Video Game / Original War

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Original War is a Czech Real-Time Strategy game that was released in 2001 as a budget title. It is noted for including RPG Elements, a resource system built around scarcity and a very high difficulty. Being an obscure game overall, it has achieved cult status since its release. The story is loosely based on the 1981 novel The last day of Creation by German author Wolfgang Jeschke.

The titular war revolves around a rare mineral called Siberite. Originally found in Siberia, it is discovered by the US military during the allied intervention in the Russian Civil War in the 1920s, along with an alien artifact, EON. The artefact and a small amount of Siberite is smuggled out of Russia, and experiments eventually determine that Siberite is both a catalyst for cold fusion and fuel for EON — which is revealed to be a Time Machine. With no safe way to acquire the priceless Siberite from the Russians, another approach is decided upon: to send a task force back in time 2 million years on a one-way mission to mine and transport the Siberite over the then-intact land bridge between Alaska and Siberia. Upon arriving, however, the task force members are scattered in both time and space, and much to their surprise find themselves beset by hostile Russians.

"Meanwhile", in the present day, the Soviet Union is fuming over America's monopoly of Alaskite, a mineral with strange properties first discovered in Alaska. During an excavation in Siberia, however, trace amounts of Alaskite is found buried with what is determined to be 2 million year old modern American technology along with an alien device dubbed TAWAR. Experiments determine that TAWAR is a Time Machine capable of sending objects back in time 2 million years — leading to the realization that the US stole the Alaskite deposit to begin with. The Russians, enraged, determine to take back what is rightfully theirs, and thus send their own force through the TAWAR to stop the Americans.

Back in the American present, partway through the process of sending supplies and manpower back in time the facility housing EON is abruptly attacked by a force of Arab mercenaries. The Arabs steal through the EON with their own group and supplies and arrive in the middle of the on-going hostilities. Confusingly, many of them do not seem to care about the agenda they were sent to carry out and instead sell their services to the first bidder. Secretive and reclusive otherwise, only time will tell what the Arabs truly intend.

Tropes featured include:

  • Action Bomb: The Arabs can put explosives in their vehicles or on their apemen. A favorite tactic of theirs puts an apeman into the driver's seat of a vehicle laden with bombs.
  • Action Girl: Lisa Lawson, among others. The game isn't lacking for strong female characters.
  • The Aloner: Tim Gladstone, a scientist, who was the first time-traveler to arrive and spent a year alone.
  • Aloof Big Brother: Downplayed with Vsevolod. He is a Captain in the Soviet army and a soldier by trade (compared to Burlak, who is a mechanic) and he is a lot more respected by his superiors than Burlak. The brothers themselves are nice to each other, though.
  • Alternate Universe: The Americans in the first timeline go back in time to steal the time machine, creating a timeline where they are dominant. The Soviet Union from the second timeline sends people back in time to counter this, and meet the Americans from the first timeline. Rather than creating a Stable Time Loop, a third timeline is created where everyone fights; the choice of campaign determines the events in this timeline.
    • Glimpses of the Soviet homeworld include Trotsky coming to power instead of Stalin, Hitler never raising to prominence and implicitely no World War II, no Warsaw Pact, no Berlin Wall, no fall of the USSR (obviously), and a crisis or war where "North China" was supported by the USSR.
  • Androcles' Lion: Berezov is a human example. If you don't kill him and he doesn't escape your custody, he will allow Andy Cornell to escape when he is taken prisoner by the Russians.
  • Anyone Can Die: Unless it's a Escort Mission, you can usually win a game after losing all your units except Burlak and MacMillan.
  • Anti-Hero: All characters to some degree. Since no side takes prisoners, the critically injured will be shot after they cease to be a threat or left to bleed on the ground. And let's better not talk about what you can do to the poor apemen.
  • Arab Oil Sheikh: The leaders of the Arab faction.
  • Arch-Enemy: Burlak and Macmillan become this in the Russian campaign.
  • Area 51: The place where EON was stored in and discovered to be a time machine.
  • Armor Is Useless: Zig-Zagged. Armour progression is extremely limited and the main source of it is assigning a character to the role of a soldier, since they are the only "class" wearing body armour. Said armour can greatly decrease (but never fully stop) small arms fire, which is useful early on and in infantry-vs-infantry combat. However, it's completely insufficient against most of vehicle-mounted guns and gun emplacements.
  • Army of One: One particular mission has you holding off an entire army—which includes tanks—with just two characters. After holding out successfully, you are then tasked with assaulting the enemy base—with the same two characters.
  • Artistic License Ė Paleontology: Homo erectus and terror birds in Beringia 2 million years ago.
  • The Atoner: One of the main reasons for the creation of the Alliance is everyone wanting to do something good for once, instead senslessly killing each other for resources.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • Apemen soldiers. They fire slowly, wear no armor and gain very little experience. They are really only useful for garrisoning buildings or attracting the attention of enemy units while your real soldiers kill them.
    • Hovercrafts. It is awesome to have a vehicle that can cross deep water and not get slowed by the mud and shallows. It still cannot go up a slope, though, so it can be "imprisoned" in a river with high banks, and it is as useless in mountains and forests as any other non-caterpillar, non-bulldozing vehicle. It cannot carry a lot of weight so it has low armor, low firepower, and cannot be used to carry supplies.
  • Back from the Dead: Not literal, but Cornell can return and become a playable character long after you might expect to see him.
  • Bad Boss: Both campaigns get this. The American general Ron Harrison is a Reasonable Authority Figure, but gets quickly replaced by Arthur Powell, a stubborn Jerk Ass. The Russians have it even worse with Major Platonov and his belief in We Have Reserves.
  • Bag of Spilling: Notably averted. The most valuable resource of the game are the people under your command. As the game progress, their skills are improved and they can be always selected for the next mission, as long as they are kept alive. Also, at the start of each mission, players are free to assign roles to the selected characters, thus equipping them with the most useful gear. And if a mission returns to an old base, the structures build by player will remain on their spots.
  • Baseless Mission: Many missions, especially the American ones. Your objective is either to survive, capture the enemy base, infiltrate it or flee with your fellow defectors from your former allies' vast armies if you decide to defect to the Alliance.
  • Black Best Friend: Andy Cornell is an Old Friend of John MacMillan.
  • Black Dude Dies First: ...and he lasts a single scenario as a non-playable character before being unceremoniously killed off offscreen. Unless you make the right choices with Berezov, in which case Cornell may be revealed to have survived the suicide attack against the Russians and he will be able to escape back to your side.
  • Bigger Stick: Rocket-based weapons trump pretty much anything else, since they combine anti-infantry capabilities of machine guns with anti-vehicle and area damage quality of cannons. They can be also used to conduct barrages over specified area and have firing range greater than their own line of sight.
  • Bittersweet Ending: No matter which side you stick with, there is no Happy Ending, as the nature of the time travelling involved ensures there is no going home.
    • The American and Soviet campaigns end with the respective factions securing their mission by evaporating all opposition with Siberite bombs and then proceeding with the original assignment. After this, there is nothing left for the humans to do but die. Two million years hence, the victorious Americans dominate the world economy, while the victorious Soviets are poised to invade the US.
    • The Arabs blow up the main Siberite vein, which leads to an Earth-Shattering Kaboom. There is no future in this scenario, at least not for Earth.
    • The Alliance ending is the most optimistic one. They subdue or outright wipe out Arab troops and then force the remaining sides of the conflict (the Americans and the Soviets) to surrender, after which try to "build a better future".
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • Bulldozers are slow as hell, but are the only thing capable of cutting down trees, clearing space for buildings and making paths for other vehicles and even infantry in case of dense forest.
    • Cargo vehicles. It's a bog-standard light truck designed to pick up crates and move resources between depos. But when you can only use engineers for that and each of them can only pick a single crate, while the cargo truck picks 10 and moves five times faster, they suddenly become one of the most useful things to have and turn collecting crates into easy and safe(ish) task.
    • The Americans can only train apemen as engineers, and even in this case, they cannot make new buildings from scratch. They are still unvaluable workers in some scenarios where your personnel is limited and has other work to do.
  • Bus Crash: A number of characters in the American campaign are killed offscreen such as Ron Harrison and Jeremy Sikorski. Andy Cornell looks like another example at first, but he will be revealed to be alive if you make the right choices.
  • Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: General Ron Harrison is a Reasonable Authority Figure, with good commanding and tactical skills, taking great care for his men. Colonel Arthur Powell, on the other hand, is Hot-Blooded jerk that would rather let new soldiers die than provide them with any help.
  • Cassandra Truth: In the 9th American mission, some mercenary Arabs warn the Americans that the Soviets have made some very sci-fi sounding discoveries concerning the mineral. The Americans scoff at the notion, and accuse the Arabs of trying to pull a fast one on them during the bargaining going on. The next mission opens with the Soviets launching a surprise attack with their new toys on a largely unprepared American base.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Due to the nature of the gameplay, it is perfectly possible to train any given character to eventually reach high levels of all skill and fully master at least one, as long as the character survives and stays under player command. The game also expects this approach - as skill level translates into efficiency of its users, the characters either get good training, or are utterly uselesss.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Many characters have an impact larger in the game than you might assume at first, if you can keep them alive.
    • Berezov releases Andy Cornell from Russian custody when their status as captive and captor are reversed.
    • Frank Forsyth is indeed a great scout, and one of the funniest commentators in the game.
    • Inverted with Paul Khattam. He betrays the Americans for the Arabs, but he does not appear in the game again.
    • Kirilenkova is revealed to have become a mercenary in Yugoslavia in the American home timeline. This earns her the loyalty of Xavier, even though she's from an Alternate Universe where they never met before.
  • Colour Coded Armies: Each faction has its own unique color. Americans are blue, Soviets are red, Arabs are yellow and the Alliance is light green.
    • Without considering player colors, the Americans wear light blue uniforms, the Soviets wear green, and the Arabs wear black.
  • Command & Conquer Economy: Justified, as it emphasizes how make-shift everything is. Buildings not only need your direct orders, but also require characters inside to actually work. Laboratories need scientists, while garages and factories are operated by mechanics.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: As the story progresses, the characters slowly realise that their objective is not as noble as they thought at the beginning. Ultimately, scientists from both sides defect to form the Alliance.
    • Khattam betrays the Americans for the Arabs because of his Muslim faith.
  • Continuing Is Painful: Since units represent individual characters with their own sets of skills and there is a finite amount of them in the game, losing anyone will rather force a reload than trying to continue without said character, even if it's just some Mauve or even outright Red Shirt.
  • Cool Bike: All Arab vehicles are bikes. They can be wheeled, tracked, both, and even airborn, making them the only vehicles capable of going over deep water.
  • Cool Car: The American morphing chassis, a mix between a tracked and wheeled chassis, utilises the speed of its wheeled mode when moving on plain ground, and switches to tracked mode when encountering more difficult terrain. In addition to being very fast as a result, it is also very durable, turning all combat vehicles utilizing the chassis into Lightning Bruisers.
  • The Cynic: Cyrus Parker, who never stops to point out all the bad things around.
  • Damage Is Fire: Buildings and vehicles go up in flames when damaged, even when only attacked by a bunch of angry apemen armed only with their teeth and nails.
  • Dark-Skinned Blonde: Raúl Xavier, one of the mercenaries employed by the Arabs.
  • Defog of War: Radars and snipers work this way. A common trick is to build an AI-controlled vehicle equipped with a radar.
  • Developers' Foresight: Despite all unit being unique individuals with own personality and players almost always have a free choice of who to pick for next mission, each character has specific lines to say and reactions to make, depending on past and present choices and situation. They can even react to possible death of other characters and invoke that few missions later. All of this in a budget game made by a small studio in 2001.
  • Dirty Communists: Soviet Trotskyists from an alternate timeline, but the trope is played pretty straight.
  • Disaster Democracy: A bizarre case happens in the American campaign. After General Harrison dies, the troops cast a vote for new commander of their mission, instead of simply following military protocol and chain of command. What makes it weird is the fact Powell would take over in standard situation (he's 2nd highest ranking officer) anyway, but instead you have soldiers willingly voting on that jerk for no apparent reason and he barely wins over MacMillan by just a handful of votes.
  • Domesticated Dinosaurs: Not actual dinosaurs (since the setting is too recent for them), but all three factions can train local "apemen" to do different tasks. The Arabs can also tame mastodons and sabertooth tigers.
  • Easy Logistics: Mostly averted. Vehicles may run out of fuel unless using Siberite/Alaskite engines and each individual base has its own resource pool—supplies have to be transferred from one outpost to another manually. Ammunition, however, is not a game resource, and its availability and distribution amongst characters is glossed over.
  • Enemy Exchange Program: You can capture structures of other factions and use them to produce vehicles or provide equipment normally available only to that faction. This is a core part of the gameplay: a base without defenders can not be used for anything, and can be quickly captured by a lone engineer. It is even invoked in the campaign, where certain missions depend on you capturing a base from the enemy—or buying one from the Arabs—in order to obtain the necessary resources for an attack on the enemy's main base.
  • Enemy Mine: The Arabs and Americans become allies due to their mutual war with the Russians but the Arabs betray the Americans as soon as they learn how the Siberite works from them.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: When their life bar becomes red, vehicles stop, catch on fire, and their life descends slowly until they explode.
  • Everything Fades: Averted. Corpses remain where they fall, grass can regrow and explosions leave permanent craters. This is quite notable for a game from 2001. Weirdly enough, bodies will still remain even after you decide to bury them, since this feature is only intended to clean space in the control board.
  • Faction Calculus: Nominally, the Americans are Balanced, the Russians are Powerhouses, and the Arabs are Subversive. All three factions tend toward a subversive playstyle, however.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: The Arabs betray the Americans as soon as they become official allies.
  • Firewood Resources: All supply crates can be carried by a single person, even though the buildings and vehicles clearly contain parts that are larger than the crates.
  • Flying Car: Arab "hovercrafts".
  • Forced Level-Grinding: There are two ways to beat each level and the game. The first is to take your time with every mission, gaining as much experience as possible with every single character under your command. The second is to just win missions and then restart the whole campaign halfway through because your characters are laughable wimps. Training your scientists in combat skills is not an option. It's a must.
  • Frazetta Man: Depending on the artwork, the apemenís appearance can vary from almost neanderthal to chimp-like or orangutan-like. Gladstone identifies them as Homo pekinensis (a variant of Homo erectus) which wouldn't come into existence until one million years later.
  • Friendly Sniper:
    • Frank Forsyth, one of the American scouts, is a jovial fellow.
    • Snipers are only available to the Americans, the most sympathetic faction.
  • Gender Is No Object: Men and women can become any unit in the game, with the sole exception of Desert Warriors. These cannot be trained and are only available as future arrivals. The Desert Warriors are all male.
  • Glass Cannon: The Arab playstyle. Although they are more fragile than threatening as a rule, they can pack vehicles with explosives, which makes them highly dangerous on open ground.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: No side is immaculate and all have more or less selfish reasons to fight this war. At least until the Alliance comes along.
  • Garrisonable Structures: Almost all buildings can be occupied, but only barracks, sand-bags and manned gun positions work as typical garrisons, allowing characters inside to shoot at opponents.
  • Gambit Pileup: Each of the three factions are from different timelines, and they all have conflicting reason for going back in time. Each faction in turn contains unsatisfied elements, and before long, numerous plans and gambits vie for dominance.
  • General Failure: A systematic problem of the Russians, given how much they rely on Hollywood Tactics and We Have Reserves.
    • Gorki's first boss, Lieutenant Pokryshkin, gets himself killed early on, when leading a frontal assault, on foot, against an entrenched position. His only talent seems to be intercepting radio signals and leading the more naïve, newly arrived enemy soldiers into traps.
    • In the fourth mission, Gorki has to ignore Platonov's orders and redirect some of the supplies of the retreating Soviet army to have a chance of resisting the upcoming Arab assault. While doing so, Platonov keeps pestering him through radio, insisting that he has already sent the neccessary supplies.
    • Powell is a non-Russian example.
  • Geo Effects: Bushes, trees and buildings block parts of your line of sight, hills and upper ground allow you to see for longer distances, and trees block your vehicles and building spots unless you bulldoze them. Rough terrain and slopes can be traversed with tracked vehicles, and shallow water and mud slows units considerably.
  • Giving Radio to the Romans: With the right technologies, you can recruit "apemen" (something between Homo habilis and H. erectus) into your ranks. The concept art says it all. Unfortunately for them, it seems "apemen" are not smart enough yet to become anything but cannon fodder for uptime hominids.
  • Guide Dang It!: If you decide to defect to the Alliance in the American campaign, you get to bring up to five other characters with you. Only that it's seven, as two characters will join you regardless if picked - and those two are most likely first choice of every player. Also, Lisa Lawson is especially difficult to bring along with no outside knowledge, as the sequence to recruit her is highly specific, and there is no indication in-game of what it is.
  • <Hero> Must Survive: Losing either MacMillan or Burlak is an instant game over.
    • In a subversion, if either American Love Interest Joan or Russian Cool Car Masha is on the field, their survival will be noted as a secondary objective, but is not required. Losing either will not end the current mission, but will cause major subplots to end abruptly.
  • Hetero Sexual Life Partners: John MacMillan and Frank Forsyth, which is Lampshaded several times. If MacMillan defects to the Alliance, Forsyth will join him even if he isnít inducted into the conspiracy.
    • Burlak and Belkov on the Russian side become the same. If Burlak defects to the Alliance, Belkov will eventually join him even though he isnít inducted into the conspiracy.
  • Hidden Heart of Gold: Arthur Powell, the American commander during the second half of the campaign, although it's quite hard to spot. Initially all the new-gained power goes to his head, but when he finally realises how dire the situation is, he tones down his Jerk Ass tendencies.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Russians and Arabs often resort to human wave tactics.
  • Hypocrite: Belkov laughs at the first American killed on the Soviet campaign and calls him a coward... only to strongly suggest running to the main base when minimal opposition shows up.
  • I Call It "Vera": Burlak's custom-built tank is called Masha. This is Played for Laughs quite a bit, and causes a lot of confusion amongst Americans who think Burlak is talking about his girlfriend.
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: Adventurer, Commander and Master Strategist. That last one is not lying.
  • Infinite Supplies: Mostly averted. Supply spawns are finite on each map, and vehicles can and will run out of fuel, but ammunition is infinite. Recycling buildings and vehicles and raiding for supplies is a core part of the gameplay, which is especially noticeable in campaign missions where no supplies spawn and everything needs to be constantly repurposed.
  • Instant Militia: Played with. Any character can be equipped with a rifle or faction-specific weapon as long as there is an available barracks or armoury, although changing classes takes a few seconds. The actual performance of any given soldier is based on his or her class level, so there is no guarantee that training someone as a soldier will work very well. If worst comes to worst, non-soldier characters will use handguns.
  • I Owe You My Life: Xavier to Kirilenkova, although he met her in a different timeline so she has no idea what he is talking about.
  • Justified Tutorial: In both campaigns, the main character lands in a far different situation than was expected by his superiors, so explaining some basics of the gameplay is connected with the actual storyline.
  • Late Character Syndrome: Common in both campaigns, with characters unimportant to the plot being added constantly to ensure, in theory, that you always have enough troops to complete a level, even if you lost most of them in the previous one. And if you choose to pursuit Alliance route, most characters from the other side of conflict will fall under this trope.
  • A Lighter Shade of Grey: Americans from the original timeline, mostly by the virtue of not being oppressive totalitarian state sending unwilling conscripts 2 million years BC.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: If you botch Lisa Lawson's recruitment during MacMillan's defection to the Alliance, she will berate you for losing your head over a chick, abandoning your superiors and real friends, and then open fire at you. Even if everything goes smoothly, she will still consider MacMillan's choice suspicious because of his affection for Joan.
  • Magikarp Power:
    • Americans have this going for them. They start with worse weapons, weaker vehicle chassis and early vehicles are solar-powerednote . But in the end of the game, they have access to the best chassis, their AI research is more advanced than the Soviet one (thus giving them better stats to AI-controlled units) and their faction-specific weapon, the sniper rifle, is a bane of infantry and human-operated vehicles - it has the longest range, can put humans down with just one shot and is the only way to instantly knock vehicles from combat.
    • Mechanics can operate via radio vehicle fleet equal to their skill and each vehicle acts as if mechanic in question had effective skill-2. Pretty bad early on, but at level 10, a mechanic can operate a fleet of 10 vehicles, each acting as if being driven by level 8 driver, outperforming AI-operated vehicles by a large margin, while not endangering any drivers, since they are sitting back in base with remotes.
  • Mecha-Mooks: Humans and apemen are strictly limited in numbers, but each faction has access to (depending on resource availability) potentially unlimited amounts of disposable unmanned vehicles: the Russians use AIs, the Arabs use remote control, and the Americans both.
  • Mildly Military: Justified, since all the troops in the past (sans maybe Arabs, but they've sent mercs anyway) are fully aware they are stuck and their supperiors won't be even born for the next two million years. And just like in the novel providing the original idea, the erosion of morale and just anything resembling proper military structure kicks on overdrive the moment each side of the conflict realise they came from Alternate Timelines.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: The near arctic is way too far north for terror birds and pre-neanderthal "apemen", at least in this date. Rule of Cool is clearly at play here.
  • Mighty Glacier: The Soviets' playstyle. Almost all their vehicles trade speed for all-terrain heavy tracks, sturdy armor and bigger guns. Their faction-specific infantry weapon, the heavy rocket launcher, was found to be too heavy for fast movement, so it goes with heavy body armor as a way to compensate for already low mobility.
  • Nintendo Hard: The game is notoriously unforgiving; lose too many people and even the constant influx of new high-level characters in each mission won't help.
  • No Campaign for the Wicked: Everyone gets a campaign except the Arabs.
  • Non-Entity General: Averted. The player is represented by John MacMillan in the American campaign and Jurij Ivanovich "Burlak" Gorki in the Russian campaign.
  • Non-Indicative Difficulty: The in-game description calls the American campaign easy and good for new players. This is true... from a relative perspective.
  • Non Standard Game Over: The American campaign can end before it even starts for real, if you refuse to enter EON. For the Russians, staying loyal to Platonov when given a chance to betray or usurp him has... unpleasant... consequences.
  • Nuke 'em: Staying loyal to either side of the conflict leads to the development of a Siberite/Alaskite bomb. It may be used by the player.
  • Obligatory War-Crime Scene: Both campaigns require you to kill people who is not a threat at some point.
  • Oh, Crap!: Happens frequently as newly-arrived time travelers rarely land where and when they were supposed to. The first mission of either campaign involves a lot of careful sneaking around enemy patrols. And it gets only worse.
  • Our Time Travel Is Different: EON/TAWAR has very restricted functionality: it is strictly one-way, it always sends objects back about two million years to its current location, and anything sent must fit inside a chamber which can house a human adult and not much more. In addition, the time of arrival can vary by several years in either direction, and the point of arrival can be anywhere within a radius of about fifteen miles. Finally, Siberite/Alaskite is required to power it, making the venture a gamble as supplies are extremely limited.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Burlak's tank, Masha, is a powerful addition to your arsenal when you get it, and will transfer with you between missions if you keep it working. It only takes a few missions before it becomes obsolete, though; keeping it alive after that is mostly to keep Burlak from becoming sad.
  • Pacifist Run: One of your secondary objectives during your desertion from the Americans in the Alliance branch is this, as your enemies are your fellow soldiers and friends.
  • Panthera Awesome: Sabertooth tigers, as long as they aren't biting you.
  • Perspective Flip: Both campaigns follow roughtly similar events, showing that each side is made by regular people doing their best to fulfill their missions, rather than bunch of Always Chaotic Evil bastards.
  • The Precursors:
    • Whoever created EON/TAWAR and implicitely brought Siberite/Alaskite to Earth in the first place.
    • Eventually, all factions will become this in one way or another.
  • Private Military Contractors: Despite their name, most of the Arabian soldiers are actually European mercenaries.
  • Professional Butt-Kisser: The first time we meet Belkov heís cheering Pokryshkinís suicidal charge. After Pokryshkin gets killed, he keeps talking about falling back and reporting to his superiors for new orders. Later, he arguably becomes one for Gorki.
  • Qurac: The Arab faction combines both flavors of the trope. It is far less sympathetic than any other faction, with aims and tactics closer to a terrorist organization than an army. It also has orientalist elements, with sheikhs (one of whom is named Omar Shariff) and "desert warriors" armed with scimitars and bolt action rifles. The stereotypical Arab fondness for exotic pets is present in their capacity to tame sabertooth tigers and mastodons, turning the latter into a Plio-Pleistocene analogue of War Elephants. To top it off, their main base is named "New Kabul", despite Kabul not being an Arab city.
  • Reinventing the Wheel: Zig-Zagged. Some upgrades stay consistent between missions, while others require you to research them again; sometimes the reinvented upgrades stay permanent, too. Justified for some of the items as most of the equipment is manufactured on-site, and might need special machinery to be created first.
  • Ridiculously Fast Construction: Justified. Most buildings are made from prefabbed materials.
  • Rock Beats Laser: Laser-based weapons can wreck any kind of vehicle in their range. Strangely, they do almost no damage to humans and apes, so a lone turret can be destroyed by having an engineer dismantle it.
  • RPG Elements: Characters earn experience and gain levels in classes by performing relevant tasks. In the campaign, experience is also handed out after each mission, and can be used to level up the individual classes for each character who partook in the mission. Higher levels increases the efficiency of tasks performed related to the class: soldiers deal more damage, mechanics repair vehicles faster, and so on.
  • Shoot the Medic First: Subverted. Due to the way how game mechanics work, unless you have some great tactical advantage (like having snipers and enemy doesn't), you will die trying to reach the medic behind the soldiers riddling you with bullets.
  • Shows Damage: Damaged buildings combine this with Damage Is Fire. After sustaining enough damage, structures will become unusable smouldering ruins. If you don't repair them, they will burn to the ground.
  • Slap-on-the-Wrist Nuke: While the Siberite/Alaskite bomb isn't a classic nuke, it's portrayed as something much, much more powerful. Being the most powerful weapon in-game, it is at best capable of destroying a densely-packed mid-size base.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: While not a happy stroll in the park in any way, the American campaign is much more idealistic than the Russian one, where several important characters are unceremoniously killed off (including Burlak's brother and MacMillan's Love Interest, not to mention Tim Gladston in just the first mission), and remaining loyal to your Bad Boss earns you a firing squad rather than his respect. If you decide to follow it, the Alliance route is the most idealistic route in either campaign.
  • Sniping the Cockpit: Attacks against vehicles cause damage to both the vehicle and the driver. If the driver's health reaches critical levels before the vehicle's, the driver is ejected and the vehicle can be driven off by anyone. Snipers excel at this, as they deal pitiful damage to the vehicle, but full damage to the driver. This effectively means that the hijacked vehicle can be used to full effect.
  • Soviet Superscience: The Soviets get most of the Science Fiction gadgets: Time-displacement technology, teleportation and an actual tank. Not bad for a handful of car mechanics and theoretical physicists using prefabricated parts.
  • The Starscream: Paul Khattam, who is Muslim, defects the Americans for the Arabs at the first opportunity and is never seen again.
  • Starting Units: In most missions you start with vehicles which you are able to neither produce nor fuel. Generally you are expected to use them to help you gain a foothold on the map before their fuel runs out; from there, you can then keep them fuelled up indefinitely.
  • Stealth-Based Mission: Each campaign has a handful of stealth missions where being discovered leads to being killed almost immediately. The game as a whole implements stealth-based mechanics: crawling through high grass makes you virtually invisible, whereas walking, running or driving through grass flattens it for several minutes, revealing your movements; high ground lets you spot careless foes from afar; and gasoline engines can be heard from outside the fog of war.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Burlak's icon and that of his older brother, Vsevolod, have the same outline. Vsevolod is a bit thinner, with darker hair and eyes and a Perma-Stubble.
  • Suicide Attack:
  • Sympathetic P.O.V.: American campaign runs on this trope for the first half - you are supposed to root for what is basically a military outfit of time-travelling looters, just because they are the underdog against Alternate Timeline Soviets and wear blue. Amusingly, the Soviet campaign manages to reverse it (without villifying Americans) by making it crystal clear the high command is a nasty combination of heavy-handed brutes and politically appointed idiots, who run the show by making life of everyone else as pitiable as possible.
  • Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors: Machine guns are great against infantry, but deal moderate damage to buildings and vehicles. Cannons are great against other vehicles and buildings, but have problems against small-target infantry (unless it's clustered). Lasers will shred vehicles to pieces in no time, especially when two or more beams are combined, but deal almost no damage to organic targets. Faction specific weapons are extremely one-sided, so infantry using them still requires support of soldiers with regular equipment or using weapon of another factionnote . Either your troops have a healthy mix to cover their weak points, or you might end up quickly overwhelmed by AI, which easily applies combined arms tactics in most of missions.
  • Take a Third Option: The Russian victory means they invade United States in the present day, while the American victory creates an Alternate Universe where they oppress the whole planet and the USSR still exists. To avoid this, Peter Roth attempts to get the scientists from both sides to defect, forming the Alliance.. The Arabs have their own third option as well, although a rather... extreme one.
  • Token Minority: Andy Cornell (African American) and Paul Khattam (Muslim American).
  • Trapped in the Past: EON/TAWAR only goes in one direction. This is a plot point: everyone who steps through the doorway is aware of the consequences, but once they arrive they often find their purpose eroding. The Americans and Arabs do not worry much about their lost lives, as they volunteered, but the Russians primarily sent back conscripts. American Love Interest Joan has it particularly hard, as she was forced to flee into the time machine when the site holding it was attacked by the Arabs.
  • Tutorial Failure: Subverted. American campaign is described in-game as good for new players and for most of it, there is a linear progression of accessing new structures, technologies and vehicles. So by fulfilling mission objectives players can easily learn the ropes. This is also the only reason why said campaign is marked as "easy" - in reality it's considerably harder than the Russian one.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The "present day" of the game is 2004, three years after the game was released. Amusingly, Vladimir Putin is mentioned as a past president of Russia in the American home timeline, who by 2004 has been succeeded by a fictional one.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: Several missions drop the RTS elements almost completely and focus on the stealth elements instead. The first mission in each campaign is particularly notable, as most of it is spent avoiding the enemy, rather than doing anything related to the advertised genre.
  • Unobtanium: Alaskite/Siberite, which is a catalyst for cold fusion and is used to power the TAWAR/EON, respectively.
  • Video Game Caring Potential:
    • Every human unit in the game is a unique individual with RPG-like stats, and when they die, they are Killed Off for Real. It is often better to deploy inferior remote-controlled or computer-controlled vehicles just to avoid risking your precious soldiers. In the campaign, you also tend to miss out on story content if someone dies.
    • If you kill a sheikh riding a mastodon, you can heal the mastodon before it dies. Most times, it will just wander off free instead of attacking you.
  • Videogame Cruelty Potential:
  • Videogame Flamethrowers Suck: Heavy guns hit harder and have far better range than flamethrowers. They do have a short window of usefulness in the Tech Tree, but mostly they're just not worth it.
  • War Elephants: Mastodons can be trained by Arab sheikhs.
  • Warrior Poet: John MacMillan is in the same time capable soldier and a perceptive thinker, constantly pondering about the whole situation going around in truly philosophical fashion. This also lampshades his eventual defection to the idealistic Alliance.
  • Why Am I Ticking?: The Arabs can strap explosives to their apemen (or to cars driven by apemen) and use them in suicide attacks.
  • Wild Card: The Arabs, who consist of mercenaries who were tricked into travelling back in time. Nobody knows their agenda, or even if they will follow through with whatever it is, and they are powerful enough for the other factions to be nervous about them.
  • Worker Unit: Every character can change their class to engineer (as long as there is an active stockpile), allowing them to build and repair structures and carry crates. Americans may also use apemen as pack-mules and to help construct or repair, but a human or an AI-controlled construction vehicle is required to actually start the construction.
  • Working-Class Hero: Burlak is a mechanic apathetic about Communist ideology at best and prone to questioning his superiors orders.
  • Worthy Opponent: If the player joins the Alliance in the American Campaign, Burlak and MacMillan will recognise each other as this.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: The trailer for the game has a group of Americans pulling a risky raid for supplies from the future, losing one of their number in the process, only to discover that the crate they fought for was full of Coca-Cola cans.
  • You Require More Vespene Gas: Crates represent resources sent from the future, and are used for everything. With proper technology, you can find oil deposits and later Siberite/Alaskite (minerals), using them as fuel for your vehicles and power generators. There is also energy, produced by said generators or solar panels, which is used to power buildings.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/VideoGame/OriginalWar