In today’s world, are the best Strategy Games for the PC actually the MMO versions of old classics? The pinnacle of gaming competition, the definition of tactics and strategy? Well, yes, I think so!
The RTS (real-time strategy) genre is arguably one of the most competitive genres in the gaming industry. Whether you’re fighting friends in vicious head to head battles at your favorite LAN center, or you’re taking on the world in the online features of the latest strategy games, there are very few titles that can offer the tactic-fueled adrenaline that courses through our veins each and every battle.
Gone are the days of the RTS title that forced us to compete with mundanely predictable AI, the genre has evolved. Thanks to current technologies and the popularity of the genre, strategy gaming fans can now pitch their tactics to hundreds of different RTS titles, from popular franchises to fresh blood titles. Today we take a look at some of the best strategy games that have transferred from hugely popular franchises into online MMO (massively online multiplayer) hits.
Command & Conquer
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Easily sitting in the top 3 strategy games of all time, the Command & Conquer franchise has impressed strategy fans for almost two decades; with it’s original MS-DOS version releasing in 1995. Since that time the franchise has spawned a staggering arsenal of titles, including over 20 games and expansions. Some fans love the series for its futuristic technology, such as the lethal electric Tesla Coils, while others enjoyed decimating a squadron of enemy infantry with a pack of attack dogs; but there’s one thing we all love, the live-action cinematics.
Command & Conquer was one of the first strategy games to introduce such an enthralling storyline, with most other games opting to provide better game-play over that of an immersive story. However, the recipe proved successful for the various studios that worked with the franchise as Command & Conquer has sold over well over 5 million units. The game has also been hailed by critics across the globe including earning a staggering 6 world records in the Guinness World Records: Gamer’s Edition 2008.
Aside from excellent game mechanics, a thrilling storyline and a host of cut-scene hotties, Command & Conquer has many other calls to fame. One of which is the games main antagonist, Kane (played by Joe Kucan); who has plagued the attempts of strategy fans for over 15 years.
Command & Conquer Tiberium Alliances
In today’s industry it’s almost inevitable that such a successful franchise would spawn an MMO, and Command & Conquer isn’t any different with the recent release of Tiberium Alliances. Launching mid 2013 Command & Conquer Tiberium Alliances promised to bring many of the features from the popular PC strategy titles to the online space but sadly it came at a heavy price.
Due to the nature of MMORTS (massively multiplayer online real-time strategy games) EA Phenomic, the developers, were unable to incorporate one of the ingredients that made the franchise so popular, a storyline.
However, where it lacks in some departments it excels in others. MMORTS games, especially those played through an internet browser, are notorious for featuring shallow combat mechanics, lackluster PvP (player versus player combat) and graphics that wouldn’t feel out of place in 2005; but thankfully Command & Conquer Tiberium Alliances doesn’t follow that trend. Utilizing a unique combat feature Tiberium Alliances gives players the opportunity of training a variety of troops, organizing them into formation and then sending them out to attack enemy players.
Age of Empires
With roots dating as far back as 1997, Age of Empires is one of the first games that comes to mind whenever gamers talk about the very best strategy games.
It arrived during a time when the strategy genre was just becoming accepted amongst the gaming community, prompting thousands upon thousands of players to snatch it up within weeks of launch.
Unlike the majority of the best strategy games on PC, Age of Empires takes a historical approach to features and game play. The game focused on various ages throughout history, from the Stone Age right up to Native American lore. The developers spent many months researching facts for each Age of Empires game but they did so with the aim of creating a casually appealing historical approach, over that of an approach so accurate that flaws would not be found.
Age of Empires is one of the few strategy games that actually offered progression past that of just upgrading units and buildings. Through each of the Age of Empires titles players were able to gather resources, research new technologies and eventually transgress into the next age of development. This created dozens of different ways to play the game with many rushing to reach the next age while others would invest heavily into the technology of the current era, providing a depth of PvP rarely seen in other strategy titles.
Age of Empires Online
Age of Empires Online was another MMO adaptation of yet another hugely popular RTS franchise. Sadly however it has not been met with the same reception as the other games listed in our best strategy games article.
One of the games more defining aspects was that it provided players with their own instanced world to build in, meaning it wasn’t server-based like the majority of other MMORTS games.
Players could totally avoid communication with other Age of Empires fans if they wished, choosing to remain in solitude as they constructed new buildings, gathered valuable resources and trained powerful troops.
Although the instanced-based system was one of the games most defining aspects, it also resulted in its downfall. In January of this year Microsoft Studios, the developers, announced a complete cease in development for the aspiring MMO game.
What that basically means is that what you see is what you get, the developers will not be adding any more content to the game than what is already available. This was hard news to swallow for the thousands that had chosen to call Age of Empires home and it resulted in many jumping ship to other popular RTS games.
It just goes to show, even an iconic franchise with a huge following doesn’t necessarily guarantee success in the fickle world of the MMO industry. Due to the unfortunate demise of the player-base and the lack of future content it’s not likely we’ll see Age of Empires Online win any best strategy games awards, but it’s a noteworthy title purely because of how successful the franchise has become.
The oldest of the games featured in this article but by no means the worst. Since the release of the original game in 1993 The Settlers has spawned over 8 standalone games and over a dozen add-ons and expansions, creating one of the most expansive strategy games in PC gaming history.
Unlike Age of Empires and Command & Conquer, The Settlers relied on a slower, more casual approach to strategy gaming. Players were given complete control over the citizens that resided in their territories, choosing their destiny by assigning them to complete various duties.
Picking up arms and defending the colony, searching for resources, mining for ore and hunting animals are just some of the varied activities players could assign to their settlers, with over 25 options in all.
The Settlers has become the quieter of this bunch in recent years, with its last major released dating back in 2010. For this reason some feel the franchise may be on its last legs, no longer deserving to be called one of the best strategy games of the modern era, but many fans still hold out hope for an announcement detailing the release of another Settlers title.
The Settlers Online
The Settlers Online approached the MMORTS genre with a slightly different aim to its strategy based competitors, hoping to aspire to become one of the best games with a unique approach to features and mechanics, and to some extent; that gamble has paid off.
The Settlers Online has a lot more in common with the foundations of the franchise, unlike C&C and AoE that chose to create entirely new systems. The Settlers Online stays true to the franchise; which is a large reason why so many find it an appealing strategy game.
The MMO version supports a similar graphical style to the original games, it features many similar construction mechanics and it incorporates the MMO features without destroying the single player aspect. This powerful recipe has proven to be a great choice for the development as the game has become extremely popular; with many fans saying that it captures the uniqueness and quality of the original games in the online space. Arguably one of the best strategy games online available today.