I love a good real-time-strategy game and over the years there have been a hell of a lot of them. Fortunately, many of them are completely rubbish or fail to do anything new or different to what came before them, which makes choosing my favourite much easier. So in no particular order, here are my top five RTS titles.
1. Age of Empires 2
Probably the most famous and well loved RTS of them all, Age of Empires 2 (and the ‘HD’ version) is still incredibly popular today, despite being nearly two decades old. Age of Empires 2 defined the RTS genre for years to come and spawned several clones like Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds, which despite being released as a new game, was really just a re-skin. The game is actually fairly simple. You hire villagers who collect resources then you use those resources to build stuff, recruit soldiers and pay for upgrades to them. It’s a formula that has worked for Age of Empires and it’s sequels and spin-offs for years and with the announcement of the definitive edition at E3, the popularity seems unlikely to die down any time soon.
2. The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle Earth 2
Anyone that knows me would tell you that I am a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings, so it is unsurprising that this game has made my list. But make no mistake, Battle for Middle Earth 2 is a solid game in it’s own right, and it just so happens to be set in my favourite fantasy world. The gameplay will feel familiar to anyone who has played an RTS, but it excels at everything it does. Instead of forcing you to intensely micromanage workers to gather various resources, there is only one and you place buildings which accumulate it automatically. It sounds easy, but these buildings have to be placed far apart from one another, which means you must try to control as much of the map as possible. The best bit of Battle for Middle Earth 2 though are the heroes. You are able to recruit various characters from the films and books, all of which have special powers and abilities making them incredibly powerful units, but if you don’t fancy any of them, you could always make your own. You get to pick any one of the various races of Middle Earth, decide what abilities they have and customise how they look. These heroes can then be used in Skirmish battles in both single and multiplayer.
3. Company of Heroes
Set during the Second World War, Company of Heroes differs from most other strategy games in the sense that you do not have to collect resources using villagers. Instead, the game is entirely combat focused as you have to capture and hold certain points on the map in order to gather particular resources. The main one is manpower, which is required to build and recruit everything, then there is ammunition and fuel which is helps build and recruit specialised units like tanks. They are also used to buy upgrades for your infantry squads, which can be given anything from flamethrowers to anti-tank weaponry depending on which specialisation you need. It all looks and sounds fantastic too. The graphics look more like what you’d expect from an FPS of the time, not a top-down strategy game and it has some of the best weapon sound of any game. It still looks good today, so in 2006 it was revolutionary.
4. Age of Empires 3
I’m just going to say it. In my opinion, Age of Empires 3 is better than Age of Empires 2. I know that most people won’t agree, but that’s fine, we’ll just have to agree to disagree. Age of Empires 3 doesn’t do much different to it’s predecessor, but what it does do is streamline a lot of things. You still have to gather food, wood and gold, but instead of having to place dozens of farms that constantly have to be renewed, 10 villagers can work one mill to produce food and it never runs out. The same can be said of gold. Even wood is quicker to collect because villagers no longer have to take resources back to the town centre. Less micromanagement is a good thing in my book. I don’t want to have to check my farms every few seconds when I’m in the middle of a fight. Furthermore, troops can be recruited in fives making building an army much quicker, meaning more time spent fighting, less spent waiting. The home city is a nice idea too. The more skirmishes you do, the more stuff you unlock in your home city. As you play each round, you can get resources, soldiers and even buildings sent to you from your home city.
Stronghold was the first strategy game I ever played, and subsequently it was the first strategy game I ever got hooked on. At the time I was only seven-years-old and didn’t understand how unique Stronghold really was. There was no other game that combined the RTS elements of gathering resources and managing villagers with the realistic castle building and sieges. The micromanagement is turned down a notch compared to other strategy games too, as buildings basically run themselves once they’ve been placed, making Stronghold one of the more relaxing games on this list. You can focus on fighting and building an awesome castle, instead of telling your villages to cut down a new tree every 30 seconds.
What are your favourite strategy games? Let me know in the comments. Also follow me on Twitter @Andrew_H93.