The campaign structure is changing pretty dramatically from previous C&C games as the team is building on experience from the Battle for Middle-earth titles. The new campaign will add a high-level turn-based strategy game where players make global decisions and then jump into the more familiar tactical battles when armies come into conflict on the global map. "It's a mechanic that, to some degree, has been explored in other games with meta-games including Battle for Middle-earth II, but this is our next generation of that," says Verdu. "Rather than what some would consider clunky territory borders you actually have zones of influence around your bases and the flexibility that you have in customizing armies and moving the armies around on the strategic map really wanted to feel like a natural extension of the tactical gameplay and not just a different type of board game that was superimposed above that."
It's cool to see the territorial boundaries being tackled in a different way like they are in Civilization or the real-time aspects of Rise of Nations. While the map will still show the boundaries of existing countries on the global map so that you can orient yourself in the familiar, they'll play less importance in delineating territory. They'll likely be more important in determining the actual tactical map that is played on when two forces collide. "As you employ bases they'll have a radius of influence and a radius of engagement," explains Vesella. "So if units move into that radius of engagement, you'll go down into battle. The radius of influence affects the world such as causing unrest with Nod or growing more Tiberium with the Scrin as their influence grows."
As with many games of this type, persistence is key. There have been several great attempts at persistent armies and bases such as Dawn of War: Dark Crusade or BFME II, but they weren't perfect. The solution EA has come up with is for a tier system that must be handled on a global scale. For instance, a tier 1 base might include the standard package of a Con Yard, power plant, refinery and a barracks. You can choose to upgrade the base with power or defense or simply just upgrade the entire base to the next tier for better structures like an airbase. If you end up using that base in the tactical setting and manage to upgrade the whole thing to an ion cannon and space uplink and all of that during a tactical engagement, you won't get to keep it. You'll have to spend the cash to upgrade it in the meta-game. Persistence only sticks if you create it at the global level
Strike forces (armies) work in the same manner. You can have a tier one strike force up maybe through Predators or tier two forces up to Orcas or something similar. "So if you come up against a tier 2 Nod strike package that's medium sized, you'll know approximately the power of the group you're coming up against," says Vesella. "If they're not coming with an MCV then you'll know that's all the power they're going to have in their battle because they won't be able to build up to units like Avatars."
The number of armies you can have on the global map is still being balanced at the moment, but one of the ways they're combating the grind of having too many things on the map and turns taking too long is the operation points system. This will limit the number of moves you can make per turn. Building, moving, fighting all take different numbers of points so you'll have to choose wisely where to use them and won't be able to do everything at once like you can in a game like Civilization or Total War.
Those familiar with BFME II should know that there won't be hero units needed to lead armies into battle, though there will apparently be meta-units that are powerful units that radiate their own influence. EA was reluctant to say any more than that at this point.
The story will also be told during the meta-game which should provide an even stronger connection between the two modes of play. "You'll get objectives on the meta-game level that you have to accomplish and you'll see some of the FMV at that level and it should be a tightly integrated experience that we don't think has been done on this level before," says Verdu.