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RTS essentials

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If playing a game is awful then it's not a good game :M
I honestly think Dota 2 is one of the best games ever made, but the experience of playing it is soul-crushingly bad. The two statements are not contradictory in the slightest.
 

Reality

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I think cutting "history lessons" down for essentials is the way to go.

For me

Command and Conquer (1995)
Mostly in for its singleplayer which mixes RTS gameplay with canned RTT buildless scenarios. It's multiplayer is single base GDI only messiness.

Starcraft (1996)
Starcraft's asymmetry is nice, but it's ability to make "series of assaults" feel important is the key factor to its success in my opinion. I like clever ways that many tier 1 units can fall off in midgame and become important again in lategame (marines with stimpacls &medic support, zerglings with the adrenal glands upgrade and the temporary ranged immunity from defilers).

Age of Empires 2 (1999)
Age of Empires IS better than Age of Mythology. I played lots of the latter, and it just breaks down. I think there are 2 basic problems.
1: Worker Units are absurdly tanky in AoM - this alone makes raids in early eras almost worthless, as opposed to serious risks of losing workers to scout cavalry in the Feudal Age of AoE2.
2: Age of Mythology allows you to Caravan with your OWN MARKETS making Gold just as infinite as Food. Needless to say this leads to Sup-Com style endless army tug of war conflicts, but in a game not designed to support it, especially with Egypt/Norse literally having 90% production time upgrades on certain units.

Homeworld (1999)
I'm willing to forgive the problems with light units, maybe in light of the problems with bombers in the sequels being worse. It really is great as a blueprint, and having ballistic combat on 3 planes does wonders for stomping on "just throw money at it" philosophies.

Stronghold (2001)
This game only cares about emulating walls and sieges and it manages to stand out because of it.

Company of Heroes (2004)
It might be more RTT than RTS but it's still the greatest

Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars (2007)
I actually find this the most enjoyable game where "every unit has an activatable ability" This is probbably because all starting Tiberium will be wiped from the map in 15 minutes and trickle regrow economies will be in effect afterwards. This makes a huge difference with Warcraft-esque games. It is also a game that starts right out of the box, with minor capture the flag (enginneer 's and scouts fighting over the spikes) which means that the first few minutes isn't solely pre-planned base building. Tiberium Wars > Kane's Wrath because I think the Tier 4 Units negatively affect the game.

Supreme Commander (2007)
Everyone should experience how a "flux" economy works in the context of RTS at least once, and it really is better in SupCom than in TA... My main reason to start with SupCom > TA is mostly about TA's reclamators kinda being ineffiecent and unit AI continually shooting at "husks" of dead units that aren't removed fast enough. It takes you away from the unique Macro aspect and wastes time trying to be more like a micro game liike Starcraft pulling them off of things.
 

Vlajdermen

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Idk how true it is, but this list may help. Myth 2, Frozen Throne and Brood War for top tier are indisputable. Put SupCom in there as well.

HxA4DHX.jpeg
 

Blutwurstritter

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Idk how true it is, but this list may help. Myth 2, Frozen Throne and Brood War for top tier are indisputable. Put SupCom in there as well.

HxA4DHX.jpeg

Strange choice to put DoW:Soulstorm that high. It is worse than Dark Crusade. The flying units were shit and the new races were also poorly balanced. Battlezone and Sacrifice(<- actually one of the best games ever made in my opinion) are great games but I don't think they fit in here.
 

Nutmeg

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Updated the second post again finally.

I think cutting "history lessons" down for essentials is the way to go.
Agree. Good post, really liked your comparison between AoM and AoE.

Idk how true it is, but this list may help. Myth 2, Frozen Throne and Brood War for top tier are indisputable. Put SupCom in there as well.
Ignoring the separation of expansions from base games, not too far off how I'd rank what I've played if asked to rank objectively, and also based on what I know of what I have not played.
 
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I can not agree with Mark of Chaos being Shit-, and RUSE being Low-Tier. Also, Battle Realms as High-Tiert? I loved that game but im not sure its deserved. Apart from that, it seems reasonably accurate.
 

Alpan

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Grab the Codex by the pussy Pathfinder: Wrath
I would place Sacrifice on top tier, and what's Dune 2000 doing there? I remember playing it back in the day, but it didn't compare well with Red Alert, let alone many other games. I've also never seen it come up on discussions of underrated/overlooked games, while Emperor: Battle for Dune is regularly touted as a good game. Maybe someone with more experience can shed light.
 

markec

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Idk how true it is, but this list may help. Myth 2, Frozen Throne and Brood War for top tier are indisputable. Put SupCom in there as well.

HxA4DHX.jpeg

Soulstorm is a mid tier, solo campaign was worse then in Dark Crusade, new factions underwhelming and new units a mixed bag.

Now that I looked at it I would make a separate lists for multiplayer and singleplayer RTS. Some like CoH is a S tier multiplayer game but D tier singleplayer.

Overall decent list but could nitpick in every tier.
 

Vlajdermen

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Idk how true it is, but this list may help. Myth 2, Frozen Throne and Brood War for top tier are indisputable. Put SupCom in there as well.

HxA4DHX.jpeg

Soulstorm is a mid tier, solo campaign was worse then in Dark Crusade, new factions underwhelming and new units a mixed bag.

Now that I looked at it I would make a separate lists for multiplayer and singleplayer RTS. Some like CoH is a S tier multiplayer game but D tier singleplayer.

Overall decent list but could nitpick in every tier.
What's your essentials list on single player alone?
 

markec

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Idk how true it is, but this list may help. Myth 2, Frozen Throne and Brood War for top tier are indisputable. Put SupCom in there as well.

HxA4DHX.jpeg

Soulstorm is a mid tier, solo campaign was worse then in Dark Crusade, new factions underwhelming and new units a mixed bag.

Now that I looked at it I would make a separate lists for multiplayer and singleplayer RTS. Some like CoH is a S tier multiplayer game but D tier singleplayer.

Overall decent list but could nitpick in every tier.
What's your essentials list on single player alone?

This also depends if you want a story heavy like for example C&C, W3, Myth, Homeworld, games like Dark Crusade and Warlords Battlecry 2 that have little story but a strategic layer where you conquer provinces, or game like Warwind which is more like puzzle game with limited resources and ways to win the scenarios.
 

Vlajdermen

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Idk how true it is, but this list may help. Myth 2, Frozen Throne and Brood War for top tier are indisputable. Put SupCom in there as well.

HxA4DHX.jpeg

Soulstorm is a mid tier, solo campaign was worse then in Dark Crusade, new factions underwhelming and new units a mixed bag.

Now that I looked at it I would make a separate lists for multiplayer and singleplayer RTS. Some like CoH is a S tier multiplayer game but D tier singleplayer.

Overall decent list but could nitpick in every tier.
What's your essentials list on single player alone?

This also depends if you want a story heavy like for example C&C, W3, Myth, Homeworld, games like Dark Crusade and Warlords Battlecry 2 that have little story but a strategic layer where you conquer provinces, or game like Warwind which is more like puzzle game with limited resources and ways to win the scenarios.
Whichever, man. If it's good at what it does, I'll take it. What matters is that I can play it by myself whenever I want, and not worry about pop culture relevance, player base size, servers, and other factors that got nothing to do with me.
 

markec

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Idk how true it is, but this list may help. Myth 2, Frozen Throne and Brood War for top tier are indisputable. Put SupCom in there as well.

HxA4DHX.jpeg

Soulstorm is a mid tier, solo campaign was worse then in Dark Crusade, new factions underwhelming and new units a mixed bag.

Now that I looked at it I would make a separate lists for multiplayer and singleplayer RTS. Some like CoH is a S tier multiplayer game but D tier singleplayer.

Overall decent list but could nitpick in every tier.
What's your essentials list on single player alone?

This also depends if you want a story heavy like for example C&C, W3, Myth, Homeworld, games like Dark Crusade and Warlords Battlecry 2 that have little story but a strategic layer where you conquer provinces, or game like Warwind which is more like puzzle game with limited resources and ways to win the scenarios.
Whichever, man. If it's good at what it does, I'll take it. What matters is that I can play it by myself whenever I want, and not worry about pop culture relevance, player base size, servers, and other factors that got nothing to do with me.

Ok a must play SP RTS would be C&C until Tiberium Wars which was pretty great, never played Twilight, all Red Alert until Red Alert 3 which ok but forgettable. I love Homeworld 1, didnt play Cataclysm and H2 I found to be mediocre. Myth 1 and 2 are a must play. Never been a fan of Blizzard games especially W3 but so many people love it so i do recommend it as you might enjoy it, same with Starcraft.

Warlords Battlecry 2 has a low story campaign but the strategic layer where you conquer the world is fun so I do recommend it. Battlecry 3 has a interesting campaign which feels like a RPG, where you move around the world and do quests, and is more heavy on the story, I do recommend it.

Dawn of War Soulstorm has a also a campaign with strategic layer and its done well. DoW2 Chaos Rising has a cool campaign, which is linear but you have choices and consequences with multiple endings.

Dune 2000 and Emperor Battle for Dune both have C&C like campaigns with addition of strategic layer.

Dont know if I would consider Dungeon Keeper as a classic RTS but they are well worth playing.

Nexus Jupiter Incident is good if you like space ships, and if you really, really love space ships then you might try Battlefield Gothic Armada.

Battle for Middle Earth are both fun games with a nice mix of strategy and storytelling.

War Wind 1,2 if you like puzzles or those missions in Warcraft/C&C where you have a limited units.

Heroes of Annihilated Empires is also decent.

I probably missed quite a few but you wont go wrong with those games.
 

Vlajdermen

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Yeah man, Brood War and Frozen Throne are some of my favourite vidya (despite the story complaints). They're the reason I'm interested in rts in the first place. Nobody has ever gushed about any game character as much as I have about Gerard DuGalle.
224


Thanks for the other recs. I already had a hunch C&C and a bunch of others were good, but I had no idea about Chaos Rising. Sounds very interesting, what you said. Definitely a lot of stuff to put in my backlog.
 
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vota DC

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IMO Dune 2000 was/is a good game while Emperor: BfD was trash tier.
Emperor LOOKED very bad because early 3d and bad design for many units but was great. You could change the campaign choosing your own allies.....also forging alliances was different: Fremen required just little effort as Atreides but many missions if you played Harkonnen. Final mission was weak: Emperor Worm and Tleilaxu against you while Ix, Fremen and Sardaukar on your side. In Dune 2000 at least final mission was different (for example Ordos + Mercenaries vs Emperor + Harkonnen and Atreides or if you play Harkonnen just Harkonnen vs Atreides and Emperor).
In Dune 2000 design was better but no much novelty compared to C&C.
Funny thing is that best infantry design was Dune 2 because both troopers and light infantry looked badass but they were worthless in battle!
 

RaggleFraggle

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I have a few suggestions:

Armies of Exigo is a WC3 clone where every unit can level up and there’s an underworld layer to maps. interesting, but unfortunately not available on GOG or Steam. It did have a manual, but thankfully it isn’t necessary to understand the plot and doesn’t include anything that isn’t in the game itself.

Rising Kingdoms is another WC3 clone. It has some unique mechanics like automatic harvesting that doesn’t involve workers or harvesters for the darkling faction, and you can select build orders from your town hall and the AI will assign a worker to build it automatically. Available on Steam. There’s a manual that isn’t included but the lore is only a couple pages of creation myth that doesn’t play a role in the plot.

Conquest: Frontier Wars. Basically StarCraft (the races are directly comparable) as a 3D space combat game. Due to budget cuts it only has one racial campaign. Available on Steam, with source code included!

Dark Planet: Battle for Natrolis is a blatant SC clone (the races are directly comparable), but does bring some new ideas to the table. There are three types of resources on the maps, but each race only uses two and share them asymmetrically. Each race has a unique resource with unique uses and methods of generation, a few years before DoW did similar. Not available on GOG or Steam
 

RaggleFraggle

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I would suggest checking out the indie RTS It Stares Back.

While it's currently in Early Access, it has a number of interesting new spins on RTS mainstays like terrain and gathering.
 

Mr. Pink

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PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015 Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag.
Here's the deal, Jack, we have a general thread for FPS recommendations, reviews and discussion, but we don't have one for RTS - the other great keyboard and mouse genre - so I'm making one.
Age of Empires 2 (1999)

Played it fresh, completing the tutorial and Joan of Arc campaigns, while also sporadically playing multiplayer (LAN) with friends. Never revisited, although I could and maybe should, especially for the internet multiplayer, which is very active at time of writing.

Now, by 1999, the fundamentals of RTS single player were fully established (mostly by the original C&C, really) as a number of (usually low challenge) mini-games embedded in what was essentially a multiplayer format. Due to the rising accessibility of online and LAN multiplayer (where an RTS game's mechanics could fully shine) the PC gaming culture's aversion to non social challenge altogether, and the game industry wide emphasis on "immersion" and story-telling starting around this time, players would never again see any real improvement to single player RTS that would make games in the genre more challenging, which is just another way of saying tactically or strategically interesting. Instead, as a sort of trickle down effect from multiplayer design concerns, or for their own sake, later titles would offer improvements to moment to moment tactical play, that could make for a more enjoyable single player experience as well.

One such example is Age of Empires 2's unit formations. Even though most players, myself included, barely ever make use of all the available options, the behavior of units in the default formation, whereby they march in a well formed square with ranged units behind infantry, alone is enough as a partial solution to Starcraft's "problem" (feature for some) of mandatory unit positioning pedantry.



AoE2 has the perfect number of formations. All of them have some situational use in high level competitive multiplayer. At any level of multiplayer, players always select one unit type by double clicking to select all the units of that type on the screen, or use control groups so you rarely see mixed units in formations. The usefulness of formations comes down to AoE2 having fairly robust pathfinding for it's time.
latest

Line is the default formation.

Stagger is quite useful against scorpions or if you want to cover a wide area with spear units as a screen against cavalry.

Flank is extremely useful for manually dodging mangonel shots. Every RTS needs to have this formation.


Box is more efficient than flank if you have more than a dozen units but is the least useful formation otherwise.
 

Lucumo

Educated
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Conquest: Frontier Wars: one of the last finished games made by Chris Roberts. A 2D space RTS (with 3D graphics) where you control one of 3 factions with uncanny resemblance to what we get to know in Starcraft. On the other hand, the gameplay isn't like Starcraft at all - you controll multiple of space ships and build your bases on rings around planets. The game has some neat twists, like having to support your fleet with supplies, but the nicest thing was that you had to play on multiple maps (systems) simultanously. All around very decent game.
Yep, the game was pretty good. My only issue was that the amount of star systems was limited (I've always liked very large maps).

The RTS genre never died a natural death. It was killed by corporations who refused to make more games in the genre because they decided on behalf of us consumers that we were apparently done with the genre. Well, in a way many were since they kept releasing subpar online PvP focused RTS' because dumb suits kept chasing that esports high. They completely misunderstood the part where RTS players want a meaty single player campaign as well and not just something that focuses on dull esports shit. MOBAs overtook the RTS genre as the big esports thing, but it didn't poach the playerbase. They appeal to very different people.

It's the completely wrong approach because popular competitive online RTS games started by having a good campaign that got players interested, and then a community formed around them.
Star Craft, Warcraft 3, Age of Empires 2. They all had good campaigns which makes it worth buying the games even if you never want to play online. And then you get a big playerbase for the multiplayer once the game is successful, and from there it becomes an esport.

If you wanna make a popular esport RTS and focus on the online functionality, it is bound to fail because you're skipping the step of where you make a good game that naturally builds its own community by being fun in single player.

But the suits don't understand that. They only see SC, WC3, AoE2 having tournaments watched by thousands of people and wanna have a slice of that cake too. They don't understand why these games grew a dedicated esport community around them.
It definitely is. But publishers are stupid, so you can't really expect anything from them. It also reminds me of Ubisoft when they wanted to create an "esports shooter". Needless to say, it failed.

Overall RTS games pushed the technology to the max in the 1990s but were exposed as mechanically dull and repetitive in the 2000's. MOBA's completely took over the space.

Did they tho? Age of Empires 2 multiplayer survived into the 2010s, then they released a HD Edition in 2014, then they released new expansions for that HD edition, then they released a Definitive Edition which still keeps getting new expansions despite AoE4 being a thing now...
Definitely not. I even played AoE II on Voobly myself in the 2010s. The thing is that with the decline of RTS releases, people sticked with the games they already got, if they didn't switch to MOBA/DotA. Of course, the DotA scene completely dwarved the RTS one but RTS were still relevant.

I was shocked when I once saw an esports video or live stream about about 2 starcraft players facing off and the announcers sounded exactly like Al Michaels announcing Dave Henderson's home run in the 1986 Boston Red Sox/California Angels playoffs or any number of other slick, professional ABC sports announcers or color commentators over the years, and how excited these dudes were getting over two incels playing video games. Never felt the desire to ever watch another eports broadcast but it was startling how professional it all sounded. I guess there's an audience for this and big money in this stuff?
And the US scene wasn't even that developed. If you were a fan of competitive gaming in the 00s (like I was), South Korea was the place to look at, followed by Germany. Both countries had esports on TV (free in Germany, paid in South Korea but a lot more content), as well as some more or less developed infrastructure. Team houses where you train had been a thing in both countries in the early 00s but only ten years later, they would become more common. Esports penetration in South Korea was a lot higher which is also why they got a 220k (IIRC) live audience in...was it 2005 or 2006 for the Brood War Proleague finals on a beach. Money really flowed there and it continued to do well. Meanwhile, in Germany, it was more limited to young people with not much money available. That's also the reason why it went mostly under at the end of the 00s (demographic reasons played a role, of course, but also vilifying games due to some school shooting, media and politicians being garbage as always etc), exemplified by Giga going offline. The ESL could have done a better job for sure. In the 10s, esports got revived but unfortunately, Germany never really picked it up again and as such, ESL simply got bought by some Swedish media company. As for commentators, the Korean ones were great. I say that as someone that has watched a lot of Korean esports over the years.

Warlords Battlecry 2 has a low story campaign but the strategic layer where you conquer the world is fun so I do recommend it. Battlecry 3 has a interesting campaign which feels like a RPG, where you move around the world and do quests, and is more heavy on the story, I do recommend it.
The map was cool. I even printed out a screenshot of me owning all the provinces back in the day (with the race which had the white colour...whatever that one was...not that it mattered because since the game is broken, I just killed everyone and everything with my hero alone). Warlords Battlecry III was nicely different but the game had one or even two gamebreaking bugs which made you unable to continue the campaign (somewhere at a wall). So it had to be patched first.

Strange choice to put DoW:Soulstorm that high. It is worse than Dark Crusade. The flying units were shit and the new races were also poorly balanced. Battlezone and Sacrifice(<- actually one of the best games ever made in my opinion) are great games but I don't think they fit in here.
Well, Sacrifice is a weird RTS hybrid. And yeah, it's a really good, fun (loved the gods bickering) and unique game. Definitely recommended. Playthroughs/Units also differ, depending on which gods you align yourself to. I went mostly with the death (?) one on the very right.

Mentioned in another thread: Battle Realms is a really excellent RTS game too. Unfortunately, it often gets overlooked. I'm also seconding other not-as-popular games such as Stronghold, Stronghold: Crusader, Ground Control and Cossacks: European Wars. Personally, I liked Empire Earth, despite it being janky due to 3D models. The later ages were a lot of fun to play in. But like with most other RTS games, the sequel sucked. Thandor (2000) I remember being a sci-fi RTS which I liked. It basically never gets mentioned anywhere, despite being one of the earliest games with 3D stuff. Too bad it flopped..but I guess it was because barely anyone knew it existed?

23372_819_2_full_medium.jpg


/edit: Warcraft III -> Warlords Battlecry III (seems like my inner auto-correct set in)
 
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gerey

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So, here's my recommendations - I've deliberately tried to avoid the more obvious games:

Warzone 2100 - very neat RTS that has you build up your permanent main base over the campaign, while most missions are about preparing a strike force and sending them by dropship to another map, the ability to gather and research new technologies, which then unlock new components (weapons, chassis, special equipment) you can then mix and match to create a wide variety of vehicles, units gain experience throughout the course of the campaign and it is of critical importance to ensure your veterans survive and get upgraded - and all of this on top of a very lengthy campaign featuring nice and chunky pixelated 3D graphics.

Original War - RTS/RPG hybrid where each soldier is a unique individual, and if they die during the campaign they're dead for good, and replacements are rare, and gain experience over the course of the campaign in a variety of skills - the game also gives you the option of playing two different campaigns, Vatniks and Globohobo Police, with choices and consequences. I don't think there's anything quite like it out there.

Impossible Creatures - RTS with a dieselpunk aesthetic (think Crimson Skies) where you use mad science to combine a wide variety of animals into unholy chimeras to wage war against a mad scientist.

Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak - somewhat simplistic RTS that nails the Homeworld aesthetic and presentation. It's basically a prequel to Homeworld 1 taking place on the planet of Kharak, and waging war with landship carriers tickles my lizard brain.

Nordic Warriors - budget Myth released recently by indie devs - it's not by any stretch of the imagination perfect, but if you're looking for something to scratch that Myth itch you could do much, much worse, and the devs clearly had a lot of respect and love for the franchise.

World in Conflict - another RTS with two very well written campaigns, taking place in 1989 with the Cold War going hot - it's also unique in that it takes the idea of "classes" from FPS like Battlefield - as in, in mutliplayer matches, one player can be an infantry commander, one controls armor, a third supplies (artillery) and the last one could be air - and victory depends on the players cooperating with each other and making use of combined warfare to achieve victory. Mutliplayer matches were always a blast.

EDIT:

Battlezone - FPS where you get to drive a wide variety of hover tanks across the solar system, fighting as either the USA or USSR, while also having to build your base, gather resources, build troops and lead them around. Interface is a bit iffy since you control most things via the numpad, but outisde the squel there's really no game like it. Game can be quite challenging.
 
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JarlFrank

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Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag.
Thandor (2000) I remember being a sci-fi RTS which I liked. It basically never gets mentioned anywhere, despite being one of the earliest games with 3D stuff. Too bad it flopped..but I guess it was because barely anyone knew it existed?

23372_819_2_full_medium.jpg

Bro. I played the demo of this when it came out, and have been looking for it in recent years without success. Crawled all the abandonware sites by genre. Searched for "old German 3D RTS". Didn't find it.

But this is it. This is the game I vaguely remembered from 20 years ago. Thanks man!
 

jebsmoker

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Insert Title Here Strap Yourselves In I helped put crap in Monomyth
Thandor (2000) I remember being a sci-fi RTS which I liked. It basically never gets mentioned anywhere, despite being one of the earliest games with 3D stuff. Too bad it flopped..but I guess it was because barely anyone knew it existed?

23372_819_2_full_medium.jpg

man, i've been trying to get Thandor to run for years. i think someone finally figured it out, but ill have to work up the motivation to do surgery on it so i can get it to work on a modern os with modern hardware
 

flyingjohn

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Thandor (2000) I remember being a sci-fi RTS which I liked. It basically never gets mentioned anywhere, despite being one of the earliest games with 3D stuff. Too bad it flopped..but I guess it was because barely anyone knew it existed?

23372_819_2_full_medium.jpg

man, i've been trying to get Thandor to run for years. i think someone finally figured it out, but ill have to work up the motivation to do surgery on it so i can get it to work on a modern os with modern hardware
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OeTISp1vkic
 

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