Grey Goo Brings Back the Core Pillars of RTS

Grey Goo is the newest sci-fi real-time strategy game to hit the scene and it’s definitely one to watch.

Petroglyph Games’ recently announced real-time strategy game is being developed by a team with an impressive pedigree. Founded out of Westwood expatriates, the team at Petroglyph is responsible for games such as Panzer General and Star Wars: Empire at War. Individually, members have worked on RTS classics like Command and Conquer and Company of Heroes. This all-star cast is looking to take the RTS field by storm in an ecophagy of their own with their new title, Grey Goo.

For those not familiar with the term, Grey Goo is not the harmless residue you find on your sticky kitchen floor. The title references Eric Drexier’s horrifying concept of an end-of-the-world scenario brought about by self-replicating robots and the exponential growth of nanomachines, consuming all matter on earth. It is around this premise, 500 years in humanity’s future, that Grey Goo is based. And you get to play the Goo.

Petroglyph wanted to create a sci-fi game that caters to all manner of RTS players, in a fully balanced fashion. Grey Goo itself was conceptualized after looking at the last two decades of the RTS genre and concluding that RTS games as a whole have evolved, but evolved away from their core pillars. Being fundamentally unbalanced, these games tend to favor a specific style of play. Yet, in those same two decades, RTS players have also evolved their own styles of play. Andrew Zoboki, Lead Game Designer, described it as a spectrum, where some players are base-building turtles, some are strategic combat rushers, and everyone else falls somewhere in between. Grey Goo seeks to work for players throughout the spectrum, where no play style has an advantage.

A good strategy game allows for multiple styles of play to be viable. Because of that, Grey Goo focuses on returning to the core, fully balancing the three central pillars of RTS play: Economic Management, Base Building, and Strategic Combat. After receiving some hands-on time with the game, it is hard to not see its success. I was immediately wrapped up in both its complexities and differences from other recent RTS games I have played. For example, there is a capped resource pool, limiting how many resources one can horde, allowing for strategic destruction of resource collection to be a viable tactic to weaken an otherwise impenetrable base.

Grey Goo will launch with three races: Betas, Humans, and The Goo.

The Betas are the most balanced race between high offensive and defensive strategies, developed for players who span the spectrum between rush and turtling. I got some hands on time with them, and they rely on building a set of nodes which have other buildings attached to them. Buildings that share nodes, also share the technology and upgrades of the node itself, making each node a specialized hub participating in a specialized function. These nodes can be clustered or spread out, depending on the strategy of the player.

Only capable of maintaining a single base, the Humans are for those players looking to turtle. Their headquarters looks vaguely like a circuit board, with a mass array of buildings all attached to the central building. Wielders of teleportation, the humans can move the layout of these buildings on a whim, but that is as far as they can go. With the ability to construct walls that no other race can walk through (or see through), this is the tower defense strategy at its finest.

Finally, there is the Goo. I didn’t manage to get any hands on time with them, but they are the most fascinating of the bunch. Starting off as a single organism, the goal is to grow the Goo by milling resources directly. As the Goo grows in size, units can break off of it. There are no buildings to contend with and almost no obstacles that can stop its movement, cliffs or otherwise. With no base to take out, the Goo completely changes the game when it comes to strategy warfare.

With StarCraft 2 currently dominating the recent sci-fi RTS scene, Grey Goo will be a welcome addition to the playing field. It’s too soon to say if it will revolutionize the field as its claims appear to suggest, but I look forward to seeing it attempt it all the same. We won’t have long to wait, as Grey Goo is set to launch on PC this fall through Steam.

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