26 September 2020
On September 26th, 1995, after about a month's worth of distribution issues, Westwood Studios shipped the original DOS version of Command & Conquer. It was based upon their 1992 strategy Dune II, but without a book/film license to keep them chained regarding what they could and could not do. Alongside Blizzard's WarCraft and later StarCraft series, Command & Conquer would become the most formative RTS franchise.
The Command & Conquer demo was one of the first games I've ever played, and being just a little less than 5 months older than the game itself, I have a special connection to it. Admittedly, I play many different games these days, but returning to a Command & Conquer title feels like coming back home after a long trip - everything's comfortable and familiar. It's also much easier to return to the mentality of C&C than for most other strategy games, and no matter how many mechanical additions later C&C titles would get, they were all relatively simple on a fundamental level. While it is nice to spend an evening thinking of advanced build orders in Age of Empires or micromanaging small-scale shootouts in Company of Heroes, the certain bluntness of Command & Conquer is satisfactory on a different level. It's kind of like eating a few exotic flavours of ice cream and then returning to plain old basic chocolate - no matter how much you love the wacky combinations on your cone, the classics never fail you.
While my go-to C&C throwback games are usually Yuri's Revenge, Kane's Wrath, the original Red Alert, and even Firestorm sometimes, the recent C&C Remastered Collection release reminded me of some things that got me hooked on the original (e.g. the feeling of commanding a contemporary-ish army with a few hi-tech gadgets, the lore, the simplicity) and even removed a few flaws that would turn me away from it after a while (absence of build queues, running out of Tiberium on the map, being very careful with new mission savegames, no proper skirmish). That little bit of fresh paint and a good tech refit enabled me to get a bit of that feeling of all-round satisfaction when playing Tiberian Dawn that I simply couldn't get in that level if I'd just fired up one of the original versions on this date.
I have further thoughts on C&C as a franchise and RTS as a genre, but these will have to wait for a proper article or two in the coming days. Until then, whether you prefer the original 1995 DOS discs, the fan-updated Gold edition, or the recent remaster, please give Tiberian Dawn a run or two. This birthday is one you should show up to.