Warzone 2100 Resurrection

By Jim Rossignol on February 3rd, 2009 at 2:44 pm.


Back in the slower, happier year of 1999 there were a number of contenders for victory in the first round of “proper-3D” real time strategies. The finest of these was known as Warzone 2100, and its base-building prowess was practically unparalleled. The game has been freeware for some time, but is now supported by the Warzone 2100 Resurrection project, which is doing its best to provide for, and improve on, the original game. I’ve been playing Warzone again in 2009, and I’ve posted some thoughts and impressions after the jump.

My clearest memory of Warzone 2100 was that it included proper elevation in 3D for the first time. Big rocket-toting artillery types could get up to the top of hills and rain fiery ordnance down on their enemies. Such things had not been seen before, and it wasn’t until Ground Control a couple of years later that such visions would be repeated. Warzone 2100 was, however, rather more of a game than the pretties that were to follow. It was, and still is, buff. It’s packed with research and vehicle design, and leans heavily on the base-building, resource-thieving mechanisms that have made the RTS so popular over the years. Tank rushes, turtling, designing a hovering flamer-tank – it’s all here. It’s escalates beautifully through the campaign too, gifting me those arcing rocket salvos at just the right time.

So stuffed with ideas was this throne-coveting pretender that even let you “design” your own units, by piecing together turret, chassis, and locomotion. Such splendour was unheard of at the time, and it still seems rather bold today. Warzone 2100 was created by the only major developer local to me, Pivotal Games, though when they were still called Pumpkin. Pivotal shut up shop in August last year, thanks to SCi’s horrible internal mess, and sad faces were seen. Happily their finest hour remains alive, and is being slowly built upon by that excellent fan community.

It still works, after a fashion. I had to put Windows 95 compatibility mode to get it to boot on my Vista machine, and still had a couple of crashes. It ran fine on XP, however. There’s even a Linux version coded up by the Resurrection folks, so there’s a good chance that this will run on my mk1 EEE. A delicious possibility. I’ve played through a few levels, and fought a skirmish match against AI. It really does make you think: visually we’ve come a long way, but Warzone 2100 does so much that RTS games still struggle to get right today. There’s lots of gaps where excellent GUI design and player feedback fill in for modern games, but it’s still challenging, playable, and instantly comprehensible. More tantalising still are the recent blog updates on the Resurrection site, promising new terrain renderers and sky boxes of cloudy delight. Behold:

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56 Comments »

  1. rob says:

    I remember being really put off the original by timed missions. It sounds petty but I was terrible at RTS games at the time and if I couldn’t spend hours building up a screen full of tanks then I couldn’t win.

  2. Gap Gen says:

    Yes, I remember the tech tree being vast, and designing units became increasingly complicated as you went on.

    I also remember my only working tactic against the obscenely difficult final AI enemy being lots and lots of cheap, lightly-armoured firebombing planes. I lost about 2 every bombing run, but this was enough to take out any enemy AA defences. The mission where you had to outrun a nuclear strike was pretty tense.

  3. Heliocentric says:

    I own bz 2 and gave up on it during a rampage through old games i’d gotten cheaply, the issue was that i’m fairly crap at strategy games and didn’t realise it was one. Indeed i was playing it like an action game with buildable npc allies. The timed missions were the killer though. As soon as i hit my difficulty lump i’d get pushed back by respawning enemies and end in a stalemate, or rather lose.

  4. Cooper42 says:

    Yeah, I got the freeware a couple of years ago, and the timed missions made me stop playing – I’m just not fast paced enough in my RTS play style.

    But I loved the base building and tank design. This update is more than welcome, and I’m sure I’ll give it another go now there’s extra pretty.

  5. Senethro says:

    There was a novel little feature in WZ2.1K that I haven’t seen before or since. Commander units. He doesn’t have a gun, so using him would seem to be illogical given that you often had unit caps in place. But you give him a bunch of units and they’ll follow him around and shoot at what he points at. Automated focus firing without you needing to be there to micromanage your units! Genius!

    I remember playing the Playstation version where I used a glitch to put aircraft bomb bays on ground vehicles. As ground vehicles don’t have a limited ammo supply this meant I had rapidfire bomb machineguns that caused a hilarious amount of explosions.

  6. RiptoR says:

    This gem has been sitting on my computer for ages now, RPS is getting slower each day :p

  7. Jim Rossignol says:

    Riptor: I can see you didn’t follow the intro links there. (http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2008/01/02/zoning-out/)

  8. Ginger Yellow says:

    My clearest memory of Warzone 2100 was that it included proper elevation in 3D for the first time.

    Uh, Total Annihilation? It wasn’t a full 3D game, but the elevation was.

  9. Ginger Yellow says:

    Anyway, I had no idea this excellent game was freeware now. Thanks, RPS.

  10. Not Bernard says:

    I loved this game. Got it for £2 from PC World about 6/7 years ago, and still bring it out on occasion, I adore being able to build an impenetrable base and then watching the AI falter before it.

    I had to cheat to finish the game though (I was 11, 12?), which involved some speed typing on one mission, trying to enter the code before the game failed me for my lack of the necessary units :-)

  11. Yargh says:

    I remember loving this game and hoping for more, but a sequel never came… I still have the box on my old games shelf.

  12. MartinX says:

    I played the hell out of Warzone2100 at the time. If I’m being totally honest, no RTS since has really “done it for me” in quite the same way. It was pretty much *the* game I played for most of 99-2000, until DeusEX came out (also never really topped in my view). I’m ashamed to say that I even sidelined System Shock2 and Planescape Torment in favour of building stupidly large hellfire batteries.

    To me it’s basically the pinnacle of the “Old school” RTS, sure, there have been plenty of other RTSs that I have enjoyed, but not one where I haven’t thought: “Man, I wish this had from Warzone.

  13. MartinX says:

    *…I haven’t though: “Man, I wish this had featureX from Warzone”

  14. A Delicate Balance says:

    This was a great game and I’d like to see something modern more like it. I know there was Earth 1250, which seemed a lot like WZ2100, but this was definitely the model. While DoW II is great I’d also like a modern RTS more like this.

  15. c-Row says:

    I think Machines preceded Warzone 2100 slightly and had both the better visuals and soundtrack. And the far more interesting background story.

  16. RiptoR says:

    Jim: Woops, shame on me. I even think I seem to remember I read of the Res project for the first time on RPS.

    Please don’t kill me now…

  17. jalf says:

    FREEWARE?!? Why hadn’t anyone told me that? I lost one of the cd’s for the game so I was never able to finish it!

  18. Jim Rossignol says:

    Wasn’t Machines absolutely rubbish? I seem to recall it getting panned at the time, and the demo being terrible. If it’s good I should take another look.

  19. Sp4rkR4t says:

    Warzone is a truly superb game and does still stand out from the crowd of wannabe rts greats. For me it’s this, Perimeter & Ground Control with Perimeter being the best of the bunch.

  20. Batolemaeus says:

    After Earth2150, this is one of my favourite rts games.
    The memories..

  21. roBurky says:

    I seem to recall playing the demo of this, and after completing one level, being able to call airlifted reinforcements from it on the second level, including switching view back to the first level base to expand it and tell it what to build. Am I mad?

  22. Fitzmogwai says:

    For me, it’s still one of the finest games I’ve ever played. Every now and then (like X-Com TFTD) I get the urge and dig out that double CD jewel case.

    Absolutely brilliant, and works marvellously at 1280×1024.
    And possibly the first RTS that did air power really well. Send in the bunker busters against the AA, and then the bombers to hit everything else. Wonderful.

  23. Fitzmogwai says:

    In fact, I’m reloading this tonight. Damn you, RTS! Damn you to Hell!

  24. SwiftRanger says:

    Elevation was TA’s thing (late 1997) despite the use of a fixed view or heightmaps for its terrain, those cheap tricks didn’t matter really because the effect (that joyous, simulated 3D feeling of outranging other artillery because your unit was on higher ground) was exactly the same as with later full 3D RTS’s and often even flat-out better and more clear.

    I remember Warzone mostly for its expanding maps and the ‘create your own units’ motto. A sequel would have been nice yep.

  25. Duke Goosington IV says:

    roBurky: That sounds a lot like Earth 2150 to me, but it could’ve been in warzone as well. I just don’t recall it being so.

  26. PHeMoX says:

    There are virtually no RTS games that truly take advantage of elevation. Ground Control 1 still is practically the only game out there that REALLY gives you an advantage / disadvantage. Most modern RTS games don’t really take elevation into account at all.

  27. KBKarma says:

    I was trawling a list of Linux games, and found Warzone 2100. It mentioned that I need to use apt-get or Synaptic.

    First reaction: “Naaah”.

    And then I used apt-get. And I got it. And it runs grand.

    Jim: I’m using Ubuntu 8.10 on an eeePC 1000. It’s slightly slow, but it does what it should. And I am happy, for I can now waste my time in lectures more effectively.

    I still have the Sold-Out copy of Warzone 2100. Worked grand last time I checked.

  28. PHeMoX says:

    I guess Dark Reign 2 was a good example of a more modern RTS that takes elevation into account. :) That game deserves a sequel by the way.

  29. Ginger Yellow says:

    Phemox – it’s pretty damn important in Total War.

  30. Steven Hutton says:

    This game is amazing. My personal favourate moment has got to be building a set of HUGE and stupidly expensive long ranged mortars and having them assist on a single small radar vehicle. The radar guy would go in close and pick targets with the tanks and the mortars would attack what was selected from range.
    This sounds a little clunky the way I’ve written it but it worked BEAUTIFULLY in practice.

  31. Heliocentric says:

    Rts that uses elevation?

    Is saying homeworld cheating? World in conflict has elevation, but it is “ground control: cold war”. But then, elevation only matters so much when you have nukes.

  32. Noc says:

    Homeworld was also ’99, and was in space. And space has tons of elevation. It is arguable that elevation is all space. is.

    This is clearly not what you meant, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to forgo an opportunity for pedantry.

  33. suibhne says:

    It’s arguably not an RTS – more like real-time tactics, innit – but Myth debuted fully 3D terrain (unlike Total Annihilation) in 1997.

  34. Oddtwang says:

    I remember this one – it is indeed a gem. That airlifting from previous maps thing mentioned above was indeed included, as were expanding maps (as seen again more recently in C&C3 and SupCom. And Red Alert did it that one time :))

    IIRC, TA’s terrain was 2D but had a kind of heightmap overlaid, so it did do elevation, line of fire etc. Only the units themselves were truly 3D though.

  35. Portman says:

    This brings back so many good memories, specifically when I ignored all of the family on Thanksgiving about 6-7 years back when I was trying to play through the game a second time.

    To bad there never was a sequel, or a chance for Pumpkin to make a new RTS since they got shut down so quickly after this came out.

    The CDs have living in my stereo for years now (give it a try, the music is excellent when it comes to ambient tracks) but it sounds like it’s time to dig them out and give it a try.

  36. KindredPhatom says:

    Ahh Warzone 2100 a game i played on ths psone, i still have the original cd and plastic case. It’s the only RTS game i can stand apart from Age of Empires but that was only a mess around. I keep meaning to check it out again? Does this have the original FMV’s? I know due to legal issues they couldn’t use them before.
    A good tactic is when on your first base, take back the first oil spot/refinery (can’t remember its name) build an oil refinery of your own and don’t progress no further, leave for a few hours and you will have a lot more resource at your disposal. Then go flatten those nasty scavengers!

  37. KindredPhantom says:

    Also, i fail for spelling my own name wrong and using the wrong e-mail for gravatar.. :C

  38. eyemessiah says:

    Haha KindredFATom.

  39. Duoae says:

    Wow. I love Warzone 2100. I picked up the freeware version last year and had trouble playing it because i couldn’t print off the instruction ‘manual’ but back when it was originally released i loved the game – I really wish i hadn’t lost it at some point (along with Total Annihilation).

    I remember playing the skirmishes against AI opponents; that was really fun and i remember coming back to the game some time in 2002/3 and discovering that there was this whole load of tech that i never even got to because of the MP bug which blocked out the higher tiers of research (i never got that far into the SP campaign).

  40. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    Never having bothered with the original, I’ll try to play this as soon as possible.

    Now, if someone would remake Spectre VR and Sentinel.

  41. Moonracer says:

    Machines was quite rubbish (buggy as heck for me) but the feature that really sold it for me was the option to control any unit in your army in first person mode (which both gave that unit a considerable advantage over AI and was a totally cool and unique feature to RTS). Unfortunately taking control of a unit did not put the AI in the command seat, otherwise it would have offered some truly unique gameplay.

  42. Benjamin_Barker says:

    “It really does make you think: visually we’ve come a long way, but Warzone 2100 does so much that RTS games still struggle to get right today.”

    I don’t favor RTSes, but this statement doesn’t surprise me. 1999 also saw the releases of Jagged Alliance 2, Planescape, and Alpha Centauri, and I think it would be fair to say that about any of those games within their respective genres as well. And while turn-based combat, choice-filled RPGs, and 4x games aren’t so common anymore, it reflects even worse on the industry when it comes to RTSes, since so very many have been made. I think you could say something similar about shooters (Half Life 1? 1998 release). Yes, I’m a video game curmudgeon (gimme the golden oldies!) but this is a corroboration of my reasons why.

  43. Tim_P says:

    Sweet! This is one of my favourite games of all time. Absolutely the best game of the day. I thought it was dead but I am very happy to be seeing old games like this getting support.

  44. the affront says:

    Don’t forget the superb Dark Omen when talking about elevation. Damn, how I loved that game.

    Also, Metal Fatigue. Not really relevant since it’s from 2000, but it was great, too. And Dungeon Keeper, Ground Control, TA, Homeworld, Populous, StarCraft…

    Thinking back, 1997-2000 really seem to have been the golden years of RTSs, while recently only re-hashed shit came out, for which I blame EA. Selling basically the same game over and over with new graphics and antiquated controls / interface, and STILL SELLING LOTS OF IT… what the fuck, really.
    OK, so I blame both EA and stupid buyers reinforcing the notion that you can successfully sell any old crap if you slap a new coat of paint on it.

  45. DigitalSignalX says:

    MYTH and MYTH II units also used elevation as a tactical advantage.. 97-99′ish.

    I often confuse Battlezone and Warzone because they both were out around the same time. Never got to play Warzone 21k, but played the hell out of Battlezone. Might give it a try when the new shiny resurrection is released.

  46. c-Row says:

    Wasn’t Machines absolutely rubbish? I seem to recall it getting panned at the time, and the demo being terrible. If it’s good I should take another look.

    Overall, Warzone 2100 was easier to control and made for a better game in the end, but Machines had the far better presentation. Maybe I just like playing games everyone doesn’t seem to care about – anyone remember Uprising?

  47. Heliocentric says:

    Damn, i totally did read this as battlezone. Zonk! In the field of open source war games has anyone played free allieigenence? Multiplayer space fighter game with base building and resource gathering npcs.

  48. Don says:

    What a fine game this was, like others I’ve still got its CD sitting in a draw somewhere. One thing I loved about it was that unlike its rivals you could arrange for your troops not to be suicidal by telling them to go for repair after taking a certain level of damage. Its a shame that at the time the technology didn’t allow the maps to be large enough to really exploit the tactical options the units allowed.

  49. Heliocentric says:

    Damn, i totally did read this as battlezone. Zonk! In the field of open source war games has anyone played free allieigenence? Multiplayer space fighter game with base building and resource gathering npcs, fairly hostile community though.

  50. Heliocentric says:

    Oops double post.

    Units that run away when hurt would be a great feature for a good amount of rts games at least as an option. That said, in narrow maps in company of heroes you can use barb wire to force a unit to scout the enemy base by “retreating” them and funneling them.

    The only recent game i can think of with retreating allies is hinterland.