The pioneer – Dune II | 1993 | Amiga/Mega Drive
You can’t really talk about RTS without mentioning Dune II. Though it’s spiritual successor - the acclaimed and much better received Command and Conquer - served to popularize the genre, it did little more. Among Dune II’s string of ‘you saw it here first’ features were the very basic things we take as standard – base building with the use of a technology tree; the emphasis on gathering resources to fund construction; even the distinction between the different Houses (factions) in terms of units and fighting style. Though nothing to write home about today, Dune II laid down the bare bones which set the tone for practically every RTS since.
Raising the bar – StarCraft | 1999 | PC
Eight years on and there still really isn’t a rival to StarCraft. Its appeal is a simple matter of balance. The three factions all possess their own units and have different overriding strengths and weakness. The fast but fragile Zerg hive mind, the powerful but cumbersome Protoss and the middle of the road Terrans. None is dominant over the other, a problem which has plagued almost every other RTS, and makes StarCraft a joy to play. Not to mention introducing a welcome dose of tactics to the satisfying, but otherwise mechanic RTS cycle of cranking out wave after wave of tanks. Little wonder that gamers were baying when developer Blizzard announced that a new StarCraft title would bring the series back into action early next year.
Above:  Dune II;  StarCraft;  Moscow to Berlin: Red Siege;  Medieval II Total War: Kingdoms
Scraping the barrel – Moscow to Berlin: Red Siege | 2006 | PC
Everything about Germany’s World War II incursion into the Soviet Union turned into a shambles. Fittingly this game of that conflict has a similar disposition. Having done away with any unit (or indeed, base) construction in a bid for historical accuracy, it leaves you in command of tiny forces which are bugger all fun to play with. There simply isn’t any opportunity for a chaotic melee if you want to survive. Not that there is any reason to - there is no overriding plot to drive you forward. The death knell sounded when we realised that there wasn't even an offline skirmish mode for a quick fight. How many years has that been standard now?
Keep your eyes peeled for – Medieval II Total War: Kingdoms | 2007 | PC
It may just be an expansion but Total War is one of the hottest RTS franchises around. The genre at large has tried, with little success, to make veteran units have an impact on proceedings – we can’t wait to see whether Kingdoms ’ concept of heroes with special abilities can do any better.
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