Arguably my favourite game of all time (certainly the most played unless you add all the Civs together). It’s the combination of the great and at the time against the grain focus on a handful of units which must be preserved that it brought over from Dawn of War with the intuitive combat match-ups and cover system. You can’t whittle down a a tank with a pistol. A wall gives you better protection than a hedge. A machine gun doesn’t just damage you it makes you flank it. Buildings are great cover while they last but can be destroyed by mortar fire. Still the best implementation of combined arms in an RTS.
Rise of Nations
Take the traditional RTS and add Civ-style national borders and eras. Many have tried, but only Rise of Nations did it right. And then Thrones and Patriots added a dynamic campaign. Perfection.
OMG terrain! Line of sight! Modelled turrets and projectiles! And so many units! And a dynamic economy! And amazing naval combat!
Will always hold a place in my heart as the game that introduced me to the strategy genre. A bit crap in retrospect, but it laid the groundwork (shut up, Herzog Zwei fanboys) for everything else.
Sins of a Solar Empire
One of the few space games, especially RTSes, to really capture a sense of scale with its ability to zoom smoothly from the tiniest fighter out to the whole “galaxy”. And the idea of planetary defences as merely stalling devices to allow your fleets to get to the battle is a powerful twist in the usual dynamic.
Homeworld Supreme Commander Defcon Age of Empires 2 Megalomania
Roughly in chronological order: Total Annihilation, the Red Alert series, Majesty, the Kohan series, Rise of Legends, Dawn of War 2 (esp. the last one), EndWar, Supreme Commander 2. These days I prefer RTSs which de-emphasize the base-building / resource-gathering elements to focus on tactical combat; also, the less micromanaging, the better. Although some games, like Red Alert and RoL, I just like for how balls insane their settings, units, etc. are.
Homeworld - Played for like 1.5 months; never did beat it, so I just kept looping the awesome Yes song (“The Ladder” – Youtube that shit; it’s amazing) it came with and pretending I had won. Beautiful, haunting graphics and soundwork, great “3D” gameplay (not really 3D).
Age of Empires 2 - Consumed about a year of my life total, but mostly just fucking around with cheatcodes for fun. I honestly think I got more enjoyment out of the instruction manuals for this and AoE1 than I ever did the games themselves, but I definitely played the campaign (s?) through multiple times. Sucked ass at multiplayer, so I just turtled up and farmed the shit out of everything.
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 - Its rendition of Hell March wasn’t as good as the first’s, but it struck the series’ perfect balance between campiness (zeppelin bombers!) and solid gameplay. Hilarious plot, particularly with the expansion, great controls and balance. I remember loading up on Prism tanks gleefully for months with a good friend who ended up one of the top-ranked players in the world when we’d 2v2 to fuck around.
Total Annihilation - Consumed about a year of my life with awesome giant-scale battles, sweet artillery mechanics that no one’s gotten right sense then, a huge and amazing modding community, and the best fucking videogame soundtrack of all time, PERIOD NO QUESTIONS ASKED JEREMY SOULE IS A FUCKING SAINT. (Except maybe Michael Hoenig’s work on Baldur’s Gate) Great graphics, fun economy system (especially on metal worlds), and goofy fun multiplayer.
Starcraft - Ate about 4 years of my youth with the campaigns, 1v1 multiplayer (I was horrible), clans, and of course, the awesome “use map settings” custom maps with weirdo abilities and styles. SC1 gave birth to Tower Defense and MOBA/DOTA style games (via Sunken Defense and Age of Strife, specifically), which is pretty incredible to think about. Beautiful music–particular the Terran themes–amazing cutscenes, great cheeseball scifi plot, amazing 3-sided balance, and, most importantly, the greatest esports scene to have ever been. The Korean greats like Boxer, Jaedong, and Flash kept me up late many a night watching! SC2’s scene is still fun to watch, and has consumed the SC1 players and leagues, so it’s the only option, but the game, plot, music, multiplayer, UMS maps, AND competitive potential of SC2 all pale in comparison to the original.
Warcraft 3 - A game with small enough armies that I could manage, WC3 devoured the entirety of my college experience wholesale. While everyone else was losing their lives to WoW, I was entrenched in the WC3 campaigns (the best fantasy campaigns I’ve ever played in a computer game) and its amazing multiplayer. The ranked 1v1/2v2, ongoing system-wide tournaments, and most importantly, UMS maps all provided endless joy–particularly the last, since I sucked at traditional 1v1. It’s the only game on the list without particularly memorable music, but given that it gave us the modern form of Tower Defense, the actual first DotA, as well as amazing games like Wintermaul, Footy Wars, Gunners, PokerTD, Element TD, The Great Strategy, GreenTD, and more, it provided a dozen games’ worth of entertainment for all of about $80 total for me. This is very possibly my favorite game of all time, and the fact that they fucked up the series by turning it into a goddamned MMO, then fucked up the genre by so thoroughly wrecking UMS maps in SC2, kills me to no end. Blizzard why :(
Since Soren’s game is apparently not combat-focused, but economy-focused…
What RTS games have the best economic gameplay?
My favorite RTSes (to interpret the term broadly) are city-builders, so my nominations would come from that direction. Probably Emperor, the last of the official Impressions games, is the strongest economic system although they’re all pretty similar. I remember liking Rise of Nations’ approach to securing income generators, but it’s been awhile so I might be confusing it with something else. Transportation games are a whole other beast. I think the best of those is Transport Tycoon, with the original Railroad Tycoon getting a nostalgic nod.
Total annihilation. Best big unit combined arms strategy game of all time. As mentioned, the best soundtrack of any game ever takes it from “great game” to “timeless classic”. SC1/2 were good spiritual successors, but not quite as good as the original.
Ground Control, for getting to the heart of unit tactics without all that pesky economics stuff.
Red Alert 1, for much of the core gameplay that we take for granted today.
Honorable mention to Imperium Galactica II, a 4x game, that nonetheless scratches the strategy itch for me, time and time again.
You guys screwed up my list now that you listed Kohan, Battlecry, European Air War (which I didn’t think as “rts” since I like to think of it more like a tactical simulator).
Nightgaunt says, “Since Soren’s game is apparently not combat-focused, but economy-focused…”
That is an excellent point and one I thought of when making the thread, but I just couldn’t think of any set of titles that would fit this example very well. Maybe if “Imperialism 2” went rts with a touch of “Age of Empires 3”?
After hearing so many positives about Kohan, awhile back I gave it a try. As a whole I thought it was a good game, but 1 thing killed it for me. Even when I grouped units together in formation, they didn’t maintain it when moving. I would set the archers in the back, but after I gave the move order they would invariably get to the destination before their melee escorts. This meant I had to baby sit them to make sure they were protected. Seems like a small problem, but it killed the experience for me.
Fantastic game - great claymation / stop motion animation movies and wrap around maps. The game made you choose your spells (and therefore creatures) by picking 1 of 3 possible creatures or spells, so you couldn’t just pick “the best ones”. There were some lovely synergies in the spell choices, and of course the great music by AfroCelt Sound System.