The evolution of Strategy

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make it better than ever, paving the way for traditional strategy games like Starcraft 2 to come out and not be seen as outdated.   
 
But no matter what, no one should look at more traditional RTS games and say that they're outdated because new games are so much different, because these newer games really belong in a genre of their own.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.

9 Comments
9 Comments
Posted by Rasta_Zergling

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.

Posted by Shirogane

   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.   

     
That's a very interesting thing to point out. One that i wouldn't have noticed myself. Lucky for SC2 i guess? 
I personally like the way RTS games used to be and more traditional stuff, but that doesn't mean i don't like the newer style of DoW2. I would love that game...if it weren't for my prejudice against space marines.
Posted by Rasta_Zergling
@Shirogane said:

"

   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.   

     That's a very interesting thing to point out. One that i wouldn't have noticed myself. Lucky for SC2 i guess? I personally like the way RTS games used to be and more traditional stuff, but that doesn't mean i don't like the newer style of DoW2. I would love that game...if it weren't for my prejudice against space marines. "
  Warhammer 40k is the only franchise where space marines are forgivable since they're pretty much the ones who invented the concept  
Posted by Shirogane

Oh no, i'm fine with the space marine concept, i just hate the Space Marine/Imperium faction from 40k. I do quite enjoy killing them in extremely violent and bloody ways though...
Posted by DocHaus

Personally, I prefer havin' a great big WAAAAGH! and using it on the enemy, but I think the Orks got the least improvement in Chaos Rising, and their new Weirdboy unit kills about as many of da boyz as it kills humies. They're quite difficult to use in 1v1 now (read: I suck).
 
Back on topic though...I welcome the evolution of the RTS genre. The original Dawn of War (up to Dark Crusade) was my favorite RTS of all time simply because it put more focus on taking and holding ground (requisition/victory points) than building bases and worrying about workers collecting minerals. While the sequel has removed the base building entirely, it does allow you to focus more on micromanaging and improving individual units, combining them into a fighting force capable of cutting a path through the enemy (unless they have a heavy bolter or some artillery covering that area, then you're probably fucked). I suppose you could argue that it has become more of an RPG, but it's still a pretty good game.
 
Command and Conquer 4 removed the base building part, which I tentatively supported, but then they took out all the unique units that they had in the previous games, forced you to grind multiple times just to unlock the ability to get better units for a fucking skirmish game (something that no other RTS was stupid enough to do), and on top of that made it so that destroying the enemy base ("Crawler") does absolutely nothing but force your enemy to summon another one when in any other game it would be the end for your opponent. Hell, it's gotten a combined one-star rating on Amazon.com, and that's not to mention the stupid "always-connected" DRM.
 
I guess what I'm trying to say is that as much as I welcome the evolution of RTS games, I'm also wary how they can fall flat on their face.

Posted by Tennmuerti

The generally used term (to my knowledge) for the type of game that is DoW, CoH, C&C4 is RTT
Real Time Tactics
The main difference between RTS and RTT is the missing component of macro in RTT. Smaller armies, little to no resource management, bigger focus on micro.
DoW2 is pretty much an RPG in single player. But it's multiplayer is quite simmilar to the first DoW except bases.

Posted by Rasta_Zergling
@DocHaus said:
  Back on topic though...I welcome the evolution of the RTS genre. The original Dawn of War (up to Dark Crusade) was my favorite RTS of all time simply because it put more focus on taking and holding ground (requisition/victory points) than building bases and worrying about workers collecting minerals. While the sequel has removed the base building entirely, it does allow you to focus more on micromanaging and improving individual units, combining them into a fighting force capable of cutting a path through the enemy (unless they have a heavy bolter or some artillery covering that area, then you're probably fucked). I suppose you could argue that it has become more of an RPG, but it's still a pretty good game. 
 
No doubt about that, Dawn of War 2 was incredible, but I still love the original Dawn of War just as much.  My main argument is that there are starting to be enough of these "Strategy RPGs" with enough varying quality that the two genres can coexist
Posted by Corpsegrinder

My room mate and I still play a lot of Company of Heroes. It's awesome. Rasta, you should check out Supreme Commander 2. There is quite a bit of base building, however it's fairly easy to get used to. There isn't as much micromanagement as the first Supreme Commander.

Posted by Rasta_Zergling
@Corpsegrinder said:
" My room mate and I still play a lot of Company of Heroes. It's awesome. Rasta, you should check out Supreme Commander 2. There is quite a bit of base building, however it's fairly easy to get used to. There isn't as much micromanagement as the first Supreme Commander. "
I actually just downloaded company of heroes on steam this morning.  As for Supreme Commander, I actually beta tested the original game and loved it.  I have the boxes for both it and the expansion on a shelf behind me.