Real Time Strategy Tagged Articles RSS Feed | Real Time Strategy RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network 5 Custom Warcraft 3 Games We Hope to See in Reforged Thu, 23 Jan 2020 17:32:46 -0500 Jordan Baranowski

The original Warcraft 3 released all the way back in 2003, returning us to Azeroth for the battle between orcs and humans. It was a strong game in its own right, but it can be easy to forget how massive and influential the custom game scene for Warcraft 3 was as well. That's something we hope carries over when Warcraft 3: Reforged officially releases next week.

Dota is the obvious pick when discussing popular custom maps. It went on to spawn two of the biggest games in the world. However, we want to look outside of Dota

With the release of Warcraft 3: Reforged, we wanted to highlight a few of our favorite custom maps from yesteryear, the ones that we'd like to see revamped when Reforged officially hits the scene. Luckily, with Reforged currently in beta testing, plenty of these maps are already starting to circulate.

Tree Tag

Tree Tag saw two sides, the Ents and the Infernals, playing a game of cat and mouse through a forest. The Infernals had to hunt through the forest and destroy the Ents before time ran out, while the Ents needed to carefully plan, setting things up to survive until the clock ran out.

Plenty of people are already hard at work recreating the magic of Tree Tag in Warcraft 3: Reforged. Hopefully, the balance and tension of this one makes its way to the remastered game.

Castle Fight

Very few custom maps had a better back and forth than Castle Fight. It is a great respite from all the micromanagement inherent to RTS games, as Castle Fight was all strategy and planning.

Instead of controlling units directly, both players simply produce buildings that create those units. The units then attack one another automatically. It's all about trying to outstep your opponent. If they counter your units, you'll want to have a unit on standby that will counter their units. But they'll know that's your plan, so they're going to counter THOSE units.

And on and on. Castle Fight is great. Full stop.

Legion TD

It's rare that a custom map for a preexisting game can be better than 95% of games in the same genre, but then we have Legion TD. There are already several attempts in the process of bringing this tower defense classic to Warcraft 3: Reforged, so it seems likely that one will stand as king of the mountain.

Legion TD is pretty standard tower defense, just refined and well balanced to the point that every game was an adventure.

Island Troll Tribes

Competitive Don't Starve set in the world of Warcraft? Yes, please. There were many survival maps in classic Warcraft 3, but Island Troll Tribes is one of the most memorable. You and your team had to do whatever you could to keep your stats high and knock the other tribes out of contention. The fun came from how you did that.

Would your tribe keep to themselves and hope to build an unstoppable juggernaut? Would you actively seek out other tribes to claim their resources for your own? Would you use sneaky tactics? All out war? There were so many ways to play and make sure your tribe was the last standing. Warcraft 3: Reforged needs this map.

Uther Party

It's Mario Party but in Warcraft 3. We could just stop there.

Just like Mario Party, half the fun of Uther Party was when you were still figuring everything out. What is this minigame? What is my goal, and how do I accomplish it?

It wasn't quite the sheer madness of something like the WarioWare titles, but struggling to understand the basics of each new minigame in Uther Party was great. After that, mastering them all became the priority.


Many of these custom maps are already circulating on the Warcraft 3: Reforged Reddit and other forums. Hopefully, the minds behind their development keep tweaking them and manage to help them stay fresh for the new release.

What custom maps do you want to see in Warcraft 3: Reforged? Let us know in the comments below! 

RTS Games to Play While Waiting for Warcraft 3 Reforged Tue, 14 Jan 2020 11:57:06 -0500 Ty Arthur


What's your favorite RTS game to chill out with while waiting on Warcraft 3: Reforged? Sound off in the comments below, and we'll see you in the lobby when it finally lands January 28!


Of course, with the remake coming soon, we're left wondering: is a true successor ever going to come from Blizzard? Will we ever get Warcraft 4


Knowing Blizzard's track record with canceling anticipated projects and the timeline on the company actually releasing follow-ups to major franchises, we won't hold our breath.


Sins Of A Solar Empire: Rebellion


Love both turn-based 4X expansion games and fast-paced RTS titles? You get both with Sins Of A Solar Empire, and its a winning combination.


Even before diving into the modding community, the replayability available here is simply huge, and somehow, Rebellion is still getting new patches, updates, and events from the development team eight years after its initial launch.


This is an old one, but one that should be at the top of your list if you've never played it. 


A Year Of Rain


When looking for an experience very similar to the original Warcraft 3: Reign Of Chaos, it doesn't get much closer than A Year Of Rain. The influence and inspiration it takes from Warcraft 3 is very clear, but the twist here is that you can play co-op as a team of two.


The only thing to keep in mind before jumping into A Year Of Rain is that this is an Early Access and unfinished release. There's a lot of potential here, but you have to see it. There's still lots of room for improvement overall.


Seven Kingdoms Ancient Adversaries


There aren't many super-old-school games that manage to effectively work in espionage and diplomacy to the standard RTS conquer formula. But Ancient Adversaries pulls it off.


Managing your population and morale is just as important as amassing overwhelming force, and you've actually have to think about what you will do with a conquered area after taking it over.


As a game that came out in the late 1990s, Ancient Adversaries is a little clunky due to an aging UI, but it's still worth it for fans of old-school RTS titles.


Creeper World 3: Arc Eternal


A mix of tower defense and RTS, Creeper World 3 is radically different than the rest of the games on our list, but still well worth playing if you want to try something new.


Instead of hordes of orcs or stormtroopers, here, you are basically fighting a spilled liquid that terraforms the terrain. Your goal is to stop its relentless advance and eventually fight back to take out the source. It's somewhat like Plague Inc., with a nefarious virus-like substance polluting the land. 


There's a lot more strategy to it than you might think, though, and the number of levels and playthrough styles on offer are staggering. With a level editor included, you could easily sink a very silly number of hours into mastering every aspect of Creeper World 3.


The Tone Rebellion


Since releasing back in 1997, there has never been an RTS quite like this one, and it baffles me there's never been a remake or sequel in all that time.


Very much a product of its time, The Tone Rebellion features a quasi-3D style that will bring to mind contemporaries like Alien Legacy or Septerra Core.


As a leader of the jellyfish-style Floaters, your goal is to free your people from the tentacles of the mighty Leviathan. With light RPG elements and a totally different faction selection than your typical RTS, this is a game that deserved more attention than it ever got.


Sadly, this is one of those classic games that never made it to digital outlets. Your only options now are to find a disc floating around somewhere or hit up an abandonware site. Make sure to give it a vote on the GOG community wishlist page if you want to see it make a proper digital return!


Age Of Empires 3


Plenty of gamers still look with rose-colored glasses at Age Of Empires 2 as the pinnacle of the series. And yeah, it had a lot going for it back in the day. Hell, the game's been re-released twice, with the latest Definitive Edition bringing brand-new campaigns and civs to the game. 


For something a little different, though, I recommend hitting up the sequel if you haven't played it yet or just want a historical game in the RTS genre.


The time periods and locations on display here aren't often explored in the real-time strategy genre, skipping around from Spanish knights in the 16th Century to various First Nations conflicts, the American Revolution, and even the Indian Rebellion in the 1850s.


That's not to mention several new series' mechanics make AoE 3 well-worth checking out. 


Tooth and Tail


Ready for a tale of riots, revolution, and meat, my furry comrade? Imagine if Fievel Mousekewitz and his clan decided to stay home and devour their oppressors while overthrowing the bourgeois instead of moving to America and you've got Tooth & Tail.


Many of the traditional RTS base building elements are turned on their heads here, resulting in fast-paced matches as the Longcoats, Commonfolk, KSR, and Civilized factions engage in a war of supremacy to discover who gets to eat tonight. 


If you dig anthropomorphic mice fighting for justice (whether Mouse Guard or Redwall), you'll have a good time here.


Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2


If you like the ship-to-ship combat of Empire At War and want to skip the ground-based skirmishes altogether, then the Battlefleet Gothic series is the way to go.


While most of the Warhammer 40K games are based around space marines or various alien factions engaged in wars of attrition on various planets, these titles finally give the Imperial Navy its proper due.


From the killer ship designs to the unique space-based maps, there's a ton to love for Games Workshop fans here, although the PvP and skirmish modes are probably more fun than the campaign in the longterm.


Star Wars: Empire At War


If you somehow missed it, yes, there is in fact a proper real time strategy Star Wars title set during the rebellion era, and it is absolutely as awesome as that sounds like it would be.


Whether moving resistance soldiers through the rainy wilderness to take down a shield generator or commanding a fleet of Star Destroyers to destroy rebel X-Wing scum, Empire At War is pretty much everything you could want from an RTS Star Wars game.


While the base campaign is fun, the real goods are found in the modding community. Devoted fans have painstakingly recreated the Clone Wars and other famous eras of franchise history, which vastly increases your potential play time.




Viking-themed RTS? Sign me up! The fact that this one is from the indie developer behind the clever Evoland titles is just icing on the cake.


Northgard has less micromanagement than other fast-paced strategy entries, and it has a more "board-game" feel to it. But it's still most definitely a real-time game that can blow away large chunks of your time. 


In another fun twist, Northgard works in some interesting Catan-style elements for a different economy and resource management system. It also has some decent "expansions" worth checking out. 


Company Of Heroes 2


A unique take on historical strategy, Company Of Heroes 2 offers a slightly different focus than most of the other RTS games on our list.


Starting as the Russian army moves in to break the German forces, this tactical look at WWII features an infantry creation and management system that has been shifted and streamlined from the typical strategy game. 


CoH2 has a solid balance of objective-based gameplay and RTS front-line conquering. While extremely intense because of the subject matter, Company Of Heroes 2 still has enough entertaining gameplay elements to keep you hooked and playing for hours. It, like Dawn of War, is often part of quarterly sales on Steam and GoG. 


Dawn Of War


Somehow, the Games Workshop license still hasn't managed to produce a better 40K real-time strategy game than this ancient (and let's be honest, kinda' ugly) entry from Relic Entertainment.


While a lot of fans were enamored in the first few days, the luster of Dawn Of War 3 wore off pretty quickly. Between bugs in the campaign and the fact that the single-player mode was basically a tutorial for the game's mutliplayer component, things went downhill fast.


Skip that title in the series and come back to this hallowed classic instead. The story campaign of the original Dawn Of War is still incredibly solid for its age.


If you just want to jump into some RTS action and take over territory, though, both the standalone Dark Crusade and/or Soulstorm "expansions" are the way to go. You can grab all of them at Steam or GOG for a very reasonable price these days.


Ready for the re-imagined Warcraft 3: Reforged to finally hit the launcher? We've only been waiting 18 years for a proper return to Azeroth in all its RTS glory. And now, it's nearly here!


After Starcraft: Remastered arrived back in 2017, it shouldn't have been much of a shock that Warcraft 3: Reign Of Chaos would get an overhaul next. Frankly, it needed one. While the cut scenes were gritty look and the mechanics solid, the actual gameplay featured a cartoonish graphical aesthetic that didn't quite match the dark story set in the world of Azeroth. 


We still have a few weeks until we can finally return to fight for orcish independence, though, so in the meantime, you might want to polish your classic RTS skills with a few rounds of skirmishes. With that in mind, we've rounded up all the top real-time strategy games to play if you just can't wait for Reforged to arrive at the end of January.


We're going with mostly classic titles here either because they came out decades ago, or just emulate that old-school style with a few more modern entries as well to round things out.


Let's command and conquer! 

Warcraft 3: Reforged Delayed, But Only a Bit Wed, 18 Dec 2019 11:12:35 -0500 Ashley Shankle

Warcraft 3: Reforged, the upcoming remaster of Warcraft 3 and its expansion, The Frozen Throne, has been delayed. Only by a little bit, though.

Initially, Blizzard aimed for a December release, before the rollover to 2020. However, things don't always go as planned, and the Reforged remaster has been delayed to January 28, 2020.

We don't just know the release date, though. Blizzard are so sure that January 28 will be Reforged's release day that we also know the time the game is meant to be released: 6 p.m. EST/3 p.m. PST/11 p.m. GMT.

Warcraft 3: Reforged isn't just bringing the classic RTS and its expansion, The Frozen Throne, to the modern age with a new coat of paint. The game's balance is also being tweaked for this new edition, and it's getting new social and matchmaking features.

It's true that Warcraft 3 and The Frozen Throne both have stellar campaigns, but how the community will bring the Warcraft 3 custom game scene back to life will be the most interesting aspect of this remaster. We can easily bet on DotA's last version making its way to the client, but there are nearly limitless custom games just waiting to be ported.

Are you excited for Warcraft 3: Reforged? Let us know in the comments below, and take a gander at the official page for this remaster on the Blizzard Shop.

10 Upcoming Strategy Games to be Excited About in 2020 Wed, 11 Dec 2019 10:00:02 -0500 Jordan Baranowski


Phantom Brigade


Developer: Brace Yourself Games
Platforms: PC
Release Date:


A hybrid of turn-based and real-time strategy, Phantom Brigade sees you leading a team of mechs to war in a desperate, last-ditch attempt to retake your home. Big, stompy robots running through neighborhoods and firing lasers at one another. Need we say more?


We can: destructible environments, customizable mechs, and a series of tough decisions that will help you tell a unique story every time you play. Phantom Brigade is shaping up to be a tricky, tactical puzzle with some serious details to keep you crunching numbers even after you've shut the game down.


It's not Mechwarrior 5 or Battletech, but something altogether interesting in its own right. 




2020 is shaping up to be a great year for strategy gamers, with several different genres and settings to pick from. This was by no means a comprehensive list of titles, either.


If you're looking for the most anticipated horror games, FPS games, survival games, MMORPGs, or Nintendo games in 2020, be sure to check out the list of related articles below: 


What 2020 strategy releases are you most looking forward to? Sound off in the comments below. 


Evil Genius 2: World Domination


Developer: Rebellion
Platforms: PC
Release Date:


The original Evil Genius was a game that had an amazing premise but stumbled a bit in execution. It released way back in 2004, and developer Rebellion is hoping to knock it out of the park with the sequel 15 years later. 


Evil Genius 2: World Domination sees you roleplaying as your own psuedo-James Bond villain, while building a secret lair, hiring goons, killing spies, and taking over the world. El Presidente would be proud. 


Evil Genius 2 has a bit of Dungeon Keeper vibe to it. Your main priority is building your evil lair gather enough resources to take over the world. It's a game that looks to offer a variety of silly objectives (one asks you to "Bake Alaska") and features a satirical romp through the world of super-villainy.


Grab your sharks with lasers attached to their heads: it's time to rule to world. 


Empire of Sin


Developer: Romero Games
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date:
Spring 2020


"What if XCOM, but with mobsters?" is the general elevator pitch for Empire of Sin. This strategy game sees you taking over a crime family during the Prohibition-era, controlling your illegal empire with a variety of underlings, and entering turn-based battles to whack your enemies and expand your influence.


Alcohol is used as currency, and you control a variety of illicit businesses like casinos, speakeasies, and brothels. Empire of Sin also looks to offer plenty of replayability, with random character generation and a map that relocates important landmarks every time you play.


If you're sick of being the do-gooder and saving the world, then Empire of Sin might be your ticket to the top.




Developer: Amplitude Studios
Platforms: PC
Release Date:


Humankind, not to be confused with Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey, is a bold move. It a strategy game looking to topple the king of the "Historical 4X" mountain: the Civilization series. However, if any team can take on Sid Meier's giant franchise, it's Amplitude Studios.


Amplitude created the Endless series: Dungeon of the Endless, Endless Space, and Endless Legend. Of those three, Endless Legend generally got the most accolades and is in the same genre as Humankind, which has a ton of big ideas and looks to be the next "one more turn" strategy title.


Humankind's big draw is that rather than playing through history as an existing civilization, you get to create your own culture by drawing in elements of several different historical empires. If it fires on as many cylinders as Endless Legend does, it has a good shot to become one of the big dogs of the 4X world.


The Settlers


Developer: Ubisoft Blue Byte
Platforms: PC
Release Date:


Technically, The Settlers should have an "8" at the end of its title since it's the eighth game in the long-running series. However, The Settlers is the first entry the franchise in almost a decade and is serving as more a "brand reboot" than a true sequel. At least according to Ubisoft, who has also developed the Anno series, including Anno 2070 and Anno 1800


The Settlers is a city-building game that sees you build up your township through time, adding upgrades and trying to juggle your resources as you go. It's kind of (sort of) like a period Cities Skylines with combat.  


The Settlers is said to feature a few real-time strategy elements in some battles, but it is mostly a low-key affair about building your settlement and optimizing it.


It's a game more about managing your population and making things as efficient as possible, and it's certain to appeal to the lizard-brain project manager in many a strategy gamer.


Astra Exodus


Developer: Atomic Kaiser
Platforms: PC
Release Date:
2020 (possibly the end of 2019, but probably not)


Astra Exodus is another strategy title that was supposed to come out in 2019 but seems very unlikely. Instead, it's looking more and more like 2020 for this one, too.


Don't let the low-fi graphics of Astra Exodus fool you. The game looks to involve an impressive and deep level of strategy, a ton of ways to play, and more than enough meat to keep you busy for dozens and dozens of hours.


Astra Exodus has a narrative campaign. It has a deep sandbox mode. It has hero units, massive space battles, and tactical ground battles. It builds unique galaxies and has a randomized, massive tech tree each time you play. It even has mod support and a framework that gives you the ability to design your own spaceships in-game.


Warcraft 3: Reforged


Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Platforms: PC
Release Date:
2020 (Possibly the very tail end of 2019)


Remakes are a tough one to deal with on a list like this, but Blizzard properties are always big enough to get a nod. Warcraft 3: Reforged, an HD remaster of Warcraft 3, was supposed to see a full release in 2019, but that seems more and more unlikely as the end of the year approaches. Instead, it looks like we can expect it in early 2020.


While Reforged is a remaster, there are plenty of elements to be excited about. The game will see a balance overhaul, and those who still own Warcraft 3 will see the same changes.


You will be able to play either version in competitive matches, so the rerelease should bring an influx of new players to the fold. The single-player mode will feature some changes to the plot as well, and Blizzard has promised improved mod support.


Basically, if you missed Warcraft 3's original run (or you just miss playing it), Warcraft 3: Reforged will be a good excuse to head back to Azeroth.


Wasteland 3


Developer: inXile Entertainment
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date:
May 19, 2020


If you have grown tired of the post-apocalyptic shooter trend and prefer a more strategic post-calamity world, Wasteland 3 might be just what you're looking for. InXile's sequel to Wasteland 2 moves the action from the deserts of the American southwest to the frigid plains and mountains of Colorado.


Luckily, though, it still promises plenty of tactical warfare.


Wasteland 3 will have you put together a squad of rangers, building their stats and skills as you construct a base and make important, plot-altering decisions. Just surviving is difficult enough, but you will also have to figure out who to trust and how to balance your squad's abilities.


Tough as nails tactical combat and both singleplayer and multiplayer modes promise a lot of bang for your buck.


Crusader Kings 3


Developer: Paradox Development Studio
Platforms: PC
Release Date:


One of the granddaddies of grand strategy, Crusader Kings is set to see a full-fledged sequel in 2020 with the release of Crusader Kings 3


Crusader Kings 2 released back in 2012, and developer Paradox has kept expanding that game through a massive DLC campaign. It will be good to go back to square one with the massive strategy franchise with the newest entry.


Crusader Kings 3, like earlier games in the series, is a dynasty simulator set in Europe during the Middle Ages. You take on a variety of historical figures, then go about enhancing your dynasty by any means necessary.


Ally yourself through marriage with powerful monarchs. Betray your family members to get ahead. CK is about as close to Game of Thrones politicking as you can get. We don't have an exact release date yet, but CK3 is supposed to storm the gates in 2020.


Iron Harvest


Developer: KING Art
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date:
September 1, 2020


Set in an alternate 1920s Europe, Iron Harvest is a real-time strategy game about the threat confronting Europe after World War I. In addition to controlling the era-accurate troops you'd expect, Iron Harvest has a huge number of dieselpunk mechs for you to build and blow up. 


If you're a boardgamer, the art of Iron Harvest might look similar to that of Scythe. Indeedboth Scythe and Iron Harvest are based on the art of Jakob Rozalski. Though, the gameplay found in here is obviously very different from its tabletop cousin.


Iron Harvest promises a full-fledged single-player campaign alongside casual and competitive multiplayer gaming. KING Art, the developers behind the game, have also promised regular updates and free DLC after release.


When you like to outthink, outflank, and outclass your opponents, you're looking for a strategy game to scratch that itch. There are a lot of different subgenres under the strategy umbrella, but 2020 is shaping up to be a year full of strong, upcoming strategy games to look forward to.


Whether it's real-time, turn-based, or any other type of strategy game, games like Iron Harvest, Wasteland 3, and Empire of Sin have you covered. Heck, there's even a remaster (supposedly) coming in Warcraft 3: Reforged.


Here is a small sample of the strategy games you should be looking forward to at the start of the new decade. 

Siege of Centauri Review: Tower Defense By the Numbers Wed, 18 Sep 2019 13:27:04 -0400 David Jagneaux

Remember those simple Flash games you'd find on websites like Newgrounds and Kongregate? If they didn't feature clicker-game mechanics or stick figures exploding, then there's a good chance they included features from the tower defense genre.

Siege of Centauri reminds me a lot of those games, except with a supremely polished coat of paint and (very) high production values. But underneath its shiny exterior, this tower defense title still feels relatively archaic and overly simple by modern standards.

Ideas Under Siege

Siege of Centauri is a top-down tower defense game developed and published by Stardock Entertainment. The game takes place in the same universe as the developer's popular Ashes of the Singularity RTS series. Here, though, you deploy an arsenal of mechanical defenses to protect remote bases from alien onslaughts.

It's a simple premise that's bolstered by lengthy, involved, and entirely unnecessary mission dialogues that actually feature some surprisingly good voice over efforts. It's a shame, however, that the talent feels a bit wasted on content most players will likely skip. Much more of that flavor context should have been woven into the missions themselves to aid pacing and inject some much-needed personality into the overall product.

Instead, after the first hour or so, the game winds up feeling like a bit of a slog. There are about 24 missions in total that will take roughly seven hours to complete, plus a meager endless mode for a few maps, and a level editor that also lets players download community maps.

Generally, though, all of the maps feel the same. There is little variation, especially in terms of enemy lanes and movement along those lanes. Basically, each map is flat and forgoes varied elevation. It simply feels like the game's level designers ran out of ideas far too early in the development process.  

Polished But Not Perfected

Now, let me be clear: I'm not saying Siege of Centauri looks, feels, or plays like a hobbyist Flash game. Stardock is responsible for some excellent strategy titles such as Sins of a Solar Empire, Ashes of Singularity, and Galactic Civilizations. That's their specialty. But despite what you might assume based on how much these genres overlap, that doesn't seem to have translated to the same depth, complexity, and thoughtfulness in the tower defense scene. 

Thankfully, there are some things that work very well. Visually, Stardock's tower defense title certainly shines through.

Siege of Centauri is undoubtedly one of the best looking tower defense games in terms of not only map design and texture detail but also gadget and enemy quality. Even its particle effects are flashy.

Swarms of enemies pour into maps later in the campaign in such a way that it feels almost like they're stumbling over each other to rabidly attack your base. It can often feel intense and overwhelming for brief moments, which is a welcomed change of pace from most of the game's pacing — and they look fantastic doing it. 

It's just a shame that the glorious mobs of creepy, crawly, and sometimes mechanized alien hordes aren't smarter and more dangerous. Other tower defense games really make you plan and think and pick and choose your battles. It's a genre about cost-benefit analysis and this one usually devolves into the same brand of chaos at the end of just about every mission.

While some enemy types are weak to certain weapons and not others, it doesn't end up mattering much in the end since most weapons have similar ranges and area of effect attacks that hit multiple groups at once. If you spread out your weapons enough and summon reinforcements when available, most levels won't be much challenge without manually raising the difficulty slider.

  • Great visuals and detailed animations
  • Surprisingly engaging voice acting before missions
  • Solid, albeit derivative, core gameplay loop
  • Level design lacks variety and verticality
  • Most missions devolve into identical chaos by the end
  • Upgrades aren't very rewarding
  • Performance issues plague stability

As far as I'm concerned, Hidden Path's Defense Grid: Awakening and Defense Grid 2 the standard-bearers of the defense genre; they've set high bars that have yet to be surpassed, and Siege of Centauri doesn't come close in any regard. The genre has seen plenty of spin-off iterations like Dungeon Defenders, Orcs Must Die, Plants vs. Zombies, and more bring in extra mechanics. Siege of Centauri feels decidedly stuck in the past by comparison.

All that being said, Siege of Centauri is still extremely playable, brings high-quality production values to the table, and has a brisk campaign that's solid to play through at least once. At $15, you can certainly do worse, but it's hard to commend it much beyond that at this stage.

[Note: A copy of Siege of Centauri was provided by Stardock for the purpose of this review.]

Warcraft and Warcraft 2 Now Available on Good Old Games Thu, 28 Mar 2019 16:01:38 -0400 QuintLyn

Two more Blizzard classics have been added to CD Projekt Red's DRM free store GoG. Joining their ARPG sibling Diablo are Warcraft: Orcs and Human, and Warcraft 2 Edition.

The fantasy RTS games are the precursors to the long-running MMORPG World of Warcraft and introduce players to the original races: the Orcs and the Humans.

The first Warcraft takes players back to when the two races were first fighting for Azeroth, following the arrival of the Orcs. As with all Warcraft games, players will first choose a side and then do everything they can to destroy their foes and gain control of the world.

The game is available on GOG for $5.99, and like all games on the platform, it is DRM free and features a 30-day money back guarantee.

It can be played on Windows 7 or later and features a two-player versus mode via LAN, two dozen campaign scenarios with a storyline for each side, and over 20 customizable scenarios. The GoG purchase also includes the game's soundtrack in MP3, WAV, and FLAC.

Warcraft II: Edition is a bundle that includes Tides of Darkness and Beyond the Dark Portal. The set adds new weapons, maps including 50 custom maps  allies, and more. It also offers players the chance to take the fight to the sea and air.

Between the two editions, there are 52 new campaign scenarios, each with separate storylines specific to the two factions.

The Warcraft II bundle is also compatible with Windows 7 and higher, is DRM free, and includes a money back guarantee. It costs $9.99 and includes wallpapers and community maps.

For those who haven't played either game and would like to pick them both up, there's an option for that as well. Warcraft I and II are available as a single bundle costing $14.99, saving players around $2. 

Northgard Ragnarok Update Review: The End of Days Isn't So Apocalyptic Sat, 06 Oct 2018 11:21:24 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Ragnarok. The end of days. 

In Norse mythology, Ragnarok is a time of great tribulation and hardship. It is a time of violence and difficulty. Ragnarok, as it seems, is when the gods kick you in the ass. 

If you've played enough Northgard, you know that even on its hardest setting, it's never been a truly difficult strategy game. Although it's immensely fun to play, I've always seen Northgard as a casual, more laid-back RTS experience. 

Hoping for something of a difficulty spike, I jumped into the game's new update with gusto. But despite its foreboding moniker, Ragnarok doesn't make Northgard any harder than its ever been. As soon as you figure out the gods aren't as clever as they think, gaining victory comes as it has many times before. 

In some ways, that's not a bad thing. But with such high hopes ahead of release, it's a bit of a letdown that more risks weren't taken. 

Three warriors in red stand next to a snow covered trading post by the shore

More Like DLC

If you're looking for it, Ragnarok brings plenty of new content to Northgard.

When you boot up, you'll find a new option for the update after choosing singleplayer in the main menu. Select your clan, and you're loaded into the new Ragnarok map, a terribly (and aptly) desolate place covered in the drab brown and grey overtones of the apocalypse. 

From there, things begin differently enough. 

Resource Priorities Have Changed

The biggest change you'll immediately notice is that early-game resources such as food and lumber are scant -- and you can only gain food by foraging or hunting (unless you're playing as Clan Fenrir, of course).

This one wrinkle can -- and probably will -- completely change your strategy; where you might have once expanded toward fertile land and then areas with stone or iron, you'll now find yourself quickly seeking out the map's few hunting areas to quickly establish a foothold. 

It's a dynamic mix-up I found refreshing for the first several matches, but ultimately one that led to rote repetition in subsequent games, specifically if I never deviated from the optimum path of my own accord.  

I also quickly found that Ragnarok is easy peasy if you play with a clan like The Raven, which has the ability to annex land via Krowns instead of food. By building enough marketplaces and trading posts alongside a savvy trade route or two, you can easily circumvent the primary obstacles inherent to the map and glide to victory. 

Ghostly fallen sailors attack a Northgard settlement from the sea

Ghosts, Raiders, Volcanoes, Oh My

Not everything comes up roses. 

One thing that does shake things up quite a bit is the addition of new events and enemy types. If you're like me and consistently go for Wisdom or Trade victories, completely ignoring your warband in the process, that changes here. 

In many ways, it's essential you build a relatively robust warband of at least 12 warriors and one hero unit. Not only will that help you defend against wolves, Draugr, and other players but also against Fallen Sailors and the Myrkalfar, or Dark Elves.

The former damage sponges present a dire threat as they attack from the sea in numbers and not only bring strife but also unhappiness to your territory, causing your workers to be less productive. The latter are more nagging, launching raids on "random players" (read: you) each year stealing resources from your stores and leaving a few warriors dead if you're not careful. 

But by far one of the most interesting new enemies comes from the molten rocks spewed forth by the unconquerable volcano in the middle of the Ragnarok map.

Like other random events, the volcano will erupt, sending ash across the sky and darkening the map for a time. This darkness hides the stone golems that have indiscriminately on the map. At first they look like simple boulders, but if you don't mine them fast enough, they'll morph into raucous golems bent of your destruction.  

Couple that with a random rat infestation and Gates to Helheim, and you're in for a devastating ride.

An overlay showing the three military paths new to Ragnarok

Way of the Warrior

If you've not yet guessed, Ragnarok more the pushes you toward a Domination victory, for better or worse. The incentive is increased by the new Military Paths system, which gives your warband XP for every enemy killed. 

Depending on your playstyle, points rack up quickly, giving you access to three different paths: Tactician, Guardian, and Conqueror. Within each of these three paths there are three buffs that unlock at certain XP levels. Some provide increased health while others instill fear into the hearts of your enemies. 

The Guardian is the clearcut choice, though, because it increases your warband by one for every guard tower you have built (and by two if that guard tower is upgraded). Since you can -- and certainly should -- build guard towers in each section of your territory for protection, you can save some space on Training Camps and resources on upgrading them. 

So while Military Paths are interesting, there's never really any reason to pick anything but Guardian. Ever. 

Oh, and there's also something called a Bloodmoon, which increases the attack power of every unit outside of its territory. This is perfect for attacking other settlements, but since I've only gotten one once in a few matches (and wasn't close enough to another camp to test it out) I can't exactly say if it works as advertised or note. 

The Verdict

At the end of the day, Northgard's newest update is a mixed bag. On paper, all of the added content adds dynamic new layers to an already fun RTS. In practice, the number of occurrences feels unbalanced and the Ragnarok map is just, well, drab. 

Since the update is free, it kind of feels a bit ungrateful to gripe at all. But with all its potential not maximized, it feels like all that tribulation and hardship is a bit for naught. 

Fear Effect Sedna: Beginner's Guide Mon, 05 Mar 2018 10:44:33 -0500 Shawn Farner

Whether you’re new to the Fear Effect franchise or a seasoned veteran, there’s a bit you’ll have to learn when you pick up Fear Effect Sedna. This latest entry is a departure from the previous two titles, opting for stealth-action gameplay with a real-time-strategy bent rather than the third-person shooting of its predecessors. Below, our guide will take a look at new additions to the game and give you some tips and tricks to get you ready for your first foray in the world of Fear Effect Sedna.

The Fear Meter

The fear meter and the health bar in Fear Effect Sedna

Found in the top-left corner of the screen, the Fear Meter is the meter from which Fear Effect gets its name. When your heart rate goes up, you’re more afraid and more prone to take damage, but you’re also more powerful. You’re likely to have a higher heart rate when you’re in danger.

Directly below the Fear Meter is your health bar. This, quite frankly, is the one you should be more concerned about, as it doesn’t take much to kill you. If your health is low, use a health pack, or find one if you don’t have one.

Weapons & Abilities

Abilities and weapons are displayed at the bottom of the screen

At the bottom of the screen is a section that displays your weapons and abilities. In Zeke’s case here, you’ll see he has twin pistols, a flamethrower, and rockets. Each is mapped to a different d-pad direction, which you press to equip that weapon. The “plus” sign in the last slot is for health packs, which are shared across all characters. You can use a health pack by holding down the button mapped to it (which, in this case, is the Y button on the Xbox One).

Using your weapons is fairly straightforward. On the Xbox One, you’ll shoot with your right trigger button, reload with the X button, and choose the target you wish to aim at with the right stick. Should you need to evade gunfire from enemies, you can use the B button to roll.

Stealth Mode

Crouching into stealth mode in Fear Effect Sedna

On Xbox One, pressing the left stick down puts you into stealth mode. Activating stealth mode, which puts you in a crouched position, does one of two things. First, it makes you quieter, which in turn makes it easier for you to sneak up on enemies. Second, it shows you the field of vision for your enemies, indicated by the green shading. When enemies turn their heads or change directions, this field of view will shift as well.

On occasion, you’ll see this field of view broken up by lines when it passes over an object, such as a crate or a desk. This means that your character can duck behind the object for cover and remain hidden from an enemy, but that enemy will look at that spot a little harder and may turn back around to it unexpectedly.

Tactical Mode

Fear Effect Sedna's tactical mode

Using Tactical Mode is a bit tricky, and as we stated in our Sedna review, there’s not always a lot of incentive to do so. Entering this mode will pause all enemies and allow you to set paths and actions for your team members to follow.

On the Xbox One, you’ll activate Tactical Mode by pressing the “view” button (the one with the boxes on it). From there, you can swap between the character you’re controlling by pressing the right bumper button, draw a path for the character with the left stick, and give instructions by pressing the button that corresponds to a particular action.

To set your plan in motion, you’ll press the same button you used to activate Tactical Mode, which again, is the “view” button on the Xbox One. Should you wish to back out of this mode with a certain character, you can swap to them using the right bumper button and simply move your left stick to manually take control.


With the information in this guide, you should have no trouble getting started in Fear Effect Sedna. Be sure to stay tuned to GameSkinny for more information and guides to this latest entry in the Fear Effect series.

Noble Armada: Lost Worlds Launches Kickstarter Campaign Wed, 28 Feb 2018 10:49:31 -0500 Jonathan Moore

Atlanta-based developer Holistic Design Inc. announced on February 26 their return to PC development by unveiling the Kickstarter campaign for Noble Armada: Lost Worlds, a real-time strategy game set in the Fading Suns universe. 

The space-centric strategy title is strongly influenced by the Noble Armada tabletop miniatures game, also developed by HDI. Noble Armada: Lost World's mechanics will blend classic gameplay elements found in the popular board game with modern strategy principles to create what the developers hope will make a unique PC experience. 

Built with ClickTeam’s innovative Fusion game engine, Noble Armada takes our space combat game and turns it into a fast-paced strategy game. It utilizes the miniature game mechanics while taking advantage of its new digital home.

-- Andrew Greenberg, HDI Vice President

Noble Armada: Lost Worlds puts players in the boots of nobles vying for supremacy in a world rife with space pirates, renegades, and heathen savages. Much like its tabletop progenitor, Lost Worlds will also require players strategically maneuver ships from planet to planet, engaging in skirmishes and battles with other NPCs in a war-torn universe. 

Centering on "broadsides and boarding actions," Noble Armada: Lost Worlds will also include campaigns centering around the game's five royal houses, as well as other modes in which players will be able to craft their own battles.  According to the Noble Armada Kickstarter FAQ, the game is already under development at HDI, with funds from the Kickstarter campaign going toward the development of additional game resources, such as a Noble Armada mission editor. 

If you're interested in learning more about Noble Armada: Lost Worlds or contributing to its development, visit the Noble Armada Kickstarter to find out more. 

Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more news and information on Noble Armada: Lost Worlds as it develops.  

Does Historical Accuracy Matter in the RTS Genre? Sun, 25 Feb 2018 15:27:37 -0500 Alberto C.

The simple and straightforward answer to the question, "Does historical accuracy matter in the RTS genre?" is “well yeah, duh.” If we’re going to be playing a game based around a certain time period in history, or if it is supposed to depict a historical event, perhaps because we generally tend to “know” what really happened and are aware of the facts surrounding them, we have a natural inclination to denounce everything we perceive as “false.” It only seems logical that if we witness something we think to be untrue, to call it out or at least notice it.

This problem on the question of historical authenticity is and has been especially problematic within the RTS genre. It is one of the few types of games where the player simultaneously controls various types of units at the same time and tests them against one another. This means that developers have to take into account how each and every unit will react when put against all the others. What’s more, the RTS genre is one heavily dominated by games that use history itself or a period of it as a base for the whole game. Games like Total War, Age of Empires or Company of Heroes are some of the heaviest weights you can find in the genre and, with the exception of recent Total War titles, rely heavily on history.

Age of Empires is famous for depiting ancient historical periods...while being able to Wololo that war elephant into joining your army.

The question is then not so much does historical accuracy matter, but how much does it matter, and up to what point. When playing an RTS game that is based on a historical period, chances are we would prefer to play a title that is historically accurate rather than one that isn’t. The exception to this would be if a game is explicitly marketed as one that doesn’t intend to be accurate and it is not what players should expect. Games like War Front: Turning Point or Age of Empires do not have the emphasis on being accurate, but rather on taking you through alternative timelines or various historical ages, respectively.

Though not an RTS, Civilization is a series guilty of historical inaccuracies.

The titles that do brand themselves as being historically factual have then to find a balance between that faithful representation of reality, and being overall fun. These are the titles where developers are inevitably forced to decide how much are they willing to bend the rules and how can they justify it. In the end, developers do and should put gameplay and enjoyment over being accurate. If they did the opposite, games wouldn’t be nearly as fun and it would result unavoidably (but historically accurate) imbalances that would be especially pronounced in the multiplayer arena. Games shouldn’t be imbalanced no matter how accurate it may be.

Most history buffs of World War 2 know that German tanks were overall better than their American counterparts, but that doesn’t mean it should be as so in a video game that doesn’t go beyond a computer monitor. RTS and video games overall are meant to be fun first and foremost. They are rarely, if ever, marketed as tools meant to depict how past events developed. The fact of the matter is a historically inaccurate game is infinitely better than a broken game, which was what they risk being by putting the former ahead of the latter.

German Tiger Tank I was notoriously superior to the M4 Sherman.

No matter the game and no matter the time period, some players out there are always willing and determined to point out the historical inaccuracies a game may suffer. They’ll voice their complaints about how their favorite unit should endure more damage or whatnot within the game. What these players often fail to realize is that games that take history as a basis do exactly that: as a basis. They merely use it as a foundation upon which to build their own fictional world. To expect anything other than that is misguided, ill-founded, and will only hamper the enjoyment of the game itself.

Place Your Bets Now: These Cosplays are Definitely Coming to 2018 Convention Floors Thu, 22 Feb 2018 11:00:33 -0500 Stephanie Tang


Did we miss anyone else you think will really blow up conventions? (And when I ask this, I consider Spider-Man, Deadpool, and Link convention staples at this point!) Who or what is it? And why? 


And before we peace out for good, Geralt above is my wild card... and I suspect it will largely depend on whether or not the upcoming Netflix TV adaptation looks any good.


And while you're here, make sure to check some of our other cosplay articles: 


Mercy -- Overwatch


While we're on the Blizzard bandwagon, we can't help but include a nod to the crazy construction efforts of every Mercy cosplayer (give or take the Dr. Ziegler casual fan iteration) who has ever stepped on the convention floor. 


The latest event to hit Overwatch (Lunar Year of the Dog) has dumped a huge amount of new material on us. And while it's perhaps unlikely we'll see many of the Zhuque versions of Mercy at conventions (although, if you're considering it... oh, hell yes, please!) there are sure to be a ton of other iterations. 




Case in point, Valkyrie (and alternatively, the recolored Sigrun skin), made especially poignant thanks to the recent re-balances (see: nerf) to the character's ultimate/resurrection ability. 


Mercy mains will mourn overpowered Valkyrie 1.0 for months to come, and what better way to do it than to do it while wearing the namesake skin?


(Hero image source: collider)
(Secondary image source: cos album


Nova -- StarCraft II


All right, so StarCraft II isn't exactly "upcoming" in any sense of the word (it only recently went free-to-play last year), but Nova's constant reappearance in other areas of the Blizzard world means something. It also helps that she sports a fairly consistent character design across all of her appearances, making her a pretty easy character to cosplay. 


She's a prime character in Heroes of the Storm, and her character design recently made the jump to Blizzard's big-name shooter Overwatch, as well as a skin for French sniper Widowmaker that should do wonders bringing back this blond bombshell. 



For any cosplayer with a love of LEDs, Nova is a great choice for a simple, streamlined design... and yet she'll always manage to catch your eye on the con floor. And if you don't have Widowmaker-level booty, Heroes of the Storm has a ton of new source material for alternate Nova skins that should keep the inspiration machine churning for months.


(Hero image source: youtube)
(Secondary image source: DeviantArt)


Kratos -- God of War


If you're starting to feel like most of the characters on here are from a Video Gaming's Greatest Hits disc, you're not the only one. It's an interesting year where the biggest upcoming games are either ones that don't exactly lend themselves to interesting costume design (Last of Us 2Red Dead Redemption 2, Metro Exodos, A Way Out) or just don't have any real standout cosplayable characters (Monster Hunter World, Anthem). 


However, God of War 4 brings Kratos back to the world of the living -- and gives him a son. It also flings him head-first into the world of Norse mythology, which is an interesting twist in a seven-game legacy based off of Greek mythology. 



It helps that while Kratos' base design hasn't changed much, his outfit has been given a little more of an update to correspond with his new surroundings. And what's more, while the original unstoppable rage machine of the original games was what gave Kratos his initial appeal, this unchanging, static ball of hatred was beginning to wear. 


A little redemption and a new kind of appeal (what's this, real humanity?) in Kratos sounds like it's in the cards for the God of War franchise, which is why you're much more likely to see a return to cons this year. 


(Hero image source: wccftech)
(Secondary image source: locsalike @ deviantart)


Sophitia -- Soulcalibur VI


A sword-wielding staple of the bounce, bounce jiggle, jiggle fest that is the Soulcalibur series, seraphic Sophitia has always more or less managed to walk a fine line between gracefulness and gratuitous boobage -- at least in comparison to, say, Ivy.


Gravity works in every lady's favor in this fighting game franchise, and Soul Calibur 6 aims to bring more story to the franchise, as well as additional mechanics that will help players through its more-than-button-mash learning curve, which should help bring it back to the forefront of the cosplaying community. 


Although this iteration has her shirt slit down almost to her naval (no one is fooled by those laces), Sophitia still remains one of the easiest of the reoccurring SC characters to cosplay -- one that keeps all the goods in place, while still allowing for a little leeway when it comes to having the perfect body. 


She's also cooler than Cassandra, but that might just be my bias showing.


(Hero image source: polygon)
(Secondary image source: DeviantArt)


Fury -- Darksiders III


Aside from my sheer -- and unashamed -- attraction to any pretty face with bright red hair, Fury, from the upcoming hack and slash Darksiders 3easily makes an appearance on this list. Packing a serious punch in both character design and updated apocalyptic lore, there's little doubt other cosplayers will feel the same about D3's heroine.  


Originally introduced in Darksiders as one of the Four Horsemen, Darksiders 3 will place the blade-mage center stage as a graceful, cartwheeling, blade whipping protagonist.


Fury Cosplay Germia


The main thing holding keeping early cosplayers from cosplaying as Fury is that her costume isn't an overly simple one craft -- and there just aren't enough resources yet to make it a late-stage endeavor for most cosplayers of any craftsmanship level. 


However, this isn't to say that some haven't already gotten a head start: popular Euro cosplayer Germia, for example, has already taken steps to building up several parts of it already! (See above image) 


(Hero image source: darksiders wiki)


Sora -- Kingdom Hearts III


While a release date is still pending (they swear it's coming out sometime this year!), the hype for Kingdom Hearts 3 has been holding fairly steady over the years. Following a number of teasers, trailers, gameplay videos, and just the natural progression that comes from too many HD remakes, there's no stopping the KH3 hype train.


And one of the most endearing characters from the franchise is Sora -- meaning he's definitely going to be appearing at a con near you this year.  


He may have gained a few inches, but our spunky, spiky-haired hero in the over-sized shoes hasn't changed much in terms of character design -- even if his color palette has certainly gotten a shakeup. 



With what looks like more than half a dozen costume changes in the upcoming game, Sora's baby face is sure to be a staple in any group cosplay, particularly since silver-haired pretty boy Riku is guaranteed a larger role in KH3 than he's had in previous iterations -- and is just as likely to make it to con floors.  


(Hero image source: el mundo tech)
(Secondary image source: Pinterest)


Con season is only just starting to heat up and a whole slew of games are set to release in the coming months that will fuel the cosplay fire. 


You're certainly going to see a ton of costumes inspired by new releases, but you're also going to see cosplay inspired by the events and characters of yesteryear -- particularly during the lull where new trends just haven't had time to pop up. See above, for example: never mind her superstar appearance in 2017's Injustice 2, the meteoric hit that was Wonder Woman's origin movie has guaranteed her a girl-power slot on cosplay planning Pinterest boards for years to come.


So in light of that, let's take a look at some of the costumes we think are going to dominate cosplay this con season. From Fury and Mercy to Sora and Kratos, here's what you can expect. 


(image source: kilory @ deviantart)

7 Worst RTS Games Available on Steam Wed, 14 Feb 2018 14:38:11 -0500 Alberto C.


Whether it's due to poor game design or rushed to launch while riddled with bugs and glitches, these were some of the worst RTS games you can currently find on Steam. The good news is that most of them are fairly cheap, though we doubt the price justifies the experience in any of the mentioned cases.


Think some titles ought to be on the list as well? Disagree with some of those included? Let us know in the comment section below.


Dawn of War 3


How the mighty have fallen.


The Dawn of War series is easily considered one of the best RTS franchises and Warhammer 40k games ever created. Though the third expansion of Dawn of War I received mostly negative feedback, the core game and two subsequent expansions to it were so good that it easily ranks among the best RTS games ever.


When Dawn of War II came along, though many were disappointed by the radical departure from the base-building and large army creation from the first game, it still proved to be a solid game. Relic took a leap of faith by drastically changing the gameplay mechanics with a campaign that felt more like a tactical ARPG. The MP experience, however, still gave a great RTS experience, and the game still received high scores and ratings across the board.


Relic took yet another gamble with Dawn of War IIIand this time they lost hard. As what can only be described as an odd mix between traditional RTS and MOBA, fans of either genre found the game remarkable in neither aspect. Features that defined Relic's RTS games of the past, such as morale, cover systems, veterancy, or destructible environments, were all stripped in Dawn of War III.


And if the lack of features weren't enough, other hallmarks of the Dawn of War series like engaging plots and over-the-top quality voice acting were also gone.


But why is it on the list? It's neither a great RTS nor a MOBA, but at least it's not riddled with game-breaking bugs, nor is it unplayable. And that's true. The main reason Dawn of War III has made it on the list is because Relic announced it was abandoning any further support for the game. That means no new races, expansions, or updates for a game that is less than a year old. Rather than attempting to fix the mess they had, one of the biggest RTS developers ever has simply decided to abandon its own ship.


Mechs & Mercs: Black Talons


Good ideas and poor execution is the shortest way to describe this title.


Taking core ideas from both traditional RTS and mech games, Mechs & Mercs: Black Talons failed to find a good balance and mixture between the two genres and ended up being a severely unbalanced game. Described as a tactical RTS with various unit types that each have their own strengths and weaknesses, the vast superiority of certain units, such as heavily armored ones, causes the player to disregard any tactical approach whatsoever and apply brute force to power their way through the levels.


The imbalance is further exaggerated by the easily exploitable leveling and XP systems thanks to the constant spawning of enemy units who will just mindlessly charge against you. This allows players to simply farm XP and obtain levels that should not have been attained so early in the game.


A Game of Thrones: Genesis


Slap "Game of Thrones" on any product, and it's guaranteed to get some attention no matter what it is. You might think this RTS was another crappy and rushed game hoping to jump in on the bandwagon of hype for that easy money-making. The truth, though, is that A Game of Thrones: Genesis was released nearly simultaneously with the first season's broadcast on HBO.


The developers might not have thought of that easy cash-grab stance, but they might as well have given the game's final status. The game features half-baked gameplay mechanics, balancing issues, and piss-poor combat animations. A frequent occurrence is even that defeated or killed units remain standing on the battlefield.


Perhaps the game's biggest offense, however, is the overlapping gameplay design that expects you to play it like a traditional RTS with base building, unit creation, and resource gathering while managing features traditionally more common in 4X strategy games. The result is that you end up having to manage the aspects of both a traditional RTS and a 4x, and you end up in a micromanagement nightmare.


The Settlers Online


If someone ever writes a book titled How to Kill a Franchise, then The Settlers Online would surely deserve its own chapter. As an entry into a classic RTS franchise historically praised for its combination of city-management simulation and simple yet solid combat mechanics, The Settlers Online is not even a shadow of its former self; in fact, it has more in common with games like FarmVille than it does with previous games in the series.


The latest and apparently last title in the series, this iteration was turned into a browser-based game that was not just downgraded graphically and in terms of gameplay, but also turned into a pay-to-win scheme where the players most willing to dish out the cash have the best chances of winning.


On the flipside, it is available for free, and apparently the uninstaller works pretty well, so there's that.


Stronghold 3 Gold


"Hey, remember all those cool, useful features the previous title had? Yeah, let's not add any of those. Actually, let's remove even more things than the predecessor had. That'll make a good sequel."


That's the best guess of what went through the developers' minds when designing Stronghold 3. The only area that has seen an apparent improvement is the graphics. The third installment features fewer units, smaller and less maps, the loss of functions like being able to see inside buildings, and fewer types of buildings as well. It is simply an all-around downgrade except for in the graphical department.


The general consensus seems to be to completely ignore this game and to buy Stronghold 1 or 2 instead.




The purpose in Citadels is to build a citadel. Sounds simple enough. To do so, you're going to have to get your peasant servants to work by gathering resources, building various types of buildings, and manning them when necessary. Still sounds pretty straightforward so far.


The "only" problem is the game is so ridden with bugs and glitches that the most simple tasks become impossible. Peasants getting trapped between buildings, path-finding issues, animation bugs, and self-destroying castles are just some of the problems.


And if that weren't enough, the game is full of some design decisions that just make you think "WTF." We're talking catapults with faster movement speeds than foot solders or the absence of the option to "Load Game." Then again, it's not possible to save a game either, so I guess that cancels itself out.


Released in 2013, it received a "Very Negative" score, and you can pick the monstrosity up for just 14,99€. I'd bother doing that conversion rate into US dollars, but if you're actually considering buying it in the first place, chances are you don't care about your money anyways.


Command & Conquer 4: Tiberium Twilight


Considered by some to be the gravest offense EA has ever committed, C&C 4 is pretty much the worst Command & Conquer game ever made -- and that's taking into account that some of the franchise's games are not even RTS games at all.


It's regarded as the worst C&C title to date for gameplay that doesn't resemble the franchise, an art style out of place for the Tiberium series, an outdated engine, and a storyline that feels rushed and of poor quality. Tiberium Twilight seems more like a parody of the series itself.


The game features an "Overwhelmingly Negative" status on Steam based on 1500 user reviews, and it's currently got an average user score of 2.1 on Metracritic out of 659 total ratings.


Some games are awesome, some are okay, and some suck. ... And then there's the worst crap you've ever touched, those games that make you wonder how the hell they ever got the green light in the first place.


If you are curious as to what are some of the worst RTS games ever made, then look no further. You'll find terrible gameplay mechanics, awful storylines, optimization issues, game-breaking bugs, and even games so bad they were completely abandoned by the developers. Here is a compilation of some of those games available on Steam that do nothing but waste hard drive space, money, and time.

Five RTS Games Just as Unforgiving as They Are Billions Fri, 09 Feb 2018 18:40:24 -0500 Alberto C.


To the average spectator of RTS games, the outcomes of fatal mistakes, especially those made in the multiplayer PvP arena may be amusing to watch regardless of who comes out on top. But we all probably know from personal experience that the sweet taste victory and of salty defeat are about as mutually exclusive as it gets.


In the RTS games we've mentioned in this article, the difference between the good decisions and bad ones can be as easily confounded as sweet or salty. In most cases you'll need to have the reflexes and know every hotkey by heart to recover from your mistakes, if you even have a chance at all. But as with cooking cooking baking, once you've put that sucker in the oven, you're just likely to end up with an awful meal, or in this context, a ruined match.


Europa Universalis IV


If there was ever a grand strategy game published by Paradox that was noob-friendly, Europa Universalis IV must surely be it (any WW2 fan who were attracted to trying Hearts of Iron without previous experience in the genre knows what I mean by this). The amount of detail in games like Victoria or Hearts of Iron makes one wonder how it is even legal to publish such games without the good old fat manuals we used to get in the '90s. Looking for RTS games with steep learning curves? Surely Victoria, Hearts of Iron, and Europa Universalis are up there, with EU being the “easiest” of them.


So besides a steep learning curve, what’s the big deal? Just because a game’s difficult to learn does not necessarily mean it’s unforgiving to play, right?


Well, that assumption would be quite wrong. Unless you start as one of the major nations, you’re in for a rough time. There are literally hundreds of countries you can play as, and the vast majority of them have a difficulty level that will have you hoping throughout the first 20 years of game time that major nations don’t involve you in their imperial goals. Ever declared war on some pesky neighbor in a Total War, won, and annexed them within a year of in-game time? Yeah, you can forget about those tactics in EU. Not only does randomly attacking nations carry big penalties, but it also can severely affect your economy by locking out centers of trade, creating inflation, forcing you to take out loans, and decreasing your nation's legitimacy and glory levels.


And even if you endure all of that, holding onto the smallest province might prove to be a pretty hard thing to do thanks to factors like core provinces, casus belli, revolt chances, and religious differences. EU is definitely not for players who are not used to facing setbacks or aren't willing to reload to a save game from the week before.


Men of War: Assault Squad 2


Men of War: Assault Squad 2's distinguishing trademark is the level of detail and work put into individual units and how they work. Not only are the units' stats as representative as possible in the game, but the physics of the game's engine adds levels of depth not seen in some of its major competitors, like Company of Heroes. The system is so sophisticated, you can literally shoot enemy troops off vehicles and take them for yourself


Add to that an incredibly realistic level of complexity, such as needing vehicles to carry AT guns, a crew to man them, and supplies to keep them firing, and you have a micromanager's dream. Oh, you forgot to purchase a supply truck? Looks like you're out of luck. Good luck trying to penetrate the frontal armor of that Tiger with that handheld bazooka.


Men of War: Assault Squad 2 is an RTS with a strong emphasis on tactics, to the point of giving the player the option to determine the actions and inventories of each individual soldier and crew member. It is a game with a level micromanagement that resembles games like Commandos.


World in Conflict


Picture Red Dragon, but on a smaller scale is somewhat smaller and with twice as many vulnerabilities to account for in your strategy. In addition, there are off-map abilities like daisy cutters, tank-busters, napalm, and even tactical nukes. What do you end up with? Pretty much World in Conflict


Like the previous title, reconnaissance and being able to mask your own movement prove to be essential in even the most basic matches. When the enemy can swoop across the map in a matter of seconds, leaving your heavy artillery without an escort isn't the wisest thing to do.


Counters are so strong in this game that the enemy’s gunship squad can come in and destroy all of your precious T-80Us faster than you can say blyat. The good news is that the game's visuals and effects are so nice, losing is almost as enjoyable as winning.



Wargame: Red Dragon


Based in an alternative timeline where events such as the renewal of the Korean War takes place, Wargame: Red Dragon is one of those games where many units don’t have a strong counter, and they can be wiped out faster than you can blink.


Company of Heroes might be all about counters, but at least that game gave you time to retreat your units (provided you were paying enough attention). But Wargame is a whole other ball game: reconnaissance, logistics, line of sight, buildings, and terrain are all fundamental aspects of gameplay you'll need to take into account. Failure to do so can have you seeing those precious fighter-bombers you sent to hit that easy-looking target of heavy artillery go down in smoldering flames -- all because you didn't want to take the extra 30 seconds to wait for the recon LAV to get a bit closer to take a peek to see what else was around.


Or you can lose half of your deployed army in the opposite way like some poor player did in this online match:



Company of Heroes


While Dawn of War introduced a wonderful subgenre of RTS games that focused primarily on combat and pushed resource management to the sidelines, Company of Heroes perfected the approach by removing resource-generating buildings of any kind, forcing the player to rely almost exclusively on map control.


In CoH, you don't have to worry about base-building and economic management; instead, you'll be focused on the direction your AT cannon is facing, if there is green or negative cover, and wondering, "Did I remember to mine that path on the left flank?"


CoH is a game that's all about counters -- not because the tank does more damage than infantry, but because infantry will deal no damage at all to the tank with their basic weaponry. You might have been able to set castles on fire in Age of Empires II by getting your Spanish peasants to bash the castle's outer walls, but in CoH, if you forgot to develop the right tech or invest in that specific unit you didn't think you would use a lot, you better hope your opponent doesn't know the game well enough to know you don't have an appropriate counter for his strategy.


Oh, and by the way, CoH is also one of those games you might not want to play with the music too loud, unless you don't mind not hearing the audible cues of incoming off-map abilities.


A case example of why you should pay attention to the sound, around the 34 seconds mark to be precise:



They Are Billions is an RTS game with an uncommon goal for most games of the same genre: survival. Set in a post-apocalyptic steampunk setting, the gameplay of TAB is a mix between city-management and world survival.


Much like with The Settlers series, you start off with a basic main structure from which you must strive to build a colony in hopes of surviving in the zombie-ridden wasteland of TAB. Requiring careful resource management, you must make tough decisions that either contribute to the growth of the colony and increase its chances of long-term survival, or make investments in short-term security measures in order to effectively respond to immediate threats.


TAB is unforgiving because the smallest oversight in your lines of defense can bring down your entire colony -- after all, these are zombies, and not only will they destroy your structures in their mindless rages, they will also infect your colonists and turn them against you. You can very easily end up with a snowball effect of decaying flesh and destruction, all because you thought one defensive tower and a single wall would be enough to hold that tiny gap.


In the spirit of TAB, we've come up with a list of other unforgiving RTS games where single mishaps can have similar cascading or outright immediate catastrophic effects for your mission and/or campaign. So without further ado, let's get on with the first of the list.

Total War : Three Kingdoms Announced Thu, 11 Jan 2018 11:44:11 -0500 Lewis Parsons

The best-selling Total War series is going back to the ancient world, this time in China. Creative Assembly announced the launch of Total War: Three Kingdoms on January 10th with a two-minute gameplay trailer on YouTube and via Twitter.

Three Kingdoms looks to be a return to "the real world" but with a twist. While the game is based on the real events surrounding the power struggle that occurred at the end of the Han Dynasty, it looks to draw heavily from the 14th-century Chinese epic novel that has become a fountain of inspiration for films, literature, and games.

The series originated back in 2000 with SHOGUN: Total War, talking place in feudal Japan. The series then went to medieval Europe, the ancient Mediterranean, and to the fantasy Warhammer universe in recent outings.

Three Kingdoms looks to possibly be adopting the more story-based approach taken by the Warhammer titles in the series, with gameplay revolving around three "brothers": Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei.

The game page is already up on Steam, with a release date of Fall 2018. If Creative Assembly can leverage what they learned from the excellent Warhammer games and combine it with a fresh, quasi-historical setting, this could be a major hit.

10 Upcoming Strategy Games We're Excited About Wed, 03 Jan 2018 13:19:38 -0500 Lewis Parsons


RIOT: Civil Unrest


Release Date: Early Access - December 2017; Full Release TBA
Publisher: Merge Games
Developer: IV Productions


Gorgeous pixel art merges with a truly unique setting in RIOT: Civil Unrest. Take control of the riot itself, or suppress it as the police in scenarios from Spain to Cairo. The game has gotten some positive reviews during the early-access process, with unique, challenging gameplay and a fantastic art direction that really magnifies the chaos going on as things escalate on screen. Grab the game now in early access, as the full version should be launching soon.




There are also more great tiles that didn't quite make the list. Anno 1800, Xenonauts 2, and without a doubt, a surprise or two. Strategy gaming may have been in a bit of a lull in the 2000s, but with 2020 on the horizion, it looks like it's back and more diverse and exciting than ever.


Jurassic World Evolution


Release Date: Summer 2018
Publisher: Frontier Developments
Developer: Frontier Developments


Releasing to coincide with the next film in the Jurassic World series, Jurassic World Evolution could be a huge hit. Behind the game are the same developers that brought us such park building gems as Zoo Tycoon, Planet Coaster, and Roller Coaster Tycoon 1 and 3. Jurassic World Evolution looks to be a spiritual successor to 2003's Jurassic Park:Operation Genesis.


Details are limited, but you likely take on the role of a builder and manager of your very own dinosaur-themed the park, featuring ... real dinosaurs! In line with the film, expect some ability to ratchet up the excitement with genetic engineering of new creatures, and hope things don't go horribly wrong -- or make them go wrong, you are in charge!


Age of Empires IV


Release Date: TBA 2018
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Relic Entertainment


Yes, AOE is coming back with a fourth installment. Age of Empires IV is helmed by Relic, the creators of the Company of Heroes series, and published by Microsoft. There isn't a whole lot known yet about the game itself, but it looks to follow the franchise's classic sequence of building bases, gathering resources, and building armies. The trailer appears to show the game span a wide variety of eras and factions.


Relic Entertainment has a strong pedigree of making classic RTS-style action, and we are excited to see what they do with such a classic, strong IP as Age of Empires.


Civilization VI: Rise and Fall


Release Date: February 8, 2018
Publisher: Firaxis
Developer: 2K


Civilization 6 took some bold new steps in the franchise when it came out in October 2016 (namely the district system, spreading your cities across multiple tiles), while at the same time including much-desired features in the base game, such as religion and great works. This leaves room for expansion packs like Rise and Fall to take the game into new territory.


As befits its name, Rise and Fall is about the ups and downs civilizations go through. Accomplish enough goals during the medieval era? Congratulations, the Renaissance will be your civilization's golden age! Fall behind? Welcome to the Dark Ages, where you will be fighting to keep your cities loyal, but also have the opportunity to come back even stronger for your trouble.


In addition to new gameplay features such as city loyalty, dark and golden ages, and governors, Rise and Fall is introducing new civilizations, leaders, wonders, natural wonders, and districts.




Release Date: TBA
Publisher: 11 Bit Studios
Developer: 11 Bit Studios


11 Bit Studios, the minds behind the fantastic This War of Mine, is back, and it looks like they have an interesting take on the strategy builder/survival genre to say the least.

Frostpunk is set in, well, a "frostpunk" world: think steampunk in the ice age. At its heart, it looks to have the gut-wrenching decisions from This War of Mine. Do you send children out to work? Do you treat the ill? And these decisions don't look to just be window dressing; they have long-lasting and wide-ranging effects on gameplay. They go beyond asking "how" you will survive and ask you "why" and "at what cost."

Beyond the gameplay, the art style looks sharp, and the production values look great as well.


Tropico 6


Release Date: 2018
Publisher: Kalypso Media
Developer: Limbic Entertainment


Tropico keeps on chugging along after 16 years and 6 games. The tongue-in cheek take on building and managing (or mismanaging) your own island paradise is back in 2018 for a sixth installment. While previous entries in the series have been strong, there haven't been the major changes between installments that might be expected in a series like this.


Tropico 6 looks to be possibly continuing this trend, with one major addition: the introduction of archipelagos, which look to offer a fresh gameplay challenge while not changing up the formula drastically. 




Release Date: January 18, 2018
Publisher: Fish Eagle
Developer: Picaresque Studio


Nantucket, a first release from Picaresque Studio, looks promising and unique. Set in the early 19th century after the events of literary classic Moby Dick, Nantucket is a strategy business sim where you work your way up through the booming oil/whaling industry. 


While the subject matter may draw controversy, it will be interesting to see where the developer takes this. They promise RPG elements, turn-based combat with pirates and whales, a thousand unique events, an original storyline based on the events of the novel, and an open world to explore. If nothing else, the fresh setting of one of the biggest economic booms in history is fertile ground for the genre.


Surviving Mars


Release Date: TBA
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Haemimont Games


Paradox Interactive, known for epic, almost niche strategy titles, has been making significant inroads in the publishing sphere as of late, bringing strategy, simulation, and city-building titles (e.g., 2015's spectacular Cities: Skylines) to us in greater numbers, reviving a once vanishing scene.


Bulgarian developer Haemimont, behind such games as Tropico 34, and 5, as well as Omerta : City of Gangsters, looks to be returning to the hybrid sim/strategy realm with this fresh IP. Surviving Mars looks promising, with an interesting "retro future" art style and a sense of humor about it. The game is also promising a "classic sci-fi" story, exploring the secrets of Mars as you build. This isn't overly dry and realistic, and it looks like a whole lot of Tropico has come along for the ride in both presentation and gameplay.


Ancestors Legacy 


Release Date: TBA
Publisher: 1C Company
Developer: Destructive Creations 
Ancestors Legacy is an upcoming squad-based RTS currently in beta, due to come out for both PC and consoles. Set in the early medieval era, the game features a strong, single-player-focused campaign as well as multiplayer. The game includes traditional base building and resource gathering but seems heavily focused on the tactical side of things, with a focus on combat. Early impressions are promising, and this might just be a new traditional RTS IP worth following.


Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia 


Release Date: TBA 2018
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Creative Assembly 


Every Total War release is a big one, as the series is arguably the most visible "AAA" strategy game series on the market. While it has had it stumbles, Creative Assembly is riding high after the success of the well-received fantasy mashups Total War: Warhammer and Total War: Warhammer II.


Thrones of Britannia looks to be something different: a return to a historical setting, yes, but also a tighter, smaller Total War. The series has been getting bigger over the year -- more factions, more units, globe-spanning maps -- and it might be argued that this has led to bloat and excess. Thrones looks to be a return to the more intimate setting of Shogun Total War or the excellent Medieval: Total War - Viking Invasion expansion pack from 2003.


If Creative Assembly can take the lessons learnt from Warhammer and bring the historical flavor and the early medieval atmosphere, they could have something very exciting in this new format.


2017 was a great year for strategy gamers, offering up a bevy of diverse titles from Tooth and Tail to Total War: Warhammer II. 2018 looks like it might be shaping up to be just as good, with a wide range of new IPs and continuations of beloved franchises on slate to release this year.  


Read on for the 10 upcoming strategy games we can't wait to get our hands on.

SpellForce 3 Review Fri, 08 Dec 2017 18:28:48 -0500 Ashley Shankle

The SpellForce series has been kicking around since 2003, but there's a pretty high chance you may have never heard of it. With nary a full release or an expansion since 2014, some fans may have considered this niche strategy series dead.

SpellForce 3 is the first full-fledged release for the series since 2006, and a lot has changed since then. Is it for the better? It's hard to say -- I haven't played a SpellForce game in nearly a decade -- but it's definitely "different".

You'll explore vast lands as you try to seek out and cure the Bloodburn plague through a mix of classic CRPG-style and RTS gameplay in this odd hybrid RPG. Set a full 518 years before the events of the first game, the game takes place before the Convocation ritual that changed the world of Eo forever.

The setting and storytelling make this a good starting point for first-timers and prevents old fans from feeling left out, but a glimpse into Eo pre-Convocation wasn't enough to make me enjoy my time with SpellForce 3.

Getting Started with SpellForce 3

You are slapped right into the tutorial-slash-prologue as soon as you start the campaign. The prologue lets you learn the basics of the game's RPG and RTS systems with a pre-made story character party, after which you're tossed into character creation.

You have a few faces and hairstyles to choose from and can adjust your character's starting attributes and its ability trees in character creation. This process is fairly rudimentary.

Something to note for those who choose to make female characters: all the game's dialogue will still refer to you as "he" or bring up that you're the "son" of Isamo Tahar. This is a minor but extremely irksome oversight by Grimlore Games if you happen to roll a woman, and it happens often enough it's impossible to overlook.

Once you've pushed through the prologue and character customization, you're thrown straight into the story -- and also happens to be where my gripes with SpellForce 3 begin.

Eo -- Land of Ants

If you somehow don't really grasp how tiny the characters are in the prologue, you'll figure it out pretty quickly once you start wandering around.

The scale of the world in SpellForce 3 can be summed up in one word: massive. Everything is huge! That's great and all, but the people who actually reside in Eo are comparatively ants.

In each area of the game, there's a whole lot of space but not a whole lot of things going on. You're given this sense that the world is massive, but comparatively, it's very hard to tell where you are and there are not a lot of interesting details sprinkled about. You're small, your party members are small, your units in the RTS segments are small. With maps so big, it's easy to lose track of them.

This wouldn't be so much of an issue if it was easier to tell what was going on in fights or the minimap had more noticeable character markers, but as it stands, it can be a pain to keep track of where you are.

Your units' minimap indicators are the same color and
a close size to your buildings.

One might think the fact the player can rotate the camera would make this easier, but I'm of the opinion this game could have benefited from having a non-rotating camera.

You can rotate the camera a full 360 degrees, which you often have to do in both the RPG and RTS modes, but the camera is clearly not meant to be turned and panned in certain directions in particular areas. I repeatedly met with a jumping camera when trying to rotate the camera near exceedingly tall structures.

By rotating the camera in either mode, you can find chests and other lootables, but it eventually becomes cumbersome because you have to do it so often. Re-aligning your camera to stay oriented all the time is, well.. not fun.

It's a shame because SpellForce 3 is absolutely gorgeous and the developers clearly want you to see all the details they worked in, but it just left me feeling detached from my party and frustrated when it came time to deathball my way through enemy outposts in the RTS segments.

Let's Talk About Actually Playing the Game

This is an RPG, so surely I have to talk about the gameplay. Surely.

Classic CRPG fans will be familiar with the vast majority of features found in SpellForce 3's RPG mode, which is used most often in wandering around town or inside dungeons. Wandering around town and talking to people is not as interesting as it is in some other games, but taking your party through dungeons is.

You have to fight and puzzle your way through the game's many dungeons, which feature classic-style real time combat. A character can only have three skills on their bar at a time, though you can rotate between their skill and equipment loadouts based on the situation.

Dungeons and the sights (and fights) within are easily my favorite part of the game. Aside from having to rotate the camera all the time, it feels very much "at home" in dungeons.

The RTS segments of the game are less enjoyable, at least for me. Building new resource buildings, managing workers, and expanding to outposts is all right but not engaging.

Going against enemies in RTS mode is mostly working up to a deathball, then trying to defend from waves of enemies or rolling that ball over their outposts. You can use your heroes' skills in battle, but keeping track of them amidst all the other action is a nightmare. Giving them health bars of a different color from the generic units would definitely help here.

Control Issues

Something to note about both modes is how cumbersome the controls are.

The controls are the same between both RTS mode and RPG mode, with some differences. You can hotswap between the game's two control schemes at any time, but you're probably going to be fumbling around unless you dig into your control options and customize them.

Customizing your controls in either of SpellForce 3's control schemes is mandatory to enjoy it -- there is simply no getting around that. The game claims that one control scheme is more suited to new CRPG players while the other is for experienced, but I'd clump both together as "unnecessarily convoluted".

The player should not have to manually switch between two control schemes throughout the entirety of a 25+ hour campaign. Halfway through the game's story, I ended up going into my control options one final time and customizing nearly every keybinding because I was sick and tired of it.

The Sum of All Parts

Part RTS and part RPG, SpellForce 3 doesn't excel at either genre it tries to incorporate.

The RPG segments, while interesting, are marred by some truly terrible voice acting (Geralt's voice actor's the lone exception) and huge and hard to navigate areas. The game's RPG dungeons are its gameplay's crown jewel.

The game's RTS segments are fine for what they are, but ultimately do not serve up much of a strategic challenge and eventually turn into deathball matches.

SpellForce 3 excels in both its graphics and overall sound design, and its RTS segments will give most gaming rigs a real run for their money, but it's difficult for me to recommend this game as it stands. Grimlore Games tried hard here and it really shows in all the details, but the game needs some sizable quality of life changes to make it worth investing the money and time needed to play it.

[Note: The publisher provided the copy of SpellForce 3 used for this review.)

Oriental Empires Review: A Grand Construction of Ancient China Wed, 11 Oct 2017 15:05:54 -0400 Skrain

Shining Pixel Studios released its debut game, Oriental Empires, back in mid-September. Having played the game back when it first entered its Alpha stage about a year ago, I was really interested in seeing how it had evolved in the most recent phase of its development cycle. 

Now that I've spent a fair amount of time checking out what's new in this ancient Chinese 4X strategy game, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of depth it has to offer. But a few clunky features ultimately dampened my interest in exploring more of this civilization building experience.  

Become the Emperor of Ancient China

Set in ancient China, Oriental Empires spans nearly three thousand years of history from 1500 BCE to 1500 AD. Using this setting, Shining Pixel attempts to realistically depict China's progression throughout the ages. From a simple farming village or a set of tribes that rely on animal husbandry, you will attempt to advance through the centuries and bring true cultural progress to your civilization. 

There are a number of different Chinese cultures on display here -- including Han, Shang, Chu Shu, Wei, Qin, Wu, Xianbei, and many more. These cultures range from being distinctly Chinese to other cultures such as Mongolian, Tibetan, and even Siberian. These cultures sustain their populations via farming or herding animals, and the distinctions between them lead to markedly different gameplay depending on what your focus is.

In the northern cultures, for example, the game leans toward herding. Food production is based on the surrounding territory and its fertility or on farms that are earned from captured cities. These farms can then be expanded by using peasants to build on fertile ground, or in hilly rice terraces as your technology skills advance in-game. 

Building Toward Cultural Advancement

The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.


You begin each campaign with a single town, a settler, and a leader. Your ultimate goal is to build your kingdom and become Emperor -- but this won't be easy or quick to achieve. Typically, you'll begin by expanding your farm land, exploring neighboring regions you may want to expand into, claim resources like copper/rhinoceros/mulberry trees/game/horses, and use those resources to get a variety of bonuses for your settlements. 

The technologies that you can explore break down into 4 categories -- Power, Crafts, Thought, and Knowledge. Each of these categories is fairly distinct and demonstrates a lot of thought on the developer's part as to what factors play into the success of a civilization. Power-related technologies involve things like unit recruitment, settlement defense, and food production (because surplus food = power). Craft technologies include mining, pottery, bronze/steel production, and building improvements to mitigate damage from fire and other natural disasters. Thought technologies focus on increasing your faction's culture rating, authority, edicts, and adviser recruitment. Last but not least, knowledge handles technology involving bow craft, horsemanship, and the studies of astrology and health. 

By exploring some of these technologies, you'll eventually unlock edicts -- which act as powerful proclamations that echo throughout your empire. From simple tax edits to powerful general degrees, each edict has a cost to enact in terms of both material wealth and other factors.

And just like you'd expect in any civilization builder worth its salt, your subjects will react in various ways to the edicts that you put in place. For example, peasants won't take too kindly to raising taxes on farms. But the nobles will get rowdy when you demand that a general be appointed. When you make such changes, there may be public order penalities as a result -- and these may be temporary or last as long as the edict does depending on the intensity of your public's response to your choices. 

Combat & Warfare

Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors to go war first and then seek to win. 

-- Sun Tzu

Warfare is a large part of ancient China's history, and Oriental Empires reflects that with its unit variety. A mixture of levied peasant militia, professional warriors, and nobles trained for battle from birth are all available for recruitment. From tribal spearmen and dagger-axemen chariots to horse archers and gunpowder riflers, you'll never lack a variety of units to pick from when you have the technological and structural requirements.

Combat in Oriental Empires is rather unlike most 4X or turn-based strategy games. You aren't taken to a loading screen, or given direct command of your units. The strategy element of which units do what is determined by you. You can order a unit to form a main line and charge, act as a ranged support, skirmish with the enemy or stay in the back line and defend. The tactics are handled automatically, and once you've given the orders, your units will attempt to follow them to the best of their abilities.

Similar to how it's been proven to work in real life, your armies will also function better with your faction leader, heir, or generals commanding them.

Once your turn has ended and you've issued the orders you need to, you can watch the battle play out before you. The zoom level for this spectator mode can be changed dynamically at any time from a high strategic vantage point to a ground level view of the terrain. And in most instances, watching your army form up and clash with the enemy line is pretty satisfying. 


Constructing an Empire

It is not difficult to govern. All one has to do is not offend the noble families. 


Building an Empire takes time, infrastructure and a capacity to keep the peace. As such, authority is one of the most important values within Oriental Empires. It helps determine the unrest of Nobles and Commoners alike -- and it also determines the number of cities you can govern within your faction without massive unrest penalties. If you have more cities than authority, you risk a revolt in the best case scenario (and a rebellion in the worst). 

As your cities grow, it'll be important to connect them via roads or rivers so they may trade and quickly transport military units during war. Due to a limited number of structures that can be built in a city, you will have to specialize -- which forces you to think strategically about how you choose to expand. Perhaps a city near two other friendly cultures can work on promoting and crafting trade goods for income, while a city near a foreign foe on your border would better serve as a recruitment garrison. 

Less Than Heavenly Issues

Diplomacy is a large part of dealing with other factions and cultures, but unfortunately it's handled poorly in Oriental Empires. The AI seems incapable of conducting any intelligent business, and other empires that you try to engage in diplomacy with will commonly break their own self-proposed treaties of Fraternal Harmony just as often as they offer them. In my time playing, it's been far easier to placate the AI momentarily until you beat them into submission and vassalize them.

Combat also leaves fair amount to be desired in spite of what it does right. The lack of direct control means many mistakes can only be chalked up to how AI is designed to engage and respond to your orders. For example, the Support order seems especially flawed. Any unit I've ever given this order to has just stood there and allowed themselves to get attacked. This order is supposed to form a back row that engages only when enemies get close, but it translates to units basically standing there and doing nothing. 

It can be extremely frustrating to lose an entire army in a single turn simply because your units either didn't engage or let themselves get flanked while standing still. It's a shame, too, because the combat can be really enjoyable and engaging when it functions properly -- but it's got some issues that make it feel a lot clunkier than it should. 

What aggravates me most about Oriental Empires, though, is how clunky and overpopulated the UI seems as turns progress. This was one of my biggest issues with the Alpha build of the game, and unfortunately it still persists here. By the time you've entered the Warring States era, your map will likely be cluttered with so many unit indicators, event messages, battle reports, encounters, diplomatic messages, and building construction reports that it becomes a terribly eyesore. The game lacks any capability to sort through, compile, or filter these reports -- so it quickly becomes an issue when you're leading a faction of 20 cities.  

Verdict: A Little Rough, But Approachable

Despite Oriental Empires' flaws, it does achieve what it hopes to in creating a satisfying experience of growing and expanding a culture through various era of ancient China. For a 4X game, it's unique enough in its mechanics that you'll have to take some time to learn everything, which adds some romance to the early game. 

I would recommend Oriental Empires for people with a passion for slightly more advanced strategy games. It's not quite like Civilization meets Total War, but it could be loosely described as such. Overall it's a solid game, and I look forward to checking out any possible expansions or major content updates as the game moves toward a full release. 

If you want to check out Oriental Empires for yourself, you can do so on the official Steam Page for the game. 


[Note: A code for Oriental Empires was provided by the developer for this review.]

How the RTS Genre Lived with a Bang and Died with a Whimper Tue, 10 Oct 2017 11:40:08 -0400 Skrain

The real-time strategy (RTS) genre defined an era of video game history. Beginning with a meteoric rise into popularity near the end of 1992, the reign of strategy games lasted for over a decade before fading back into a nebulous void. 

But how did strategy games dominate the market for so long? And perhaps more importantly -- what happened? The strategy genre today is considerably more niche than it used to be, and influences the AAA market far less than it used to. Though the scene is still very much thriving, it's been relegated more frequently to the indie space than it has in the past. Let's investigate the rich, complex history of this genre and see what answers we can dig up. 

The Simple Beginnings of the RTS Genre

Real-time strategy can be traced back to the barely-known game Utopia, which was released in 1981. The game is credited with being the original foundation upon which future RTS games were build, as it introduced many systems and mechanics that define the genre today. (It's also credited with being the first sim game or god game.) Designer and programmer Don Daglow was one of the driving forces behind the title, which means he's the one to thanks for the extensive-yet-subtle impact that Utopia had on the genre. Don is a lesser-known saint in the industry, and strategy fans everywhere owe him their regards for the RTS games they know and love today. 

A year later, in 1982, Dan Bunten and Ozark Softscape created the next strategy iteration, Cytron Masters. This game is where the genre got its "resource point" mechanic from, as it was the first one to feature generators scattered across the map. This sort of system is still present in most modern RTS games, like Warhammer 2, and has even made the move to the more recent strategy spinoff genre, MOBA games. RTS players will likely recall seeing this concept in many games since Cytron Masters, and it could be argued that all those later iterations for the idea from this early 80s game. 

RTS Breaks Into the Big Time

The first true RTS gem came in 1992 when Dune II was released. Developed by the legendary Westwood Studios -- who would go on to create another titan in the genre called Command & Conquer -- this game set the standard for base building and resource management that Westwood's future games would be based on.

Other big-name releases in the genre, like Warcraft and Starcraft, also adopted the Dune II formula between iterations and expanded on it to further refine this emerging genre. In 1994, two years after D2's release, Blizzard Entertainment launched Warcraft: Orcs and Humans. Though not exactly known for pioneering genre-defining features, it still changed enough that the ramifications were felt in RTS titles for years afterwards. This Warcraft entry introduced random map generation in multiplayer matches -- and it turned out to be a huge step, since every single "Golden Age" RTS since has picked up the idea and run with it. 

Additionally, the first Warcraft game helped sway many fans into believing that the future of RTS was in multiplayer. A human opponent would always offer more challenge than even the best AI, which meant players could better exercise their strategic skills. The tactics, replayability, and overall enjoyment factor were also vastly improved with the introduction of multiplayer, and the genre began to gain some serious popularity as a result. 

RTS Enters the Golden Era

More often than not, the term "Golden Era" is subjective no matter what it's applied to -- be that a country, philosophy, or video game genre. But I think most fans will agree that the RTS genre had a sustained and easily definable Golden Age. 

When the aforementioned Westwood Studios released Command & Conquer in 1995, it added a number of features to the genre -- most notably, live-action cutscenes that had a campy fondness to them. But other than that, C&C didn't innovate so much as it perfected and reinforced mechanics that had already been introduced to the genre. Using the foundations laid by previous titles, this game built a glorious structure that led to massive success. 

That same year, Blizzard released Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness. And the ensuing rivalry between the two games is often cited as what sparked the explosion of the RTS genre in the years that followed. 

In the midst of this explosion, Age of Empires was released two years after C&C and Warcraft II. Often described as Civilization meets Warcraft, the game was a hit with fans and critics alike -- both of whom praised it for its graphical quality, unit variety, and unique scenario builder. 

And thus the stage was set for the big boom of RTS games. With C&C, Warcraft, and Age of Empires dominating the market and engaging fans in brand new ways, there was an unprecedented opportunity for developers to get into the genre and bring it into the mainstream. 

When 1998 rolled around, the RTS genre finally entered its long-lasting golden age. The release of Starcraft and its Brood War expansion marked the beginning of an active franchise that's still living (and being revitalized) today.

1999 saw the release of three extremely popular RTS games -- Age of Empires II: Age of KingsCommand & Conquer Tiberian Sun, and Homeworld. If you want to get an idea of how successful these games were, just take a look at C&C Tiberian Sun's sales numbers. Within a month, the title moved over one and a half million copies. And sales only increased when the Firestorm expansion pack released a year later. 


The Golden Years Roll Onward

In the years that followed the dawn of the RTS age, games like Command & Conquer Red Alert 2, Empire Earth, Homeworld 2, and the legendary Age of Mythology were released. But the highlight of this time was the incomparable Warcraft 3. With these releases, the early 2000s were a fantastic period for strategy fans and a new generation of gamers. 

In the latter part of the 2000s, games such as Company of Heroes and Men of War also made their debut, offering unique experiences for RTS players by allowing squad, platoon, and even single unit combat and control. They also introduced innovative control methods for directly controlling a unit's actions. 

This golden era culminated with Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty in 2010. This Blizzard strategy game launched to enormous critical acclaim, and exploded onto a burgeoning competitive scene -- creating an eSports phenomenon that continues to this day. 


The Beginning of the End

Pinpoint the exact moment that the RTS genre began to decline is a little difficult. There's no specific year that we can point to and say "yep, that's when it all went bad". Some sort of fall comes naturally after such a dramatic rise, but precisely where it began with RTS games is subjective. But if you ask me, most speculation leads many to say that it really started around 2004 -- shortly after Warcraft 3 released and in the midst of the golden RTS era.

Up until (and including) Warcraft 3's launch, many popular RTS games helped define the genre, adding new aspects and unique mechanics as the years went on. Eventually, the RTS formula was "perfected". Once that happened, many strategy developers went the safe route and just copied the template that they knew would work -- and innovation came to a grinding halt. The result was stagnation and eventual lack of interest from developers and fans alike. 

Many good games came out during this period, sure. But as more RTS releases came to the market with less meaningful differences each time, the genre garnered less and less interest than it had in previous years.

Competitive eSports could have also contributed to the decline of the genre. The active tournament circuit for Starcraft Brood War had a serious following, which helped boost its visibility and attract new interest in the game and the RTS genre as a whole.

But as eSports became more and more popular, other games and genres began saturating the space. FPS scenes like Counter-Strike and Call of Duty drew lots of fans, and MOBAs like Dota 2 and League of Legends began dominating the competitive gaming scene. As these new titles began attracting serious followings, RTS lost its hold in the eSports scene and left the limelight. 

What RTS Looks Like Today

Though they may have gone into a marked decline and the genre doesn't enjoy the same mainstream popularity it once did, RTS games never really went away. We still have plenty of new games trying to iterate on the formula -- like the recently released Tooth and Tail or Empires Apart, which just entered beta.

What remains of the RTS genre isn't what it used to be, though. Since its fall from grace, some aspects of the genre have evaporated entirely -- but for the most part, they've dispersed into a number of sub-genres that simply feature aspects of RTS mechanics. The Total War series, for exampleis one of the top-grossing strategy franchises on the market right now. But I'd struggle to call it a true RTS in the typical sense. 

Other major developers, like Paradox Interactive, have focused more on the Grand Strategy market. Games like Crusader Kings, Europa Universalis, and Hearts of Iron enjoy persistent and dedicated fanbases, but in a much more niche sense than the games that (grand)fathered them. 

All in all, gamers who loved the RTS genre in its heyday are having to scratch the strategy itch elsewhere in the market these days -- finding a new home in fledgling Grand Strategy or turn-based tactical franchises. 

What Happened to RTS? It Shot Itself in The Foot.

Considering the history I've chronicled above, it's safe to say that the RTS genre collapsed under the weight of its own success. With companies like Westwood, Blizzard, and Relic Entertainment developing and releasing ground-breaking games almost yearly for half a decade, the bar was constantly getting raised. Expectations for RTS games skyrocketed with each lightning-in-a-bottle game, until developers were forced to stall innovation in favor of repeating a near-perfect formula that was guaranteed to work. 

RTS developers didn't make a mistake in doing so -- and we still got some amazing content in the aftermath of the initial boom. But the innovation that drove the genre in earlier years disappeared, and its growing popularity followed not long after. Even dedicated RTS companies like Paradox eventually branched out in strategy-related genres like tactical FPS, MMO, MOBA, and others that were siphoning gamers away from real-time strategy experiences. At some point when innovation inside RTS became impossible, these developers started to innovate the genre itself and morph it into a number of other niches that fans still enjoy today. 

Perhaps one day we'll see RTS games rise like a Phoenix and enjoy a Renaissance that shocks gamers around the world. But that won't happen if developers try to beat the same dead horse they did a decade ago. Perhaps some new prodigal developer will come along and recapture the low-tech magic of the genre in the late 90s. I don't plan on holding my breath, though. I'll probably just play Europa Universalis instead. 

Total War: Warhammer 2 Brings Tabletop Combat to Life Thu, 28 Sep 2017 16:31:01 -0400 Ty Arthur

There are an absolutely stupid number of Games Workshop video games out there, including an unrelenting deluge of Warhammer 40,000 titles that have rained down on mobile devices, consoles, and PCs across the world in the past year or so.

Here's the thing, though: most of them are awful and exceedingly half-baked. Sort of the best you can hope for lately is, "Eh, it wasn't actively bad."

There's no question the space version of Warhammer gets more of the video game love than its fantasy counterpart, so I, for one, always welcome a new PC addition to the Old World. I've got very fond memories of playing Shadow Of The Horned Rat on the PS1 (which is so ugly to look at now as to be actively offensive).

But lo and behold, I don't have to stare at it because there's a new addition to that universe -- Total War: Warhammer 2, the second Total War iteration of Warhammer. It not only gives us the pretty visuals the franchise deserves, but also the satisfying -- if perhaps overly complex -- mix of turn-based and RTS gameplay it needs as well.

 Plus, there's lizard men who ride dinosaurs!

A New Way To Wage War

Many of the mobile Warhammer games that get ported to Steam are too simplistic for their own good, but here, with Total War: Warhammer 2, you need to get ready for the opposite.

To boil it down in terms of genre, Total War is to the RTS genre as Arma is to the FPS genre. It's difficult. It's complicated. It's learning curve is immense. And there are far more mechanics than there probably should or ought to be. But if you manage to actually come out the victor, you will feel like you actually accomplished something.

This isn't Heroes Of Might And Magic or even Starcraft. This is large scale strategy with relentlessly difficult combat. Not thinking ahead will surely see you and your compatriots annihilated. 

 Yeah... there's a lot going on here, and this is just the tutorial mission!

You will constantly be dealing with multiple elements at the same time, from panning the camera in multiple dimensions at once to watching morale, monitoring individual battle progress, tracking reinforcements, popping off your Leader's skills, re-positioning for advantage in combat, checking the treeline to make sure you aren't about to be ambushed, and much (much) more.

My first major battle had me positioning all my units just perfectly before the fighting broke out. We were more than adequately prepared for the barbaric chaos hordes. My cavalry was riding through the trees on the opposite side to flank the foolish Norse warriors and take out their Hellcannon artillery before they could annihilate my melee formations at range.

 It's not so tough when my mounted units sneak up from behind...

I outnumbered them, I was prepared, and I had my Slaan wizard ready to annihilate... then it all went to hell immediately.

Turns out those "foolish" barbarians had also gotten units past me on the treeline. Just as the battle was about to begin, a group of archers starts pelting my saurus warriors from behind. Their morale breaks and they go berserk, ignoring my commands to move forward and engage the enemy, chasing after archers they can't possibly catch. With my lines broken the barbarian hordes surround us, it was all over.

The card system helps keep all the unit info in one place, but for those who aren't familiar with Total War, it will still constantly feel like there's too much going on at once -- especially for the first 10 hours or so.

On the opposite side of that, the complexity means there's a ton to do and new elements to always master, and for the achievement whores out there, there's a staggering 106 separate achievements to unlock.

Despite all of those overly complex elements and the constantly desperate, surviving-by-the-seat-of-your pants feeling as you are overwhelmed and outmaneuvered, there's an undeniable sense fun tethered to figuring out how to prevail against all odds.

 Concealing forest lines are the kiss of death

Factions And Gameplay

Total War: Warhammer II has shifted focus on the factions from the previous game, and I personally really like that we aren't starting with humans from the Empire or Bretonia, since it seems odd to make a fantasy version of Total War and then just have human units. This time around the starting factions are High Elves, Dark Elves, Lizardmen, and The Skaven.

I've always been a fan of the lore of the mysterious Old Slann who started life before the gates exploded, releasing Chaos onto the Old World, so of course, I jumped on the lizardmen faction immediately.

Even if you haven't followed the series lore over the last 25 or so years, there's still something undeniably awesome about dinosaurs battling it out with rat people to stop demonic hordes from covering the land (or taking control of the portal and using the demons for your own vile purposes).

 Yup, that's me!

There's a strong balance between turn-based strategy and city management on the overland map to real-time combat in the battles themselves, which can become insanely massive as the campaign moves onward, with tons of neutral factions interacting between the four main playable races. It's also very much worth noting that in a major change, there are now two very different ways to approach the main campaign.

The split between total conquer and ritual enactment cuts out a lot of the typical Total War late game dread -- that part where it's just a slog to pick up the rest of the territory.

A Broken Hammer?

Besides the complexity, there are a few things potential players should be aware of ahead of launching Total War: Warhammer 2. First off, the load times are crazy. I'm hoping that gets resolved in a patch, because they are immense.

While Warhammer, of course, fits the Total War franchise like a glove, there are areas where the two franchises don't quite mesh as well as they could. Probably most notable is the camera, which just can't ever hit a satisfying sweet spot.

You are either too high up for the tactical view to survey your surroundings -- at which point the armies might as well be stationary painted figures on a table -- or you are too close to get a good look at the battle and you lose tactical advantage. 

There's no perfect middle ground to find, no matter how much you fiddle with the camera. I fully realize the point of the Total War series is to focus on the strategy of large-scale combat, but it comes at the expense of some of the RTS fun of actually seeing what's going on in this battle or that skirmish.

 Do you know what you're looking at? Because I have
no idea what I'm even looking at here.

The Bottom Line

Here's the thing -- for all my griping about the difficulty level and constantly tinkering with the camera angle, this is pretty much the purest form of Warhammer the PC crowd is ever going to get -- and it is a very satisfying experience for fans of the franchise.

Couple that with stellar cut scenes and a story rooted in old lore that's worthy of the Warhammer name, and you have yourself a game that's very much worth the asking price if you love the series and don't mind getting trounced for awhile as you figure everything out.

Tooth and Tail Review: An Enjoyable Game with Mild Distemper Thu, 21 Sep 2017 11:19:43 -0400 Skrain

Pocketwatch Games -- the studio behind the cult hit Monaco -- recently launched its second game. Dubbed Tooth and Tail, it's a casual RTS with simplified features. 

In Tooth and Tail, four animal factions are fighting for control over an important decision that will determine who gets eaten. With a cute art style and a story that's simultaneously grim yet lighthearted, there's a lot to love about this fresh take on the strategy genre. But unfortunately, the game falls back on itself hard in terms of RTS management. 

Wheat is for Swine, Meat is for Animals

Tooth and Tail takes place in a world where civilized animals (excluding pigs) have decided that they would rather eat meat, and that all other foods are for Swine. These Swine are depicted mostly as unintelligent sources of meat -- and their only purpose is to survive until "harvest" and feed the other animals. 

However, Swine isn't the only meat that this animal society eats. During hard times, religious Civilized faction, lead by Archimedes, controls a lottery that determines who gets eaten when the Swine aren't enough to sustain everyone. Recently, this lottery claimed the life of Bellafide's son -- which sparked a revolutionary fire that leads him to found the Longcoats faction with the intent to fight back against the Civilized. 

Fighting alongside the Longcoats are the Commoners, lead by the beloved Hopper -- a hero to the everyanimal, who gave up her own arm so her people could eat. And fighting for the sake of ending the war are the KSR, led by a quartermaster who was pressed into the conflict. 

An Interesting "Lite" RTS

Tooth and Tail is described as a "popcorn" RTS where you control your commander directly, and indirectly give orders to your units as you play. In the single-player campaign, you often have anywhere between 2-6 units to build or utilize depending on the mission itself and the faction. You'll also need to control Gristmills, the primary source of meat. In these Gristmills, your swine will fatten themselves up for the harvest. As the single-player campaign progresses, you'll play through each faction in the continuing war for meat and dominance. 

An interesting feature in Tooth and Tail is that all maps, including the single-player story missions, are randomly generated. So playing through the campaign multiple times yields different maps with the same objectives.

Matches generally last 5-15 minutes, and your general strategy revolves around managing a single resource for meat while defending your own production buildings and attacking your opponents. You'll do this with a variety of units -- including drunken squirrels, self-exploding toads, medical pigeons, flamethrowing boars, and much more. 

Multiplayer matches are relatively straightforward, with standard 1v1, 2v1, and 2v2 matches. Each player picks a limited number of units that they can use throughout the match, and then it sets off and plays out accordingly. Like the single-player campaign, these maps are randomized for maximum replayability.


Fluffy Mechanics

One of Tooth and Tail's best qualities is undeniably its art style, from the vaguely retro in-game graphics to the charming artwork for the characters. The game was visually engaging, and the variety of environments because of the randomized maps went a long way in making sure things felt fresh most of the time. 

Being a "popcorn" RTS also has its benefits, because you don't have to worry as much about time constraints if you want to sit down and play for a while. With most strategy games, you have to take a moment and decide whether or not you can dump two hours into an online match. But with the average Tooth and Tail match time being between 5-15 minutes of non-stop action, it's a great game to pick up and play for short intervals. 

The meat of Tooth and Tail, however, is its simple control scheme and easy-to-learn mechanics. RTS games have a reputation for being hard to learn, and even harder to master (and rightfully so). But T&T doesn't suffer from this mechanical learning curve, so it allows newcomers to the genre to enjoy themselves just as much as veterans. 

Multiple people can also play from the same computer at the same time. That's right -- Tooth and Tail is one of the few PC games that supports split screen. So cute animals murdering each other can be made even better with up to four friends in split screen couch co-op. 

The Wrench in the Machine

Unfortunately Tooth and Tails' greatest feature is also its greatest drawback. Simplicity can be beneficial to a certain point, but has adverse effects when it's taken too far. And those familiar with the RTS genre might find that to be true for this game. 

The game removes many of the unit control features that make RTS games enjoyable -- like complex unit pathing, patrols, direct unit control for precise orders, inability to split units of a single type into multiple groups, and many others. So there's no way to handle your Tooth and Tail unit in a granular, strategic way. You're forced to group all units of all types together, or every unit of a single type together. There is no middle ground. And the only orders you can give to these overreaching groups are "attack," "follow," or "stay". 


The randomized maps are also a huge drawback when it comes to strategic development, in spite of the replay value they add. In the Steam description for Tooth and Tail, Pocketwatch Games describes these maps as follows:

"With procedurally generated maps and customizable factions, no two conflicts will be the same, forcing players to strategize rather than memorize."

While adaptability is definitely part of good strategizing, I believe that Tooth and Tail has taken it too far, while claiming it's something that it's not. In most cases, strategy has been outright replaced with adaptability in both single-player and multiplayer modes.

Eventually, you reach a point in the game where the difficulty of your encounters is not determined by your skill level or the AI's skill level, but by your randomly generated start position and your foes. There were multiple matches I played where the AI would get the high-ground advantage with hills that blocked my unit vision and gave them an angle to fire down on my units -- with no possibility of going around. In this case, "strategy" would have been using ranged units to overcome the obstacle, or simply moving to a new vantage point. However, the random maps don't lend themselves well to these actions in the single-player campaign. So instead, I had to slam dozens of units at an immovable wall.

This sort of gameplay doesn't encourage strategy or really even adaptability -- it just demands that you play into the few options that you have for approaching a situation, whether or not doing so makes any strategic sense. And of course, restarting a single-player match in hopes of getting a better randomized map isn't very strategic, either.

The procedural generation isn't as bad in multiplayer mode, since for the most part things seemed at least semi-symmetrical. However, I have had times where I've run into multiple choke points against enemy players with simply no way to overcome them due to how hills, bunkers, and line of sight works. These types of issues were further aggravated by my inability to issue complex orders to my units in order to compensate.

Verdict: A Little Flat, But Enjoyable

Despite it lacking in the strategic depth I'm used to (and fond of) in RTS games, I enjoyed my time with Tooth and Tail. The story was engaging, and the frantic pace the game sets right out of the game kept me immersed in its world. It's a solid game overall, in spite of a few minor misrepresentations in its marketing. 

In spite of a few hangups, Tooth and Tail is a good casual RTS game for those who want some strategy but don't want learning a game to be a second job. If you're interested in Tooth and Tail, you can head over to Steam and pick it up for $19.99.

[Note: A copy of the game was provided by Pocketwatch for this review.]