My Top RTS Game Recommendations

squad based RTS

Best Squad Based RTS Games

I’ve been on an RTS binge ever since finding Company of Heroes 2. I’ve been trying to find a new favorite RTS that doesn’t make me (literally) sick. In four short months, I have tried eight different RTS games. That’s two per month!

  • Grey Goo
  • AI War: Fleet Command
  • Battlefleet Gothic: Armada
  • Warhammer: 40,000: Dawn of War II
  • Dungeons II
  • Call to Arms
  • Kingdom Wars 2: Battles
  • Gods and Idols

While I have come to understand finally that it’s the base building and peon management that I don’t like in RTS games, I’m still trying to pin down what else there may be to look for. For example, Grey Goo offered an interesting line-of-sight mechanic, while Dungeons II offered a funny and light-hearted approach. Some of these games were bad, some were good, and a select few were GREAT. I’ve separated the wheat from the chaff, and hereby present to you my top recommended RTS games!

Call to Arms

From the developers of the Men of War series, it’s a modern warfare RTS. Best of all, it’s free to play! Several people have mentioned it plays exactly like Men of War, so maybe this is an indirect recommendation of that game too. The graphics are great, but the best part is the ability to take control. You can zoom in to first or third person of any unit and personally manage its actions, and that includes vehicles! Really awesome feature, and I can’t wait to play this game more. It’s still under development as well, so there will be more to come.

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada

Probably my favorite, Battlefleet Gothic is a space ship RTS in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Space ships was kind of a new thing, and admittedly it did take a little while to get used to it. Once I did though, it grew on me. Depending on how you outfit your ships, and your faction, you can command one large ship, or a whole fleet of smaller ones. The graphics in this game will blow you away – even on lower end machines. I found the skirmish battles versus AI to be pretty fun, surprisingly. Multiplayer is ironically the weakness. The queues are slow, though do exist. Unfortunately the team queue mode is a mildly painful grind until you can get a battleship-class.

Dawn of War II

From the same developer (Relic) as Company of Heroes, this was recommended to me more than once as Company of Heroes style, but set in the Warhammer 40,000 setting. I finally picked it up on Black Friday-week. Still seems to have a good following. The focus in this game is on your squad leader, so you’ll have to do a little bit better-than-average micromanagement on that one particular unit. It has several different game modes, even in multiplayer. Additionally there’s a mod out that gives a BIG update to the game.

Company of Heroes 2

I’ve ranted and raved over this game, and it’s easily my #1 recommendation. The style of gameplay is super fun, and feels perfect for the World War II setting. You can choose from any of the axis or allied armies, along with all their vehicles and equipment. A big(enough) community and lots of available mods give you nearly endless replayability. There’s even a mod for field of vision if the current game’s FoV isn’t to your liking. There’s something for every style of play in this game. You can definitely find an army and force loadout that fits you.

Watch For More Squad Based RTS Games

The bad news is that this particular sub-genre of RTS games does appear to be limited. I keep an eye out for any RTS titles that may fit the bill of what I’ll call a non-traditional RTS. Warshift is a title out right now that is a prime example, along the lines of Call to Arms where you can take control of a unit personally. Wargame, Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak, and an OLD title called Nexus: The Jupiter Incident are some other games you can check out too. I haven’t had the money, or time, to try them, but they’re on my Steam Wishlist. Sudden Strike and Gates of Hell are both upcoming RTS games that appear to follow the squad based approach, so keep an eye on those as well. If you find any other squad based RTS games coming out, drop ’em in the comments for me below!

Is Kingdom Wars 2: Battles Any Good?

A Medieval Siege Warfare RTS

This game initially went on my wishlist because of the description. Massive sieges and survival, along with zombies. I’m a sucker for zombies. During the Christmas holiday, one of my Twitch viewers, Destructum, gifted me this game after he spotted it on my wishlist. The kindness of strangers surprises me every time.  So one day I played it on stream, and it was a big hit. Lots of people showed up to watch, and starting asking all kinds of questions. I sunk about 4 hours into this game, playing through the singleplayer campaign and the multiplayer. I have a broader experience than usual with this game.

General Information

Kingdom Wars 2: Battles retails for $18.99 on Steam. It was released in March of 2016, and received an update as recently as December of 2016. It is a real time strategy game in a medieval fantasy setting with an emphasis on castle sieges. You can play as humans, orcs, or elves. There is both a singleplayer campaign, and a multiplayer portion. The multiplayer portion has talent trees and crafting you use to buff and construct your units. What sets it apart from other RTS games is the implementation of the zombies. The zombies essentially come from the corpses of fallen units, both yours and your enemy’s. They act as a neutral third party, and will attack either side. Kingdom wars 2: Battles follows the standard RTS base building gameplay, along with peons to gather resources. There are various resources, and the do run out, so you have to manage accordingly.

What Makes It Fun

From a wide angle, this game’s visuals look very familiar. The art is stylized very much in the vein of Warcraft. Orcs, Humans, it’s all very reminiscent of the old Blizzard RTS games. Next up is emphasis on building up your walls. Despite my aversion to long drawn out games, the siege gameplay is very well done. It makes early rush attempts nearly impossible. The wall building animation reminds me of the old Castles games. Nostalgia! And finally, what I think is the most interesting about Kingdom Wars 2: Battles is the zombies! The neutral third party mechanic is fun and unpredictable. In one of my multiplayer matches, my enemy ran up a squad of peons against my wall an then lightning bolted them. I couldn’t figure out why until a giant zombie abomination spawned and started attacking my wall. That’s when the lightbulb turned on. “Ohhh….”

What Makes It…Not

I only have two complaints about this game. The first is that the aforementioned siege gameplay can make for a tedious game under certain conditions. While you are safe inside your citadel, you still have to venture outside to gather materials to train more troops. If you don’t play smart from the beginning, you’re simply delaying the inevitable. You’ll be stuck in your base with a finite number of troops, while your enemy is free to roam and take their sweet time raising an army. The second complaint is purely personal preference. Base management just isn’t my thing. Buildings and peons and resources, ugh. It feels like it just gets in the way of the action for me nowadays.

The Bottom Line

I want to mention the graphics in this game because they are confusing. I managed to play them on high with no problems, but…I don’t know. I want to say they look cutting edge, but sometimes they look like they are a generation behind. They are very hard to describe. Now, on to the big question. If you’re a regular here, you should know by now that I don’t like RTS games with base building and peon management. That’s just a personal preference though, and I don’t expect my audience to have my exact tastes. This game gets a solid recommendation from me. I’m told the last Kingdom Wars had a persistent world. If something like that was in a future update, it might be something that I could overlook. That’s my biggest hope for this game. In the meantime, if you enjoy base management in RTS games, Kingdom Wars 2: Battles is for you!

Is Call to Arms any Good?

Free To Play Modern Warfare RTS

You’ll notice a recurring story when I review RTS games. A lot of them come from my search for a Company of Heroes 2 replacement. When I found this game, it had a price tag on it. Back in December of 2016, I was checking out my wishlist and noticed Call to Arms was free to play. A few of my Steam friends wanted it, so I downloaded it to check it out. How does it compare to CoH2? Well, it’s not CoH2. BUT! If you don’t have the cash, or the stomach (like me), then this is a good choice. This is going to be a review of the free version of Call to Arms because, as always, I don’t play games for the solo content.

General Information

As the title says, Call to Arms is a Real Time Strategy game. It’s free to play the multiplayer portion of the game, with the single player campaign and certain factions and other DLC available from $14.99 to $39.99 depending on what you want. I’ve played 5+ hours of the multiplayer and haven’t hit a single thing asking for money. The biggest caveat is probably if the faction you want to play costs money or not. The game is in Early Access, so factions are limited now, but will become available as time goes on. Germany, Russia, and the United States are available now. The game is extremely similar to CoH2. You spawn infantry and vehicles, and OMG THE VEHICLES, to do battle across the map. There are cover mechanics involved as well, so you get that extra bit of depth in the game. Speaking of vehicles, there is even an all-vehicle mode for up to 16 players (which is max in the game from what I can tell)! I checked it out on a 2v2 basis and had a great time! The other game modes are pretty standard, capturing control points, complete annihilation, and more. I feel like all the game modes may be a bit overreaching for an EA game, but it gives you a sense of direction for what the devs want for the game. And finally, as you level up, you unlock new units and rewards for the various factions. Pretty standard stuff.

What Makes It Fun

I love the feel of an RTS with no base building in a modern setting. The snap of first-contact gunfire, the tank shells just shredding concrete and steel. It’s just a great environment that I can easily relate to. Probably the best thing about this game is the ability to take control of an individual unit yourself. I think this is the game’s secret weapon. Tired of watching your unit AI do stupid things? Click one of your soldiers and get to work! RTS seamlessly turns into a 3rd person shooter! Take command of soldiers or vehicles! Again, RTS quickly turns into World of Tanks gameplay. You swap in and out of this with the click of a button. What a huge way to immerse yourself in this game, I love it! I do want to give a brief shout-out to the price. While free doesn’t mean good, in this case it’s worth your time to try it out. As I mentioned above, I like RTS games where you are solely focused on the military aspect. There’s no economy management once you get into the game, it’s all focused on the fight. There is also a nice level of detail in the game. From sound effects to gore, there’s just enough in the game to keep it interesting.

What Makes It…Not

There are a few detractors for Call to Arms. Probably the most readily visible is the clunky UI. The start button is actual text, not a button. This happens throughout the game. You can find everything with a little effort, so nothing to panic about. I also feel like the balance isn’t quite right in game. I’ll have a squad behind cover, the enemy has a squad outside of cover, and mine bite the dust. Don’t know why, don’t know how. Finally, the pathing is a medium sized problem in this game. I notice this problem more with the vehicles than infantry. My humvee will back up to go forward, or completely ignore my click if it’s too far away. The more urban the terrain the worse it is. This is easily remedied by taking control of the unit like I mentioned above, but can be annoying and costly if at an inopportune moment.

The Bottom Line

Definitely slapping a thumbs up ‘recommended’ on this game. If you’ll notice, all the dislikes I noted are all common to Early Access games. I feel like this is a good sign for the game’s future. There is a bit of drama surrounding the free to play transition, and this obviously is influencing Steam ratings. It’s a lot of pay to win complaints with no actual explanation of what they consider pay to win. The devs have stated their position, so I recommend you judge for yourself. Regardless, it’s free, so trying it out is risk free. Call to Arms has a solid core to build on for the future: Great mechanics, nice action visuals, and being free makes it readily available to everyone.

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada Review

Capital Ship Combat in the Warhammer 40,000 Universe

I watched this game’s release come and go. It seemed interesting, but I had never delved into the Warhammer 40k universe before, and money is always a big concern. Several people on my Steam friends list were playing it on and off though. I really didn’t put much effort into researching it further until I couldn’t play Company of Heroes 2 anymore. I wanted another RTS that didn’t require peon and base management. Battlefleet Gothic: Armada definitely delivers in that department. Not only is it space ship combat, but capital ship combat! When I finally got into full research mode, I watched a stream on Twitch and was BLOWN AWAY. Pun intended.

General Information

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada retails for $39.99 MSRP, and it’s always great to see games that don’t follow the standard pricing model. More on that later. The game itself is an RTS game where you take control of a fleet of ships. The size of your fleet varies based on the faction you choose to some extent, but the rest is determined by points. Each ship has a value based on its configuration. If your ship is stock, it is cheaper. Upgrades will raise the point value of your ship. You start out on the smaller capital ships, and more, larger ships become available as you rank up. Your ships rank up individually too. If you lose one in a battle, there is a price to pay! There are also escort ships to fill out your fleet, and these are your fodder to sacrifice to keep your ships-of-the-line alive. They are in infinite supply, and there is no penalty for losing these.

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada has a campaign mode if you want a story experience, but I haven’t touched that. I don’t focus on PvE content for my creative channels. Steam users give the story good reviews, for what that’s worth to you (73% overall rating as of this review). I’ve spent 19 hours so far fully immersed in the multiplayer mode, doing both PvE and PvP battles. Orks, The Imperium, Chaos, and Eldar are the four basic factions, with more factions being added via DLC with a $6.99 price tag. Space Marines, which I picked up too, and Tau are also available now. The game seems very complete. Matches go very quickly, generally less than 10 minutes in multiplayer. It’s great for someone with kids who doesn’t have that solid block of time to dedicate to gaming all the time/anymore.

What Makes It Fun

I mentioned being blown away before, and I wasn’t kidding. The first thing that struck me about this game is just how beautiful it is. The graphics are just AMAZING. This is one of the most visually appealing games I have ever played. Even with a 4 year old graphics card, I can boost settings to ultra and enjoy the view. The surprisingly wide variety of game modes is also a big plus. I’m never bored of just doing the same thing, even if I don’t particularly care for the mode I’m playing. Protect your space stations against an enemy fleet, defend your admiral ship while still managing your engagement, and stealing valuable data are just a few of the game modes available. I also want to give a little love to the price tag. $40 MSRP for a game like this is perfect. I picked it up for $20 during Black Friday 2016 sales, and other sales have ranged from 20% to 40% off.  If you want to help me out, you can click here to check Green Man Gaming which usually offer at least 20% off. Sales just make it an even better value.

As I mentioned before, I like non-traditional RTS games where you aren’t managing peons and base construction. There’s no management once you get into the game, it’s all focused on strategy and tactics. Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is really shines in this department. Angles, speed, and timing are such critical factors. I also thoroughly enjoy the capital ship experience. Finding a game I enjoy that focuses on capital ships is difficult, usually it’s from the smaller fighter-scale perspective. Finally, I really enjoy the repercussions for losing your ships built into the game. You can’t just drive your ships wildly into battle without consequences. When ships are destroyed, they need repairs, you lose the kill-streak stat on your ship, and gain no XP from the match it was destroyed in. You can speed up repairs, but there is a currency payment penalty required.

What Makes It…Not

I really don’t have much to dump on about Battlefleet Gothic: Armada. I was a little disappointed at the scale. The trailer for the game really pushes the whole large-scale fleet action. I really want an enormous capital ship fleet versus fleet battle in a game. You can crank up the points in some of the games to a considerable amount, but not enough to satisfy anyone looking for Warhammer 40,000 space combat on a massive scale. Maybe a dozen ships if you play with a lot of the escort ships? A lot of this probably how to do with how great the game looks. You can’t spam models all over the screen, particle effects blazing, and expect to maintain peak performance on a wide variety of machines.

The Bottom Line

This is probably the easiest game for me to recommend to date. If you like RTS games, Warhammer 40k/sci fi settings, it’s a no brainer. I’m actually surprised it’s not more popular. Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is not a twitch based game. Whether you spend those extra seconds maneuvering, or just reacting, it still feels like a fast-paced battle. It’s not a good or bad thing, in fact it opens up the age range of players, keeping both older and younger gamers competitive with each other. I think this bodes well for the long-term life of the game. So if the game is good, and the price is right, then many battles await you in Battlefleet Gothic: Armada!

Company of Heroes 2 Game Review

is company of heroes good

Fresh Take on RTS Gameplay

I got the key for this game in 2015, and held onto it. I just held onto it, not being quite sure how much I’d like it. Starcraft II has been my most recent RTS reference, and while I didn’t hate the game, I find the whole base building-resource gathering-unit progression kind of cookie cutter mechanics uninteresting. Company of Heroes 2 turned all of that on its head for me, and has quickly become my favorite RTS. It’s also one of the most fun games I’ve played in years. It also makes me physically ill. Go figure. For purposes of perspective, keep in mind I own all the DLC to this point when reading this review.

General Information

Company of Heroes 2 is a World War II RTS game. You can play as East German forces, West German forces, Russia, Great Britain, and the United States. The game has several DLC additions, and each are standalone games. Each of the various factions comes with different DLC. You need to make sure before buying anything that the forces you want are included before purchasing. While you don’t need to own everything to play, you do need to own everything to play all of the maps. The MSRP for the game is $29.99, available about anywhere you can buy game codes. I’ve seen it, and bought it, in the $10 to $12 range. That includes every last bit of DLC available too, by the way. It seems to go on sale quite frequently, so wherever you like to buy from, toss it on your wishlist. It was first released in 2013, but holds up amazingly well graphics-wise. There is a HUGE mod community, as well as a pretty active multiplayer community. Though the multiplayer community is mostly invested in the quick match queues. The custom games were a little slow to fill though.

What Makes It Fun

WOW that gameplay! It progresses just like any other RTS, but it’s more subtle. You start with basic infantry, then you build up to light units, then medium, and heavy. A familiar pattern for sure, but CoH2 does it in such a way that you get this awesome buildup of momentum!  Just as your infantry get engaged, you’re bringing in the next light armor. As your light armor gets shredded, your medium is ready to move up. It’s such an incredibly smooth transition, you don’t even realize it’s happening. You can choose from various commanders which will improve various units. For example one commander may improve the abilities of your basic troops, while another commander may grant you whole new types of troops, and yet another may add new tools (artillery strikes, smoke, etc) for you to deploy on the battlefield. It’s this huge, interwoven mesh of mechanics that is just executed so well that you don’t even realize how complex it is. This game is great at hiding just how deep the strategy goes! As for the cookie cutter base building-resource gathering model, CoH2 breaks that mold as well. There is limited base building (for most factions), and the resources are gathered by your troops! No need for peon management!

What Makes It…Not

This game has done something no video game in history has ever done. It makes me sick. Literally. I get nauseous, along with a headache from eye strain. Not a single game of any genre has done this to me. I did a little research and identified the problem. As it turns out, I’m not the only one either. The game’s field of view (FoV) is too close up. Field of View is the perspective you see on your monitor screen. Luckily I was able to find a mod to fix the problem! The BK MOD II mod backs out the field of view! As soon as I started using this mod, the sickness vanished completely! Unfortunately, the mod is not usable in the quick match games. As I mentioned above, custom games were slow to fill. When I tried to do some PvP games on one of my streams, I was never able to get a full 4v4 game. Below is an example of gameplay with the BK MOD II mod installed.

The Bottom Line

While I’m not ready to call it quits permanently, the Field of View issue has really put a damper on my enthusiasm for the game. If you enjoy playing against AI, then there are no roadblocks for you to this game! This is my new favorite RTS game, and maybe even in my top 10 favorite games of all time. It’s a really bittersweet situation for me. I love this game so much, but deep down I know playing against AI won’t satisfy me in the long term. Hopefully the FoV doesn’t bug you, and hopefully they change it in time for me! This game is in the middle of a multi-year planned cycle, so there’s plenty more to come before CoH 3. Don’t be afraid to jump in now!