Kotaku Big Battles: Warcraft vs Command & Conquer

In honour of the big battles of Total War: Rome 2, and the huge screenshots coming out, we’re starting a series of the biggest battles in PC history. We’ve got a few lined up, though there are many more than we could include - and this time we’re tackling the big early names in RTS: Warcraft vs Command & Conquer.

There’s a certain gravitas and loyalty that comes with being the first at something. And while you could say that there might have been fans flowing over from Dune 2 into the first Command & Conquer, the latter had to contend with a consistent brand, was Warcraft 2 became its main rival.

For many, Command & Conquer was their first look at the genre. Its cheesy FMV videos did it great favours, too. Neither system would come to be known as “the” RTS standard. C&C had its own way of unit production, with one side of the UI reserved for creating units. Warcraft had a decided focus on heroes, individual characters with player-executed abilities that would be deemed too powerful in other RTS games. But the unique nature of both games endeared loyal fans to them - people who felt that playstyle was the best for them.

You could say that Command & Conquer’s next true heyday was with Generals, and its expansion pack Zero Hour. It reached a nice, balanced state for competition, and was given a boost by being the game of choice for popular gaming personality teh_pwnerer, creator of Pure Pwnage. But if we’re including franchise offshoots, then one could argue we’d have to include Starcraft as well. And if we include Starcraft, then the winner of this RTS battle instantly becomes clear.

As much as fans wanted another real C&C, and the third would come to be known as a decent enough entry, it was widely accepted that the franchise went downhill after being bought out by EA. Fast forward a bit, and Command & Conquer 4 didn’t need any help in tanking. It was a fine game - just not a Command & Conquer game. And fans audacious enough to expect a true sequel were not happy with the RTS/MOBA hybrid they were confronted with. Another game that was never going to be very well received was Supreme Commander 2, Square Enix’s severely dumbed down version of the game.

Not to leave anything to chance, just as the aforementioned two games approached their release dates, Blizzard dropped the Starcraft 2 multiplayer beta, in a massive thunder-stealing move that turned the attention of just about every journalist and punter their way. The beta was by no means exclusive, and most of the balance kinks were already worked out. It was purely a marketing/anti-competition move, and it worked. While the Warcraft franchise was off in MMO land, Blizzard still had the last laugh in RTS.

But even considering Blizzard’s success with the first Starcraft, it didn’t make the custom map Aeon of Strife - just like it didn’t make Defence of the Ancients, despite owning Warcraft 3 - which is why DOTA’s various caretakers over the years have been free to go make Heroes of Newerth, League of Legends, and of course, DOTA 2 at Valve. Considering the two most played games in the world now are League of Legends and DOTA 2 (in that order), it’s a missed opportunity that rather renders Blizzard’s “last laugh” more of an uncomfortable chuckle, with hints of regret.

We may yet see another great Command & Conquer. There are a few titles in the works, including a free-to-play game - but nothing that looks incredibly promising at this time. The hero-focused combat of Warcraft-style RTS may not suit everyone, but the success of Starcraft 2, and Warcraft’s offspring MMO, leaves no doubt who the winner in this rivalry currently is.


    Warcraft III will always hold a dear place in my heart, if not just for green TD.


      Zub zub!

        Something need doing?

          What about on the Warcraft 2 CD they had a soundtrack on it, and one was 'I'm a medevil man' using all of the audio grabs from ingame to make a human solider rap.

    I'm a little confused - are we choosing between the franchises, or the original 'big game', being Warcraft 2 or C&C (later subtitled Tiberium Dawn?)

    Man, I think it’s a bit rough to compare the C&C legacy to the Warcraft legacy of WC 1&2, WC3 (which was much different) and then the Starcraft games and World of Warcraft…. That’s a huge portfolio.

    C&C really only had its heyday from 1995ish through to 2000 while Blizzard continues to put out relevant games through the above portfolio. The two companies haven’t released 2 games in the similar genres (I don’t really count WC3 as a traditional RTS) since C&C vs WC2 I don’t think.

    C&C is clearly past its prime, but through the C&C/ Red Alert 1 era it was the best RTS series for my mind. That said, I do remember playing WC2 for so long once that when I finally went to bed I closed my eyes and could still see sprites on the back on my eyelids.

    Last edited 28/08/13 2:26 pm

      And making maps for WC2 was loads of fun. And messing with sound files!

      But C&C was better than WC2. And even better than WC3, no matter how pretty it got. Hero-focused gameplay is what killed it as an RTS for me, and aping that popular trend is what rendered Dawn of War 2 dead to me entirely. (Especially disappointing after the glory that was Dark Crusade.)

        1000% in agreement. The focus on hero units and the ridiculously low unit caps made the game feel more like an action RPG than a proper RTS as far as I’m concerned, and the fact that I didn’t like WC3 really signalled the end of the golden age of the RTS for me.

        Keep in mind I’m a guy who thinks the multiplayer FPS genre died when Counterstrike came out and turned everything into squad based, flat map, pick your loadout nonsense….. so I’m completely understanding if people think my opinion is out of touch.

        Last edited 28/08/13 3:22 pm

          But... but... CS 1.6 was the GOLDEN AGE of multiplayer FPS! The artistry and skill, the mind-games, and the permanence of death! (For that round.)

            I agree with foggy, CS ruined multiplayer FPS. I was an admin at Wireplay when it came out and I watched first hand the community turn from friendly 'good shot' type banter to 'omg fukin hax cnt' instead. I don't know what it was about CS but it brought out the worst in people who played it and it's only gone downhill from there.


              CS was the golden age.

              fixed it
              "I agree with foggy, COD ruined multiplayer FPS. "

              Competitive gaming (or being competitive in general) always brings out the worst in people, it's human nature.

              - On topic: I would have to say both. CNC got me into RTS and WAR3 was something that entertained me for years (Footman frenzy, TD's ect..)
              man good times

              Keen on the new CNC hopefully EA don't ruin this one -_-

              Last edited 29/08/13 2:53 pm

                People were doing competitive gaming fine before CS though. It was specifically Counterstrike that shifted the tone of the community, and it happened pretty rapidly.

                The original C&C was great, and Red Alert 1/2 were both excellent, but I could pass on all the other versions (except maybe RA3). At some point they shifted gear and became a huge parody of themselves. I think the Warcraft series stayed truer to its original setting over the years.

        Not being able to beat even the easy AI in skirmish mode killed Warcraft 3 for me. That game was just not for me.

          Me and my housemate still regularly play Warcraft 3. Great game, and though there is a big emphasis on hero units and a steep learning curve it definitely has its charms. Chimeras all day baby. All day.

            I much prefer the C&C strategy of 'build fuckton of tanks and roll out'.

              That I do enjoy, though I do have a fondness for the "10 million riflemen" strategy.
              Reasons? Because.

    Red Alert 2 was and always will be my favourite RTS, regardless of whether you're allowing offshoots or not

    I was a big fan of Red Alert and Red Alert 2, however, ultimately Blizzard didn't have the misfortune of being bought out by EA. I think its pretty obvious which franchise ended up a behemoth.

      Remember the Ants campaign? Of course you do. I miss those days.

    I don't recall Warcraft 1 or 2 being about hero units at all. I remember it being a fairly straightforward RTS template. The hero units were only utilised in WC3, surely?

    I want to say Command & Conquer... but that series really has gone to shit these days.

    You could say that Command & Conquer’s next true heyday was with Generals, and its expansion pack Zero Hour.
    Red Alert 2 or GTFO. Everything after that got progressively more fiddly and less charismatic.

    OMG too hard to choose. C&C was my go to series for so long, but EA destroyed it. Warcraft was amazing, Wow destroyed that: there is almost nothing left in the Warcraft universe to make a new RTS game out of and that makes me sad...

    I will always love Command and Conquer, right back to Red Alert on the playstation, and while I love Warcraft, nothing will ever compare to Command and Conquer for me, the C&C franchise of today is a shadow of it's former self, i wish Westwood were still around to continue on the series :(

    For me, hands down Command & Conquer.
    I think the main difference is, Warcraft (as most RTS' are these days) are "Offensive" based RTS', that is , they focus primarily on advancement and fast takeovers.

    Then again, one of my favourite things in RTS' is always to build huge bases, with C&C TS and Generals being my favourite go-to games for this, building an impenetrable base is always fun to do, especially if the AI in skirmish mode aren't total fools.
    Most RTS' don't allow for you to build huge bases, bases are usually just places to build units, rather than a place you need to protect, or in some cases, can protect themselves (I'm looking at you Laser General)

    extremely difficult choice!!! I can`t choose between them. Warcraft 1 was my first (RTS) love, but I`d say I played C&C Generals the most from either franchise. Then again Warcraft spawned WoW, which while not an RTS was one of the greatest games of our time (but I dare say it properly paused or stopped Warcraft 4 from development, so it doesn`t help the RTS debate).... In the end I just can`t choose from my 2 great loves!

    To be honest I`ve been thinking of playing Warcraft 3 and Generals again recently.

    If you're including franchises, the Red Alert games had probably the most entertaining backstories (and it's highly arguable whether SC/SC2 are "Warcraft Franchises"). SC & SC2 had drama, FA had war bears and Zeppelin bombers.

    It's true that the mainstream C&C games headed steadily downhill after the first game, but Red Alert is Saints Row III to Warcraft's GTA4.

    The wording in that third paragraph makes it sound like Warcraft always did the hero thing, when they were actually only introduced in Warcraft III.

    Still, I liked both franchises, with a large bias towards C&C, simply because I prefer the sci-fi genre to fantasy. Red Alert is one of my favourite games ever!

    C&C for sure. I can't count how many hours we spent using the link cable and playing on 2 PSX's. And as the game came with 2 discs - Allied and NOD you did not need a 2nd copy of the game to play PVP.

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