There are a lot of strategy video games out there and some are really good, such as some of the games from the Command and Conquer series and the Starcraft and Warcraft franchises. They have established themselves as among the best strategy games. But what should a real-time strategy game have in order to be considered as one of the best games in this genre? Let me share some of my opinions.
The most important factor to consider in determining if a real-time strategy game is a good one would most likely be the strategic element. Basically, there should be balance in the game. The usual setup in a strategy game is there are at least two sides fighting it out on a battlefield. There are several units that have different abilities and you’d have to plan how and when to use them and against which unit. It’s really not good if the game is either too easy or too hard. The controls should also be well-mapped. An example would be grouping similar or related commands together for ease of use.
One of the characteristics that real-time strategy games have is re-playability. You can play on different maps, play as either of the sides, choose a level of difficulty, use different strategies and so on. There’s always a tendency to get bored at a game but with lots of stuff to do, it will take you a long time to get tired of playing. That’s value for money which a good real-time strategy game must have.
Aside from the actual combat, there should be a strong storyline behind it. One very appealing aspect of a real-time strategy game is to be able to combine story elements into the game play itself such as missions, achievements, in-game narration, interaction with important characters and more. It has to be unique and creative to keep players engaged to the game. There’s one thing that I have observed in most of the successful real-time strategy games. There usually are a couple of characters that stand out. The moment you mention their name, you’ll most likely know which game they came from. Some examples would be Kerrigan from Starcraft and Kane from Command and Conquer. This is among the various ways a game could be recognized or remembered.
Many may contest that the franchise that a game belongs to would most likely contribute to the success of a real-time strategy game. In my opinion, it could be. However, they have to follow through the main storyline and never deviate too much from the game play of the previous games. Take Starcraft, Brood War and Starcraft II. They have a continuous storyline that most of the gamers, both fans and non-fans, would most likely appreciate. There are new units and new strategies but it still feels the same old original Starcraft.
On the technical aspect, a real-time strategy game should have well-balanced graphics. Since we’re talking about tens or hundreds of units then add the playing field, backdrop and the buildings, the quality and animation should be as realistic as it could get. This could punish slow PCs and thus, developers should consider providing more graphics options such as low graphics output to be able to cater to more gamers.
We all have our own preferences when it comes to what we like about video games especially in the real-time strategy genre. We have different experiences and played different games. But nevertheless, there are certain games that appeal to a much bigger audience especially if they have a combination of good characteristics. There are cases when it’s just all about the hype but there are always cases when a game really deserves to be called great. A perfectly timed release for the game with excellent strategic elements coupled with a strong character roster in an engaging storyline would really make a great real-time strategy game.