Friday, February 26, 2016

Divide and Conquer

A couple of years ago, Electronic Arts created their own little online portal thing called Origin that's sort of like Steam only for EA games.  I really had no interest in it but you have to have it to play with the Sims 3 and Sims 4 so I eventually had to adopt it.

Sometimes they give away old games for free for a limited time.  I got one called Zulu's Revenge where you play as a frog that shoots colored balls to destroyed chains of other colored balls.  That was better than those Candy Crush type games because you didn't need any in-game purchases.  Recently I got Need for Speed:  Most Wanted free, which has been kind of fun driving all the different cars--including a Ford Focus!  I already beat all the other "most wanted" drivers to be the #1 driver.  Bwahahahahaha.

Another one they offered was Command and Conquer:  Red Alert 2.  I vaguely remembered the game when it came out about 15 years ago but I'd never played it.  So I thought I might as well download it since it was free.

The game takes place in some kind of alternate universe where I guess the USSR never broke up.  You can play either as the Soviets and their allies or the Americans and their allies.  The idea is you build a base and an army and try to destroy the other player(s).  For me it was like playing Age of Empires or Star Wars Rebellion, a couple of my favorite strategy games from the late 90s.  The expansion pack was included, so over a couple of months I played the various campaigns and just "skirmished" against the computer in different scenarios.

Around Black Friday Origin had a package with all 17 Command and Conquer games on sale for like $10, which seemed like a good deal.  I mean that's less than $1 a game!  Although about half of the 17 are expansion packs, which don't have as long of campaigns as the full games.  Still, it has provided plenty of entertainment--and anguish.

As fun as the games can be, sometimes they're just really, really frustrating too.  A lot of the campaign missions are the same thing:  here's no troops and hardly any money; go build an army and destroy the other side--oh, and build your army in about two minutes before the enemy shows up to start beating the shit out of you.  How freaking implausible is that?  I mean it's not like in real life a general has to actually build his fucking army in the field on a shoestring budget.  It makes a lot more sense in Age of Empires when you're dealing with primitive cultures, but it's not like you can build advanced war machines in the field.  So it seems kind of ridiculous at times.  And makes me cuss and swear a lot.

The other thing is that no matter which version of the game you play, your units are so fucking stupid.  It's like your army is made of a bunch of special ed students.  What drives me crazy is I'll have a bunch of tanks and stuff just sitting around as the enemy blows up our base.  Or they'll just sit there as one unit gets blown up.  Like they're on their fucking coffee break or something.  "It's not my job!"  Or you tell them to go somewhere and they won't bother to defend themselves even when enemy units start shooting at them, because you told them to go to a particular spot, not to defend themselves!  So you end up doing a lot of micromanaging.  It gets to be annoying.  And in the 15 years or so that these games span, you think they might have figured out how to fix some of these problems to make your guys just a little bit smarter.  Nah.

I have played most of the games by now, though the older ones not as much.  The first few are from the 90s and the graphics look like something from the Atari 2600.  They got better around 2000.  They also started using professional actors in their cut scenes like George Takei, Billy Dee Williams, Tim Curry, Michael Ironside, Malcolm McDowell, Ray Wise, and so forth.  So that's kind of fun and maybe it was a good paycheck for them.

Command & Conquer:  Renegade is the only one that's not a strategy game.  It's a first-person shooter set in the same universe.  That was kind of a nice departure from the other games.  There was one point in a level where I got so stuck I had to watch someone's walkthrough on YouTube to find this stupid elevator leading to a hidden lab where I had to kill a bunch of bad guys.

Besides Red Alert 2, I really liked the Command & Conquer:  Generals game.  In that one you get to play the USA, China, or "GLA" which is like al-Qaeda or ISIS or something.  You get more realistic units like Hummers and M1 tanks and stuff, which was a little more fun.  One mission for the Chinese campaign I was really stuck until I found out China has "hackers" who can literally sit around and download money from the Internet.  They get like $5-$10 per second which isn't a lot but if you have a bunch of them it starts to add up.  If only I could get them working for me in real life.

One problem with all these games is EA doesn't really give you the manuals or anything so unless you want to go find them yourself online, you kind of have to learn by trial-and-error.  Which leads to moments like above where I find out by accident how to use a particular unit to my advantage.  And then I usually lament how I wish I'd known that from the start.

Anyway, I know you have no interest in such games, but I just wanted to get all that off my chest.  Happy Friday.


  1. I used to do more gaming. There was this one game I was obsessed with for a year and didn't do any writing at all. I regret that I like the games on Facebook because they're short and don't take up much time. However, I ended up quitting Candy Crush because this one impossible level frustrated me too much. I also have Sims 3, but my daughter mostly plays it.

  2. I didn't know you used to play Age of Empires. I absolutely loved that game, I even designed my own maps and everything. I had so much playing that. Units acting dumb is something that happens in a lot of games, still it's something that makes me laugh, sort of.



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