Video Game / Zero K
Meet the Glaive.

You can Maek D-Fenz, or you can play the game.

Zero-K is a free, open-source Real-Time Strategy game developed for the Spring engine, and available for Windows and Linux. Originally called Complete Annihilation, it was a fork of the (at the time) Abandonware Balanced Annihilaton, which was itself forked from the permanently deceased Absolute Annihilation. The latter was a Spring port of the original Game Mod and unit pack of the same name, which was based on Uberhack, a rebalance of The Core Contingency, an official Expansion Pack of Total Annihilation.

The developers stated design goals are for the game, "to be dynamic, action-packed and hassle-free, full of clever strategies and constantly moving combat with games lasting an average 20-30 minutes." To this end, several important differences from the other TA-derived games have accumulated, including the exclusion of the metal-maker units, the inclusion of both artillery and assault units in almost every factory, a free factory for every player, and the removal of the Tech Tree altogether. Certain units also possess "Unit AI" that automates their combat behaviour to a certain extent - raiders jink to avoid slow projectiles, skirmishers back away from enemies that try to close in, while construction and dedicated anti-air units try to avoid ground combat entirely.

The result is a game focused heavily on mobility and overarching strategy. Players are forced to take more and more ground to keep their economy expanding, with combat units that can be built from the first few seconds of the game. Units themselves can be relied upon to conduct themselves sensibly in combat without frenzied micromanagement, leaving players more time (and brainpower) to plan ahead. Turrets have a nasty tendency to be pounded flat from afar, or overrun completely, unless counter-attacks can be mounted with mobile units of their own. In general, if something hasn't blown up after two minutes in-game, you're doing it horribly wrong.

Many of the units in this game borrow their features (and names) from similar units in its predecessors, but the designers decided to break from Total Annihilation's meager storyline altogether, in the hopes of divorcing the game from its copyrighted roots. The replacement story, or what fragments of it have been decided on, consists of two eras - the PlanetWars, in which five barely-Cosmetically Different Sides repeatedly battle across the Milky Way, and the post-PlanetWars, in which humans have been wiped out and only their still-battling machines remain.

The game contains examples of:

  • Beam Spam: Archangel, Detriment, and Scorpion never stop shooting lasers when a target is near.
  • Beehive Barrier: Shields are composed of tesselated hexagons that fade from blue to red as their charge depletes.
  • Character Customization: After unlocking commander parts, your commander can be fitted with different modules that are added to it at level of in-game upgrade. There are 5 upgrade levels, and upgrading to each one requires resources, so a player without these commander upgrades can develop a unit advantage to counter it.
  • Colour Coded Armies: Type I, as seen above.
  • Command & Conquer Economy: Partially justified in that you are using metal and energy in the form of nanotech. How you got them from the stores, however...
  • Crippling Overspecialization: "Nerf weaknesses, buff strengths" is the developers' mantra when it comes to rebalancing units between releases.
  • Death from Above:
    • The Zenith superweapon drops swarms of meteors on its targets.
    • The Airplane and Gunship Factorie's Modus operandi.
    • To a lesser extent, the Tremor is a heavy vehicle mounting what can only be described as a gatling mortar.
  • Disintegrator Ray: Ultimatum
  • Do Not Run with a Gun: Slashers have to stop moving to deploy their fire. This was apparently implemented because a rolling mass of trucks firing long-ranged, high-rate-of-fire, homing missiles was too much to bear, but at the same time the developers didn't want to Nerf the Light Vehicle Factory's only anti-air unit.
  • Easy Communication: Though your army is composed of radio-capable Mecha-Mooks, so it's justified.
  • Easy Logistics: As long as a unit is active, it can use the materials collected anywhere else in the game. Partially averted by certain heavier defence structures; to fire, they need to be connected to an energy grid that's producing at least 50 energy. Taking out the nearby pylons or fusion generators can render the heavy base defenses inoperative, and is often easier than taking out the guns themselves.
  • Enemy-Detecting Radar: Radar towers, naturally. Advanced radar towers, with a much greater range and less "radar wobble" exist, but it's generally more worthwhile to simply build more radar towers further forward.
  • EMP:
    • Bantha, Cutter, Racketeer, and Reef shoot EMP missiles. A Shockley is an EMP Missile. Tick is a walking EMP Bomb.
    • Gnat, Infiltrator, Thunderbird, Scorpion, and Venom shoot Electro-Stunner bolts.
    • Buoy, Constable, Goliath, Moderator, Outlaw, Rapier, Seawolf, and Viper have disruptors that cut unit speed in half.
  • Glass Cannon: Quite a few units do this, some more than others. Of particular note:
    • The Ultimatum has a disintegration gun that can vaporize a heavy tank in one blast, as well as a cloaking device to get it close enough to use it. It isn't much in the defense department, though.
    • The Penetrator is a hovercraft armed with a tachyon accelerator that does a number on anything it hits, and has excellent range. On the flip side, it is very unmaneuverable, and a bomber less than half its cost can one-shot it easily.
  • Grey Goo: Puppies can replicate themselves by consuming wreckages.
  • High-Speed Missile Dodge: Raiders do this automatically when facing skirmishers.
  • Hover Tank: The Hovercraft Platform exists to build these. They're slower overall than the comparable Light Vehicles, but are able to cross water just as easily as land.
  • Humongous Mecha: Given the scale of the units, anything with legs is at least a Mini-Mecha, but the Strider Hub takes the cake with the Dante, Catapult, Bantha, Jugglenaut, Funnelweb and Detriment.
  • Kill It with Fire: The mentioned Dante, Firewalker, Inferno, Kodachi, Phonix, Pyro, and Wurm. Pretty much any unit that has a weapon that does Afterburn damage.
  • Kill Sat: The Starlight, a planet-terraforming laser that generally spells the end of the game for its unfortunate targets.
  • Lightning Bruiser: The Detriment has 4/5 the hitpoints of a Jugglenaut, does twice the damage, and moves at twice the speed.
  • Lightning Gun: See Shock And Awe.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Recluses fire clusters of three rockets that turn and spread out randomly as they fly. Large groups of them produce a veritable hail of rockets that make closing the range gap with anything a very difficult prospect. Defenders, Rogues, Rokos, and Slashers massacre in groups. Catapult massacres by itself.
  • Mighty Glacier: The Jugglenaut (not a typo) can barely move, but in addition to heavy laser cannons, it has three gravity guns to keep you there.
  • Mind Control: The rather interestingly-named Dominatrix.
  • No Recycling: Averted, and, moreover, an important game mechanic. Reclaiming a wreck refunds up to 40% of its Metal cost, which means that in an even unit trade, the player that subsequently secures the wreckage will be almost completely reimbursed for the cost of their units.
  • Real-Time Strategy
  • Recursive Ammo: The Wolverine is an artillery vehicle that fires mines, which in turh fire clusters of tiny homing missiles when triggered.
  • Spider Tank: The Spider Factory. Its units are capable of scaling any surface that isn't another unit, which can give them a significant range advantage, thanks to the extra height.
  • Shock and Awe: Bantha, Panther, Scorpion, and Zeus sports a Lighting Gun that shocks and stuns targets.
  • Tank Goodness: The aptly-named Heavy Tank Factory, whose gameplay revolves around the careful preservation of your big, expensive war machines.
  • Tech Tree: Averted. Which mobile units you can build depends upon which of the eleven factories you picked, but there are no prerequisites for any of them, nor is there any restriction on building more factories. Likewise, any structure can be built by any constructor from the outset.
  • Throwing Your Shield Always Works: That is exactly what the Felon believes. It throws its own and its allies' shields with its shield gun. It works as it is the only skirmishing riot outside the strider class allowing it to kill many units at a time before they have a chance to close in and attack itself or its allies.
  • Transforming Mecha: Commanders are able to permanently morph into larger units by spending metal on upgrades.
  • Unlockable Content / Double Unlock: Upon first creating an account, you only have one type of commander, and several Superweapons and other advanced structures are unavailable for construction. As you play games, your account gains levels and experience. The experience can be exchanged for this content, but each item also has an account level requirement. Thankfully, the basic commander is fairly robust, the unlocked commander parts are only useful if you spend in-game resources to upgrade the commander in that game, and the missing buildings and units won't likely come up in newbie 1v1 games. The experience and level required for all the unlockables is also low enough that it isn't hard to get everything within a few hours of playing. However, It can still be annoying if you want to jump into team games or use the cool superweapons right off the bat.
  • Walking Tank: The Shield Bot Factory churns these out. They're the slower and tougher of the two main Bot groups, with shield generators on several of their units.
  • We Cannot Go on Without You: Averted by default, unlike its predecessor. While the loss of the commander is often a major blow, due to the various upgrades it may have had before being destroyed, it doesn't immediately end the game for that player. This was done to prevent all-in rushes against the commander from being the main strategy. Can be played straight with a pre-game setting, though.
  • You Require More Vespene Gas: Like its predecessors, there are two resources: Metal and Energy. Metal can only be acquired from metal deposits, whereas Energy-producing structures can be built anywhere, but excess Energy is used to "overdrive" metal extractors that are connected to a grid, further increasing metal production.
  • Zerg Rush: Massed raiders are often seen in games with large maps and few players, as they're the only units that are fast enough to respond to enemy raids over a large front.