Saturday, January 25, 2014

Why Is StarCraft II the Only Relevant RTS These Days

The professional AND casual RTS scene is saying only one name these days: StarCraft II. Are there no real competitors to the long reigning king of multiplayer real-time strategies? Is the long praised genre dying? Read on to find out.

The real-time strategy genre as we've known it in previous years is dying. There is no doubt about that; many developers are withdrawing from it, following its low sales and decreasing popularity.

There are hardly any new games of this kind on the market.


To answer that question, we should look at the concept of real-time strategies and try to place it in today's gaming scene.

Nowadays, games are becoming more and more cinematic driven, with focus on human characters a player can relate to. Epic, linear movie-like storylines and immersive worlds with unparalleled graphical fidelity are dominating gaming experience and because of that, a lot of genres are becoming outdated, their concept not so interesting anymore.

For example, take the latest games – Battlefield 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Bioshock: Infinite, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (my review) are all fitting to this description. They offer a cinematic story and are almost all linear. Also, their worlds are all highly immersive and atmospheric.

One of these is the genre of RTS. Building fast-assembling bases and sending troops after troops against your enemy is not exactly cinematic or movie-like, and the unrealistic building of structures or unit breeding further distances the player from its world.

One of the spin-off genre that adresses this issue is the genre of MOBAs, which is already extremely popular in all parts of the world, with famous titles like League of Legends or DOTA 2 (and other promising games in development).

The premise of this genre was to simulate a fast evolving battlefield and represent the feeling of a general commanding his troops, but players have begun to lack motivation to actually think about their strategy and play these games as they should be played.

I think that players are becoming quite lazy these times, gladly consuming the experience and are easily frustrated when they're not capable of winning, and lazy to make themselves better to overcome this.

StarCraft II

StarCraft II actually succeeded in making real-time strategy as today-friendly as the genre allows. It has the attributes I pointed out above:
  • it is much more cinematic-driven than other games, with epic cutscenes,
  • it has an immersive world with rich backstory,
  • its ranking system is very rewarding and player skill-driven,
  • And mainly, it's a game with amazing competitive potential.
The competitive potential and a huge e-sport community are the main reasons for why is this game still in the spotlight; very long learning curve and endless combinations of units and strategies to play, along with legacy of its first game, a tournament legend, have made this game the main attraction for many contests.

And while it isn't expanding its current player base a lot, I think the players remaining are very loyal and playing this game with great passion.

I hope the situation for RTS strategies changes - but realistically, if current developers do not muster themselves and revive this genre with new, amazing titles, StarCraft II can't drag it at its own. 

I believe I've said everything I've wanted to say; and I encourage you to take a look at the genre of RTS one more time and give it a chance. You could still have a lot of fun.

And furthermore, what do you think about this topic? How often are you playing RTS games these days?

Let me know in the comments down below.


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  1. Well, there's also Dragon Commander, it's an hybrid and not as good as Starcraft II (IMO) but it still is pretty good.

    1. Yeah, you're right, but that game is probably not so widely known and doesn't have the large community to support it. But thanks for the tip, and come back for more!

  2. Hey Indigo, since you're only 17 this game will be before your time but you should checkout a game called Cyberstorm. It is an older game but don't worry, it is still surprisingly playable to this day. For me personally, I'm one of the impatient or "lazy" gamers that you mentioned. In my old(er) age I don't have all the hours to invest in one game anymore but even when I was a teenager I didn't have the patience for the RTS genre. Cyberstorm (technically a turn based strategy game) to this day is the only one I've played, but I enjoyed the hell out of it. Instead of mass producing hundreds of troops, you're given access to a handful of mechs (called "hercs") which you can upgrade on a one-by-one basis as you earn money. Eventually you can buy bigger, more sophisticated hercs and add them to your fleet and attempt to conquer some of the more difficult maps. It's a highly addictive formula, you're always trying to earn a little more cash so you can finally buy that shiny new mech. You can find Cyberstorm on most torrent sites like piratebay, or the file is small enough that I may even be able to email it to you. Let me know and I'll try to do so. Here's a youtube clip:

    In response to your article, I think more gamers would be into the RTS genre if it was more of a hybrid like Cyberstorm. The average gamer doesn't have the patience or the inclination to deal with hundreds of units scattered all over a map. But give them 10 to 20 units, each with its own name and all of whom they know on an individual basis, I think the average gamer can deal with that. It's the reason why the recent X-com games were so popular. They're like RTS-lite and for some may even serve as a bridge to the more hard core RTS style games.

    - Shant D.

    1. Hey Shant. The concept you're describing is actually quite resembling XCOM, so I can make a picture about that very clearly.

      I do love these types of non-base building unit oriented strategy games, but they're not what I was talking about in this article; in fact, turn-based strategy games are still popular these days - take, for example, the huge community Civilization 5 still has.

      Anyway, thanks for the tip, I'll look into Cyberstorm if I'll be in the mood. Be sure to come for more articles though!