Total Annihilation for PC: Strategies and the Best TA Maps to Practice Them
One of the most beloved classic real time strategy games is Total Annihilation for PC. Strategies are of paramount importance in TA, as opposed to many RTS games that despite their genre name are focused primarily on unit tactics. The best TA maps to hone strategy depend on a number of factors.
TA Maps: A Primer
Total Annihilation almost revered by hardcore RTS gamers for its varied map styles, and TA mods are still being released.
TA maps come in a dazzling assortment of landscapes. Jungle worlds, water planets, planets made entirely of metal, green and mountainous Earth analogs, urban zones, dead Mars-like worlds, young volcanic planetoids, frozen moons, and acidic Venus inspired maps are all represented.
Each map lends itself to the practice of a different strategy: the more water on a map the more sea power will play a key role in determining ultimate victory, and likewise the more choke points separate two warring players from one another the more valuable air power will be in avoiding defensive traps. Geography is not destiny in Total Annihilation, but it definitely is a significant factor.
War in the Trenches
Maps completely covered by traversable solid ground are the most basic type of TA maps available.
Perhaps the best small land map in TA is Evad River Confluence. Like many smaller TA maps, this one is designed for high intensity skirmishes. Characterized largely by rushes of constantly increasing size, it is unlikely either player will reach level 2 units due to the need for constant unit production to protect one's own base. These types of maps usually end up with factories sending a constant stream of lower tier kbots and vehicles to a front line, and the winner is the one who can push that front line into the enemy's base.
Just about the best of the land focused large TA maps is Yerrot Mountains. With ample room to maneuver, the focus on this map becomes expanding a resource base and defending it until heavy tier 2 units and tier 3 structures become available. Aircraft play a larger role here, but are secondary to sending waves of Fidos and Bulldogs or Cans and Goliaths at the enemy..
Take to the Air!
TA air units were unique for their time, and have hardly been improved upon by successor titles. For most RTS entries, air combat was entirely secondary to the land combat. Not so in TA - TA maps exist that require air combat.
An excellent example of a small air map is Cluster Freak. With no immediate ground access to an opponent's base, air defenses must be overwhelmed in order to achieve victory. Tier 1 units will be build in droves, but even though sufficient resources to support a higher tier technology are generally lacking, tier 2 aircraft may become available due to their low metal requirements. With the relative ease of scouting such a small map, artillery under construction is sure to be targeted and bombed before completion.
The best TA map for large scale aerial combat is arguably Biggie Bigs. Again with no land corridors between bases, this map can support large battles with hundreds of aircraft and defensive structures battling it out in a chaotic melee. Tier 3 weapons may become feasible, but the first hint of an artillery shell landing within a base will prompt a frantic scouting mission and a follow up attempt to destroy the offending structure. Such an assault is likely to be successful - in TA the bomber (almost) always gets through.
Many Pathways to a Watery Grave
Naval combat is an area where Total Annihilation truly shines. If air combat is secondary to many RTS games, Naval combat is a distant tertiary function if even included. TA maps exist that are covered entirely by bodies of water, forcing reliance on warships and aircraft to cover the distance to an opponent.
Small naval maps are quite interesting, due to the metal requirements needed to support even the construction of one submarine or destroyer. Ironically, water maps have some of the lowest metal supplies of any map type, and ships require the most metal of any unit. Gods of War is an exemplary example of the small naval TA maps, and the combat here is sure to be sharp and harsh. Generally, the first player to amass a half dozen or so destroyers and submarines can overwhelm the other. Of course, if a player has invested in tier 2 defensive structures, especially artillery, a starting island can become a rather vicious firebase.
The hands down most enjoyable large naval map is Seven Islands. A huge metal world, this map is not about finesse - it is about plopping down as many Moho extractors as possible and building a fleet for the ages. Battles with dozens of battleships, cruisers, destroyers, and submarines firing, exploding, and sinking are a sight to behold.
A walking behemoth armed with a long range heavy laser, plasma cannons, and long range missiles, a Krogoth immediately becomes the focus of the battle when one appears, and Total Annihilation PC strategies must always take into account the Krogoth factor.
To practice offensive or defensive Krogoth tactics, look no further than Block Wars. This is a metal map, which does tend to skew the speed at which the Krogoth will appear. However, the basic strategy applies, and the number of Krogoths produced on such a map will mean that a variety of particular tweaks to the general strategy can be practiced in short order.
Porcupine up: Total Annihilation PC Strategies for Defense
Defensive structures are plentiful in Total Annihilation. PC strategies tend towards the offensive in most RTS titles, despite the real world historic advantages posed by defenses in depth.
Practicing proper application and placement of defensive technology is vital in TA - maps abound with ideal defensive terrain, but it is all too easy to make mistakes. Greenhaven can be used to practice the entire panoply of defensive scenarios. Prominent geographic features allow access by land to the center of a base, but also provide choke points and shelter from enemy fire behind which base defense structures can cluster for maximum effect.
Das Boot: Submarines!
Both the Core and the ARM use a number of submarines armed with powerful torpedoes in order to crush opponents. However, these subs are themselves rather easy to sink, and practice in their use is vital to winning naval battles.
An excellent map for practicing submarine oriented naval strategies is Pillopeens. Plenty of islands and shallow terrain allow submarines to exploit geography in order to outmaneuver and sink enemies. Underwater choke points can be established to blockade surface ship maneuvers, and when patrols of hunter killer subs with guided torpedoes keep the waters free from enemy submersibles and fast craft, an opponent can be completely denied access to the sea.
Rockets and Cruisers - the Indirect Approach
A combination of rocket ships and cruisers can dominate on most any naval oriented TA maps. Shore to Shore is an ideal map to practice the delicate maneuver of bringing expensive naval vessels within range of opposing bases and crushing them with overwhelming firepower.
A critical component of this and other naval Total Annihilation PC strategies involves readily accessible coasts. However, some maps with a critical naval component have significant inland territory that is out of the range of even long range missiles. In such cases, submarines blockading the coast or battleships interdicting naval transports are insufficient. Amphibious or aerial assaults will be necessary - and practicing the use of cruisers and missile ships to cleanse a coastline of opposition is essential.
Tactical Air Command: Rapiers and Brawlers
In some TA games, battles hinge on controlling airspace. Land units attacking a base usually need to be powerful enough to withstand defenses - and the Kbot and vehicle air defense units are often smashed in transit.
This leaves even the most deadly ground formation helpless in the face of heavily armored and well armed tactical aircraft. Core's Rapier and ARM's Brawler can hover over helpless ground units and pummel them into scrap. King of the Hill is excellent for practicing this aspect of Total Annihilation. PC strategies that make use of air power in this manner are thin on the ground, and practice is essential to mastering necessary skills.
Strategic Air Command: Bombed Back to the Stone Age
Strategic air strikes are represented in Total Annihilation. PC strategies utilizing bombers to penetrate air defenses are usually only found in military simulations - but practice air assault strategies in Core Prime Industrial Area and you'll find that TA offers a rival thrill.
This map contains a good deal of terrain that makes ground penetration of bases difficult. However, strategic structures like nuclear missiles can be built and defended, and can be protected by missile defense systems to make a battle truly strategic. Well planned strikes with bombers escorted by fighters can take out critical facilities like power plants or missile defense silos, leaving the base vulnerable to attack.
Total Annihilation Map Conclusions
Total Annihilation PC strategies are varied and imaginative. With so many TA maps to choose from, the scenarios and strategies mentioned here are just a taste of what TA offers.
Probably the most important thing to remember when playing TA is to adapt your favorite strategies to the scenario at hand. No two scenarios will play out exactly the same and no one unit - not even the Krogoth - can guarantee victory in every case. Always remember a key lesson of the Battle of France in 1940: Germany's vaunted panzers were technologically inferior to anything deployed by its French and British opponents. Fewer than half of German tanks were equipped with larger weapons than autocannons and machine guns. And yet they won - not through superior equipment, but by putting together a superior strategy that outmaneuvered and outwitted the Allied Armies.