as attacks commence. They are also customizable, but the developers haven't gone into exactly how you will be able to personalize your commanders.
Three army factions
Since C&C will be kicking off at launch in the Generals universe, the first three factions shown will be coming from that series as well. Each of the three initial factions is different from the other and use different battle strategies. The Asia Pacific Alliance (APA) is an evolution of the China faction from the original game, and they take on the horde strategy--sending large numbers of low tier units to conquer enemies.
The other two factions are the European Union (EU) and the Global Liberation Army (GLA). The EU is a high-tech faction that's fairly straightforward, relying on heavy tanks and requiring you to build structures within the small radius of their power generators (like the Protoss' Pylons in StarCraft). The GLA is a terrorist group that specializes in toxic weaponry, guerrilla tactics, and customized, black market weapons. Suicide bombers and nuke trucks allow for devastating hit and run attacks, while rocket-bearing, invisible insurgents can engage in surprise attacks from bunkers and bombed out city buildings.
There will be various multiplayer modes
While there won't be a dedicated single-player campaign in C&C at launch, there will be several multiplayer modes ready for players to blow each other up. Not all are competitive. We had a chance to play the new co-op Onslaught mode which is like a two player horde match against one enemy AI faction. Players have to coordinate defenses at their shared base and defend against waves of enemy units, with each wave getting progressively more difficult.
For direct competition, the standard deathmatch, team deathmatch, and domination modes will be available when the game releases, and Victory promises there will be plenty more coming in the future.
Social interaction is a big part
To support the greater online community, Victory Games is adding features such as a persistent player profiles, achievements, and other social aspects like clan ladders, Generals challenges, and live maps of ongoing sessions. Clan support, clan ladders, replays, and spectator mode are also all in the pipe. C&C will even take some ideas from Battlefield 3's Battlelog, like the constantly updating friends feeds.
The developers are focused on making the ultimate Command & Conquer hub, a place where you can get everything you want and need when you get the hankering for exploding tanks and building armies. But with every social interaction online, Victory Games will be watching and taking notes on how to improve their game. But what does that mean? Well...
Live service keeps the updates coming
With the move to always-online play, C&C's developers get a few benefits in the form of player feedback. There won't be any C&C expansions to buy; instead, there'll be additional content implemented into the game on a regular basis. Best of all, it will be catered to everything that players are enjoying the most.
The developers will also be constantly monitoring (Big Brother is watching) the actions and feedback from the community. Victory Games is saying that when the game launches it will only be the beginning. More content will be released, gameplay mechanics can be tweaked, and players' voices will be heard. We don't know about you, but a constantly evolving Command & Conquer beast sounds incredibly enticing.
That's all folks
There you have it. Everything there is to know about the upcoming free-to-play Command & Conquer has been laid out before you. So what do you think? Do you have any worries about the new free-to-play model? Are you excited about it? Let us know in the comments below.