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Interesting RTS games

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Some time ago I decided to go through Wikipedia's list of real time strategies, looking for games which do something I didn't see before. So I took a deeper look on every entry from 1990 to 2019 and found quite a few games which I added to my ever-growing backlog.

What I found I combined with games I already know of and the result is the following list.
Every game mentioned here is not necessarily a good game but it does do something different from the games most people are familiar with - Command & Conquer games, Relic games (e.g. Dawn of War), Paradox games (e.g. Hearts of Iron), Age of Empires, Warcraft, Total Annihilation...
Also, keep in mind that I think of RTS as a game where you gather resources, build army and fight enemy force, all of that at the same time. So I didn't include games which fall more into real-time tactics territory, often the crucial difference being in the inability to produce additional units during a mission.


Achron

 


Probably the most unique game in this list. This game allows for real time travel. The game keeps track of the state of the match for past few minutes and calculates some time forward as well. You can give orders to your troops in the past to change the game state further on.
This allows for things like sending unit to scout enemy, then once you see what he has, change the order in the past and spare your unit. My favourite feature is that the game tells players when they are about to get defeated in near future.
I didn't play it so I don't understand how exactly the game works but I'm definitely going to get my hands on it soon.

Age of Empires 3

 


The third AoE is not much different from the previous one on the surface and even then most changes are nothing special, maybe just a bit weird. What makes this game interesting are actually the cards. Usually having a card system means customizing your faction, changing bonuses or even available units. In AoE3 however, a lot of cards are one use bonuses, stuff like you get X gold, or you get X musketeers.
With these you can rapidly change your situation in game and so far I didn't see this in any other RTS. It's not much, but it is unique.

Anno 1404

 


It's like a city management game but with more warfare. There are other colonies on the map besides yours and you will compete with them over good colony spots, trading with them and fighting with them.
From what I read, Anno 1404 is one of the best in the series.

Arena Wars

 


An attempt of combining RTS gameplay with old-school arena shooter design. You have a fixed amount of resources for which you can buy your units. When a unit dies it is fully refunded. The map has respawning bonuses you can pick up and has an objective you need to accomplish, such as capture the enemy flag or carrying a bomb.
In a match you would constantly change your army composition based on what other players have, fight over pick-ups and of course kill each other. It was rereleased as Arena Wars Reloaded and there is a sequel as well but it seems to be worse than the original.

Battleforge

 


A trading card game mixed with RTS. Your deck is basically your faction. Enough said.

Battle Isle Andosia War

 


This is an odd one. Unit movement and fighting is all done in turn based manner. However economy, research and production go in real time. It gives you something to do while you wait for the enemy to finish turn but I guess you could also try to stall a bit to produce more. Turns have a time limit though.

Black & White 2

 


A god game. You manage cities, build troops, perform miracles using your people worship and train your creature to do various task, all using your godly hand which can interact with pretty much everything on the map but only within the domain of your cities.
That creates an interesting scenario where you can lob miracles or simply big rocks around to ruin enemy stuff. Ever wanted to just swat away those enemy soldiers? Now you can.
The first game is largely the same, missing armies but allowing for multiplayer.

Brütal Legend

 


First of all, if you like metal music play this game, it's awsome. Other than that, the game is mainly an RTS controlled through your avatar in third perspective. What is interesting, is the double team mechanic. With your avatar you can team up with most units to increase their strength or use special ability, some of which can be really powerful.
Double team and pretty much all of the game is build around the game's story, setting and protagonist being a roadie - whose job is to make someone else look good, thus double team. Overall it is quite tightly designed game.

Chaos Island: Lost World

 


In this game you control only a few people which you use for pretty much everything. You collect air-dropped supplies, build a base and more importantly you collect and hatch dinosaur eggs. Your people can fight but dinos are much better. The amount and kind of dinos available depend on which nests you have access to and how many eggs you found. Basically you find your units on the map, pretty unique.

Colobot

 


While on the surface it looks more like a puzzle game, you still collect resources, build units and defend yourself from enemies. As an RTS it is very basic but what makes it stand out is the ability to write custom AI for your units using the game programming language.

Conflict Zone

 


This game has a unique popularity mechanic which determines your tech level. The ICP faction gains popularity from actions such as taking refugees from villages or rescuing soldiers taken prisoner but it will lose it when civilians get killed and villages destroyed. The GHOST faction on the other hand gains up to 50% popularity by recruiting civilians and to go beyond that they need to use cameraman unit which increases popularity when it can see GHOST units winning but decreases popularity in case player starts taking loses.
This way players need to compete over village control and they can suddenly lose access to their best units in case their popularity drops.

Cossacks 2

 


What makes this game interesting is one thing and thats unit limit. The game supports up to 64 000 individual units on the map. Even in games without unit cap, like C&C, you are not likely to see that many units at once and the engine might not even be able to handle that anyway.
What I picked up though is American Conquest. Similar game, with half the unit cap, but factions like Aztecs included in the mix. Also a bit more obscure.

Creeper World 3

 


Like a mix of RTS and tower defense game with enemy being an ever-growing mass of instant-kill acid. Missions put you into various positions and scenarios in which you will have to figure out how to survive, build up and capture what you need to end the mission.
It's fun, try it.

Crusader Kings 2

 


What makes CK stand apart from the rest of Paradox games is putting player under control of a dynasty of rulers instead of a country.
A lot of things can happen here. You and your descendants can become rulers of various countries or serve under AI controlled rulers. Of course you can go to war but also marry the right people and increase your influence that way.

Dawn of War 3

 


A lot of weird decisions were made in DoW3. Like it or not, it makes it stand out.
With things like timed escalation phases changing the game flow, anti-rush map features and free respawning super powerful elite units, the experience is quite different.

DEFCON: Everybody Dies

 


While it looks like a simple game (and it is) there is surprising amount of depth in the way how you place and use your assets, especially in multiplayer game with diplomacy.

D&D Dragonshard

 


In this game, you start with your base, which has limited amount of buildings it can support, where you hire your heroes and units. Map has two levels - the surface where you collect dragonshards dropping from the sky and the undeground dungeon where only heroes can go to fight neutral monsters and gather gold.
Raiding dungeon is important since vast majority of your gold will come from there. Besides that it is a good place to gain experience but also to ambush weakened enemy heroes. And while heroes are busy in the dungeon, you can use your surface units to harrass enemy base.
Also, gained experience goes to a global pool so you can level up anything no matter whether it was in a fight or not.

Earth 2160



A mix of many mechanics and features - customizable vehicles, vehicles have drivers, heroes with equipment, cover system, units need ammo, shields, psychic attacks, hacking...
What cought my attention though were the aliens. Aliens have a unarmed ground unit which collects resources by standing close to resource deposit, can duplicate and morph to other units. Similarly they have a unarmed flying unit which does the same. These two use different resources so you always build both ground and air force. The fighting units can't duplicate though, so if you lose all your basic units you can no longer build aircraft and/or troops.
They also have no research or customability like other factions in the game but because of how they work they can exponentially scale their production.

Genewars



You control a team of up to 5 people/aliens and your task is to grow plants, harvest them, study wildlife and grow the animals in a vat so you can send your army of monsters against other expeditions. You see, there was an intergalactic war which destroyed a lot of ecosystems but it was stopped by the arrival of another much more advanced aliens - Ethereals. And they decided to essentially lobotmize the responsible species except one who performs the best in recultivating the galaxy.
In each mission you need to accomplish given objectives before other teams do. Ethereals will make a visit from time to time, rewarding or punishing based on what they see you and other teams doing. One of those rewards is a monolith which allows you to improve your people and unlock special abilities of your creatures.

Halo Wars

 


I would normally overlook this one. However, it was designed to be played using a controller and playing an otherwise standard RTS using a controller is something I would like to try out.

Heroes of Annihilated Empires

 


Take Cossacs, make it fantasy and add heroes. But what this game allows you to do, is to choose at the beginning of the match if you want to freeze your hero for 30 min and gain some workers or if you want to continue just with your hero. This way you can choose to play the game as an RTS or as an RPG.
This creates unique scenario where one player is building up base and army, while the other one is running around leveling his hero, gathering equipment and converting neutral monster dwellings to his side, which then send troops to enemy players. After a while you get a very powerful hero taking on an entire army.

Homeworld Emergence

 


Apart the moving base and your fleet carrying over between missions the most unique aspect is the full 3D range of movement. Maybe bit underutilized but still.

Hooligans: Storm over Europe

 


As you might have guessed by the title, you control a group of troublemakers and you wreak havoc to anything between you and football stadium. You need to loot shops, hire more goons in pub and accomplish your objective.
You can hire special goons which you can control directly or just buy some beer and get random people to follow you. Don't forget to chant to increase your morale and make use of bricks or vehicles. There are rival hooligan groups in your way and of course patroling riot police ready to use tear gas on everyone.

Kingdom Wars

 


It's a proper MMORTS, not like the browser based ones. I read somewhere the developers drew inspiration from Battle for Middle Earth and it shows. It is also very buggy game, though none of the bugs are game breaking, and has "unrealized potential" written all over.
What is there is solid. You have your base, you gain resources over time, you can produce and level up units, you can take them to quests and you can take them to sieges of NPC or player bases. What is missing is mainly the incentive to actually bother.
Your only reward for doing all this is just crowns, which you can buy for gold and their only purpose is to slow down your progress since all technologies and special units need them. Unit production means nothing since there is no time pressure, you have all the time in the world.
The game would benefit greatly from some towns which could be captured by player alliances and to which you could order sending your produced units while you are offline. There is plenty of other activities which could be added but in it's current state it is just a shell of a great game.

Maelstorm: Battle for Earth Begins

 


Very unpolished game but you can shape terrain and the alien faction can build structures which causes water to rise. They also gain bonuses when in water while some of the units of other factions cannot enter water, forcing them to build walls.

Magic the Gathering: Battlegrounds

 


This might be stretching it a bit but I'm thinking about MtG:B as sort of combination of RTS and a fighting game.
You have your deck of cards, that determines what creatures, spells and enchantments you have available. In game, you move in an arena, you gather mana which appear periodically, is dropped from all dead creatures and created by some creatures, and you use your spells and creatures to attack the enemy, summoning the right counter to what enemy is doing. That is the RTS part.
The fighting part comes in with your ability to move around, melee attack creatures and defend. Also you need to pay attention to what and when you summon. The more mana something needs the longer it takes to cast, summoning the right combination in the right moment will overwhelm the opponent and your creatures will get close enough to hit him. Not to mention reactionary spells like counterspell which you can use to nullify enemy spell.
Definitely not something you would imagine under label of RTS but still a game worth a look in my opinion.

Majesty

 


Build medieval fantasy city, collect taxes, hire heroes, defeat monsters. Seen it, done it. But here's the catch, you can't control your heroes. You as the king have to deal with the evil in the land which loves to raid your city while your heroes would much rather go exploring than stay and defend it.
Different kinds of heroes have different behavior and your survival depends on putting up rewards to motivate them and building shops to better equip them.

Metal Fatigue

 


Wage war on the surface, undeground and on the orbit all at the same time. This game has 3 layers you can move your units between and some units can attack from one layer to another.
Besides that there are also combots - humanoid mechs with customizable parts. Each faction has access to some unique parts and when you battle a combot it is possible to sever its parts, allowing you to snatch them and research them.

Natural Selection 2

 


Though most people will play this game as a shooter, when you get to the commander role you will get to play a low scale RTS where most of your army is controled by other players and so they do whatever they want.
Still, you are resposible for putting down buildings, advancing your side's technology and helping your team-mates by dropping consumables and weapons.

NetStorm: Islands at War

 


Another odd game. Map consists of flying islands. Your arsenal consists mostly of towers but in order to build them you need a path between your main building and the tower. For that purpose you can put down sky bridges to connect your island with other islands. You can put these down for free, pretty much as fast as you can click.
These bridges can be walked by your workers as well, which will go to fountains to collect resources and may go to enemy island and steal their priest so you can sacrifice him and win.

Nightside

 


Mostly average RTS with somewhat interesting factions. The most interesting is the human faction which has true mobile base, by which I mean all their buildings can move and they continue to work when they move. Not at all like Homeworld where base is just one special ship or starcraft where they can't move and work at the same time.

Offworld Trading Company

 


Economic war. Manufacture products, make money, sabotage and buy out other players.

Original War

 


This game is all about your team of people. They do everything and as they do it they get better at it. And because you can't just buy new ones in barracks it only makes sense that you can build customizable vehicles for them to fight in.
Other than that you will see some less used features such as resources randomly spawning on the map or in deposits which can't be depleted, vehicles requiring fuel and wildlife you can tame.

Outpost 2

 


Somewhere between classic RTS and Anno series. You mine resources and produce customizable vehicles but you also build your colony which you need to take care of - assigning people to jobs, make sure they have what they need so that their morale does not take a dive. Overall faster and more combat focused than Anno.

ParaWorld

 


In ParaWorld you can have only a limited number of units in each of 5 tiers, higher tiers allowing for less units. What you can do however, is to promote any unit into higher tier, which will increase its stats and also fully heal it. And you can do that anytime, even during combat.
Also dinosaurs! With guns!

Perimeter

 


Weird stuff again. You have to shape terrain, because you can only build on flat ground. You also generate resources from flat ground covered by your generators, so the more of the map you control the more resources you have. Also you can bring up shield bubble around your whole area which will block projectiles and kill enemies.
Your units also behave weird. You can build only three basic units, which you build in large quantities and then you morph them together into smaller number of more specialized units. You can morph them back as well so you can constantly change your army composition. Also you are limited to 5 different unit groups.

Planetary Annihilation: Titans

 


While PA is very similar to Total Annihilation or Supreme Commander, it does have something unique and that is the maps. In PA you play on one or more planetary bodies. You can build ground, air and sea units but you can also go to orbit and build there. Of course you can also bombard from orbit and you can move to other planets as well. And when nukes simply don't cut it anymore, you can smash an asteroid into planet and destroy it.

Rise and Fall: Civilizations at War

 


This game has one unique feature and that's technology progression tied to hero levels. To gain access to better stuff you need to level up first. Also you can directly control your hero for limited time which will make the hero much stronger during that time.
Not much but I had to mention it.

Rise of Nations

 


Another one unique thing game. When units are in enemy territory, they suffer attrittion, losing health unless they have supply units around.
If you want more obscure title, try Rise of Legends. It has the same feature but it is a sort-of fantasy game.

Rock Raiders

 


This is a charming little game. It's based on the LEGO Rock Riders set and you will control a group of space miners digging for energy crystals, defending from rock monsters which eat them and other hazards.
Usually you need to find certain amount of energy crystals on the map, which you also use to power certain buildings or vehicles, which are operated by your people after you train them appropriately.

R.U.S.E.

 


What this game allows you to do, is to create fake units with which you can trick other players.

Sacrifice

 


You play a wizard devoted to one of five gods. You go around, cast spells, summon creatures and take hold of mana deposits. There is another resource besides mana though and that is souls. Different creatures take different amount of souls and when they die the souls stay with the body until someone collects them.
However to collect soul from enemy creature, you need to first purify it by sending it to an altar. So, there is a fixed amount of souls which change ownership between players as the game progresses and can be also lost forever in certain circumstances, lowering the total amount on the map.
Also, you can resurrect when you die. To get rid of players you need to banish them by desecrating their altar using one of your creatures as a sacrifice.

Seven Kingdoms 2

 


The spies. Spies here are a real unit on the map and not only that, when you send spy to enemy player the spy will obey the player's commands. What can happen then is that the spy can get promoted to general which can become king in case current king dies. So if you can put this all together you can make the enemy player lose by switching the spy-king back to your side.
This mechanic originates from the first game but the second game keeps it and adds playable monster factions and other little things.

Sins of Solar Empire: Rebellion

 


An RTS game scaled up to 4X level. You can colonize dozens of planets, research technologies, do diplomacy and build big armies while still being able to micromanage them in battle, using their abilities etc.

Star Trek Armada



In this game ships have a subsystem mechanic and a crew count. Subsystems can get damaged causing the ship to lose ability to move, shoot etc, at least until the crew manages to fix it. Every ship is also capable of transfering crew to other ships, including the enemy ones when their shields are down which can result in your crew taking control of the enemy ship.
Star Trek Armada 2 has this feature as well but you generally build more ships there and they are more easily destroyed, making crew transfer less significant.

State of War

 


Here you don't build bases but capture factories on the map which then continue to produce unlimited amount of vehicles for free. You can't destroy them but you can upgrade them, build towers and call air support.

Steel Division 2



It's the most realistic game which still counts as an RTS for me.

Stronghold

 


The best game for turtling I know of. There are resources to obtain on the map but you can produce food almost anywhere and buy the rest from taxes. You have plenty of options for defense - build walls any way you want, dig moats, prepare traps, build ballista towers and if the enemy is not around you can instantly repair your defenses.

SunAge: Battle for Elysium

 


Apart from having buildings that need to be connected to power net, SunAge has a bit unique resource system. There are four tiers of resources which are located further and further from the player's starting location. What resource you have access to basicaly determines your tech level since basic units only need tier 1 resource, better units need tier 2 resource etc.

Tanktics

 


Ok, get this. You are a flying creature (differs) carrying a magnet and your goal is to build tanks by stacking parts on top of each other and fight enemy tanks with them. For that you use a machine which produces parts which is powered by sheep running on thread. They get tired after some time so you need to let them rest. There are also black sheep which can turn normal sheep to black and many other things.
It's quite bizarre.

They Are Billions

 


This game's schtick is about the difficulty curve. You have certain amount of time to expand and build up before the zombie horde arrives. The horde is huge and if you played right you may survive it.

Tooth & Tail

 


This game has an unusual control scheme where what would normaly be your mouse cursor is replaced by a leader unit which can't attack but can run around scouting the map, place buildings and more importantly call troops to its location or marking priority target by standing close to it. It can also get killed which will make it respawn after a while.
Another important aspect is the focus on randomly generated maps which generally means there is not much symmetry in them. Also your units are purchased automatically from dwellings you place. Matches in this game are fast and, due to the more chaotic maps and varied units, quite fun.

Tone Rebellion

 


Its one of those games which on first glance already look interesting. You play as one of four tribes on many side-scrolling maps connected to each other through gates. Each of the tribes is strong against one and weak against other and they also periodically get stronger and weaker based on in-game time.
There is also the Leviathan which is hostile to all tribes and has structures and units everywhere, becoming more aggressive as player progresses. However to progress between maps you need to solve puzzles, which consist of finding various artifacts and figuring out what they are for.

War for the Overworld



WftO is pretty much a sequel to the older Dungeon Keeper games. The core of the game is carving out your own dungeon into the map, raising an army within it and storming the enemy dungeon. The ability to shape the map allows you to prepare heavily trapped corridors for the enemies, they may take a shortcut through nearby wall though.

Warlords Battlecry 3



Fun little fantasy RTS with one interesting thing - your hero is persistent between matches. If you are patient enough you can build up a very powerful hero which can wreck skirmish AI in seconds.
The previous games are not much different besides having less factions to choose from.

Worldshift

 


You can image Worldshift as a loot focused dungeon crawler (e.g. Diablo) but instead of one character you have an army. Finishing missions grants you rewards which you can equip to get new abilities for your units or make them more powerful in some aspect and generaly shape the faction you play to particular strategy.
Based on the game mode you either build units for resources or you have reinforcing ability with a cooldown on your leader.

 

Edited by Plegyvap
Added Earth 2160. (see edit history)

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i'm surprised that you didn't stumble on Gangland, but somehow you managed to find out about ParaWorld and that D&D rts game

 

also i'm amazed at how many of these i actually know already, the rts market is really small, we don't get nearly enough games, as the other genres, which is a shame, RTS games are my favourite games of all time, something about them clicks really well with my brain, they are just naturally fun, when given a really good premise for me

 

even the blandest, storyless rts game can still be fun, if it has some actual personality to it, or if the game has an interesting premise

 

command & conquer 4 sucks ass though, and red alert 3 is so much fun, but i hate the micro management you need to do with the abilities, plus the game is capped at 30 fps, which is such an honest to god shame, and come on, age of mythology ran at a 60 fps in what, 2004?

 

don't give me that bullshit excuse, that there was no way around it, this was just them being a buncha dumbasses

 

natural selection 2 doesn't count, and as an actual rts game, it sucks ass, it's the worst strategy game i've ever played in my life

Edited by RaTcHeT302 (see edit history)

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I know about Gangland, I just didn't notice anything what would set it apart from other games like it.
And yeah, I didn't say these are all good games. NS2 does just enough to be a RTS though, at least in my book - you gather resources from resource points, you put down buildings and you can even produce few units which you control directly.

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