Last Year RTSes

Ok, I have in a big stack next to my desk:

Act of War
Earth 2160
The Movies
Codename: Panzers Phase 2

I want to start working through a little bit of this backlog. Any recommendations for which of these are the gems and which are the junk?

The Movies. The prepare to lose lots of your life. Simply brilliant.

Jeeze, Xemu, that’s quite a backlog for somone who should be keeping up on RTSs!

Firstly, I disagree with Simpilot. The Movies is a two-bit tycoon/sim game with limited moviemaking software slapped onto the side. I’d say you can skip it. Earth 2160 as well. It’s nothing that the previous games didn’t do and it’s not terribly graceful. I know Dave Long swears by the Codename: Panzers games, but I can’t quite bring myself to believe him…

Darwinia isn’t really an RTS. It’s more of a strategy/adventure game. It’s the sort of thing Molyneux should be doing these days and it’s got this great economy of tech that really achieves something special. But still, not an RTS.

Act of War is a great Command & Conquer clone that suffers from having a stupid Dale Brown backstory to flesh out the design. As I’ve said before, the three sides are America, America, and not-America. As far as gameplay, though, it does so many things right and it’s a sweet engine. I was really worried when Atari just sort of released it and let it lie. Fortunately, there’s an expansion pack along the way.

Dragonshard is perhaps the most innovative RTS I’ve seen since the first Kohan. But it’s also a great design that Liquid has been working towards as long as they’ve been making RTSs. It’s very tactical and very fiddly, but it’s built to be that way. I’d say you should put that at the top of your list, especially if you can play it multiplayer.


I wasn’t keen on Dragonshard, and sold it about a week after I’d bought it. The main reason was because it had about as many RPG elements as Starcraft, which was disappointing for something booking itself as a D&D game.

It’s a decent RTS title, but don’t expect anything more than that. It’s far from something like the Warlords Battlecry series as far as RPG elements go.

My biggest dissapointment with the Movies was that they didn’t include many *(any) interesting pre-built movie scripts. Many of the pre-built scripts don’t even make an ounce of sense. So you can’t just play along and not make any movies yourself, just to watch things go by fiddle around. It appears the design was intentional, and that they were trying to lead you into scripting your own movies - i think it’s actually impossible to win any of the “awards” without having written the script yourself, to make it as long and use as many sets as possible.

But the movies is a solid, Sims-esque non violent game that has a great (perfect) soundtrack and good sound effects. If you go along for the ride and learn how to make movies during their eras (20’s, 30’s, 40’s ect), you’re learning how to script movies and getting better at it naturally while movies and movie making itself is getting more and more elaborate as you go through the historic time periods up to modern day. If you look at the game that way, it makes more sense (imo).

As a true freeform movie maker, aka, script anything, The Movies is lacking. And as a sim-tycoon game, it’s subpar. And it requires a certain dedication and commitment that means you can’t play it lazily and learn what you need to know, the same way you could jump into any random FPS and blaze away without reading a blessed manual. But if you look at the movie maker and the tycoon portions as being intertwined naturally and helpfully, then it (imo) gels as a complete package.

Well, okay. It is a tycoon/sim game, but what else is like it? What other RTS/tycoon-type game gives you so much control not just over where you place certain objects, but the actual product is so completely open-ended. I’m not saying it’s perfect, but by far it’s the best of it’s type by far, and I’ve played them all. Act of War is so much like Command and Conquer Generals that it ought to be listed in the credits. Dragonshard tried to do so much, yet accomplished so little. Earth 2160, I don’t even need to go there. Codename Panzers is a very solid title. Kudos to Mr. Long for having excellent taste. Darwinia is tops in the “most original” category, but as a game it just doesn’t have that magic “something.” Nope, Movies is tops fo sho. Can I get an amen brothers?

Well, if memory serves, Tom really loved Warlords Battlecry series (hesitantly on the 3rd one). So, take that into consideration if you decide to play Dragonshard (I’ve never played it, but I do love the WB series).

It’s definitely an RTS and not an RPG, and I don’t think it ever made any bones about that. But it does have all the dungeon stuff–traps, quests, treasure… it’s an exaggeration to say that it has no more RPGness in it than Starcraft.

Quite a few people have made movies using The Movies from the forum drama at Octopus Overlords as a script. A lot of it is very inspired. So, I’d say the movie creating feature in The Movies is as good as you are inventive and imaginative.

Did you play the first Codename Panzers? If you didn’t, then Phase Two should probably be in the top two or three there. If you did, then it’s a little less vital, although it’s still very high quality.

The Stormregion guys have a new RTS that I previewed for CGM called Rush for Berlin that’s coming soon too.

Wait, wait, Raife, you’re dinging Dragonshard for not being an RPG? It’s an RTS using the D&D license, not an RPG.

As for SimPilot’s assertion – “Dragonshard tried to do so much, yet accomplished so little.” – I have to call bull. And I’ll go to the matt with you on this one! Dragonshard had a unique resource system, a unique map design system, and a unique unit management system that all tied very neatly into the split level design. That alone excuses it from you’re glib dismissal that it “accomplished so little”. I can go on if you like. :)

Also, Simpilot’s dismissal of Act of War is pretty narrow-minded. It did plenty of things that the C&C games tried to do, and it did it better than them: air power, superweapons, infantry/vehicle intergration, AI, and interface, for starters. It also had a really cool economic system that relied on banks, oil wells, and hostages as distinct sources of income that came into play in unique ways.

Urk, I can feel that I’m about to get involved in another long RTS thread. I swore off that Kohan thread and now I’m jumping in here…

Anyway, let us know what you decide Xemu! You started this, so you have to come back here and tell us what you thought. :)


I guess I would have preferred more RPG elements (like Battlecry). It’s a decent game, I just didn’t care for it.

I’m just going to stick with Act of War as Dragonshard was just a difference of opinion. As my boy Donald Trump says, “That’s why they have menus in restaurants.”

C&C Generals vs. Act of War:
Air power - both have it
Superweapons - both have it
Infantry/vehicle - both have it as well as infantry/building.
AI - um, they both have it???
Interface - they both have it and C&C’s is better.

Prosecution rests and moves for an immediate death penalty.

I preferred Act of War to C&C Generals but I can see others going either way. The game play seemed a bit better. I liked Act of War’s interface better, save for the medevac choppers which struck me as too fiddly to be useful. Act of War had 100% less bad pidgin Chinese and 100% less mad Arab bombers. C&C Generals had 75% less bad FMV Tom Clancy ripoffs and 100% less silly mechas. (I think anyway. Did you ever get silly mechas in C&C Generals?)

Summary: Dawn of War.

I really liked Act of War, however I have since uninstalled it. I played through the campaign, and while it wasn’t anything great, at least they did have a story in a plot that makes sense, even if it is a pretty simple forward plot, and it’s also pretty dumb near the end. However, the gameplay was fun - and the graphics were great. The explosions, weapon effects, super weapons, airpower, ect all looked simply fantastic, and it has a lot of eye candy. So while I found this game a lot more immediately enjoyable than C&C, I ended up keeping C&C around because it had longer legs. However, definately give Act of War a play through, because it does offer some pretty polished RTS elements, and everything about it fits the setting a bit more - like your not collecting random “supply drops” on the map anymore, but you hold banks, oil, hostages, ect for an income.

Dragonshard is a game I wanted to love, but couldn’t get past an overly hard campaign. I played on Normal, yet I simply cannot pass a single level in the campaign, and this has pretty much stopped me from playing it after about 3 reloads. I love the new RTS elements - the innovative resource gathering - the simple, yet deep, unit building strategies. All of this makes it feel really solid, yet I cannot get myself to contiune playing the game after being stonewalled on what seems to be a campaign that gets way too hard way too fast. A little bit too much micromanagement is required, I think, for me.

As for your other games, I can only give a comment on Earth 2160: Stay away. There’s nothing good to be had from this experience - it’s very frustrating to play. It is, however, very pleasing to uninstall off of your harddrive.

Urk, I can feel that I’m about to get involved in another long RTS thread. I swore off that Kohan thread and now I’m jumping in here…

And what is it, Tom, that you’ve got better to do around here?

Except it controls like an RTS. And you gather/protect resources like in an RTS. And you play in an overhead perspective in a manner very similar to what you’d expect to see in an RTS.

I’ve only just now ordered WB3, so I am looking forward to that one. It isn’t on your list though…maybe it is more than a year old? Did anyone play Earth 2160? I couldn’t get into 2150 (was that its year?)…it felt soulless to me.

I actually liked the Act of War campaign. Even if the FMV videos looked a little silly, the missions in the campaign were quite well done and worked a tutorial into the campaign setting better than most RTS games do.

(I like the Dragonshard campaign, too, and since I routinely hate RTS campaigns I am clearly going senile.)

Dragonshard is a good game with a much different build/attack pace than any other RTS on the market.

You really can’t go wrong with either. I’d choose Act of War since I love how it handles infantry and air power. I am agnostic on how Dragonshard handles elves and paladins.


Wait… you do not like mad arab bombers? Those guys were a hoot. My favorite thing were the pesants complaing about thier shoes, and in zero hour you got the 'new shoes" upgrade.

I only got about 1/2 to 3/4 the way through the AoW campeign, and only played maybe 10 multi-player games. Contrast that to Generals which had 1100 online games places and zero hour which had 1600 online games played. Guess which one I liked more?

My gripes with Zero hour were that the infantry general was way overpowerd, and the americans, in general, were way underpowerd. In the original Generals, all factions were well balanced, but zero hour totally messed that up.

For the Americans, who always relied on air power, gatling cannons were far to common and easy to get on other sides and far too effective vs aircraft. The armor of all specialty generals couldn’t stand up to anything, evven the GLA. The Laser general took far to long to get off the ground to be useful. The SW general, if allowed to turtle was nearly unstoppable and could only be beat in a SW race, which was rather dull.

For china, the infantry general was god. Hordes of gatling gunners = god mode. To make things worse, when crawlers ‘died’ all the infantry got out unharmed.

GLA was well balanced although infantry generals were very difficult to deal with, even with ‘toxin’ generals that were the ultimate anti-infantry.

Act of War on the other hand, simply didn’t draw me in. The sides were not distinct enough to be intresting. Where as Generals had 3 very differant sides, with 3 considerbly differant sub divisions, AoW had 2 sides that operated nearly the same way, and a 3rd side that was only marginally differant. Gameplay wasn’t intresting enough for me.