Command and Conquer PSX - Westwood studio's iconic cover art

Kane has instructed you, his own personal avatar to take the fight to the GDI and bring them to ‘justice’…

Command and Conquer, for the PC, SEGA Saturn, Nintendo N64 and the Playstation One, is a real time strategy game from Westwood Studios first released in September 1995 (and just over a year later on consoles).

Outwardly, it has a very simple premise. Good (GDI) vs bad (Nod) in a war across multiple campaigns with some limited “choose your own path” elements. Furthermore, it features near future technology and some of the finest nineties-core FMV ever seen.

Perhaps most chilling is that underneath its skin, it’s a tale of a world on the brink of an energy crisis. Evidently, two opposing factions rise with differing visions of the future and only one can be lead to victory.

Command and Conquer PSX - GDI's first mission
GDI forces build a forward base in the very first mission of the GDI campaign.

It is a chilling mix of real life and fantasy, in retrospect it couldn’t have cut closer to the bone if it tried. 

“Perhaps I was too young to realise it but at its core it dabbles in some very mature topics”

This is none more so evident than in the introduction FMV at the beginning of the game. Command and Conquer opens with a news broadcast; it covers everything from fuel prices, childrens TV, the latest soap opera interspersed with darker elements, terrorism, war and the spread of a mysterious new resource called Tiberium – named after the Tiber River in Egypt, where it was discovered.

Perhaps I was too young to realise it but at its core it dabbles in some very mature topics wrapped up in campy nineties over acting. War, resources and terrorism – I wasn’t ready for that truth bomb after school.

Command and Conquer PSX - Nod up to their normal mischief in Northern Africa
Nod set up a base to maintain their grasp on Northern Africa.

…After a last stand battle for GDI, you take control of their Weapon of Mass Destruction – the Ion Cannon…

But just what is Tiberium and why do GDI and Nod see it differently? Firstly, Tiberium shows potential to be incredibly energy rich in a world starved of resources. Both GDI and Nod harvest it for it’s monetary value to fuel their war efforts.

Secondly, Tiberium isn’t just incredibly energy rich, it is dangerously poisonous to all life on planet Earth. Tiberium poisoning takes the form of turning your infantry into Tiberium the longer they come into contact with it. In canon, it forms crystals inside the lungs of anyone unlucky enough to be exposed to it. Ouch.

“In canon, it forms crystals inside the lungs of anyone unlucky enough to be exposed to it. Ouch.”

Thirdly, and likely to be the most important, Tiberium is believed to be alien in origin. GDI views Tiberium as a threat that must be contained, whilst Nod views it as a gift prophesised to arrive by their leader – the ever enigmatic, Kane.

Command and Conquer PSX - From God, to Kane, to you commander
Love him or hate him. Kane is an icon in the gaming world.

…Kane congratulates you on a job well done and finally reveals his last request. Choose which landmark to destroy.

So we have a real time strategy game, set in the near future, about humanity fighting over a deadly new resource as existing resources dwindle. Sound familiar? War over resources is a painful truth we may yet face in the modern age.

From global terrorism to all out war, Command and Conquer tells a very powerful narrative of a grim future. But why weren’t people impacted by it back then? Were we all too apathetic to notice?

I played it as a young 9 year old and it completely slipped me by, however was I ever going to notice its message? Was I supposed to reflect on the callous nature of world leaders in the face of a crisis? What could we do about our own dwindling resources?

All I was left with was a decision – Square, Circle, Triangle or X. Which landmark should I destroy with my brand new toy?

Command and Conquer PSX - The Ion cannon fires
The Ion cannon fires on some poor unsuspecting soul

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Command and Conquer is available on Steam and other platforms. If real time strategy is your thing, then I can highly recommend the Red Alert spin off series.

Anthony Jansen
Anthony is a gaming advocate. He has been playing video games since the early nineties and has a real passion for the 16 bit era. He believes that every game deserves a chance (except Treasures of the Deep - which scared him as a child).


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