So after months of constantly seeing new posts bashing on Relic non-stop, or predicting doom and their downfall, I thought it might be a good idea to recount the amazing stuff they have done over the years since they first stepped into the world. So let’s talk about the reasons why we might be EXCITED to know that Relic, one of the biggest names in Real Time Strategy since the early 2000’s, is picking up the torch of one of genres greatest names in its entire history!
Like a lot of folks, my first introduction to Relic was by what I think was their very first release (correct me if i’m wrong); Homeworld. Good god, this game was something truly special when it came out. Around that time, I remember most RTS titles were seriously struggling with the transition from 2d to 3d, most developers not really knowing how to factor in the new dimensions with their otherwise 2d based game play. Clunky cameras and overall less than stellar visuals made it a tough time, but not for Relic. They were one of the only developers to not only do an excellent job with the art itself, but to truly integrate 3d capabilities into the game itself. The ability to move ships along the vertical axis was truly unique, and even today is something we do not see. The epic campaign and soundtrack (which to this day I am convinced must have had some influence on the Battlestar Galactica OST) cemented it as a one of a kind gem.
The next few titles I got into were the original Dawn of War series (base game + 3 expansions, yes even the one not made by Relic). This one actually took a bit of time to really sink its teeth in, but once I was onboard, I never let go. To this day my fiance’ and I still boot it up (along with Age of Empires 2). The sheer chaos of the battlefield, the resulting carnage, and the fact that every unit seemed like an individual instead of a static piece on the field brought every engagement to life like few other RTS titles ever have. Though much more standard in terms of game systems than Homeworld, it all came together in such excellent form. In fact, the traditional game play (three tiers of command center upgrades, unit research options, vaguely rock-paper-scissors model) is what primarily gave me confidence in Relic’s ability to handle a more traditional series like AOE. The thing I loved most though; the fact that desperate gambits and back-to-the-wall battles could turn out all right in the end. My friends and I have had so many last stands against Nekron hordes, literally backed into the furthest reaches of a map, bodies piling by the minute, until FINALLY, the inferam tomb spyders were captured (downed and guarded) long enough for a desperate push. Or sieges where the Imperial Guard had our allies cornered in their own bases, shells raining down , till a duo of allied defieliers crawled up the ridge and smashed the enemy ranks like the Rohiram push at the Pelinor Fields.
The sequels did not command my attention like the first, though in part 2’s case, that had less to do with the quality of the game, more to do with the fact that I wasn’t too keen on its style. It LOOKED amazing, but I wasn’t looking for another Ground Control type game at the time. With that said, I do respect them for trying to experiment. Most studios get a ton of flak for taking no risks at all, and here these guys were actually trying to explore new avenues. It was hard to really hold a grudge over that, even if DOW 2 was not my cup of tea.
Likewise, Company of Heroes didn’t hold my interest due primarily to its setting (I tend to avoid WW2 titles, though not games set vaguely in the time period). What was amazing though, was the once again, the sheer destruction in each match. I certainly hope the dynamism we saw there will make a return to AOE 4. I mean, how cool would it be to see towns built by other players/ civs damaged and destroyed into partially interactive ruins? Imagine how neat it would be to see battlegrounds reduced from trade towns to crumbling ruins, each side fighting for the promise of rebuilding one day?
TL;DR: I’m pretty stoked. Relic has a history of delivering games that stuck in my mind, even if I didn’t get into them as much as others. As a developer, they also have a past of taking respectable risks, trying new things for the sake of the game, recent missteps aside. The idea of an Age of Empires with the visual splendor that only Relic can deliver is pretty exciting indeed.
What about you lot? Any good memories of Relic titles? Anyone else here grow up with Homeworld and Dawn of War (or any other titles) ? What kind of signature ‘Relic’ thing do you hope to see in AOE 4?