If you call your game Grey Goo, you are either supremely confident in its quality, or have no sense of what makes a catchy title. Luckily, Petroglyph Studios’ seems to fall into the first of these two categories with its new, classically-styled real-time strategy (RTS) title.
A three way war
Grey Goo features three factions whose armies are battling it out over a valuable resource. Each group has its own unique look and combat style; the technologically advanced humans focus on defense, the eponymous Grey Goo (which is actually silver) is more aggressive as it oozes over the landscape, and the humanoid Betas offer a balanced strategic style.
Though RTS fans will find no surprises within these genre archetypes, Grey Goo still makes them feel fresh. This is in large part due to its well-executed campaign that lets you get up close with the factions to better understand them.
The story is somewhat predictable sci-fi schlock, but it is presented superbly. The Betas put in a particularly good showing here, with their thick South African accents and heavy set, four-armed bodies making them feel truly alien. For me, their military was also the most enjoyable to control, with a heavy, post-industrial technology that created satisfyingly clunky units - especially in comparison to the lithe humans and the organic Goo.
Though each faction looks unique, once you get into the multiplayer mode their similarities start to become more apparent. When compared, factions all have units that fulfill similar roles, limiting the variety for more entrenched strategy fans. On the other hand, less experienced RTS players (like myself) will be fooled by the shiny visuals for many hours.
The single player campaign offers a good range of missions that quickly establish Grey Goo’s focus on fast construction and unit production. With only one, limited resource to manage, rounds often see you building structures to progress your tech trees and then scraping these earlier constructions to quickly recoup cash.
Challenging and complex
Even on the easiest setting, Grey Goo’s campaign is a challenge. You have to learn how individuals units work, the upgrade progression, and resource management - all the while fulfilling mission goals. While each stage does a nice job teaching skills, the difficulty ramp is hard - especially if you aren't overly proficient with RTSs.
The moment I took off my Grey Goo training wheels (that would be mission two), I quickly found myself struggling, as the human forces swarmed my Beta brethren. Luckily, after a few restarts, I realized where my weaknesses lay and how I could better read the tech tree - attach the necessary attachments to the modular base structures so they could build more powerful ordinance.
It may be punishing, but the game's clear user interface at least means you never struggle to find what you are looking for to execute a tactic. With everything accessible through mouse controls and clearly marked hotkeys, it won't take long before you are navigating your forces confidently around the lush, isometric maps.
If you are versed in this kind of three-way strategy title, it will all seem incredibly straightforward, as you quickly map existing knowledge over to this polished new experience. New players, however, will simply be grateful navigation isn't a problem as they try to work out the best way to lead their massive, slow-moving special-units across the map.
A great addition to a silent genre
Grey Goo is a confident and well executed RTS, allowing it to get away with its dull name. While the genre may be under siege from MOBAs, fans of classic three-way gameplay are sure to be pleased with this beautiful, challenging title.
Whether it can really compete with its main contender Star Craft 2 in the online multiplayer community will be up to the aficionados - but, Grey Goo provides a great single player experience for those staved of RTS love.
GG, Petroglyph. GG.