Red Alert OL

Red Alert OL (红警OL) – Android, iOS, Windows (2018)


This entry is part 16 of 16 in the series Command and Conquer

The Tiberium part of Command & Conquer had been wandering strange paths since the release of its last mainline game, Command & Conquer: Tiberian Twilight. Tiberian Twilight already broke the series’ established formula, and that would continue with Command & Conquer: Tiberium Alliances, a management sim time waster, and Command & Conquer: Rivals, a simplified and more tactical entry into the series.

The Red Alert series, dormant since 2009, went down a similar road in 2018, when Red Alert OL was released, a Red Alert spin-off title for mobile platforms. Unlike previous Red Alert mobile games, Red Alert OL was neither developed by Electronic Arts nor did it try to port the series’ gameplay. Instead, the game was developed by Chinese investment giant Tencent in cooperation with Aiyou Interactive Entertainment.

At first suspected to be unlicensed by the Command & Conquer community, it turned out that Red Alert OL was in fact published by both EA and Tencent, albeit without the actual “Command & Conquer” named attached to it. Red Alert OL went through a beta phase and was eventually released for both Android and iOS. A Windows version was released later, though it merely emulates the Android version as opposed to enjoying native support.

The choice of the Red Alert series over the Tiberium universe may seem as a surprise considering that none of the Red Alert games was ever officially published in the People’s Republic, where they are in fact banned, likely because they depict socialist countries in a negative light. That did not prevent plenty Chinese player from acquiring the games, however. When Red Alert OL was released, Red Alert 2 and 3 had active multiplayer and communities, and the latter the possibility largest modding community for this title. Furthermore, Red Alert was a safe choice compared to Command & Conquer: Generals, which was banned likewise, though this time for its depiction of the Chinese armed forces as trigger-happy and dismissive of collateral damage.

The initial doubts about the legitimacy of the game were partially fueled by it being a Chinese exclusive – a first for the franchise – and by countless other games on Chinese mobile stores such as Red Alert Conflict, Red Alert World Hegemony, or Tank Storm: Red Alert OL. Many of these games – almost all of which are freemium titles – liberally lift designs and sometimes entire models and graphics from other franchises, including but not limited to Command & Conquer, StarCraft, and Warhammer 40,000.

Not that Red Alert OL would be an exception there. Shortly after its release, an investigation by Command & Conquer fan community CNCNZ.com showed that the game included designs tied to the aforementioned intellectual properties, despite only having the Command & Conquer license. Even a custom rocket tank model from Mental Omega, a well-known modification for Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2, made it all the way into Red Alert OL’s trailer.

Nicked with permission were characters and unit models from the mainline Red Alert games as well as yet another plot involving time travel. Yuri, a powerful psychic and the main antagonist of Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2’s expansion pack has returned. To stop him, commanders from all kinds of timelines and parallel universes have been gathered – a nice explanation for the fact that the game feels incoherent with regard to art style and design.

Udo Kier, who played Yuri in the mainline games, does not make a return. His charisma-free amateur replacement almost looks like a parody. Agent Tanya, whose new actress appears to be a Taylor Swift lookalike, does not fare any better. Her dub job, which can only be interpreted as a homage to old Hong Kong bootleg martial arts films, does not help either. That said, the story is hardly the focus of Red Alert OL.

At its core, Red Alert OL is a FarmVille-style builder with military MMO elements and in fact just a reskin of King of Chaos. King of Chaos is a 2017 mobile game also set in the Three Kingdom era – possibly the most overused setting on Chinese mobile stores – and also published by Tencent. Red Alert OL was not even the first nor the last game to receive this treatment; King of Chaos itself has been recycled at least five times. Other titles in this family of games include Game of Thrones: Winter Is Coming, Three Kingdoms Heroes OL, and My Dynasty.

In Red Alert OL, every player starts a base with a number of structures. The base is used to produce and army, and said army used to conquer other bases scattered over an interactive map shared with all the other players. This is where the mobile nature of Red Alert OL emerges: all structures are upgraded in small increments. Individually meaningless, the upgrades add up eventually. Upgrades require various resources to be spent, which are produced by oil derricks or ore refineries, and more importantly, require time. Lots of time. There are cooldowns for everything, even though Red Alert OL tries to fool players into thinking otherwise during the tutorial.

As expected, the only thing that makes Red Alert OL playable without spending lots of time on it is hard currency. Even patient players are encouraged to do so, as Red Alert OL comes with the usual resource caps that require the player to log in regularly, and prevent any attempt to letting the game run overnight and waking up to digital riches. Equally unsurprising is the lack of an initial price tag. In this regard, Red Alert OL is quite similar to Command & Conquer: Tiberium Alliances; both games give players the gratification that comes with constantly increasing numbers, but lock them behind timers soon or later.

Leaving the mechanics aside for a moment, Red Alert OL still lacks its down identity. The other Red Alert games certainly overlap when it comes to iconic units and structures such as the Tesla Coil or Kirov Airship, but differ in character. The original Red Alert is comparably gritty, its sequel offers the possibly best two-dimensional isometric graphics of the series, and Red Alert 3 is gaudy and downright absurd in some aspects. Red Alert OL has a similar paint job, but ultimately fails to hide its pay-to-win skeleton, and at the end of the day, is just another free-to-play mobile game, albeit one with a somewhat famous license.

Series Navigation<< Command & Conquer: Tiberium Alliances

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