By year's end, provided every company stays on schedule, Command & Conquer clones will be as pervasive as oxygen. Big name publishers like Activision (with Dark Reign) and Electronic Arts (with KKND) have announced their entry into the fray, and countless others are in the works. Will this onslaught of games turn out to be a bunch of boring duplicates, like the same game of chess on a different colored board, with pieces that perhaps don't feel quite as natural? Or will a few of these lookalikes actually prove successful, retaining that same "Zounds! It's 6:00am and I'm still playing" quality?
Developers creating these games want to achieve a subtle balance between innovation and the tried and true formula. Attempting to perform a similar balancing act, Interactive Magic (best known for the excellent simulations Apache and Hind) is moving into the real-time strategy realm with its forthcoming title, War Inc.
From the outset, War Inc. has the same graphical flair - SVGA rendered hover-tanks, choppers, and other miscellaneous army toys - that its relatives possess. But one element that immediately sets War Inc. apart from its predecessors is the fact that you can customize your own units. Using carefully cultivated monetary earnings you can buy upgrades, such as better engines, armor, weapons, and AI, to tailor the perfect ground and air vehicles, naming them however you please. The folks at Interactive Magic claim that these subtle adjustments will allow for up to one million different custom combinations. Imagine being able to enter the fray with "the Ruthless Man-Crusher," your own custom-built, armed-to-the-forehead war machine.
Infantry units are also handled differently. Instead of training a particular unit, only to have it materialize magically in front of the barracks, your on-foot units are cloned from existing units. Armed clones can then be sent into a training center to be upgraded to higher level infantrymen. On top of this, you can begin construction on multiple unit and building types concurrently. Ultimately, this will mean less time eagerly watching the unit-completion hour-glass, and more time developing a strong base and raining terror on the opponent.
The ability to customize units, build multiple structures and vehicles at once, and pre-set way-points for your troops to travel through on the battlefield are all noteworthy innovations for Interactive Magic's upcoming Command & Conquer-style game. Fans of C&C who are looking for something a little different may want to give this one a look come spring. The real-time strategies projected for this year may begin to clog up the atmosphere, but if a title looks promising (and this one does), there's always room to breathe.