The strategy genre is still thriving on the PC, you might think it's not as popular as it used to be, but people are interested in it. However, if you look closely, you are unlikely to see at least one new RTS. What happened to RTS, which was once like battle royale today? Can the RTS genre return from the dead? The forecast is not the best, according to PC Gamer.
In the 90s, RTS was king. The predecessors of the genre existed in the early 80s, while the first RTS itself was, perhaps, Herzog Zwei, which in the future inspired many eminent strategy developers. She even laid some groundwork for what the future MOBA will be. However, it was Westwood Studios that released the first full-fledged and successful RTS, Dune 2, in 1992.
It took a little longer for other developers to follow suit. Blizzard was the first to do this. Warcraft borrowed a lot of mechanics from Dune 2, but changed the setting from sci-fi to fantasy and added a standard online multiplayer component. It was after this that the boom began, and the rivalry between the two studios gave us the games that we consider today icons, from Command & Conquer and ending with StarCraft.
These games pushed technology forward and experimented with both storytelling and mechanics. Then we saw experimental projects like the incredibly massive Total Annihilation, Age of Empire and Civilization. There was enough slag, but along with it, a huge number of new, smart games appeared. It seemed as if there was no end to them, but it came much earlier than anyone could expect.
Unlike action games, RTS was unable to adapt to 3D. Both genres have played a critical role in the success of PC games, and when new technology and game engines emerged, both genres tried to move into an extra dimension. Publishers invested a lot of money in promoting games on consoles, which were almost impossible to play in RTS, and they rarely went beyond the PC. The genre's success in the 2000s was the exception rather than the rule. Games like Homeworld and Company of Heroes remain some of the most beloved RTS of all time, but the genre has begun to die out.
In 2010, Blizzard finally continued their sci-fi epic with StarCraft 2, and this was the very last high-profile RTS as such. Despite its critical and commercial success, it did not have a positive impact on the genre. Instead of proving that RTS is still viable, it made it clear that the genre no longer had a place. Thanks to esports and DLC, it continued to keep players entertained.
The success of StarCraft 2 is an indication that the industry is more interested in real-time games than in strategy games. Unsurprisingly, MOBAs like League of Legends and DOTA have taken over the crown and become the new trend. But where did the people disappear who just wanted calm solitary companies? StarCraft 2 still had both, but the publishers decided these things weren't moving the industry forward in any way. Twitch, microtransactions, constant stream of updates - then it became the norm. Players like me have been left out in the cold.
Of course, it's easy to blame the evil publishers for everything, but part of the blame also lies with the games themselves, which could not adapt or find new bait for the players. There were, of course, attempts, and even several of them were victorious. Warhammer 40K and Company of Heroes continued to evolve. Eugen Systems brought real-time combat to war games with the exceptional Wargame and Steel Division franchise. They were rare and therefore appreciated.
The only thing these games have in common is getting rid of a lot of familiar mechanics like resource gathering that have been typical of RTS games for decades. Company of Heroes still allows you to build some buildings, while resources are collected by capturing and achieving goals, contributing to much more conflicts. At the same time, Wargame and Steel completely threw away buildings and resources, focusing all attention on the battles themselves. Command & Conquer 4 tried to do the same, which was great.
What about indie developers? When we want to get away from trends, we turn to them. Unfortunately, not this time. But this does not mean that there were none at all. We played They Are Billions, in which your vulnerable city was opposed by huge hordes of zombies, and Northgard, a kind of Age of Empire about the Vikings. We also had a large number of hybrids, such as Bad North and AI Wars 2, but this was hardly a revival.
RTS needed a spark, but lately it seems to me that we are blowing on embers in the hope that the fire will somehow kindle. Right now, everyone seems to be more excited about remakes and sequels. Of course, it was good to see that Microsoft brought up Age of Empires, which led to several remasters and, even more warming, Relic is developing Age of Empires 4. I will not deny that I look forward to reimagining Warcraft through the prism of Warcraft 3 Reforged ... And of course Homeworld 3 awaits us!
I hope that all these remakes and sequels will spark the industry and inspire a new wave of my favorite games, but I've been waiting for this for two decades. I just don't quite believe that even if they are well received, they will influence the popularity of the RTS genre. They stand aside. Are people excited about waiting for Age of Empires 4 because it's an RTS during the genre's drought period, or are they just excited because it's Age of Empires?
In fact, I'm not as confident in myself anymore than a few years ago, when I thought everyone loved RTS. Oftentimes, fans have switched to MOBA. This genre has never been my favorite, except for Smite and Heroes of the Storm, because I love Blizzard characters. But now the MOBA genre has merged into several small games that have become services.
While writing this article, I thought I could figure out how to finish it inspiring. The resurrection of the RTS is my 2020 crusade. But to be honest, this thought makes me even more sad. This is not possible for one person, especially if that person is a writer and not a game developer. And I have a sneaky suspicion that what I want is not what most people want, or what is bound to be the best for the genre. Competitive side, esports, streamers - I don't care, but you can't ignore that they are in many ways the reason StarCraft 2 has stayed with us for so long.
The Topic of Article: Will RTS come back from the dead?.