Review: Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun

Developer: Westwood Studios
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform: Microsoft Windows
Release date: August 27, 1999
Genre: Real-time strategy

I played Tiberian Sun when it was just about new, sometime in late 1999 or early 2000. In 2010, to celebrate a decade of the game’s existence, EA re-released both Tiberian Sun and Firestorm as freeware, and I recently decided to install and play it because I just had a craving for a proper real time strategy title – and Tiberian Sun was always one of my go-to RTS titles, alongside Red Alert 2.

The game takes place in 2030, 30 years after the end of the first conflict between the United Nations’ GDI, or Global Defence Initiative, and the Brotherhood of Nod, which the GDI had won. Kane, who was thought to be dead, has arisen once more and has come back with a vengeance, and seeks to wipe the GDI out completely.

Tiberian Sun is no doubt a real time strategy title, and it has base building – for most missions, anyway. During the singeplayer campaign you will be taken out of your comfort zone and treated to (or made to suffer through) more stealthy, guerrilla tactics – which NOD, it must be said, excels at.

The main objective when it comes to base building is to have enough funds. You do this by harvesting tiberium – and there are three kinds. There are tiberium fields, both green and blue (blue is rarer), as well as tiberium gas – which NOD uses for their chemical weapons. Tiberium is vital to a commander, but it is also lethal stuff. Sending troops for extended stays in tiberium fields will cause them to mutate and turn on their allies. The roots that spread from veinholes (those beasts in the grounds with gaping mouths) will damage mechs and destroy them, and tiberium gas will kill anyone who comes in to contact with it.

Tiberium is collected by harvesters, and they then take it to refineries which make that in to money which you can use to build more structures and units, and improve your chances of staying in the game. Base defences are also crucial as the enemy will attempt to invade and destroy your base. So walls, gates, and turrets will be needed, most likely. You can also raise up an army and then send it to attack the enemy’s base. Both sides have basic units like infantry – but from there things get different depending on which side you play as. GDI has mechs and superior technology and air capability, especially with its reinforcement drop pods and the fact that they have a space station, called Philadelphia. NOD prefers attack buggies and other fast vehicles suited to hit and run attacks. GDI has an amphibious APC; NOD has subterranean vehicles that can travel underground and pop up out of nowhere to surprise the enemy.

There are other special objectives, other than destroying an enemy’s base, that must be accomplished, like capturing buildings; saving civilians; guarding crash sites – but there’s not too much variety. You might get to team up with other factions like The Forgotten, and might even get an assist from local fauna, like Tiberium fiends. There are also bonuses that are dropped by trucks when destroyed that usually heal units, but might also give you a cash injection, or a rare unit, like a Mammoth Tank.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Units get promoted after seeing a lot of action.Aerial units can be a godsend.A covert amphibious assault. How exciting!NOD loading screens are badass.Two teams being assembled here. One for base defence, and the other for assault.Skirmish missions give you full access to tech, like NOD's stealth generator.Paths usually lead to enemy bases. How convenient.Water presents a bit of a problem for most units.Disruptors are the evolution of prism tanks from Red Alert 2.
Source
Units get promoted after seeing a lot of action.
Units get promoted after seeing a lot of action. | Source
Aerial units can be a godsend.
Aerial units can be a godsend. | Source
A covert amphibious assault. How exciting!
A covert amphibious assault. How exciting! | Source
NOD loading screens are badass.
NOD loading screens are badass. | Source
Two teams being assembled here. One for base defence, and the other for assault.
Two teams being assembled here. One for base defence, and the other for assault. | Source
Skirmish missions give you full access to tech, like NOD's stealth generator.
Skirmish missions give you full access to tech, like NOD's stealth generator. | Source
Paths usually lead to enemy bases. How convenient.
Paths usually lead to enemy bases. How convenient. | Source
Water presents a bit of a problem for most units.
Water presents a bit of a problem for most units. | Source
Disruptors are the evolution of prism tanks from Red Alert 2.
Disruptors are the evolution of prism tanks from Red Alert 2. | Source

Combat is also mostly restricted to land, with naval combat being somewhat neglected in the C&C series. This is more Red Alert’s area. Locations on land take place all across the globe, in deserts, decimated cities, and even tundra. Missions take place at either night or day. There isn’t much in the way of weather effects, but there are ion storms, which are quiet terrifying and result in great bolts of lightning hitting the earth's surface which can strike units and structures, damaging and even completely destroying them.

After the completion of every mission, you see a statistics screen telling you how well you performed in a mission, and from there you’re treated to a rather cheesy but generally amusing cutscene with several well-known actors who came on board for Tiberian Sun, getting a rough idea of what you’ll be up against next. Then it’s off to a screen which looks reminiscent of the board game Risk, where you are often given a choice of which mission to take next. Taking one mission first might make it easier to accomplish the other. But if you want more of a challenge, you might take the harder mission, which then means the other optional mission becomes unnecessary. This does provide the player with limited replayability. Then once you’re off to the next mission in the campaign and you’ll be given your objectives.

After you’ve finished the singleplayer campaign, there’s also the multiplayer mode, and not to mention skirmish mode which pits you against AI opponents – perhaps good enough to hone your skills against in preparation for taking on your friends.

Regardless of which mode you choose, a rather fitting futuristic, ambient soundtrack composed by Jarrid Mendelson and C&C stalwart Frank Klepacki will play in the background, with catchy albeit a tad repetitive tunes that will get you in the mood for battle.

Pros

+ Challenging

+ Lengthy campaigns

+ Two factions

Cons

- Unforgiving, frustrating

Graphics: $$

Sound: $$$$

Gameplay: $$$$

Controls: $$$

Story: $$$$

Overall score 8.3/10

Tiberian Sun hasn’t aged all that well, looking at it now. I remember it differently in my mind more than ten years ago.

This is evident when seeing the units – most of which are sprites with some voxels thrown in too. Then there’s the static, isometric 2D view of the battlefield, and the cheesy full motion cutscenes, which are inferior in quality and direction to say something like Red Alert 2. But it does provide one of the best RTS experiences around, even to this day.

It must be good as it has won numerous awards and has gone gold and platinum in the past. It was actually one of Westwood’s fastest selling titles ever released. It more than lived up to all the hype it received at the time. And seeing as both Tiberian Sun and the Firestorm expansion are now freeware, it’s more than just excellent value for money. This game comes from an era where RTS titles were quite common, and this is by far one of the best.

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© 2013 ANDR01D

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