Currently the last champions of Real Time Strategy have been reduced to two significant names, Starcraft 2 that has seen a decline with its e-sports centric audience and Command & Conquer which had its last official released game panned by Critics and abandoned by fans(Company of Heroes 2 is the other other recent RTS example). The attempt to make a Free to Play C&C apparently failed as well, it’s pretty damning to see the two biggest names in a once popular genre fail to keep a foot hold as they once had.
While the 90’s provided a overabundance of games within the Genre we’re now nearly 20 years after the popular period for real time strategy games. A period that arguably began with Command & Conquer Tiberium Dawn (Dune 2 was definitive of course) that ended with a gluttony of early 2000 games, notable late period titles such as the ground breaking Ground control games and Red Alert 2 being among my favourites.
But the Genre hasn't died completely Relic have been holding the torch for some time with the earlier Dawn of war games and the Company of Heroes series. As mentioned Blizzard continued to develop titles over the last few years but the popular Warcraft series is now an MMO and the future is uncertain for Starcraft after the latest expansion is released.
While I wouldn't want an over-saturation of the genre I can’t help but mourn a period which gave us several really fun C&C games, the original Starcraft, Dark Reign(yeah not that amazing), Homeworld, Ground Control, Age of Empires and I’m sure many people could list treasured RTS’s that I've missed here.
On the Horizon we have Wargame: Red Dragon, Etherium(It's said to be a RTS but we've only seen a teaser trailer) and it is believed that Gas Powered Games are working on a Total Annihilation Sequel after a buy out by Wargaming.net, oh and of course Planetary Annihilation is in early access but is still far from complete. In recent news we have OpenRA which seems like one of the most interesting attempts to bring back every relevant Westwood game while re-balancing them and even adding new units. OpenRA has very recently been covered by TotalBiscuit which isn't hard to find if you are curious.
So far I've avoided mentioning DOTA2 and its ilk as they do share relation to the RTS genre yet they are most certainly something else entirely, and personally they don’t have the same appeal. Oh and someone clever might note that the last Command and Conquer release was Tiberium Alliances.. The less said for that the better.
So it would be fair to say the genre hasn't died off completely, rather it has fallen from grace and a popular new genre has seemingly taken its place.
My first console was the N64, I was born in '89 so I failed to really experience the SNES, being a resident of the UK we had an Amiga instead which was great(No I'm serious, I really mean it this time). The bullfrog series of games were great and I'm particularly fond of Alien Breed but I didn't really bother with the knock off platformers that came to the Amiga. I continued my trend of not bothering with platformers well into the following generation, had an N64 but I never bothered with Mario 64 though I eventually experienced it on the DS PHAT. The touch screen stick hybrid nightmare control scheme was dismal at the very least and it was certainly not the ideal way to play it. So I never really had my proper experience with a Mario platformer which I've recently learned is a shame when I finally played Super Mario 3D...... Land. It’s fair to say this was my first platformer that I played to completion so that’ll have skewed my opinions to a fair degree.
You can’t mention one of these games without mentioning the music and I believe the music carries the spirit of what this game does pretty well; It’s a fresh great sounding soundtrack that touches upon the themes that have made many of the previous games iconic and that’s what the game does overall. I think the only flaw you could bring against this game (which I hear is a similar complaint to 3D world) is the difficulty curve is pretty shallow until the later stages, I felt that too few of the early stages offered much of a challenge and they were simply not very complex in their design, I can hardly remember most of the early portions of the game. The early levels feel a bit like a waste of time when you compare them directly with the later stages, quite simply I'd prefer if they spent more time making memorable, challenging experiences.
The later stages of 3D land are extremely well designed, they play with the core thematic concepts beautifully while introducing new features, most of which are used sparingly rather than letting them become tedious through over use. The more difficult stages tested my patient to a certain extent until I "got it" and this is one of the essential really satisfying loops this game does so well, many of the later levels present a perfect level of challenge that are almost too difficult. It’s a shame other popular franchises can’t manipulate designs in such an interesting way, imagine if Call of Duty: ghosts actually innovated on a level by level basis rather than using cheap over used gimmicks that have become tired over the years. If I could wish for anything in the world I'd want many more games to be as inspired and well designed as Super Mario 3D land.
If I continue these I can only imagine a few more games I’d actually like to write about that I played in 2013.. I could put it to a vote? (if anyone actually reads these)
Lets state the obvious as it seems like the a decent way to gain some context; It’s the beginning of the year, and it’s the end of a degree in business management for me and like many in my situation I've been thinking about what’s next. I’m writing this to find out whether or not I’d like to do this for a living... What do I mean by this? Hopefully you’re patient enough to find out with me.
I've spent a lot of time over the last few years writing long and fairly straight forward essays and business reports so that I can get decent grades and while that has its own benefit it’s also not really “fun” and it’d be nice to write about something I’m truly passionate about so I’m slowly attempting to get to a point.
I’d like to write about video games? As it’s the New Year how about writing about the most interesting experiences I have had with video games over the last year? I think that sounds like a decent enough thing to do. (This was a pretty long intro but I was just writing as whatever until I decided what really to write about, I’d love to some critic on the intro as well as this whole blog thing in general.)
Off the top of my head the first game that I still remember playing last year is... Dead Space 3 (If I don’t write about it, who will?). I feel like this series showed a lot of promise and while it won’t be regarded in the same light as the classics of the genre I think they achieved what they set out to do, they made a series of games inspired by Aliens and The Thing and that in itself is a pretty rad idea. For me personally this was a significant experience at the time as I was temporarily disabled due to medical reasons so I was playing Dead space 3 while on a liquefied diet so that may have determined how much I enjoyed the experience, take that as you will.
The single most controversial thing that mired the series over time was the lack of success in a market dominated by... other types of games and I think EA deserves a lot of credit for simply green lighting 3 fairly large budget horror games, it’s almost beside the point that the series deviated into a more action orientated genre as I would personally argue that it was great to have a series like this get as far as it did while still being about reanimated alien zombie things. The first game sold less than expected and many thought it wouldn't get a sequel yet they gave it another chance and that led to a greater more bombastic action slanted game that sold better and actually warranted a continuation in the series. So when they announced the third in the series I was reasonable excited for a further installment improving on the elements that Dead space 2 introduced while staying true to the roots of the series and the genre? The series issues with sales had a direct impact on the design decisions made throughout the series, at least I would argue that based upon the lack of survival horror elements in Dead Space 3.
Dead space 3 wasn't the game I expect or wanted but it served its purpose as a sequel to Dead space 2 with co-op awkwardly thrust into the heart of the experience, though the perspective variance between Isaac and Clarke is a cool little idea. Overall I came away enjoying the crafting to an extent yet the lowered barrier to entry is felt through the simplified ammo system and enemy designs that were less like the Necromorph’s of the series and more like regular generic grunts with guns. So I guess I enjoyed Dead space 3 as its own little game despite being a disappointing sequel and a weird end to a series I've enjoyed since its inception. Oh and the Moon monster was great.
At least it wasn't Colon marines right? Right. I’m a pretty huge Alien/s fan, I admit I only have one figure on the wall and I can only quote half of Hudson’s lines in the film but I have yet to play Aliens CM due to the absolutely horrible reception, I refuse to go through that again after Duke Nukem Forever was essentially ruined by Forever(Has anything every been good with Forever on the end of the title?). Aliens: Colonial marines is a sorry state of affairs especially in relation to the Dead space series as the original Dead space was announced within a similar time frame (Or at least it felt like it, can anyone confirm the announcement of Dead Space 1?) of the announcement of Gearbox working on Colonial marines and that is a terribly depressing thing to think about. I guess Aliens fans have had a pretty hard time since Alien 3 (I liked it to a certain degree, no surprise right?). Maybe Isolation is a chance to change things? Highly unlikely but hopefully it will give us the abused fans some respite from the last few regrettable games made in the franchise.
Next round will probably/maybe focus on a game that didn't actually come out last year but that’s ok because MY BLOG MY RULES.