Friday, 6 March 2009

The RTS is starting to mutate

I have been hopelessly addicted to Dawn of War II for the past two weeks. It has been my safe room away from the hordes of university assignments that seem to be charging at me fists first, attempting to pummel my free time into the ground so far it might strike oil.

DOW2 is a real breath of fresh air in a genre of game that was starting to go stale. The game is a real-time strategy, but it has been gutted of so many elements that we are familiar with, it is amazing that it can still walk. To replace some of the stuff it has lost, various RPG elements have been welded on to the sides to make some kind of hybrid monster that is very pretty.

For a start, the removal of base building means that you are immediately thrown into the fierce melee of battle, using a cover system similar to Company of Heroes’ in the gritty universe of Warhammer 40,000.

In the single player campaign you have four squads to nurse and maintain, and when one dies, the squad commander lies on the floor waiting to be revived, meaning that your units never really die. Immediately this is screaming RPG and that’s even before I mention the new weapons, armour and items that can be looted from missions.

This really is a leap and a bound away from the Command & Conquer style of games that can be argued set a mainstream precedent for the genre of click this, then click that to kill stuff.

Is it a welcome change though? I must admit, I really did like Supreme Commander in the way that I could build my impenetrable fortresses of doom that would make a tortoise so ashamed that it would try and think its way out of existence.

The concept of building the biggest stick to hit the enemy with is now near enough gone, even though you can build units in DOW2 multiplayer, they are too resource intensive to create vast armies.

Personally, I am very happy with the change that DOW2 has brought to the game, but I am unsure if it will become the norm for the genre. It is a fun style to play, but base building and horde management have just been such oversized staples in the genre for so long, that they will be there for a long time.

Just look at Starcraft II for instance. That is sticking to its roots like a house to its foundations caught in a light breeze.

DOW2 revolutionised the series that is for sure, but I am not certain if anybody outside of Relic will try and develop this idea any further. Not for the time being in any case.

1 comment:

shoinan.com said...

The guys at Giant Bomb were raving about DoW2 (well, the guy...), but I don't think they saw it quite as revolutionary. Still, it's a shame that PC RTSs that are mixing it up like DoW2 are going to get less coverage than dumbed-down console RTSs like Halo Wars, but maybe that's just a bitter PC RTS fan's ramblings.