With the game's first (and only) expansion, The Iron Plague, the number of races was brought to five- added was Creon which specialized in expensive, alchemical, pseudo-Rennaisance units. Think Galileo with dragons, necromancy, and electricity. In their backstory rejection of magic, the Creonites... Creonians... whatever, they are associated with no element. They do, however, bring the number of races to a healthy Discordian 5.

Alas, TA:K was a game mortally brought low by insurmountable shortcomings.

Where Total Annihilation had a brilliant score that varied with the action (that is, building music was soothing and measured, but combat music, which activated automatically, was fast and exciting), Kingdoms's stayed boringly Medieval throughout. Worse, the music was the same track regardless of which race you played, or even the environment- If I'm tromping through a cave, Where are those minstrals hiding? We're in the jungle, fighting trolls, looking for some ancient Kaldran artifact or something- I want to hear SCREECHING MONKIES.

In addition to a pathetic soundtrack, TA:K's graphics were dated. In 1997, anything 3D was automatically awesome. But three years later, big, flat surfaces with distractingly pixellated edges wouldn't cut it. To the game's credit, the terrain was much improved and third party developers have taken TA:K's map graphics for use in the original TA.

Even the gameplay, brilliant in TA, was lackluster in Kingdoms. A large group of units, when sent to the other side of the map, would invariably arrive strung out, in single-file: Easy pickings for the defenders. Formations would have solved this problem entirely.

Whereas combat in Total Annihilation was massive, visceral, epic, combat in TA:K tended to be much smaller, involving several dozen units at most {while TA's used dozens per side at minimum).

The switch over to melee units, such as the ridiculously overpowered Aramon Knights, and the almost complete removal of air forces as a viable strategy made combat much simpler and, frankly, boring. In TA a base would have to be taken by massive combined-arms forces in tense minutes of the most incredible show of force that any RTS has ever made, but, in TA:K, the assault would generally consist of flinging a mob (or, rather, a line) at the enemy, watching the fight while queing another mob, repeat. Ho-hum.

Some units in TA:K had multiple attacks; whereas an Aramonian archer simply walks around and shoots, a Tarosian Fallen Angel had its default 'unholy sword', a secondary fireball, and a screen-clearing Armageddon attack. However, to use the alternate attacks of each unit, the player would have to select the unit (or a group of identical units) and toggle to the new attack- unless the unit had insufficient personal mana, in which case you'd have to wait until it recharged. The result is excessive micromanagement; units in TA were smart enough to use their multiple attacks on their own.

Worst of all, there were no giant explosions, which are of course the best part of any game.

Finally, multiplayer was reportedly a mess. I never had a chance to play on, for instance The Darien Crusades, but, according to other reviews, finding a stable connection on Cavedog's network, The Boneyards, was only by the grace of fate.

With the failure of Total Annihilation: Kingdoms, Cavedog's fate was sealed. Drained after its defeat in the RTS war between Total Annihilation and Starcraft, the company rolled over and died, absorbed into Humongous Entertainment. Chris Taylor went on to make the masterpiece Dungeon Siege, but the RTS genre went the way of Half-Life multiplayer- Dominated by "l33t" fools who play 2forts and Counter-Strike over and over again: while Total Annihilation required chess-like skills in planning, strategy, and patience, Starcraft and, more recently, Warcraft III games can be completed within a half an hour. The art of the game is lost to the perfection of build-flowcharts and timing.

Shame on you, Humanity.