Sweet jesus, I just got schooled. Yeah, warcraft was a groundbreaking RTS. But so was TA. I saw Starcraft as a refinement of the Blizzard style of RTS, very heavy on micro, distinctive races, and fast-pased combat. Starcraft is to RTS as Quake III is to FPS. Warcraft III ladder was disappointing, really. It requires skill, but the death of a single footman is an important event, if you're good. That sort of thing doesn't appeal for me. The world editor and its custom maps are beautiful, though.
Wasn't Warcraft II out before that, like in '96?
Seeing as this topic has 100 views and one reply, im assuming you guys looked and didn't bother to check the link, or saw the front page and didn't bother going any further.
I love TA because its gameplay mechanics make the most sense ive ever seen. You don't have to memorize arbitrary attack types and armor types, and play Rock-Paper-Scissors with your units. Each attack is calculated using physics (Although they're simple calculations) which leads for some very intuitive play. Units die if you do things stupid with them. If you send in a bunch of infantry units with plasma guns (Which in TA fire heavy shells) through a valley and you get ambushed, you're pretty screwed, for several reasons.
One, the opponent ambushing you has the high ground. If he's using projectile weapons it's going to be a lot simpler for his units to attack you than for yours to attack him, since he's going to be able to see all your infantry right off the bat (Whereas his might be blocked from your vision depending on the shape of the valley) and his unit's shells will fly farther than yours will. Your mobility is reduced, as theres only two ways out, (Backwards and forwards, running up hills is bad) and if he's smart he can trap you in the valley, or at least make it a bitch to escape.
Since every unit in TA is robotic, when they die there's a huge robot-shaped chunk of metal where they were standing. This will block your units until you either clear it with heavy weapons fire or reabsorb the metal (Yeah, you can do that.).
In other words, you're pretty fucked unless you call some support in.
The fact that units leave corpses that never deteriorate leads for some interesting dynamics. Many people send in lumbering heavy tanks first and infantry in second, since if your second wave is tanks they're going to have a hell of a time getting at the enemy base, while the big, slow units usually used for defence will have a hard time chasing you if you need to retreat.
Naval and Ground combat feel very different. Battleships can get very, very big. One of my favourite ships has nine seperate cannons, which I usually use to wreak havok on shoreline bases. When you have nine heavy plasma guns firing in one direction, you can really wreak havok.
If I don't support that ship, however, it will die. One, it doesn't have depth charges, so if a combat sub cruises over it's dead. Its cannons are mounted on three turrets that run the length of the ship, which means in order to use all three it has to be sideways. If i'm getting chased by cruisers, which are designed for that sort of thing, I'm screwed, especially since my cannons are designed for hitting ground targets, which means they just throw out a lot of shells rather quickly and rather innacurately. That just can't compete with a ship designed to destroy other ships.
TA plays on a scale I haven't seen in any other RTS. Maps can be HUGE, and so can armies. I don't know how I can easily explain how big the maps are, but the armies are simple. It's not uncommon to see 2-3 hundred units at a time ramming into your base, shrapnel flying everywhere. It's beautiful.
Please check it out. It's free.