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Defenses in Total Annihilation are formidable. A well constructed front line can hold off a large swarm of enemy units without problem, but only if you use your defenses correctly. This guide covers all the defensive buildings in Total Annihilation. Because the defenses in Total Annihilation are essentially the same for both the Core and the Arm this guide covers both sides at once.
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Tier 1 Defensive Structures
Light Laser Tower
A very basic early-game defense, the light laser tower is really only meant to hold off rushes of enemy units in the early game. It can typically take out several tanks before it is destroyed and has a longer range than most tier 1 units. Its range is still short, however, and the LLT doesn't have many hitpoints. As a result it becomes useless as tier 2 units take the field.
A simple structure which fires torpedoes, the torpedo tube is the only anti-submarine defense in the game. It has a very short range, however, and destroyers and submarines also protect against submarines well. The Torpedo Tube is rarely built as a result.
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Tier 2 Defensive Structures
These heavy laser towers provide the short-range punch need to take out heavily armored units and are also the preferred means of taking out fast units attempting to breach your base's perimeter. They fire extremely quickly and do significant damage, but their range is short. These heavy laser towers are usually placed directly in front of long range defenses such as the Punisher and Guardian to protect them from close range attack. The Core receives a floating version of this defense called the Thunderbolt.
This is a barrier which is used to prevent enemy units from waltzing into your base. These completely block the movement of ground units and while they can be destroyed they are extremely resistant to damage. They do not act as walls, however - units on one side of a row of Dragon's Teeth can freely attack units on the other side. It is a good idea to build a single layer of Dragon's Teeth around you base to make sure that the enemy can't easily launch a surprise attack.
The Pulverizer/Defender is essentially a long-range guided missile attached to a tall tower. Individually these towers are extremely weak, but they are also very cheap to build. As a result the construction of a "missile tower forest" is a common means of defending a base. They are also frequently used due to their versatility as the guided missiles hit both ground and air units. The fact that the missile launcher is placed on a tower mitigates the flat firing arc of the missile. The Arm receives a floating version of this defense as well.
This is one of the deadliest defenses in the game. It is basically a big cannon with very long range mounted to a turret. It easily outranges most land units and has a longer range than most ships as well. The cannon shells themselves have a large blast radius making them capable of taking out multiple enemy units at once. This is an expensive defense, however, and it doesn't track nearby units well. It should usually be surrounded by a few short-range defense towers to help guard it against strikes by fast enemy units.
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Tier 3 Defensive Structures
This Arm only defense is a heavy laser cannon built to deal massive damage to individual units. Unlike almost every other laser weapon in the game the Annihilator has a very long range, longer than most artillery units in the game. As a result it is capable of dismantling enemy heavy tanks with easy. The Annihilator's weakness is that while it does a huge amount of damage per shot, it takes a long time to reload. The Annihilator can easily be overwhelmed by a hoard of fast, cheap units.
This heavy anti-air defense fires flak projectiles at enemy aircraft. It is meant to counter large groups of gunships and bombers which tend to be difficult to guard against using missile towers. This defense is extremely effective at what it does and is the best way to prevent a hoard of enemy aircraft from destroying your vital structures. It is too expensive to be used in the same numbers as missile towers, however, and is not as useful against fast-moving enemy fighters.
This Core only defense is armed with a light laser, a double-barreled heavy laser, and the deadly Doomsday Laser. It is extremely powerful and capable of stopping large groups of enemy heavy tanks on its own. It is only limited by its range, which is short and allows the Doomsday Machine to be attacked from artillery units. If well protected the Doomsday Machine can make a defensive position nearly impossible to breach. As you might expect, the Doomsday Machine is expensive and take some time to build.
These units are only partly defensive. Although both are plasma cannon turrets, their range is so long that they can shoot across the smaller maps in Total Annihilation. Building one of these long range plasma cannons can be an effective offensive strategy against an enemy base. Two or three of these can level an enemy base in minutes. The downside is that even building one can be a challenge. These defenses are very expensive and they also require substantial energy to fire. You will need at least one Fusion Power Plant (or equivalent energy income from other sources) in order for these units to fire without excess delay.
It should be noted that there is a rare and important difference between the Core and ARM defenses in this case. The Intimidator fires further than the Bertha, but is less accurate. The Bertha is generally regarded to be the better of the two because the Bertha's accuracy allows players to take out specific structures easily.
A Core only defense is based off the Punisher. When this unit is not firing it retracts under a protective case which reduces damage received by the Toaster. In exchange for this the Toaster's cannon has a shorter range and does less damage than the Punisher. It is generally agreed that the Punisher the better choice.