Only in the final battle do you get to use the Chronosphere. Honestly, I find it disappointing. I had been anticipating teleporting a battalion of tanks right into the enemy base, behind the defenses, to take out crucial infrastructure like power plants (always a good first step against the Soviets). I had done similar things a few levels back with helicopters, but helicopters are vulnerable to anti-aircraft guns, and tanks are not. But it turns out that the Chronosphere can only teleport one unit at a time, and a single tank in an enemy base doesn’t last long enough to destroy anything.
Okay, so perhaps I could send Tanya? Tanya is the sole “hero” unit on the Allied side: she can shoot foot soldiers at a greater distance than they can shoot back, and she can demolish buildings in a single stroke by planting explosives. Her only drawback is that there’s only one of her, and she tends not to defend herself unless explicitly instructed. Still, Tanya sent directly into the heart of the enemy base could take out multiple power plants before she died. But no: the Chronosphere can’t teleport people, only vehicles.
But what about a troop carrier, then? An APC with Tanya and a company of engineers would really do a job on the place. Each engineer that you send into a building damages it by 25% of its full hit points. If the resulting damage would destroy it, the engineer instead takes it over. It’s expensive to do this — the engineers used this way are consumed in the process — but it’s just about the quickest way to eliminate an enemy structure, and I imagine it’s really demoralizing in multiplayer mode. I’ve used this trick on a few occasions, and the only difficulty in pulling it off is getting your engineers safely to the structure in the first place. The Chronosphere seems like it would solve that, but teleporting an APC only sends the vehicle, not the passengers. It makes me wonder if the vehicles I sent have drivers.
Just about the best use I ever found for the Chronosphere was to teleport damaged units back to base, where they could be repaired. That saved me the cost of building a few replacements, but I don’t think building the Chronosphere resulted in net savings. Perhaps it has uses I never discovered. Oh well, at least the Iron Curtain seems to be similarly lame: its effects are short-lived enough that the tanks using it always seemed to run out shortly after reaching my base.
I won the level mainly with the tried-and-true massive pack of helicopters on offense, using tanks and defensive structures to deal with counterattacks. That, and harvesting as much Ore as I could, as quickly as I could, to support this strategy. I built up a far larger cash reserve than I had at any previous point in the game, but I still managed to waste it all rebuilding my defenses and repairing my damaged helicopters. By the end, my ore trucks were going clear across the map to the fields that the enemy had been harvesting before I destroyed all their ore trucks. It all ended up in a gradual but inexorable eating away of the enemy base, and the mission went on for a good half hour or so after victory was a foregone conclusion. Not that there was really ever much danger of losing that mission. This is a game that wants you to win. The levels get bigger as you go along, but they don’t really get harder. Still, even when the challenge is removed, there’s a simple pleasure in destroying everything.
That leaves the Soviet campaign. Having completed half the game, I’m tempted to leave it at that and go on to 1997. It’s been almost two weeks, after all, even if I haven’t been playing much during that time. But I do want to experience some of the Soviet gameplay while that of the Allies is fresh in my mind — and to that end, I’ve already started on the other half, which I’ll describe next post.