I was a beta tester but the small initial learning curve put me off (or maybe I didn’t find a match, don’t remember). I bought it though and here are my impressions so far:
It has everything you’d want in a pvp RTS: a rating system, matchmaking to find opponents near your level, quick entry into a match, and a replay system and sharable replays.
It is clearly an evolution on RTS design. I would like to see this system combined with a traditional RTS though. At certain points I wanted more fine grained control over some of my air units. You do get pretty good control to a certain extent but singling out a unit if there’s an identical type nearby is impossible.
The reason it’s an evolution on RTS design is that you can give ‘permanent’ orders. So it’s kind of like you’re writing a program as you’re playing. You’re drawing (select unit types that the command applies to, then click + drag a line from start to end) lines that units will continuously follow. So you don’t have to worry about constantly moving your troops from the back line to the front line.
I have played about 6 or 7 matches so far. In my first couple of matches, I got totally destroyed. I realized when watching the replays that my opponents were building 2 to 3 barracks and vehicle factories to my 1. So I was just getting swarmed. After that my rating was pretty tanked and I started using that strategy and streamrolled my next few opponents. But then I had some better matches in which there was a lot of back and forth and strategy.
In terms of strategy, it seems to be well designed. Every unit has a purpose. You have your standard infantry, artillery, tanks, SAM unit, and a paratrooper unit that can also be used for stealth scouting.
If that was all there was, it probably wouldn’t be that interesting of a game, but you also have air units - an interceptor to take out other planes, a striker to shoot missiles at ground targets, helicopters which can land anywhere in your territory and can do some good damage to ground units and air units (i think), bombers which are slow and have no air fire but can bomb enemies, and a transport plane that can transport ground units at long range. The different aircraft have different ranges they can operate at, and you can also build stealth airstrips that cannot produce aircraft to increase your range.
There are also sea units, submarines, destroyers, cruisers, and troop transport land boats, and even an anti air missile boat.
But that’s not all! You can build very powerful rockets that have decent enough range and can take out a huge number of enemy buildings and troops in one go.
So you have a counter to every unit and the game involves many factors on a grand scale. You can build for economy, putting cities and towns and factories down to generate more income (for troop maintenance and buildings), or you could build for military and expansion of territories (which give you a small amount of income each). Having control of air or sea can make a big difference in terms of individual tactics. Since you have a variety of unit types, counters, and tactical things going on, there is a lot of dynamics involved in the battle even though you would think with such a simple control system it would just play itself out.
The economy is gold which I mentioned, and energy which you use to power your tanks, boats, and aircraft. You can lose a game simply because you’re spending too much energy and your vital airstrikes for instance aren’t able to execute. You get refineries which you place over oil wells, which give you the most efficient energy available, or you can lay down power plants anywhere in your territory which give you half the efficiency of a refinery.
In terms of the control system, like I said you draw paths for certain receivers, you can then move those paths or change the receivers, or delete them (a beginner mistake is to draw too many lines everywhere which is counter-productive). You can also issue point commands to draw in the receivers instead of drawing a path. You can change paths to focus on movement rather than engagement and territory capture, and you can incur penalties for a movement bonus if you ‘hurry’ a path. There are hotkeys for all this stuff so in general you don’t have to do much micro at all and can focus on your strategic aims.
I was waiting for this one for a long time and am glad it is finally here, and doing well on steam (200 concurrent players last I checked).