Grey Goo is the first major RTS outside of a big company, such as Blizzard, Microsoft, and EA etc., to make a significant impact in the genre in a long time. Considering over the last few years the RTS market has been largely dominated by the likes of the Starcraft series, and remakes or re-releases such as Age of Mythology, Age of Empires and Rise of Nations, it’s awesome to see a fresh entry, and such a solid one at that. Hardly surprising, Grey Goo is developed by Petroglyph, a studio containing the veteran talent of ex Westoon Studios developers who are responsible for the Command & Conquer series! Let’s take a look at the RTS.
Traditionally, RTS games have primarily lived on PC, and this is mainly due to the complex nature of gameplay not lending itself to the limited functionality of a controller. Grey Goo is no exception, and standard keyboard and mouse controls will feel instantly familiar. The game controls wonderfully, with just the right amount of complexity in places for a satisfying and rewarding learning curve. You’ll quickly be able to pick it up and progress through the first few missions with little difficulty, however there are enough shortcuts and hot keys to make it a challenge to master.
The game offers three race choices, each with enough different to make them genuinely feel unique from one another: The Beta can lay expansion hubs (small, medium, large) to expand on the map. The Humans build Conduit (roads) in order to expand, and the Goo offer the most diverse way to expand. The Goo start off with a large mass called “The Mother”. As resources are consumed this mass grows larger and can spawn smaller Goo structures. It’s a really cool distinction compared to the other races and the balancing is well done, allowing for players to choose a race based on their play style and not be at a disadvantage to some OP race.
Bases consist of a main hub with four expansion ports. You start off by building a refinery close to a Catalyst Pool (the game’s primary resource) and your harvester will mine the pool for resources throughout the course of the game. Once you have money coming in it’s time to build a factory to produce units and start building an army. If you run out of expansions you can construct a new hub or remove structures to build new ones.
What makes the construction unique is that it takes a similar approach to Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2. You have a pool of resources and as the buildings are being built resources are slowly taken from your resource pool as they are used instead of taking all the cost in one large chunk. If you don’t have the resources to purchase the structure, or train units, they are automatically paused until you gain a sufficient amount. This system allows you to pause production if you need to divert resources to a more important area.
Another point of interest lies in the cover system. If your units are in cover they can fire on enemies out of position without the risk of taking damage. The enemy is only able to retaliate if they also enter cover. This makes for some great trap setups and gives high ground a tactical advantage, a mechanic that has become common in a lot of newer RTS games. Unless you have vision of high ground units there isn’t really much way to defend against them. What this offers is multiple ways to take out a few units, or a whole army that might be on its way to your base with a surprise attack!
Probably my favourite addition is the use of walls. A lot of RTS’s have abandoned the use of this mechanic but it’s brought back in Grey Goo. Set up a series of walls at choke points, or surrounding your base, and place your units on top of them. Instead of the typical tower defense concept, you instead place your units on the walls so that they can attack incoming enemies. I absolutely loved this idea as it simplifies defense.
Visually the game is good. The structures, units and maps are fairly detailed though it’s nothing to spend a lot of time on. What was amazing were the cutscenes and 3d animation. The quality here is on par with Blizzards own 3D rendering and storytelling. It was really cool to see so much effort put into the cutscenes and pre-mission briefing scenarios. It immediately gives off a polished look and shows that this isn’t some cookie cutter RTS game that came out just for the sake of it.
I recently went back to Red Alert 2 to see how that game stood after all these years and it is 100% unplayable. From the incredibly slow game speed, to the dated visuals and broken functionality of changing your settings and having the game become visually distorted, there is no going back to that game until a HD remake comes out and fixes the problems of just re-releasing the game. This is where Grey Goo fills that void because it’s so similar, yet different enough to give the player something new to love. Grey Goo shines here.
Overall my time with this game was well spent and enjoyable. Going in I didn’t know that ex Westwood Studio developers were involved though it felt so familiar I suspected they had their hands in it. I really enjoyed the story and gameplay and a way to experience the classic RTSs of the past in a new and fresh way. Grey Goo is top shelf quality RTS gaming at its core and deserves your attention if you are a fan of the genre.
Tl:dr – Grey Goo is the most recent offering from Ex Westwood Studios Developers Petroglyph and is an extremely well-polished game. Command one of three races as you build bases, protect your settlement with walls (yes they are back!), Mine resources to train units and explore detailed and well-crafted maps. With an engaging story and plenty to discover and master, Grey Goo puts itself up against some of gaming’s classic real time strategy games and gives the player that familiar but new experience from days gone by. If you were a fan of the Command and Conquer series this game deserves your attention.
Rating – 8.5/10
Purchase – Steam £29.99/$49.99