I have a confession to make - I’m not really a huge fan of RTS games, at least not of most of them. I don’t like the time pressure, so I prefer turn-based games, or real time strategy games with a slower (or better yet, controllable) pace. In fact, if an RTS game doesn’t have the ability to give orders while paused, I usually skip it altogether even if I think the general concept is interesting.
Personal favorites in the genre would be the Kohan series, Dawn of War (2 more than 1), Company of Heroes, Total Annihilation, and Paradox games. I had fun with Starcraft back in the day, but I wasn’t a big fan back then, and I’m even less of a fan now.
RTS games I’m planning to buy: Stellaris, Distant Worlds 2, Battlefleet Gothic Armada, and Total War Warhammer. That’s pretty much it.
There have been two very interesting problems that are new to me when dealing with the press on this game (and it would be cool if any journalists reading this chimed in as I suspect they’re seeing it too):
First: While staff writers tend to have pretty good hardware, the freelancers that game sites are now almost exclusively using, tend to have almost ludicrously outdated hardware. Ashes has been out a week now, we gave review copies out weeks ago. Where are the reviews? No conspiracy: Finding game reviewers who have a 2GB or more video card.
Second: The “help” NVIDIA and AMD are giving the game by updating their drivers to “optimize” it (or more specifically, the benchmark results). We had one reviewer who couldn’t even get the game to boot because of process injection from one of the 3 apps that the latest video driver installed. I fear that’s going to affect our reviews (someone gets frustrated trying to get your game to work, you’re going to pay for it).
So the tech side is definitely creating some heart burn for us.
The other thing that has come up during this RTS’s release has been the shift in game reviews away from RTS game-play to story. That’s not meant as a criticism, it is what it is. For instance, Homeworld: DOK has a fantastic story-driven campaign at the cost of single player skirmish maps and limited multiplayer and uses a classic 3rd-generation engine. Ashes has a campaign too but it’s relatively bare bones in comparison. On the other hand, it has dozens of maps, an active MP community, very strong AI (for skirmishes), built in scripting for modders, a built in map editor, etc… So far, DOK has beaten Ashes at every single game review. I don’t think even one reviewer has even brought up modding, the map editor (a non-trivial thing for an RTS).
Which means that the press (and arguably the player base) may now value character and story over AI and long-term replayability. And they may be right to do that.
In an age where games have become increasingly disposable (how many games do you have in your backlog right now?) the game that provides a solid, if relatively brief, piece of digital entertainment may be what PC gamers prefer now over leveraging tech to take “old school” RTS design and enhance the things that made them good (controlling armies, building an economy, etc.) while mitigating the things that were weak (weak AI, pathfinding woes, simplistic units, gamey physics).
Oh man, I sure hope not. I feel like AI (I should say the lack of) is what’s holding a lot of games back for me. Thanks for making a game targeted at me, at least (and hey, I sold two extra copies for you last weekend too, so we’re out there at least :)).
This is the perfect place for me to ask the following question: what about Age of Mythology?
I have never played it but heard Tom Chick several times in the past saying that the game held up excellently. And I know there has been recently an update of the engine, plus one expansion with Chinese gods, followed by many complaints on Steam about technical aspects of that version of the game. I am always a fan of a good fantasy strategy, but I am curious about those issues. Does anyone know something about that?
I used to love RTS games, however, the last RTS game I really got into was C&C Generals Zero hour. All newer RTS games have just seemed somewhat generic. Maybe I outgrew them or maybe there has been nothing new under the sun since then.
I still want a game where you only control a few units like Kohan. I know you’ve said Ashes is like that, but it looks like the exact opposite- I was a little too intimidated by it to buy it, especially with my slower reflexes now.
Also, of the two futures- expect the former- there aren’t enough game journos who will both understand the game enough and be able to put the time in to see the latter.
I mean, GalCiv3 as much as I gripe about it did show the benefits of 64-bit for TBS. Seeing its performance as compared to Age of Wonders 3 is night and day for me. (I’d love to see a 64-bit AoW game now)
I don’t think it’s accurate to say the RTS is making a comeback, it’s more that what’s an RTS has changed. It’s mostly LoL now, assuming you like the micro aspect of the classic RTS. If you’re more into the base building aspect, there’s no LoL for you, nothing quite as definitive, but there are good RT “base building” games, TD games can be considered.
The “classic” RTS is a bit of a mix, a weird one now, with aspects from genres that are now distinct. The fantasy of being a general in charge of thousands of units, for me at least, with the mechanics traditional RTS games employ, just the idea of dealing with all of that, attacking in this area, defending on the other, don’t forget to keep expanding your economy, juggle this, juggle that… I’d rather go play a DOTA like. But I’m not a young dude anymore, nor Korean, so, maybe I’m biased.
IMO, for me at least, for a classic “take command of all the units in the world” RTS to truly succeed, the tech advances that are required aren’t in allowing for moar stuff, but in Command / Control of the stuff you already have, something like Distant Stars, allowing for people to tailor the game to their ability to juggle the stuff already present in the game.
You don’t control individual units. You control them on an Army level and the army itself is made up of all the individual units. Those individual units matter in terms of force composition, but you’re not microing them or dodging artillery.
The game is also pretty slow-paced compared to something like Starcraft or Company of Heroes.
I would like see an RTS that would focus on a vastly more complex economy and not so much about build a bunch of units to smash each other with. Something closer to a Caesar III mixed with an empire builder where you are trying to establish economic dominance. If there were armies they would be a bit more abstract where you just hired them and sent them off on mission. There would be no micro control of battles. You would send them off to the frontier to claim territory and when that all got claimed you might then send them against enemy cities. The reason you would want territory and cities are for the economic benefits, not to just smash them and “win” the game. IE: Some city has access to a lot of marble or has tuns of fertile farm land.
I didn’t play it on the PlayStation 3 – in fact I never heard of it until today – but Mushroom Wars looks like my sort of PC RTS game. It looks cute, quirky, different, and I’m confident my PC will run it okay.
He does give credit to the AI but conflates him losing to it at normal to the game being fast paced. Ashes has flaws but fast-paced is not one of them (not to mention, you can control the speed and even pause and give orders). On YouTube, some people stream playing the game as if it were EU with lasers. ;)
I think his criticisms are valid in the sense that, other than the pacing of the game, they are largely accurate. But one man’s fault is another man’s virtue. For example, he credits Planetary Annihilation for innovating by having the world on a sphere. Ashes, by contrast, is expressly designed to bring the classic RTS formula into the modern age with all its attendant benefits.