It’s rather an understatement to say StarCraft fever has swept the gaming community these last couple of weeks. For those of you looking for more Sci-fi RTS games to play, or for an alternative to StarCraft 2, here’s five other great games to try; full to the brim with lasers, robots and spaceships.
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War Series
The Dawn of War series is based on Games Workshops incredibly popular Warhammer 40,000 universe, meaning the setting is probably the richest of any game on this list. The games themselves are streamlined RTS’, meaning there’s a minimum of worrying out base construction and a maximum of enjoying extreme violence on the battlefield. Obviously this approach has rather divided gamers, with those who feel building up a base is a vital part of the strategy experience unhappy with the result. Still, in Dawn of War II a skirmish can be over and done with in 15 minutes, meaning you’ll get a lot of games in.
Through expansions, the original game has reached an unprecedented nine unique races. The sequel is trailing on five, though this is still impressive. The sequel is also much faster paced, and much more like Company of Heroe sin terms of tactical combat: you’ll need to stay on top of each and every conflict, making sure your units are well covered, well supported and making good use of their special abilities. Losing a unit in Dawn of War II can be devastating since your force will be very small to start with.
Star Wars: Empire At War
Empire At War is certainly not the best game on the list. Nor is it a particularly remarkable RTS except for one important factor: It makes the best use of the Star Wars license of any previous strategy attempts. Everything from the menus, music, presentation. locales, units and missions breathes authenticity. The two campaigns themselves are fun, if not particularly challenging, and the Galaxy Map meta-game (again entertainment over depth) can be addictive. Building up your armies, fortifying your planets and upgrading space stations is surprisingly fun. There’s nothing like sending four AT-AT Walkers to crush a small Rebel base. The space battles, while gorgeous to look at, are rather shallow. They all take place on a single plane, and largely involve directing your ships to their appropriate targets and then watching the action unfold.
The Forces Of Corruption expansion pack adds an additional unique faction in the Zann Consortium, comprising mercenary and underground units from the shadier side of the Star Wars expanded universe. Additionally, you’ll get extra expanded universe units for the Empire and Rebels, including the legendary Grand Admiral Thrawn. Again, Empire At War isn’t a great or deep game, and has many flaws. It is, however, incredibly fun, bringing the Star Wars galaxy to life.
Earth 2150 is set in the distant future. The 22nd Century, funnily enough. In the games universe, The Earth is split into the Eurasion Dynasty (Europe, Asia) and the United Civilised States (America), two factions with a history of hostility. Additionally, residents of the Moon make up the Lunar Corporation. A massive accident leads to the Earth spinning off of its regular orbit and on a collision course with the Sun; the campaign consisting of the race to gather enough resources to build what is essentially a lifeboat.
The game is another early 3D strategy game, and the graphics hold up well today, with respectable lighting and fog effects. The gameplay itself is fairly standard: build a base, solar panels, armies and mine minerals to conquer. Where this game wins though is in the complex research trees, where you can customize vehicles and units with various choices of chassis, weapons, ammunition types and shields. Two expansions add even more to the replay value.
The second Relic-developed games on this list, Homeworld is a completely space-based real-time strategy game. The story follows the race of your choice, as they discover information regarding their origins and the means to return. Your main base is the Mothership, a gargantuan piece of machinery that acts as a production factory. From here, you can build all manner of different ships in different sizes for different tasks. Aside from the excellent array of options in terms of army building, the game is also very complex: use the Y-axis for full three dimensional combat, try different formations for your fighters, make sure your ships are always refueled, as well as the obligatory resource harvesting (minerals extracted from asteroids.)
Homeworld was one of the earliest 3D strategy games, and although the graphics are severely dated now, the gameplay still ranks amongst the greatest RTS’, while the campaign and general atmosphere are still engrossing. The opening moments of the campaign; the launch of the Mothership to the soundtrack of Samuel Barber’s choral Agnus Dei is spine-tingling goodness that is hard to top.
Sins of a Solar Empire
Sins of a Solar Empire is one of the grandest and most complex strategy games around. You’ll be in charge of an entire empire, in control of literally everything. Trading, diplomacy, military, from the planetary level right up to the galactic. The game combines elements of 4X turn-based strategy games for managing your empire, and lets you zoom right in from this level to the planetary for more traditional RTS-style battles. And the battles are epic, with plenty of tactical depth. A fantastically epic game.
Leave a comment and let us know what your strategy alternatives you have in your gaming collection.