Daily Elysium: Age of RTS
The front page of every gaming website is a flurry of activity these days, is it not? With the constant chatter of gaming companies barring their doors and huddling under the static hum of carcinogenic illumination, working tirelessly under the slave-driving publisher's cat-o-nine-tails, desperately preparing a workable level of Perennially Delayed Game #453, for E3, it's a wonderful time to be writing about games.
We get this every year, a slump of about eight weeks where the perception from outside the industry is that gaming has slipped into a bizarre kind of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Even the best gaming sites around are dragging their advertising laden tentacles along the moldy bottom of every barrel, desperate for content, while us sycophantic overtly editorial sites, like a ravenous plecostomos, leech ourselves to what little material we can find, digest it, and excrete it to you. Our own personal gift.Well, since there's not much new to discuss, let's revisit the old briefly.
So, let's talk for a moment about a few haphazardly connected issues which have been on my mind lately. First, after several years of rejecting the RTS genre out of hand, I've found two games that have reinvigorated my enthusiasm. As I've mentioned before, C&C Generals is a game that I find just plain fun. It's campy. It's over the top, and it's a guilty pleasure, but the fact of the matter is that when I'm playing Generals, I find that I'm in a better frame of mind than when I'm not playing Generals. Further, now that I've soundly beaten Certis, my enjoyment level has increased exponentially.
Playing off my inexperience with RTS games, Certis had until recently, used secret and crafty tactics - which I'm sure he probably read in a strategy guide or was taught by the many people smarter than him - like expanding from more than one base, acquiring resources with more than one unit, and creating both a variety of and multiple offensive units. Clearly, we began our first few games with different objectives. Certis likes to create a base (or even more than one base!) that is dedicated to the purpose of seeking my tiny men out, approaching my tiny men from multiple vectors, and levying ballistic death on my tiny, often weeping, men. I on the other hand, would create a unit, and then like a caring father encourage that unit to go places, explore, and lead a generally fulfilled life. I would construct a building, and then marvel at the industrious nature of my tiny men, who'd put together great scaffolding, and through sweat and solder erected a fancy new power plant, or perhaps even an airforce base. I could not let such enthusiastic efficiency go unwatched. It would have been an insult to both of the tiny men who worked so hard. About this time, Certis would show up with a battalion of tanks, and an army sizeable enough to capture any Mediterranean country.
The point is: I beat Certis. I just thought I would tell you that. And remind him.
Now, I will point out that my other RTS love of late is Age of Mythology which I picked up on a whim several weeks back. Age of Mythology is exactly the kind of impulse buy which validates the entire concept of impulse buying. It's an amazing game, with a meaty single player campaign and an absolutely staggering array of multiplayer tactics. The units are diverse and interesting, and the game is based on the successful Age of Empires design. It is also a game which I'm categorically terrible at, and a game at which Certis exacts his revenge.
Some might argue that the simplicity of Generals appeals to me because of my simple yet humble nature, while the complexity of Age of Mythology appeals to Certis because he is a jackass. To which I would agree. Regardless of the horror which was Certis' multi-phased Hydra attack, though I think my tactic of sending certainly doomed peasants to slaughter his wave of catapults was inspired, I am equally enthralled with Ensemble's offering as I am EA Pacific's. I don't know for certain whether we are talking about a genuine increase in the quality of RTS games on the market, or just a renewed interest, but either way, I'm pleased.
Now, it should only make sense that I'd be playing Warcraft 3, should it not? After all, we're talking about the best RTS on the market ... right? And yet, every time I load up Warcraft 3, I find myself wishing I was playing something, anything else. It was, in fact, Warcraft 3 that made me hesitate buying Age of Mythology in the first place, because after playing for several hours, losing several online games, and trudging through nearly half the single player campaign, I felt about the genre exactly the way I had before I started playing. I was bored.
Now, I'm not going to suggest that Warcraft 3 is a bad game, precisely. Obviously a gazillion people found it infinitely more fun than I did, and I have the objectivity to recognize that the problem is more likely with me than it is Warcraft. Still, I find myself wondering what precisely it is that generates my enthusiasm for Generals and AoM, while spurning Warcraft? I can't even imagine liking Warcraft 3 if I regularly beat Certis at it. You have to understand the magnitude of that!