I so want to see Petroglyph get a break. Sure, they’re staffed by many of the people who worked for Westwood Studios, creators of some of my favorite RTS games like Red Alert 2, Tiberian Sun and Emperor: Battle for Dune, but that’s not the reason I support them. I’m not hugely into gamer nostalgia, and while I greatly enjoyed those games and still occasionally boot them up to tinker around with them, I like Petroglyph for another reason.
I was a big fan of Universe at War. The factions in that game were very different, and while it had some persistent issues with pathfinding and balance, it was one of the most purely fun RTS experiences I’ve had. I don’t say that it was the “best RTS” out there. It certainly, objectively, wasn’t… but, something about it resonated with me personally, enough that I subscribed to Xbox Live at the time to enjoy its competitive multiplayer. I never got the chance to play Empire at War, so I can’t speak to that, but UAW was a really good time and I still look back on it fondly.
I’ve not played many of Petroglyph’s other games, but the ones I have played, I’ve enjoyed, and I really respect their vision. In an article I wrote for RTS Guru, I covered a bit of their history, including mechanics or conventions they favor in their games and a building or progressing vision of what the RTS genre could be.
While many people remember Supreme Commander fondly (and I do as well) I’m increasingly drawn to another type of game. Sadly, I seem to mostly be alone in this… But, there are a couple RTS games, or tactical games, or what have you, that play much like a traditional RTS, but intentionally do not include base building, and either do not include resource harvesting, or simplify or redirect it. To date, perhaps the most successful and well known examples of that type of game would be Warhammer: Dawn of War, Dawn of War 2, and Company of Heroes. These games include unit production, upgrading, and (with the exception of DOW2) minor base building, but they’re objective based and tie resource gathering directly into map control via capturable points on the map.
I understand the importance of “macro” in RTS games, but I’m decreasingly finding it enjoyable. Especially in the case of StarCraft 2, in which every second must be shaved off of your actions for you to be successful competitively. It’s important, I suppose, for high level competitive play, but I don’t really find it… fun any more. And I’m not saying this objectively. This is 100% subjective.
Lately, I’ve been gravitating towards DoTA 2 and the so-called MOBA genre. It’s more manageable, since you’re only controlling a single unit/hero or a small collection of units/heroes, but it leaves me wanting… something. More maps, more units to control… That sort of thing. I think the problem is, I encountered the MOBA genre first through Demigod, where you had Generals, teamwide upgrades, capturable points and other such RTS conventions.
I guess what it comes down to is, Petroglyph has managed to capture the closest thing I’ve seen so far to the type of game I really want to play. End of Nations ,which was originally developed by Petroglyph and published by Trion (kind of a dream team of mine) featured much of what I’d want in an RTS. Now, it had some serious issues that I hope are being addressed during development now that it’s solely in the hands of Trion, but something about it just… clicked for me.
To me, End of Nations is like playing Warhammer (or similar tabletop games) on my PC. I could build “my” army, customize it, focus it, tinker with it, color it, etc, and then take it into combat with a team of friends or strangers, and just focus on supporting my team and controlling the map. Winning was about coordination, unit control, exploiting the game’s rules, and controlling the map. Winning wasn’t about shaving every second off of a build order or researching upgrades. It was… well, it was all of the things I like about RTS games with none of the stuff I don’t like. If that makes sense.
I wrote a ton about End of Nations for RTS Guru, and this is probably one of the pieces that best encapsulates why I love, and what I love about the game.
Is there a point to all this?
Now, Petroglyph has started a Kickstarter campaign recently for a game called Victory. It looks fairly similar to End of Nations in its broad strokes (I wrote a brief overview here). From my perspective, here are some of the standout features:
- RTS style combat, with a focus on unit control, teamwork and unit preservation
- Persistent unit collection and management outside of combat in companies
- Points balanced units that they can add to over time
- Directional armor, high ground advantage
But, what’s the big deal? Isn’t this just another WW2 tactics game (like Blitzkrieg)? Isn’t COH2 a better/more graphically/technically advanced title? Well… Maybe it is and maybe they are. But, I guess I’m a fan of tabletop gaming. I’m a fan of collecting units and building an army out of them, and then fighting opponents with “my” little force that I poured my attention and dedication into. That’s what Victory and End of Nations promise me, and I can’t help but feel compelled by this vision.
These are the types of game I feel like I’d enjoy playing. They promise to take what I like about MOBAs and what I like about RTS titles and combine them, and that appeals to me as a gamer. Unfortunately, technical issues and the current gaming climate doesn’t seem to be aligning properly to allow these games to be popular or even to be published, and that saddens me. It really does.
Perhaps if we see another Warhammer or WH40K game, the developer will attempt something like this. Or perhaps my preferences will evolve or alter to suit the current strategic and tactical fare. But I can’t help but hope against hope that Victory and End of Nations will, against all odds, make it to the light of day. Though I may be alone in my reasons.
Thanks for reading.