Total Annihilation: Kingdoms or TA:K is a medieval fantasy real time strategy game created and released by Cavedog Entertainment on June 25, 1999. On release, Total Annihilation: Kingdoms reached the top of the weekly game sales chart. While it was the last major title from Cavedog Entertainment, an expansion pack, "The Iron Plague", was released in 2000.
Overview of Differences
Total Annihilation: Kingdoms was the anticipated second installment of the Total Annihilation franchise. Although the game was neither a prequel nor a sequel to the original Total Annihilation game, comparisons between the two games were inevitable. There were numerous thematic and design differences between Total Annihilation and Total Annihilation: Kingdoms.
- A more in-depth storyline, told with cutscenes between missions just as Total Annihilation had, but with more detail.
- A change from a futuristic setting to a fantasy setting.
- Simplified resource-management, with just one resource(mana) instead of two(metal, energy).
- Four sides at the start, oppose to the original's two, with an expansion pack that added in a fifth.
- While the original Total Annihilation had players playing through the Core or Arm campaigns separately, Total Annihilation: Kingdoms switched between the four groups, players playing each side, as the levels progressed.
- Unlike the original Total Annihilation which had most of the units on its two factions virtually the same, other than in appearance, Total Annihilation: Kingdoms had very distinct characteristics between factions.
The story involves four sibling monarchs in their struggle to dominate the land of Darien: Elsin of Aramon, Kirenna of Veruna, Thirsha of Zhon and Lokken of Taros, following the disappearance of their father, Garacaius.
A more detailed story and world was presented in Total Annihilation: Kingdoms than was in Total Annihilation. The missions coincided with the storyline that was presented. In one example, a cutscene describes that the side of Aramon obtains the use of gunpowder. In that mission, the player plays the side of Aramon where using a gunpowder-based unit is critical towards the success of that mission. The game booklet and a detailed HTML atlas of Darien also added further background information to the storyline.
Total Annihilation: Kingdoms also opted for fewer units than its predecessor. This was due, in part, to the added complexity of the models, animation and textures required for living creatures (versus the robots and machines of Total Annihilation). Cavedog released thirteen additional units for TAK over time.
Units and sides
Where Total Annihilation had largely parallel technology trees between two similar sides, Total Annihilation: Kingdoms tried a more diversified approach.
There are different categories which highlight just how different the various factions were.
- Aramon's monarch Elsin is the most powerful. He could fire lightning, meteor attacks in a straight line, and earthquake wave. He had the ability to raise the dead, allowing him to capture enemy units. He alone could also produce a unique type of ship.
- Taros's monarch Lokken is able to use his energy to turn invisible. He is the second strongest monarch. His attacks include a guided fireball able to move around objects. He could build factories for all three tiers of his faction.
- Veruna's monarch Kirenna is able to swim, and is the third strongest. Her level two attack is a ball of water, able to swerve around corners to hit an enemy.
- Zhon's monarch is the weakest. She has the ability to fly, and able to build a tier two defensive structure.
- All monarchs could build their faction's tier one defensive structures, and tier one factories.
- Zhon has no buildings to produce its units, but instead relies on three construction units: Beast Handler to build tier one units, Beast Tamers to build tier two units, and Beast Lords to build tier three units. All of these units are mobile, and Beast Handlers and Beast Lords are able to fight.
- Zhon is the only faction that can not build walls, and has only one defensive structure.
- All factions have the ability to produce defensive structures, which varied in firing speed, aiming speed, fire power, range, cost, and some lacked the ability to hit anything right next to them.
As in many games of this type, there are units that are able to turn enemy units to their side.
- Zhon has the flying unit "harpies" to capture other units with.
- Taros has mind mages with the ability to convert a single target, or do an area attack to convert several at once.
- Aramon has its monarch Elsin with the ability to raise the dead fully recovered and converted to his side.
- Veruna and Creon have no means of capturing enemy units.
Those with the ability to fly to the mana sites, were able to get energy faster.
- Taros has a flying unit for its advanced builder, allowing it to build advanced mana harvesters but it can build no other structures than this. They can also create the Black Dragon, and turn corpses into ghouls.
- Zhon's monarch, Thirsa, can fly, and build all tier one Zhon structures as well as a tier 2 defensive structure.
- Aramon has a flying tier 1 builder, allowing it to place defensive structures at places no ground unit could get to, build trebuchets within range of enemy positions, and get to mana sites quickly to build mana harvesters.
Other differences between the factions
- Aramon has trebuchets, able to fire farther than any other unit in the game.
- Taros is the only side with no artillery units, and thus can not fire over the walls and barriers on some maps. It compensated for this with the tier 1 ghost ships, which are able to carry some types of units through solid objects, and unload them anywhere.
- Each side had a powerful ancient flying dragon they could produce, but could only have one at a time. Each side also had a flying scout unit. Aramon has no other flying units at all, and Veruna has only their dirigibles. Zhon has drakes, wisp, and harpies to fight with, and rocs to use as a flying transport. Taros has sky knights, iron beaks, and ghost ships, as well as their flying builders, the dark priests, which are able to attack. Creon has neo-dragons.
Total Annihilation: Kingdoms did feature a number of refinements and improvements with its interface design. The design ethic and innovations started with Total Annihilation were expanded, including infinite production queues, non-linear/interruptible queues and a fully playable mini-map mode. Squad designations for groups of units were easier and more intuitive than they were in TA. As in TA, TA:Kingdoms also allowed players to see translucent images of all unbuilt structures in a build queue.
The idea of a campaign sequence for each side was eliminated in favor of a single linear path that alternates between the four sides: Aramon, Taros, Veruna and Zhon. This allowed the developers to put all of their effort into a single narrative and its associated artwork.
Originally Total Annihilation games were played on Boneyards.
Due to Cavedog's closing, players cannot play online through the game's multiplayer option. In order to play online, a separate client must be used. A commonly used client is GameRanger. This client allows for all the features that Cavedog's original inbuilt client did. Up to 8 players can play together at a time either on teams or against one another. Includes features that make forwarding ports and firewalls unnecessary.
The Iron Plague expansion set
Shortly before Cavedog's collapse, an expansion pack was released titled The Iron Plague. The premise of the sequel continued the storyline of the lost father of magic, Garacaius. Believing that magic was a source of conflict, Garacaius fled his kingdom and founded a new empire based on science and engineering, as opposed to magic. This new empire, Creon, quickly dominated the neighboring provinces and absorbed the knowledge of their conquests. Garacaius himself died, but the elected ruler of Creon (in a steam-powered robotic suit) eventually led the kingdom on a crusade against magic and the magical sibling rulers of Darien. The expansion pack added an entirely new faction to the game (the science and engineering kingdom of Creon), as well as hundreds of new maps and entirely new graphics for map tile sets. It included the newest patch for the game, although anyone could freely download this from the official site.
- The Unofficial Guide to TA: Kingdoms (PDF). The Stratos Group. Retrieved on 2007-03-06
- Radcliffe, Doug; Dave Perkins. Total Annihilation: Kingdoms Game Guide. Gamespot. GameGuides.com. Retrieved on 2007-03-06
- Official Total Annihilation: Kingdoms Community.
- Instruction how to play Online Total Annihilation: Kingdoms.