Three Moves Ahead 45 - The Strategy Year in Review

Here it is.

I can’t believe that I forgot about the glory that was Stormrise.


I couldn’t decide whether to post a comment over at Flash of Steel, or here. Indecision is but one of my many quirks that haunts me, probably made worse by New Years Eve and the half drunk bottle of wine and a Scotch and Dry sitting in front of me.

So, yeah, I listened to this podcast and found it to be an excellent discussion yet again. It would be terrible of me to not add that having Bruce in his highly fatigued state seems to add a real charm to the podcast. Having someone who is blunt, (possibly grumpy?) who is providing a strong opinion without tip toeing around is great, and certainly contributes to a well rounded discussion (ie: UniWar).

I do wonder if part of the the streamlining in strategy gaming is a means for future proofing a game, paticularly with the apparent demand for assymetric factions within the game. After all, the less fat present, the less balancing needed right, thus the more potential for expansions? I can only imagine Relic would have had numerous headaches trying to balance the 7 factions that came about from Dawn of War plus 2 expansions they did. Each faction brought with it unique abilities, buildings, costs. Compare that to Dawn of War 2 which elimates building costs, research is simple, a majority being based on specialising a paticular unit rather than map wide upgrades. It really opens the way to implement new, distinct factions, without having to fiddle with the current racess

As the podcast was beginning, I was thinking about the strategy games that I bought this year, and realised that none really dominated my time. The games were

-> Dawn of War 2
-> World in Conflict - Soviet Assault Expansion
-> End War
-> Hearts of Iron 3
-> Company of Heroes - Tales of Valour (or whatever it is, the lame expansion that added little to what really is a great game)

So, End War bores me. I’ve tried to get into it. I am playing on a PC port, so maybe I’ve lost what makes EndWar special which is no doubt a successful RTS on a console system, something which is no easy task. Which leads me to another point which is the lack of discussion on Ensemble Studios’ swansong, Halo Wars. This was one of the maestros of strategy gaming, and their final game didn’t receive any real mention that I can recall on this podcast. Ok, it doesn’t worry me because I do not own a console system, however it is a sad loss to lose Ensemble. But yeah, I’ve digressed. Maybe End War is empty and shallow enough for me to realise that there are things missing which I have historically accepted as being present in an RTS. Apples vs oranges right?

Dawn of War 2 I’ll mention next. From a single player perspective, it is excellent. To go online however, and it feels more like an action heavy, strategy lite title. It would appeal to the market I would imagine that thrives of making snap decisions, gambles if you will, to what move needs to be made next. I just can not see where the overarching strategy lies within that game online, especially with one vs one matches. In a game which may not go for more than half an hour, each decision that is made to me, becomes critical. I felt as though there was less room for error, and rectifying said mistakes. The only way to learn was looking at the defeat screen, and thinking back to what decision lead me to this feeling of defeat at being beaten by someone better.

Hearts of Iron 3 has potential, but with the bugs still present, I don’t feel inclined currently to spend the time on it. I fear the disappointment.

The other two games are merely expansions. I won’t mention much about how lacklustre the CoH expansion was, I bought it, it is installed and I’ll make use of what I’ve been given, which isn’t really much.

The World of Conflict expansion however did something. It made me sit down and play, and enjoy World in Conflict. I have no desire to play online with this game, the single player game fulfilled enough for me. This was a game which I believe filled that strategic element that I desire. Like it was said in the podcast, and probably the real take home message, it is pretty much a case of comparing apples and oranges with regards to a gamers taste. I can not explain what it was with World in Conflict that drew me in, maybe it was the narrative, maybe it was the use of limited resources to achieve a goal, or a scramble to hold, or to push through a line. While it was a fairly static AI, the game felt challenging enough for me to feel as though I was in the mind of a commander co-ordinating his forces.

So, for 2009, World in Conflict was about the only real highlight on the strategy gaming rader for me personally. Much of my gaming time was in fact spent playing games which are not true strategy games, but have an element of strategy to them. I take a lot of enjoyment out of the tactics part with Dragon Age, or partaking in a well functioning team with Team Fortress 2. An idea for a podcast perhaps, games which fall under a genre which isn’t TBS or RTS but have a significant strategy core to them. Admittedly, that could be anything really if it is defined too loosely, character development planning in an RPG, weapon loadout in a FPS. Methinks I need another drink before I start thinking anything is strategy.

Anyway, yeah, cool podcast, look forward to hearing more in 2010.

Oh and also, I’m thinking when I return to civilisation in a few weeks I might have to look at getting Dawn of Discovery. It does meet a number of things I like, city builders being one, the setting being the other. I don’t know why I never really went for it when it was released, except for maybe the guilt I knew I’d have at buying another game. There have been quite a significant number of quality releases this year. One of the key attributes mentioned though in this podcast was colour. Any game which emphasises having a brighter palette wins me over, which was certainly the case with Titan Quest vs the boring grey of Diablo 2. Why there needs to be this emphasis on making the colour palette dark strikes me as odd. It may fit in some situations, but with monitors being able to display however many millions of colours, why not make use of that.

  • I realise that World in Conflict was released in 2007, but the expansion finally made me sit down and play it

I skipped the World in Conflict expansion, since I was mostly lukewarm on the core game. But I’ll check it out on your recommendation, Strato

And poor Bruce showed up under a feeling of obligation so we would not be stuck with just two people, which is greatly appreciated. He’s a team player and I love it when he fights with Tom because it makes me seem all the more reasonable.

Still, if the man needs sleep he should sleep.


It’s not like Bruce has an important job or anything that requires him to stay well-rested? Right?

I’m not sure which has become my favorite element of the podcast, Bruce’s hate of Uniwar or Tom’s confusion as to whether or not he has an iPhone.


If you were lukewarm on the core game, then the expansion probably won’t do much for you. It was nice for me in that it gave the other side’s perspective of war, and the story/narrative made me think about the human element behind it all. And, well, the strategy element may not be for everyone, but this was a year for me which the evolving strategy games were played less and less in my own time, and this one sucessfully hooked me.

Oh, and of course, what I was meaning with Bruce’s contribution is that even while incredibly tired he can certainly manage to put forward a judicious argument, obviously a man of very stern stuff. I know what I’m like after a busy night on call and having to front up the next day with little to no sleep.

Oh yes, Bruce is integral to the show and few people can still make me feel like a hack as well as he can.