Total Annihilation: Kingdoms

a game by Cavedog Entertainment
Platform: PC
Rating: 8/10

Total Annihilation's futuristic tank warfare rocked the realtime strategy battlegrounds last year. For the sequel, Cavedog is leaping into the past for some good old-fashioned medieval butt-whippin'.

Total Annihilation: Kingdoms takes place in a time where magic means more than mechanics. Four races, each representing a different element, battle for supremacy with ground forces, huge (if primitive) batdesbips, and fire-breathing dragons. Each faction has its own building hierarchy and patron deities who will sometimes get involved in the skirmish themselves.The gorgeous graphics that marked the first game will return with new neat tricks like rolling fog.

Can to: Kingdoms win the medieval real-time strategy crown from Myth? Cavedog will try to work its magic this spring.

Download Total Annihilation: Kingdoms

Game Reviews

Total Annihilation obliterated the early real-time strategy (RTS) champs, but the stakes have been raised by Myth s gorgeous 3D environments and Star-Crafts immersive story line. Now Cavedog is firing another volley with Total Annihilation Kingdoms, and the battle shall begin anew.

Shakespearean Strategy

Looking to improve the weak plot elements of the original TA. Cavedog has borrowed a theme from King Lear. Kingdoms sets four bickering royals on a quest to take over their fallen father's land. Each monarch wields the power of an element, drawing their power from the game's sole resource, mana. You place receptacles over "Lodestones" to replenish your power faster.

As opposed to the race-based campaigns of most RTS titles, Kingdoms offers just one story line that jumps back and forth between all four clans and spans 48 missions. Unfortunately, Kingdoms has ditched TA's difficulty adjustment and careens from mind-numbingly easy to nigh impossible in one tragic step.

Balancing Act

Each kingdoms advantage lies in its elemental power--air, fire, water, or earth. The quasi-unique races are dubiously balanced for multiplayer challenges (there are questionable problems, like the Zhon race's lack of queues), but there's little rhyme or reason to the technology trees, and it's often difficult to visually discern one type of foot-soldier unit from another.

Total Annihilation.. .of Variety

Kingdoms' excellent character designs are enhanced by fluid animations and energetic battle cries, from the screech of Griffons to the lightning blast of a Mage Tower. The landscapes are vivid and crisp, but they, along with the placid score, suffer from lack of variety. Kingdoms' clunky map editor allows you to choose between tile sets for each race, but the sets are all strikingly similar--hardly the variety offered in StarCraft. Luckily, both the visuals and audio shine during battle; you'll cringe at the wet thunks of mortal blows and gape at the spectacular blasts of magic.

Kingdoms is an exciting, energetic RTS. but each of its elements has already been outdone by superior games. Fans of the TA franchise or RTS freaks who've played out everything else won't be disappointed, but this Kingdom isn't the fairest in the land.


  • Use two or more building units to quickly summon defensive structures in a jam.
  • Don't spread yourself too thin. Fully defend each Lodestone with towers before moving on.
  • You have a foothold, keep your precious Monarch buried in the heart of your defenses and use basic building units to advance.
  • When defending an all-out assault, set your magic users to attack with their most powerful spells.
  • Place towers or projectile attackers with good lines of sight and elevation whenever possible.


Kingdoms supports 3D hardware, but there's no zoom mode or rotation, a la Myth. Superb lighting and magic effects dazzle the battlefield, and incredibly lifelike unit animations make you believe in the bloody mayhem--but variety, this game ain't got.


If Kingdoms' royal score and unit battle cries don't float your ferry, its screeching, crashing, and piercing echoes of war will leave no doubt that Cavedog knows how to put you in the midst of real-time warfare. But again, where's the variety?


The units move fine, but the pseudorally point system is weak, there's no mouse double-clicking to select all units of a particular type, and it's awfully hard to figure out who's who. StarCraft doesn't make these mistakes.

Fun Factor

Kingdoms improves on TA's lame story line, but falls short of the epic Star-Craft, while the four races aren't unique enough to warrant completely different strategies. It's still a great game, but the parts of this sum have been outdone by other games.

reggie posted a review


The world ruler has gone missing and the world has been divided into four nations, each ruled by one of his children. Each nation is associated with one of the classic alchemical elements, Earth, Fire, Water, and Air, and they each have strengths and weaknesses accordingly. Taros, the nation associated with Fire, is heavily dependent on magic to achieve victory, where Aramon, associated with Earth, is very traditionally mechanical. Zhon, the nation of air, has many flying beasts with which to wreak havoc upon the other nations ground troops, and Veruna, the nation of water, has the best navy by far.

Gameplay, Controls, Interface

The single player game is wonderful, if a bit hard to follow at times -- instead of having a campaign for each nation, there is a single campaign and you play each of the nations as you go. I've encountered more engrossing storylines, but for a real-time strategy this one works fairly well. There are 48 missions in the campaigns to challenge you and if that's not enough you can go into the "Fight The Machine" option which allows you to play a skirmish on the multiplayer maps against computer-controlled foes. Add to that the multiplayer support and you have a game that will keep you challenged.

Kingdoms has playability coming out its ears. If you've played Total Annihilation you'll feel right at home -- the game controls are almost identical. The simple resource gathering (find Mana sites, build Lodestones) doesn't get in the way of the fun, but since you have to have the resources to compete, defending your Lodestones is important enough to make the game strategic rather than a slugfest of massive armies. The only problem I had with the game was the lack of the ability to easily reclaim your own buildings and units. Total Annihilation had the option, but it's missing in Kingdoms. You can now only reclaim corpses and destroyed structures (if they leave anything at all).


The graphics are beautiful. Kingdoms was built using the same engine as Total Annihilation and as such looks very similar, but they've increased the detail a great deal. Capes flap in the wind and you can see the pebbles on the beaches. That being said, however, I do have a complaint with the graphics as this upgraded engine uses 3D acceleration for some of the magic effects and the hardware/driver support leaves a little to be desired in some situations. When I first looked at Kingdoms, the magic effects around building units didn't blend correctly and looked VERY bad. Instead of little red bubbles around the building unit, there were red squares overlaid. This really isn't that big of an issue, as the game looks wonderful with the software acceleration.


Once again, Cavedog has done a great job here as the background music is epic in nature. There are times that I just want a soundtrack CD to play in the car on the way to work. Each of the units has unique sounds that are easily recognizable and are very fitting to the unit appearance.

System Requirements

Windows 95/98, Pentium 233, 32 MB RAM, 80 MB hard disk space, & 4X CD-ROM drive.


The multiplayer capabilities in Kingdoms are similar to those in Total Annihilation. You have complete control over game settings and you can play with up to seven of your friends. Kingdoms comes with MANY multiplayer maps, but if you want to use them all, you will need 128 MB of RAM in everybody's machines as some of the maps are HUGE!


The game came with a nice, easy-to-read book describing game controls and each of the basic units for each nation, along with a well-written back-story.


There have been six new units released since the release of Kingdoms at the time of this writing and I definitely recommend picking them up, as each changes the feel of the nation it's designed for and opens up new strategies. There has also been a 2.0 patch released that improves speed a great deal and addresses a few small balance and playability issues.

Bottom Line

TA: Kingdoms was a lot of fun to play and I look forward to any add-ons that may be forthcoming. This game has made my short list of games that I play regularly, even with all the minor annoyances, and I definitely recommend it for any fan of the real-time strategy genre.

reggie posted a review

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