Posts Tagged ‘Take Command: Second Manassas’

It’s going to be a big year for real-time strategy fans with several eagerly anticipated games slated to come out this year.

There is, of course, Blizzard’s long “in progress” Starcraft II which still seems to be on track for a mid-year release.  It is Blizzard so it will probably be a very good game.  It is Blizzard, so it probably won’t be terribly innovative (and early reports have not been encouraging in that regard) because that is Blizzard’s MO: nothing particularly new, but do the tried and true better than anyone else.  There are more than enough Blizzard fanbois to ensure that this will be a huge hit, although expectations are so insanely high for this game that there is no way it can possibly deliver everything to everyone.

Ubisoft is releasing Eugen’s R.U.S.E. in the first quarter.  Whether or not its deception-based game mechanics will “refresh” the strategy genre remains to be seen but it is an intriguing idea with a lot of potential.  It is a considerable advance over the traditional (and usually poorly and unimaginatively implemented) “fog of war” approach.  The term “fog of war” is usually misapplied, actually, when it comes to strategy games.  In combat situations it refers to the wide variety of factors that sow the seeds of confusion in the minds of commanders: limited knowledge about the enemy, about the terrain, about the disposition of your own units, previously unrevealed problems with your own communications infrastructure or the capabilities of weapons and units, and so on.  In gaming terms, it is simply “here is a part of the battlefield that we won’t let you see” and more by good luck than good management this approach usually manages to accomplish the first two limitations described above, but little else.   R.U.S.E. takes this one step further in that some of what you see will in fact not turn out to be what you think you see (a column of light tanks rolls toward your position and is suddenly revealed to be a squadron of King Tigers , that sort of thing).  While many RTS games (the Command and Conquer series, for example) have employed units with stealth and/or deception capabilities, this falls well short of R.U.S.E.‘s vision of deception as a core gameplay mechanic on the virtual battlefield.  Again, some suspiciously high expectations for this one, but again, that may just reflect your average gamer’s inability to keep the potential of any game in meaningful perspective once they catch the scent.

Napoleon: Total War has just been released.  It has been promoted as the game that Empire: Total War should have been upon its release, with an improved battlefield AI, some long overdue campaign options (armies suffer attrition when marching through extreme cold and heat) and better eye candy.  I have it, haven’t played it yet, reserving judgment.

These, then, are the heavy hitters of the RTS gaming world.  However, the anticipation surrounding the release of all these titles will ensure that other titles, potentially just as innovative if not more so, will go unnoticed, simply because they come from smaller studios that don’t have the means to blanket the Internet and the gaming press with publicity.