I’ve always considered myself someone with a knack for engaging the challenges that RTS games bombard players with head-on. Learning the intricacies of a game’s strategic possibilities and how individual factions synergize on the battlefield brings an unparalleled sense of accomplishment. However, many RTS games rarely extend their reach beyond emphasizing the importance of micromanagement to achieve victory. This is precisely why Grey Goo’s emphasis on strategy and tactics, over the speed of your mouse click, is a breath of extraterrestrial air in the RTS genre.
The basics of Grey Goo’s campaign goes like this: in the early 21st century, humanity founded the Pathfinder program and gave birth to the Goo. Utilized as an exploration tool to unlock the possibilities of interstellar travel, the Goo allowed humanity to leave our solar system and discover what was once deemed impossible to understand. After the Goo’s purpose had been served, humanity eliminated the program. Now, a century after the Goo’s purpose had been served and the program was eliminated, the Goo has returned fully evolved with only one purpose in mind, destroying its creator.
Petroglyph’s attention to the development of Grey Goo’s lore and universe offer an impressively polished narrative with impressive cutscenes and some of the best voice acting I’ve experienced in an RTS. Additionally, Petroglyph has included a solid set of options for maximizing, or minimizing, the game’s graphical output. Watching the Goo dissolve squads of enemies and buildings across a diverse range of imaginative exotic locations never gets old.
Confronting the amorphous globs of nanobytes in Grey Goo’s main campaign stretches out over 15 missions divided into three sections for each of the game’s factions; Betas, Humans, and of course, the Goo.
There’s no denying that the game’s standout faction is the Goo, with their unparalleled maneuverability opening up a vast range of tactics for players to explore. Mother Goos act as portable headquarters, capable of climbing over obstacles in the terrain and ambushing inattentive foes. Of course, the Goo’s nomadic capabilities can be easily stopped by controlling the game’s only universal resource, Catalyst. This makes facing the Goo an interesting game of cat-and-mouse that quickly becomes a race to hunt down and eliminate any remaining Mother Goos.
In opposition to the Goo, choosing Betas or Humans should immediately feel familiar to RTS veterans, although they do bring similar elements to the table. In fact, the main difference between the two factions is a fundamental difference in how each builds their base. Betas employ a much more traditional base structure utilizing individual hubs of various sizes, while the human bases require players to build based on a series of connected power nodes.
Aside from the fundamentals of each faction’s approach to base building, unique Epic units present golden opportunities to completely change the tides of battle. Betas are capable of constructing a behemoth manufacturing plant, the Hand of Ruk, which floats above the battlefield while Humans erect a massive towering robot known as the Alpha.
Meanwhile, the Goo congeals into a large mass of nanobytes to form the Purger. Petroglyph manages to make each Epic unit truly rewarding while ensuring that only players with a solid grasp on the development of their base are capable of constructing them, which brings even greater joy watching them spring to life.
Understanding how to utilize the Epic units and develop new strategies for each faction is best accomplished throughout Grey Goo’s main campaign, but it’s hard to imagine players spending significant time in single player after watching the credits roll. Achievements offered up for beating the campaign on Hard and completing each mission’s bonus objectives may appeal to devoted players, but the narrative lacks a significant sense of replay value, which is why the inclusion of a skirmish mode and online leaderboards provides the logical next step for players after gaining the fundamentals in the campaign.
Petroglyph’s contribution to the RTS genre is a solid experience with plenty of longevity and it is certainly going to please those looking to whet their appetite for classic RTS gameplay. Sure, the main campaign acts as more of a stretched out tutorial for all three factions, but RTS fans will get the most bang for their buck engaging in multiple online skirmishes during late night sessions. Grey Goo isn’t a revolution by any means, but it’s a return to classic RTS gameplay that demands strategy and tactics over the mindless onslaught of mouse clicks.
This review is based on the PC version of the game, which we were provided with.
Grey Goo is an engaging experience that rewards players with the patience to develop solid tactics and a firm understanding of the ways that each faction can exploit the weaknesses of their rivals.