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Is it time for RTS games on consoles?

Posted on 6th Mar 2009 at 10:45 by Clive Webster with 9 comments

Clive Webster
Last Saturday night, any insomniacs with radios might have happened listened to myself and Mike Channell from Xbox 360 Mag talking on Radio 5’s Up All Night show about why there’s a glut of RTS games at the moment. And more specifically, why two of these are aimed squarely at consoles.

RTS has never been a particularly successful genre on consoles, and it’s fairly easy to see why when listening to the chaps from Halo Wars and Stormrise. The Whip Select control mechanism of Stormrise is purported to be ‘faster and more efficient than a keyboard and mouse,’ while the chaps behind Halo Wars have opted for a more simplified control system than you’d find in a typical PC RTS. Essentially both companies agree that it's the limitations of the joypad that hinder the enjoyment of RTS games on consoles. But no longer, it seems.

Is it time for RTS games on consoles?

Joe talks about the new Halo Wars control system in the review, so I’ll just quickly say sorry for being such a PC RTS snob on Monday when he was trying to play it and move onto Stormrise. Rather than simplify the control method, Creative Assembly (the Australian branch, that has seemingly plugged away at console RTS games for years now, but with limited success) has devised a new way to select the troops scattered across a battlefield. Whip Select works by clicking the right thumbstick and flicking it toward the squad you want to select, which the camera then zooms over to. If you’re playing the PC version, you Whip Select by clicking and holding the right mouse button and flicking it toward the desired unit.

Is it time for RTS games on consoles?

As Mike pointed out on the radio (and EuroGamer, also allude to it), Whip Select could be as frustrating as it is speedy. It requires you to have an idea of where your troops are in relation to one another, and it also relies upon squads not getting too close together. Clumped up squads will be fairly hard to quickly Whip Select between, I’d imagine. Whip Select also seems to be a mechanism for controlling each squad one-by-one, so it looks like Stormrise will be more a tactical squad-based shooter, albeit with more than one squad.

Is it time for RTS games on consoles?

It is good to see innovation happening with control systems however, and both Halo Wars and Stormrise look like they’ll push console gaming on to a new level. Meanwhile the PC RTS games seem less innovative. Empire: Total War seems to be more of the same (but a lot more of the same) while Dawn of War II doesn’t seem to know whether to innovate or not. The single-player campaign blends RPG, RTS and squad-based tactical shooter elements nicely, but online Relic has chosen to play safe and abandon this in favour of more traditional gameplay.

Could it be that the console is now the premier place of gaming innovation, at least for RTS games? And is this just because the PC has already reached its peak? Have you been yearning for a perfect RTS for your console?

9 Comments

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UrbanMarine 6th March 2009, 13:56 Quote
Halo Wars only has people interested in it because of the Halo name. Take away the title, you got a bland, boring and less than challenging RTS. Stormrise is supported by a company that has outstanding street rep in the RTS world. The two titles are not going to do well because they're innovative or a console game. Their makers are coming into the console world with street credit and that will makes sales.

As for RTS controls, the mouse still out performs controllers. Consoles are still and will always be watered down PC games.
Helldiver18 6th March 2009, 17:43 Quote
I really think RTS on big LCD would be great.

The mouse factor is a limitation but I can see the Wiimote from the Wii as a very good replacement (even better than a mouse because of the 3D possibilities)

I don't know if Pikmin can be consider as a RTS but replace the little Pikmin by soldiers and it's done (sort of).

Nice article (conversation) by the way
ZERO <ibis> 7th March 2009, 03:22 Quote
You can always run an rts off your HTPC. Just to see what it would be like I used a 40" HDTV as a monitor via vga for a few days before putting it in the living room. RTS games like sins were amazing on it! It was so awesome to see the battles on such a big screen. For more tactical games like Starcraft I think the good old regular monitor is still best because you do not have time to be moving your head around to see what is going on. Games like that are more about micro and macro than watching big explosions while you eat popcorn and hope your army wins.
best49erfan 7th March 2009, 03:45 Quote
Halo Wars actually works. I have played some of it and the control scheme makes it where most console RTS are just broken out of the box.
wuyanxu 7th March 2009, 11:17 Quote
make me a functional control scheme for Supreme Commander or Sins of Solar Empire and THEN i believe PC RTS is no more.

all those console wannabes are only battle field commander at most. the controls still can't handle large fleet or real micromanagement.
Skiddywinks 7th March 2009, 21:54 Quote
I don't think the PC RTS is going to die any time soon, but that doesn't mean that solid and successful RTS's can not be done on consoles. People are only getting smarter, and hardware is only getting better.

I have tried Halo Wars, and while it does not compare to Forged Alliance or SoaSE, it is a great success in its own right. The controls work well, and the developers have made their decisions along the development and have stuck to their guns. Not only that, but they have done the most they can with the hardware, and I think Ensemble (or all those that used to be in it) should be congratulated.

But I'm still going to be playing FA tonight, and not Halo Wars.
ZERO <ibis> 8th March 2009, 00:26 Quote
In the end it comes down to APM it will always be higher on the pc and therefore the best micro will always be from the pc players...
Elton 8th March 2009, 16:58 Quote
Only decent one was Civ4 on consoles. But that's not an RTS really.
bridgesentry 12th March 2009, 05:27 Quote
RTS games WILL NEVER success on console without a mouse + keyboard supported / integrated. IMO RTS games require players to sit very close to the screen and quickly select, command ...
They are PC Games by nature.
In console, RTS Game's units moving like herds of ducks!
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