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Excellent map design in Tiberian Sun / some unforgiving missions

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After playing CnC3 and then going back to TS I realise how good the map design is. The maps are huge and there is always a dirt trail or a gravel road that leads you through the map. Not long ago I read an article about how to do good game design, and I recall someone saying that a good game is one which 'communicates' with the player, without it appearing contrived. In Tiberian Sun, the broken roads are the hint, as are the cliffs that go 'pop' and open a secret path (I don't know what they are usually called). CnC3 gives too many obvious hints and I suppose that's the nature of games these days. The designers put in the hints because otherwise people will look online and watch a guide on YouTube. I liked the 1990s when everything came with a manual the size of a bible: Eurpean Air War was the best example I can think of, it was a pretty thick book if I remember... and we only threw it out 2-3 years ago. I'm also aware that TS had a physical manual for early copies, then it was only provided as a PDF. In my opinion a good game is one that can be figured out with intuition. Tiberian Sun is like that - besides telling you how to deploy an MCV and build stuff, they don't offer in-game advice. Anyone who played a strike-team mission knows from their first attempt, that if you lose your units, you lose very quickly. It doesn't need explanation.


Although some subtle hints are found on maps, Tiberian Sun has some very unforgiving missions. Taking down the sensor net before Tratos can be really hard. I fought my way through that mission, under the impression that once I took out a station, I'd get reinforcements. In one case I lost a game because no reinforcements arrived. Perhaps a broken script, or I did the level in the wrong order.


The behaviour of the hogs in that mission feels unpredictable to me. I think you're supposed to go south and reveal them right away, instead of going east past the Hand Of NOD, and THEN south. Sometimes the hogs will hunt down all my units, other times they go after NOD! Rescue Tratos is the other 'worst' mission in my opinion. Last year I managed to beat it without taking down the sensor net. It was ridiculously hard with the time limit. The stupid bridge that you normally cross is destroyed, and you have to walk past the main NOD base. If you do take out the sensor net, sometimes it's fun to raze at least 20% of the NOD base with your ghost stalker. It is tedious, but fun for proof-of-concept!


Other missions that I hate:

  • Capture Ummagon (the one when you don't start with modded artillery)
  • Capture Jake McNeil.
  • Destroy Banshee Prototype Facility
  • Salvage Operation

The strike-team missions are the worst, it's very easy to lose. I nearly lost Salvage Operation today. I made it through with two engineers and a badly damaged attack buggy. I captured two of Vega's structures and sold them to get extra infantry and I stopped the train just as the prompt appeared: "bullet train departing".


I sucked at Tiberian Sun for about 13 years. Because I started playing when I was 12, I learned stupid habits. I'd always use a huge attack force to defeat an enemy, and the smallest thing would ruin my plans. Instead of using 20 tick-tanks or 20 titans, I now use a mix or units. I attack more frequently using better tactics. I have also mastered logistics - instead of using 6 APCs I will use 3, then I'll send them back to base to pick up the next group of infantry (doing so saves me thousands of credits).


I take heaps of inspiration from watching the Syrian Army via ANNA News. Three years ago I saw a video which explained how tanks work with infantry units - the commander or lieutenant in charge hides behind sandbags, and the infantry call in the tank shells. Also, the Syrian Army love to recycle things: if a tank is damaged by an RPG, they will haul it to safety and repair it.


One or two years ago I learned to make use of infantry in the Tiberian Sun campaign, infantry are fast to train and easy to deploy. You only order a retreat when there's a Devil's Tongue. Against disruptors, infantry do a lot of work. I always lose disruptors when I destroy enemy buildings because the bloody soldiers that emerge from the explosions. They keep coming. You can use Wolverines in that scenario but they're not that much better than light infantry, and if there's a single tick-tank that begins to attack, you are already wasting money on the Wolverines. They'll get damaged quickly and it's a waste of a war factory to build them (war factories are for armour).


One thing I like about CnC3 though, is the use of carry-alls. Once I had about 4 veterans that were taking damage, so I quickly returned them to base for repair, and prepared to deploy them again. I've struck the perfect balance between a suicide mission against a critical target, and the need to sometimes retreat from such an action. I doubt I'll play CnC3 when it's ~20 years old, but Tiberian Sun, sure! CnC3 feels more polished and 'fluid' (in the sense that you can manoeuvre very quickly) but I prefer TS. Sure, TS units take forever to climbs hills - that, complicated by huge maps. It's easily manageable. I set up staging areas where I scatter units, then I set a waypoint for reinforcements and the eventual siege. It works really well, just like in real life where they set up field command posts with a few sandbags.


Check out

- recently in Sirte, a group of government fighters were saved by one of their comrades, who fired an RPG at a suicide truck... only just in time. Speaking of rockets and suicide trucks, I find NOD rocket infantry more important than ever. They suck at shooting air targets but I use them against anything else. If I see enemy infantry moving toward me I will attack with 2 light infantry and 4 rocket infantry, if I have them nearby. And suicide trucks: I used 2 in Final Conflict with help from a carry-all. That base directly west got wrecked. The blast is about 4 cells in every direction, enough to demolish 2 advanced power plants and any attacking units nearby.


I let my former step-brother throw away my original Tiberian Sun CDs about 2-3 years ago, never thought I'd care about TS again, but every now and then I'll download it and play the campaign. It's showing its age but it's still as good as ever. The level design certain helps.

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