Impression: Command and Conquer 3: Kane’s Wrath
Command & Conquer 3: Kane’s Wrath
Developer: EA LA
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform: PC, Xbox 360 (June 2008)
Category: Real-Time Strategy
ESRB Rating: T for Teen (Animated Blood, Mild Language, Violence)
Release Date: March 24, 2008
Command and Conquer or get the hell out of my way! The Tiberium wars may be over and the mysterious Kane returned but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a story left to tell. Command & Conquer 3: Kane’s Wrath, the first expansion to last years popular C&C 3, does something not many expansions attempt – it fills in backstory and expands continuity for the Command & Conquer universe while attempting to hint at things to come.
I’ve always been a fan of C&C, way back to the days when it was a game based on Frank Herbert’s Dune series. (Yeah I’m that old.. Dune 2 was groundbreaking I recommend every fan of RTS games try and find a DosBox playable copy!) The series is all about fast build and rushing. There is a balls to the wall pace that many games of its ilk have tried to replicate with varied success, but aside from a few missteps along the road to C&C 3 the series is a perennial favorite.
The gameplay is fast, the strategy simple on the surface and the universe it occupies is just cool (though not as cool as it’s little brother series – EA’s spin off alternate timeline Red Alert) and players who’ve followed the game through all its versions have a deep love of the characters. Chief among those characters is the charismatic Kane, leader of the cult of Nod – a group of religious terrorists bent on harnessing and controlling the power of Tiberium for their own purposes.
Kane himself was believed dead at the end of a previous game but when C&C 3 launched it was revealed that not only had the leader of the Brotherhood of Nod not died, but that he’d known something of the nature of Tiberium and was preparing as the dangerous mineral began to consume the Earth in preparation for the Scrin invasion.
Kane’s Wrath is of course focused on telling us that story. Through the single player scenario we come to see Kane’s greater plan. His “death” and disappearance in earlier games is explained satisfactorily and we’re introduced to a few of his key lieutenants. Since the story is told across the game’s timeline we even get a glimpse of Kane after the arrival of the Scrin and after the close of the Tiberium War.
Let me say that Kane’s new “Locutus of Borg” cybernetics are clearly laugh worthy but completely fit with the C&C live action camp factor. The live action sequences are just as low budget sci-fi as you’d expect and while the two new actors – Species Natasha Henstridge and Carl “Mantis/Martian Manhunter” Lumbly turn in good performances and don’t chew up the screen nearly as badly as Michael Ironsides and Billy Dee “Lando” Williams did in C&C 3, Joe Kucan still steals the show with his portrayal of Kane.
The story told in the 13-mission campaign is non-linear in nature, a narrative device that might bother players used to direct storytelling but it allows the game to hop about a bit and to introduce a new gameplay variant that expands the options from the core three factions presented in C&C 3 without shattering continuity.
These new sub-factions allow players to select an army that more closely resembles their playstyle. Players who prefer fast action for instance will gravitate toward the Black Hand, a faction of Nod that favors quick hits and hard strikes and flame as their tactic of choice while the GDI’s elite Steel Talon brigade leverages some serious heavy armor and mecha firepower on the field of battle. Even the Scrin get some additional units and a sub faction or two.
These new factions are playable in a limited way during the game’s campaign but the biggest feature of the new expansion, the one that will give the title longevity and keep it in play after the fate of Kane is long revealed is the new Global Conquest mode.
Global Conquest is in many ways an upgrade of the strategic map that was present in Command & Conquer 3 however it takes that concept a few steps further. Global Conquest is am interesting hybrid of risk-like strategy mixed with C&C RTS gameplay. Players choose territories to attack and envelope and then play out the assault in the RTS mode but benefit from strategic fortifications and a push and pull effect as foes expand or lose areas. Gamers like me, who favor the strategy and sometimes are not the quickest tactical experts can find themselves balancing the scales a bit against enemies if they make the right move on the game board.
I suspect that some of the gamers addicted to the C&C blitzkrieg style of play will find Global Conquest too slow at times as it breaks the flow of frantic missions a bit when players have to consider strategic choices over tactical ones. I however enjoyed this extra layer of depth in the gameplay.
Command & Conquer 3: Kane’s Wrath is an excellent expansion for a great game. Thanks to a lot of the post game tweaking C&C 3 received via patches this is a great reason to revisit the Tiberium universe. Those waiting for the upcoming FPS set int he world might even get a sense of things to come as a result of the expansion to the core storyline presented here.
Fans of the Red Alert games should also consider picking up Kane’s Wrath as registered owners are being gifted with an automatic invite to the Red Alert 3 Beta in a few months, though one wonders how much of a beta it will actually be if the number of players could potentially be this high and an unfinished game could cause permanent harm with this very vocal game community.