As many of you know (and if not don't worry, I'll explain it anyway) there are many genres of games, each with particular types of gameplay and fans that enjoy that gameplay. As the years go on, various genres of games rise to the top, enjoying a moment in fame, and then slide out to make room for another genre that has caught the public's eye. Currently, the number one genre is the FPS, or first person shooter, a style of game in which the player or player see the world through the eyes of the protagonist, and are usually given a military task such as "save the world." Third-person shooters also fall under this category (similar games but with an over the shoulder perspective) and currently the market is flooded with them. Not that this is a bad thing, it has given us some truly great games, such as Halo, Crysis, Gears of War, and others.
But what about the other genres? Have they been left in the dust? No, certainly not, especially with one particular genre, that is flourishing almost silently. the Real-Time strategy game, or RTS.
RTS games are a type in which the player takes on the role of a leader or commander of some type, and then orders around various characters under them to achieve specific goals. For obvious reasons, most RTS games tend to have a military focus, the player constructs a military base of some type, manages an economy and base defenses while trying to train an army and execute a superior attack on his opponent.
Of course, non-violent varients pop up from time to time, such as Will Wright's ever classic Sim-city series, in which as mayor, you must organize and manage your own city through financial difficulties and natural disasters, plus (if you're good) some success and parades in your honor. Or riots, depending on how you do.
Thing is, over the last few years there have been some truly great releases in this genre, and that really works well, because unlike some other genres (say, sports) where the novelty of what you can do very quickly, RTS games tend to last longer if they are well designed, because they have a depth of strategies and capabilities at your disposal. It is for reasons like this that Blizzard's wonderful StarCraft game is still played by millions worldwide, even though it was released ten years ago. I myself still have another Blizzard-made RTS installed on my computer, the classic Warcraft III. Its still a blast to play.
Why do the RTS games have such a depth and lasting hold? It has in part to do with their length. A single game of Stardock's Sins of a Solar Empire lasted me 11 and a half hours. Rest assured, I did not play that at one sitting. But that single round of gameplay lasted much longer then the story-modes of most FPS games currently on the market. And that was just one game.
Another reason, RTS games bring a lot of depth to the table. Once, while Beta-testing Electronic Art's Red Alert 3 (Beta-testing is when you test a game by playing it before it is released to the general public, looking for glitches, bugs, balance issues and other errors) I pulled a particularly tricky move on two other opponents. Both had mastered the economy far better then I, and as a result had much more massive navy's. However, seeing that the two were right next to each other, and that one was playing the same faction that I was, I decided to pull a fast one. By sending my submarines up into the territory between the two players, I pulled a serious of hit and run attacks that convinced the one player that it was his neighbor attacking him with his subs. Angrily the two players threw their massive navies at each other, only to grind themselves down to barely anything and prove completely defenseless by the time I arrived with my smaller, but now larger, navy. I won not through brute force, but careful manipulation.
Elements like that are what bring RTS games their charm and their lasting enjoyment. But they drop prices at the same rate as the other genres, leaving RTS fans with a lot of great choices at low prices. For example, an RTS fan today could find in stores:
Starcraft--$20 (three sci-fi races, one human and two very alien, battle it out for dominance in a distant star system)
Warcraft 3--$20 (Fantasy--the humans have crushed the Orc juggernaut and have had peace for the last ten years, but a new threat arises from the North--Four sides in deeply built world)
Sins of a Solar Empire--$20 (Three space faring races compete to build the ultimate galactic empire)
Command and Conquer 3: Deluxe Edition--$40 (Sci-fi--Nod and GDI once again wage war over tiberium, but they are not the only ones. Classic gameplay with lots of cool units and very nice graphics)
Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3--$40 (This C&C spin off explores alternate history again. If Hitler never existed, and the Soviets had time travel technology, this game would still be absurd but awesome) WARNING--READ this post first before purchasing RA3.
Earth 2160--$20 (while not as grand as some of the games on this list and holding the torch of some of the worst voice acting in existance, the games ability to create your own units from the ground up, complete with chassis, engine and armor, makes for some interesting strategies)
Supreme Commander Gold Edition--$30 (Who needs a map when you can zoom out to see the whole battlefield, then back in to watch indivudual units slug it out. Great for those who like orchestrating Epic battles with thousands of units, and superweapons that are truly super)
And thats just the short list. And they're all under 50 dollars. Now thats a deal. Truly, if you enjoy RTS games, its a good time to be you.
Games I'm currently Playing: Gears of War 2 (360), WarCraft 3 (PC), Dance Dance Revolution 2 (360), soul Caliber 4 (360), AudioSurf (PC)