Are classic real-time strategy games really dead?

It is safe to say that the golden age of classic RTS games is found during the 1990s and early 2000s of the 21st century, with thousands of gamers enjoying some of the best strategy games that would go on to become franchises. of the genre. Since then, however, the popularity of this corner of the genre has dwindled in number of active players and interest from developers, which begs the question: has classic RTS been laid to rest, never to return to the forefront of the game? cultural spirit of video games?

Well, it’s not a simple cut and dry situation and classic RTS games are nowhere near dead, although they have a long way to go to reach their previous heights of fame.

Classic real-time strategy games hold a special place in the strategy genre and there are several reasons for their popularity and impact. Game design undoubtedly plays one of the biggest roles in making classic RTS games what they are and is why so many gamers flock to this subset to get their fill of strategy.

The core components of classic RTS typically combine a balance of high-level strategic decision-making and macro-management elements, such as base building and resource gathering, with plenty of real-time combat micro-management thrown in for good measure. This combination of systems gives these games the opportunity for players to interact with a complete experience that allows you to use your intellect and physical prowess to triumph over your opponents. All in all, it’s an attractive approach that can attract and satisfy the interests of many new and veteran players with divergent tastes.

The next big reason for the appeal and popularity of classic RTS games is presentation. This can include graphics, art direction, sound design, setting, narrative, and really anything else that gives the game a catchy, gripping, and memorable look. Many of the best classic RTS games are set in sci-fi, fantasy, and even historical settings such as the medieval period, World War II, and the Cold War, serving to draw you in and ground you in the game world. If you find yourself repeating the barks and unit responses throughout the day, that means the game caught your eye.

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Finally, the business side of things also plays a part in the popularity of classic RTS. This can be the company reputation of a developer or publisher, as recognizable names, market leaders, and experienced teams come with their own brand of trust and expectation of high-quality products. Also, an effective and talented marketing department and a decent budget can go a long way in sparking excitement and interest in your game.

We think there are at least three main points that explain why classic real-time strategy games are not dead.

legacy games

age of empires 4

The claim that real-time strategy games really are dead does a huge disservice to games, old and new, that have received ongoing support, remasters, re-releases, or have strong and loyal player bases. It’s unfair to ignore the continuing impact that giant franchises and venerable one-off titles still have on the strategy genre.

Some examples of games and franchises that are still going strong, either due to official developer support or thanks to the efforts of fans, are Age of Empires 2, as well as the recently released Age of Empires 4, Supreme Commander: Forged. Alliance and many others. Granted, they’re definitely not at the same levels of player interest as the classic RTS in their heyday, but they’re certainly not buried or forgotten.

Resurgence of developer interest

homeworld 3
homeworld 3

Just a couple of years ago, this argument would be far less convincing, but just in the past year and now in 2022, the strategy genre has been helped with a flurry of official and early access announcements and releases from indie studios and video game studios. Big budget for a lot of classic RTS style games. Clearly, there are plenty of young and veteran developer teams out there who are interested in bringing their own voices to classic RTS games, whether it’s due to a gap in the market, personal inspiration, or simply a desire to help make it happen. this subset of games come back.

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Just to name a few games: Stormgate, Tempest: Rising, Crossfire: Legion, and Homeworld 3. On the indie circuit, games like Purple War, The Fertile Crescent, Red Chaos – The Strict Order, and Barkhan show that this fervor for new classics RTS experiences are emerging on many different levels.

Modified classic real-time strategies

warno game
warno game

Finally, there is a wide variety of strategy games of all kinds inspired by classic RTS games that also carry on the legacy and popularity of these types of games. These games have their design DNA directly rooted or taken directly from classic RTS, though they may be more experimental or somewhat different from their parent, and as such are worth including in this discussion.

Games like Company of Heroes 2, Eugen Systems’ Wargame and Steel Division series, as well as the most recent WARNO, Fulqrum Publishing’s (formerly 1C Entertainment) Men of War series, They Are Billions, Dune: Spice Wars, Line War and many others take the basics of classic RTS and develop them. In fact, of all the games listed here, the Company of Heroes series arguably kept the classic RTS games alive almost single-handedly up until this point, as it came to the end of the golden age of strategy games in real time classics.

It’s certainly true to say that, at least at this point, classic RTS have faded from the front of the strategy genre, but it’s definitely wrong to say that this massive and critical subset of the genre is done for good. In fact, due to the absolute whirlwind of new game releases and announcements, we may see a significant resurgence of classic RTS games with their best days still in store.

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Ultimately, we can rely on customer demand, clamor and interest, as well as developer inspiration and the desire to create games to keep RTS classics going well into the future. And finally, it’s extremely unlikely that an entire core subset of games will simply die or disappear from the cultural ethos without a significant amount of time passing, lack of quality titles, and other exceptional factors fading away. No, classic RTS games are not dead and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for these games.

READ NEXT:The 10 best strategy games on Xbox Game Pass

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