A mature overhaul of the entire game, not a total conversion in that the canon is retained, as are most existing units, but all sides are expanded greatly. Each country gets several new units, and everything is rebalanced with those in mind. There is a much greater sense of uniqueness to each country, and play styles will have to compensate for the relative strengths and weaknesses. The AI has received a dramatic overhaul as well. Gone are the days of boring skirmish games or co-op against computer players, the AI is genuinely BRUTAL! Coupled with the increased lethality of weaponry, every game is a challenge. For newbies to the mod, the MEDIUM setting offers the same intelligence, but at a slightly relaxed pace. Everything from new terrain, new decorative objects, new civilian structures and vehicles, and a bunch of quality maps are added to improve the general look and feel. Many of the all-new maps included are asymmetric or irregular, most take advantage of the new objects.
There are three crucial aspects to any strategy game to get right, economy, maps and tactics, in my opinion. Unit design, buildings, decorations, add to the mood of the game, but really they are just affected by personal taste, there's no real right or wrong when it comes to themes or styles. Scorched Earth isn't meant to be cheesy or campy, at least not to a greater degree than the original game, nor does it have many ridiculous characters/units like a large number of other mods seem to. It is entirely focused on providing the best battle experiences instead.
The economy is often the hardest one to get right, other games like SimCity 4 are complicated, but have a very easy to understand economic structure, that once you master, makes the game impossibly easy. Conversely, Starcraft had an impossibly rigid economy, where build order and mathematical ratios of units would win the game. What I was adamant about is retaining Westwood's delicate balance of being able to recover from near defeat, and to focus on making more variability, with more exceptions, and more tricks to employ.
The ideal map in a strategy game doesn't exist. That said, there's several ways to approach map making, and each has their own pitfalls. I feel that similar to economy, maps need to push players to be creative, to take risks, and find novel ways to defend at the same time. Westwood maps tended to have choke points, but often included too many highly defensible areas, with no long-range weapons that were long-range enough to reach. This creates incentive for players to turtle up, play defensive, and by default enter a war of attrition, without a ton of ore to fund it. So to that effect, many of the new Scorched Earth maps force a player into an offensive guard, stationing troops or tank squads outside of a base, in a kind of layering. Others focus a player to grow as fast as possible, to expand into strategic areas to advance economically, where boldness is rewarded.
With the above two points, tactics have to change naturally. Acting militarily to enhance ones economy, or vice versa, is the method of all the greatest empires. Attacking the attacker to limit or redirect the assault on the core of the base can be essential to surviving. Attacking an enemy base from the air, land, and sea simultaneously, can distract enemy forces to create openings that otherwise don't exist. Every unit has strengths, and generally an obviously exploitable weakness. Learn your strengths, and chain them together in clever ways, or watch the clever AI do it to you...
I want players to both curse and laugh, at their successes and failures. If a new player experiences that, I'll know I achieved what I wanted from this mod.
Without attempting to dictate tactics, a few hints regarding basic balance changes might be worthwhile to hear. Consider these as "fast start tips" more...
A summary of changes to the defensive structures, new additions, and overall effectiveness.
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