Total Annihilation Wiki
What began as a conflict over the transfer of consciousness from flesh to machines escalated into a war which has decimated a million worlds. The CORE and the ARM have all but exhausted the resources of a galaxy in their struggle for domination. Both sides now crippled beyond repair, the remnants of their armies continue to battle on ravaged planets, their hatred fuelled by over four thousand years of total war. This is a fight to the death. For each side, the only acceptable outcome is the complete elimination of the other.
— Total Annihilation Intro
Total Annihilation
Total Annihilation Coverart.png
Cover art
Developer(s) Cavedog Entertainment (A sub-division of Humongous Entertainment)
Publishers(s) GT Interactive
Designer(s) Chris Taylor
Artist(s) Clayton Kauzlaric
Composer(s) Jeremy Soule
Engine Own
Version 3.1
Version Date September 30, 1997
Genre(s) Real-time strategy
Mode(s) Single Player, Multiplayer
Rating(s) ESRB: T
System Requirements
Minimum: Pentium 100 MHz, 16 MB RAM
Multiplayer: DirectPlay connection (over TCP, UDP or IPX)

Total Annihilation (abbreviated Totala or TA) is a real-time strategy video game created by Cavedog Entertainment and released on September 30, 1997 through the distributor GT Interactive for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS. It sold over a million copies, and was the first RTS game to feature 3D units and terrain. Two expansion packs were released, The Core Contingency on April 30, 1998 and Battle Tactics on June 30, 1998. Total Annihilation is no longer sold or supported due to the bankruptcy of Cavedog, although it is possible to download the full version of the game on Total Annihilation fansites. The lead designer of Total Annihilation, Chris Taylor, went on to create Supreme Commander, which is considered the 'spiritual successor' of Total Annihilation.

Total Annihilation is set many thousands of years in the future during the events of a galactic war between the CORE empire and the ARM rebellion, with battles raging on various planets and moons. The CORE homeworld is a lifeless metal wasteland known as CORE Prime, which is governed by a computer named central conciousness that is buried far below the surface of the planet; The ARM homeworld is a green paradise known as Empyrrean, a planet that is rich in life and reflects the natural biological existence that the ARM strive to live for.



Screenshot of an Arm campaign mission. Metal (grey/blue) and Energy (yellow/orange) are displayed at the top of the screen and the Minimap, Build Pics and Unit Controls are displayed on the left hand side.

The story is set many thousands of years from now and the galaxy is ruled by a benevolent central body of humans and artificial intelligence modules called the CORE (an abbreviation of "COnsciousness REpository"). The CORE's technological and economic triumphs have allowed humanity to colonize most of the Milky Way and enjoy peace and prosperity. During this peaceful time the CORE made a breakthrough in which they found a way for the human consciousness to be transferred safely into a machine through a process they called patterning, which theoretically granted the humans immortality. The peace was broken when the CORE imposed a mandate on the humans to undergo the patterning process as a public health measure; when many of the humans refused the process, the CORE announced that any human who refused the process would be obliterated, and a rebel band known as the ARM was formed out of colonies throughout the galaxy, consisting of humans who refused to leave their natural bodies. The resulting conflict then escalated into a war that would last four thousand years.

CORE campaign[]

The CORE campaign starts with the ARM successfully invading CORE Prime undetected and deactivating what was assumed to be the last remaining CORE Commander while it was undergoing maintenance; a team of a units comprising mostly of Kbots and a few Vehicles attempt to eliminate the ARM and reactivate the Commander. After eliminating most of the forces that had invaded CORE Prime, a Galactic Gate was discovered that had been used by the ARM to reach CORE Prime. The campaign continues with the Commander taking the planets held by the ARM and capturing their Galactic Gates to reach other ARM planets, and ends with the CORE Commander invading Empyrrean and obliterating the ARM Commander.

ARM campaign[]

The ARM campaign starts with the ARM homeworld of Empyrrean being successfully invaded by the CORE while the ARM Commander was lured on to the Planet of Calabran; a small team of the last remaining ARM units was tasked with activating a Galactic Gate to ensure the Commander was returned safely to Empyrrean. After the oppression of an attempt by the CORE to establish a full base on Empyrrean, the Commander used the Galactic Gate once used by the CORE to purge the galaxy of their enemy. The end of the campaign sees the ARM seize control of CORE Prime's Central Conciousness and destroy the CORE Commander, ensuring their freedom for what they hoped was forever.


An in-game screenshot of a Core base. The Commander is the unit in the centre with the yellow backpack, who is aiding a Construction Vehicle in Nanolathing a Gaat Gun.

Normally, the player begins with the unique Commander unit, a mech with the ability to create structures to form a base and, by extension, a military force comprising a range of mobile units. The Commander, in addition to being a powerful combat unit, is vital to the player because of its ability to quickly construct units. This makes the loss of a Commander a critical event in any game. Construction is governed by the possession of the game's two unlimited resources, Metal and Energy, and can be undertaken by factories or mobile construction units. Every unit belongs to a level of technology (tech level); the higher the level, the more advanced the unit and the more resources and thus time required to construct it. A feature of the game is the ability to easily "queue" the many commands for a unit or group of units, with types of commands including patrolling a route, constructing a defensive group of structures and assaulting the enemy. Once given its commands, the unit will go about them automatically thus minimizing the need for the player's attention to small, repetitive tasks. The victory conditions of a multiplayer game generally involve the elimination of all enemy units, but the aim of single player campaign missions can be more specialized.


The player can command a variety of units from fighter and bomber aircraft, to tanks and mechs, to ships and submarines. Given their robotic nature, units are self-contained with no limiting factors such as fatigue, fuel or morale. Units can vary in size, speed and the ability to give and take damage, generally depending on their tech level. One praised feature of the game's units are their hierarchical proportionality— that is, an advanced unit being equal in combat terms to many weaker units, but taking a proportionately longer time to build. Each unit has strengths and weaknesses, optimal styles of use, and corresponding units against which it is vulnerable or well-suited. Effective play is usually characterized by consideration of these attributes, as well as efficient resource management, strong defenses, and knowledge of the opponent's strategies. The game's interface consists of construction and command buttons (depending on the unit selected), unit status information, resource information on the production of Energy and Metal, and a minimap which gives an overview of the game's battlespace— the visibility of which may be hindered by fog of war, necessitating the use of radar or scout units. There are a few highly-advanced units which are invaluable combat-wise, such as nuclear missile launchers which have unlimited range and very high damage. There are two story-related factions which, while aesthetically different, have a similar set of units.

A.I. and physics[]

The game features a physics engine which governs projectiles, explosions and wreckage. The terrain is strictly 2D but contains height values which allow it to act as a 3D surface. Hills obstruct artillery fire, and, depending on the "line-of-sight" setting, height enhances units' visual and firing ranges. If terrain is steep and jagged, units tilt and turn to meet the face of the ground. Structures can be built on steep terrain to protect them from artillery fire and to create choke points. Artillery shells are affected by gravity, which is actually variable on different planets- particularly on lower-gravity moons. Units that achieve five kills without death receive "veteran" status which increases health and damage, as well as giving the unit the ability to lead moving targets. This effect grows with every five subsequent kills.


Total Annihilation features a native multiplayer component via DirectPlay on Windows operating systems, allowing for connectivity through Serial, Modem, or Internet TCP/IP options.

Prior to the service shutting down, Total Annihilation's official matchmaking client was the Boneyards, hosted by Cavedog Entertainment. Although no official replacement was ever provided, owing to the closure of Cavedog, a number of third-party clients have surfaced over the years, with GameRanger[1] and the more recent Total Annihilation Forever[2] being the current primary matchmaking services.


The game was highly praised by critics and players, and won numerous awards, including GameSpot's Game of the Year Award for 1997.[3] TA is considered to be one of the best RTS games of all time and is still played actively today, over 20 years after its release.[4][5][6] It won Gamespy's Top Ten Real-Time Strategy Games of All Time[4] in 2004, leaving Starcraft in second place. It was also recently named to Gamespot's 50-game The Greatest Games of All Time list . The editors stated "It's not as famous as Warcraft or Command & Conquer, but Total Annihilation is arguably better than any other real-time strategy game to date."[7] See Awards.

Expansions and Patches[]

The Core Contingency[]

Main article: Total Annihilation: The Core Contingency

Cavedog released The Core Contingency a year after Total Annihilation, it featured 75 new units and 25 new missions that continued the story after the ending of the ARM campaign.

Battle Tactics[]

Main article: Total Annihilation: Battle Tactics

Battle Tactics was released a month after The Core Contingency; Battle Tactics included 4 new units, 100 additional missions as well an experimental approach to TA gameplay, with less emphasis on base construction.

Patch 3.1[]

Main article: Total Annihilation Patch 3.1

Patch 3.1 included all units that came with The Core Contingency and Battle Tactics, however, all Core Contingency units were locked out until The Core Contingency was installed via game disc or mod.

With both expansions and all the downloadable patch units, the total amount of individual units increases from 150 to 230.



There are over 6000 units available to download from various fansites, although only 512 units can be installed at any one time due to game limitations; when downloading units the player has to be sure that no other units are overwritten in the build menus as the player will not be able to build the overwritten unit, despite the A.I. still being able to. The default unit limit was originally 200 per side but this was increased to 250 with the addition of The Core Contingency, with the release of Patch 3.1, the unit total was raised again to 500 per side; it is possible to increase the limit further through community mods or adjustment of certain Total Annihilation files.

Data files containing game information are placed within the TOTALA folder, adding new files to this folder allows for expansion of the game. Downloadable content includes the six Patch 3.1 officially released by Cavedog, fanmade units of varying strength and size, maps that allow the player to battle on new areas within Empyrrean, Core Prime and the other Total Annihilation planets, A.I. tweaks that adjust enemy tactics and even new races with unique Commander units.

Other community mods significantly change Total Annihilation; some mods balance the gameplay by improving some of the weaker units and nerfing more powerful units and Towers, other mods change the Interface of Total Annihilation to give a new look to the menus and title screen. Some mods go as far as to overhaul the game engine itself, one such mod is TA3D (Total Annihilation 3D), which changes the game screen from a top-down view to a view that allows the player to pan the camera. One famous mod for Total Annihilation is the Spring engine, which changes all the maps and units to full 3D renders and allows for third person views behind units, Spring also has other mods created by other members of the community.

Demo Recorder[]

Made by the community, most online players use TA Demo Recorder or TADR with their TA install. The latest version by Yankspankers is TADR99B2. It is used with the tadr1.0.0.545 upgrade. This tool allows the player to save a replay of a game and to play it back later. It also includes the TAHook tool which allows the player to queue factories 100 units at a time, to queue buildings in lines and to easily build Dragon's Teeth around buildings. It also contains many lag fixes. Taking of disconnected players' units, choosing Commander start locations, autopausing at start of game and many other features. The most important feature it gives is allied LOS or Line of Sight. Previously in TA allies were only able to see radar, if it was shared with the +shareradar command. With 'TADR' allies can now share LOS to their allies with .sharelos command. The version also gives 1500 unit limit to multiplayer and skirmish games, where the original TA limit was 250.


The game has an original orchestral soundtrack composed by Jeremy Soule and performed by the 96-piece Northwest Sinfonia orchestra. The music plays when one of the Total Annihilation CDs is inserted and has default settings when the game is first started, but can be changed to player preferences during gameplay; music can be set to play during a battle (activated when so many units are killed on either on the player's team or on the team that the player is attacking), construction, victory or defeat. Two additional extras are the game's ability to play any music CD once the game has started and remember the preferences set by the player (such as which tracks play during battle), and the game's tracks ability to be played if one of the CDs is inserted into a CD player.


Total Annihilation has won numerous awards, the list of which follows:

  • The number one Real-Time Strategy Game of all time (top 10 list), Gamespy 2004
  • Best Game of All Time, PC Games 1998
  • Gamer's Choice Award, Best Real-Time Strategy Game, PC Gamer
  • 1998 Blister Award Winner, "Best Strategy Game of 1997", Electric Playground
  • 1997 Game of the Year, GameSpot
  • Best Strategy Game of 1997, GameSpot
  • Best Multiplayer Game 1997, GameSpot
  • Best Music 1997 GameSpot
  • Included in Gamespot's "Greatest Games of All Time" Feature
  • 1997 Game of the Year, GameSpot Reader's Choice Awards
  • 1997 Best Strategy Game, GameSpot Reader's Choice Awards
  • 1997 Best War Game, Happy Puppy's Golden Fire Hydrant Award
  • 1997 Best Strategy Game, PC Guru Magazine, Hungary
  • Best RTS Game, GAME.EXE Magazine, Russia 1998
  • Best Game of the Year 1997, PC Soulces, France
  • Silver Trophy Award, PC Magazine Loisirs, France
  • Top Game Award for Five Consecutive Months, PC Jeux France
  • Best RTS Game 1997, Reader's Choice Award, PC Gamer Online
  • Best Real-Time Strategy Game 1997, The Adrenaline Vault
  • Best Strategy Game 1997, Reader's Award, Games Domain
  • 1997 Game of the Year, CompuNews
  • 1997 Best Sound/Music, GamePen
  • Best Strategy Game of 1997,
  • Game of the Year, Game Review Central
  • Best Real-Time Strategy Game of 1997, Ultra Game Players Magazine
  • CG Choice Award, Computer Gaming World, 1998
  • Best of the Best A+ Award, PC Games 1998
  • Family PC Tested-Recommended, Family PC 1998
  • Stamp of Approval, Computer Games Strategy Plus
  • Editor's Choice Award 1997, Online Gaming Review
  • Special Achievement in Music 1997, Online Gaming Review
  • Best Game of the Year 1997, Honorable Mention, Online Gaming Review
  • Best Game of 1997, Reader's Knockout Poll Award, Games Domain Review
  • Best PC Game of 1997, Video Games Palace
  • Gaming Product of the Year 1997, MeccaWorld
  • Best Strategy Game of 1997, Gamesmania
  • Gold Player Top-Rated 5 Star Award, PC Games Germany
  • Gold Award, PC Action Germany
  • Top Rated 5 Star Award 1997, PC Gaming World UK
  • Platin Award, PC Power
  • Innovation in Gaming Award 1997, PC Review
  • Editor's Choice Award, Game Worlds Network
  • Editor's Choice Award, Gaming Age
  • Editor's Choice Award 1997, All About Games
  • Awesome! Award 1997, Game Briefs
  • Killer Game Award 1997, The Cheater's Guild
  • OGR Preferred Award, Online Gaming Review
  • X-Picks Dazzler for 1997, Gamecenter
  • Hot! 4 Star Award, GAMERZedge
  • Hands-On Award, PC GamePro
  • Editor's Pick Award 1997, GameSpot
  • Buy Now! Award, San Francisco Guardian Plug & Play
  • Star Player Award, Games Machine
  • GamePower's 4-Lightning Bolt Award 1997
  • GamePen's Best of E3 Award 1997
  • Top 12 Games of Autumn, PC Games Europe
  • Hot Property Award 1997, MeccaWorld

See also[]


  1. GameRanger - play your friends online
  2. Total Annihilation Forever
  3. Total Annihilation Reviews at
  4. 4.0 4.1 Top Ten Real-Time Strategy Games of All Time at (2004) (via Wayback Machine)
  5. History of Real-time Strategy Games: 1989-1998 - the Second Generation at (2000) (via Wayback Machine)
  6. RTSC Total Annihilation Page at (2006) (via Wayback Machine)
  7. The Greatest Games of All Time at (via Wayback Machine)

External links[]