By Rasta_Zergling 8 Comments
With Starcraft 2 on the horizon there's been a lot of talk about how strategy games have evolved over the years. The best strategy games of the last few years have been the ones with a much smaller scope like Dawn of War 2, and yet I don't think that this is a sign that strategy genre has changed, merely that there is a new genre starting to appear; let's call them Strategy Role Playing Games (SRPGs). When you think about it, for a while the only company to really make any significantly different RTS games was relic with hits like Company of Heroes and Dawn of War 2.
I'll use Dawn of War again because it's such a perfect example, but if you compare the first and second game you'll see that they don't have the slightest similarity. The original Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War was my favorite strategy game when it came out. You had all the familiar strategy trapping like tech trees and base building with some nice additions like passive resource gathering to let you focus more on the combat that making sure you didn't require more vespene gas. Now, years later, the sequel is released and it couldn't be more different. Don't get me wrong, I loved my entire playthrough of DoW 2 and I think it was by far one of the best games of last year, but in no way did I feel like I was playing a strategy game, it just felt like Warhammer 40k the RPG. Think about it, you select no more than 4 characters to bring into battle with you, you gain levels, spend skill points to unlock new abilities and collect better loot to equip your party. From this perspective, Dawn of War 2 has much more in common with something like Dragon Age: Origins than with a strategy game like Starcraft.
Since these new Relic-developed, closer focused strategy games were getting such amazing reviews people started to hold them up as the evolution of RTS games, and then along came Command and Conquer. C&C 4 was so desperate to be part of the fun of this "evolution of strategy games" that it forgot to actually be good. Gone was the illusion that making your game have a narrower more streamlined focus would make it better than ever, paving the way for traditional strategy games like Starcraft 2 to come out and not be seen as outdated.
But no matter what, no one should look at more traditional RTS games and say that they're outdated because new games are so much different, because these newer games really belong in a genre of their own. Much like first person shooters splintering into third person shooters over time, the two genres can easily co-exist and each have merits of their own.