Since Shattered Alliance (SA) is a total conversion modification, gameplay mechanics in terms of scale, playstyles and unit use, differ greatly from the original game.
I would say a lot of RTS are focused a bit too much on "rushing" and micromanagement. It always tends to be, you must go this build order and spam one or two units and if you don't, one mistake will cripple your base. On the opposite extreme, there is a lot of RTS which suffer from stalemates because turtling is safer than attacking.
My own personal preferences for RTS, are epic battles which consist of armies with a diverse range of units. You're rewarded for expanding and aggressive gameplay. With that explanation out of the way, lets move on. From internal beta testing, the average game in Shattered Alliance lasts between 45 minutes to 1 hour, with some lasting 2 hours or more. If you're looking for RA2 gameplay, I would recommend the numerous other mods posted on ModDB but if you're interested in a different approach, read on.
Note: Graphics and mechanics are WIP, subject to change.
The majority of infantry in Shattered Alliance can garrison civilian structures in SA, the exceptions being engineers, infiltrator infantry e.g. spy type units and heros. Whilst garrisoned inside a structure, all infantry gain the follow effects for their weapons.
It is highly recommended that you garrison a mixture of infantry in structures to provide a strong defense against infantry, vehicles and aircraft foolish enough to be in range of the structure.
Attacking Occupants / Countering Garrisons
Occupants inside most civilian structures are not immune to shells, bullets, rockets, lasers and the various types of ordnance being propelled at the building. There is a 33% chance that an attacker's weapon will not damage the structure but instead hurt occupants inside the structure instead. The exception is the heavily fortified concrete bunkers, that your infantry might discover on the battlefield.
The most efficient way to counter garrisons, is the use of artillery due to their long range and effectiveness vs structures. Heavy bombers or a mass of vehicles / infantry can overwhelm defenses as well.
Controlling civilian structures, doesn't just slow down enemy forces. Using the idea of map control and supply lines that you find in grand strategy games, garrisoning a structure will provide $10 every 5 seconds.
Although it seems like a small amount, think about those large city maps which have numerous structures to garrison and even on smaller maps, that bunker or lone house which might have been ignored before, is now a potential economy support structure, with a very low entry cost.
In a major departure from tradition CNC style gameplay, garrisoning a structure, grants a build radius! You can place any normal structures next to a garrison structure and so can your allies as well. If you ever want to build an outpost or base within a city or to rapidly expand your front lines, garrisoning and holding onto civilian structures is vital.
On another note, the outhouse and life guard hut can no longer be garrisoned, because that's just stupid.
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