The RTS genre is almost as old as computers themselves, and has been equally successful. It wasn’t until recently though they started showing up on consoles with games like Battle for Middle Earth 2 and C&C3 paving the way for other games by proving that, while not the most ideal, the console controller can be a substitute for the mouse and keyboard.
In a recent interview with CVG, Ensemble Studios shared why reinventing the wheel might make Halo Wars the best console RTS ever. While all console RTS games to date have been ports of their PC brethren, Halo Wars is being built from the ground up for consoles, but what might come as a shock is that it was not built for Halo Wars. In fact Ensemble approached Microsoft with the intent to license out their newly developed RTS tech. After seeing what Ensemble had brought to the table, Microsoft felt it was time to approach its Halo franchise from a new angle, thus Halo Wars was born.
Ensemble is known for developing some of the greatest PC RTS games of all time. But to do Halo Wars right, they could not just follow the same tried and true forumla of RTS development. Instead, they approached Halo Wars more like how Bungie approached the other games in the Halo franchise. Instead of tedious recourse management, they focused on time and unit management, for instance if you need more troops you’ll need to hold the line till a supply run can get them to you. Thus just like in the other Halo games, knowing when to fight and when to take cover is the not only the difference between life and death but between winning or losing an entire battle. Ensemble feels it’s more about managing the battle rather than watching it.
To have this kind of management on the battlefield, players will be utilizing Ensembles new control system where selecting all of the units on-screen is as easy as double tapping, or you can paint over the troops you would like to select in a way that must have been inspired by MS Paint. CVG had some hands-on time with the game, and went as far as to call the controls “a million miles away from the nightmarish controls seen on ports of excellent PC titles such as Command & Conquer 3 and Lord of the Rings.”
I have not bought into RTS games on consoles yet, I want to, don’t get me wrong, but while the controls are passable, many people still beg for a trusty mouse and keyboard. Halo Wars may just be my “gateway drug” and bring the console RTS genre into a new age, a golden age, when players say “no thanks” to a mouse and keyboard “my controller is better.”
[See also: Halo Wars gallery]