Video Game: Original War

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 favourite 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-traveller to arrive and spent a year alone.
  • Alternate Universe: Strongly implied. 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 create a Stable Time Loop, a third timeline is created where everyone fights; the choice of campaign determines the events in this timeline.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 either choose the Arab ending and destroy the main vein, or force the other sides of the conflict (the Americans and the Soviets) to surrender, then try to "build a better future".
  • 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.
  • Checkov's gunman: In mission 2 you capture a russian mechanic (who just so happens to teleport from the future right into your base). You've got a choice: either kill him, let him free, or take him a prisoner. If you choose to not kill him, this guy will express his gratitude by releasing Andy Cornel from captivity 8 missions later.
  • 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.
  • Command And 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.
  • 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.
  • Defog of War: Radars and snipers work this way. An common trick is to build an AI-controlled vehicle equipped with a radar.
  • 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.

    This is 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Fragile Speedster: The Arab playstyle. Although as a rule they are more fragile than threatening, they can pack vehicles with explosives, which makes them highly dangerous on open ground.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Mighty Glacier: The Soviets' playstyle. Almost all their vehicles trade speed for all-terrain heavy tracks, sturdy armour 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 armour 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.
  • 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.
  • Oh, Crap: Happens frequently as newly-arrived time travellers 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Versus 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 overmuch about their lost lives, as they volunteered, but the Russians primarily send 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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