Forget the metronomic RPGs, the mindless shooters and embrace the true epicness that is the Real Time Strategy genre. It has been a sad time for the RTS game recently. The shift to consoles and mobile gaming has not been kind. That said 2013 is setting up to be a great year with both Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm, and Rome Total War 2 set to be released. Here are my all time favourite top ten RTS missions. Apologies for those which I have left out, there will probably be many. Please add comments if you think I’ve missed something.
10. Homeworld 2 – Mission 9 Counter attack
Homeworld 2 has some very tough and challenging missions. In every mission you fight as an underdog and occasionally I found it a bit frustrating. It takes you so many missions to find the Dreadnought (a very powerful war ship) and capture the damn thing that the best Homeworld 2 mission has to be mission 9, the mission when you finally get to use it. The trouble is its main weapon, the ion cannon, is knocked out of commission almost immediately and swarms of enemy soon approach. This a very challenging and enjoyable mission.
9. Starcraft 2 – Defend to the Last Missions
Some of my favourite RTS missions are where you have to just hold out and survive for long enough against overwhelming force. In Starcraft 2 Wings of Liberty there are three of these missions (if you include the last Protoss mission) and they are all brilliant. There is something very satisfying about mowing down millions of Zerg units as they batter uselessly against your walls. The missions in Wings of Liberty are by in large excellent. Cleverly designed and very fun to play.
8. CnC Red Alert 2 –Allies Cuba Mission
Red Alert 2 was a great follow up to Red Alert 1 even if it wasn’t quite as good as its predecessor. There are a tonne of very cleverly designed and fun missions. The best is probably mission 11: Operation Fallout where you have to stop nuclear missiles being launched from Cuba using the chronosphere.
7. Gettysburg Scourge of War – On to the Roundtops
This relatively unknown highly realistic game is fantastic and one of my favourite games of all time. Superb if you’re a fan of history. Every mission has different scenarios (all of which can play out differently for replay-ability and they are all excellent and tremendous fun to play. My favourite has to be the ‘On to the Round tops’ mission. You must lead your rebel division to reverse history and capture and hold Devils Den and Little Round Top.
6. Cossacks – Ukrainian Mission 1
A simply brilliant mission as many are in the excellent ‘Cossacks’ but this was definitely my favourite. Being the first mission of this campaign you might think it would be easy and short. You would be wrong! This mission is hard and then some. Starting off as a small group of Serdiuks (a unit which has no melee ability, a problem in this period in history!) you must fight your way through to a friendly village. Upon reaching the temporary safety of the village you are soon overwhelmed by the innumerous enemy. Your only hope? A thin palisade wall which will fall quickly.
If you somehow survive you must fight your way out across the map to save your captive Cossack brothers before it’s too late. A very difficult but extremely rewarding mission which is brilliantly designed.
5. Hearts of Iron 2 – Poland
Without doubt one of the best RTS games ever created although its tremendous depth and steep learning curve will not appeal to everybody.
The game lets you recreate the events leading up to and through WWII as any country in the World. My favourite and most challenging option was taking over Poland in 1936 and preparing and attempting to stop the coming German invasion. It should be impossible but it’s not. Once you’re done with Germany you can then go about taking over the rest of the world.
4. Rome Total War – Julli campaign
You can’t have any RTS list without including a total war game. Rome Total War is the best game in the series so far (Rome Total War 2 is coming out this year). I really liked the way you took over one of three roman families (something which won’t be available in the sequel) and the ultimately took over the whole of Rome for yourself. My favourite was the Julii family
3. Supreme Commander – UEF mission 5
This game blew me away the first time I played it. It is truly epic and was miles ahead of its time. There are many great missions. What is unique about Supreme Commander is that your game map continues to expand throughout the mission. So you start off in a relatively small area and the map expands as you complete objectives. I really liked the fifth UEF mission operation forge. The opening briefing sets the mood very well. The war is going against you and you are now the last hope. It’s very challenging. You have to build defences against nuclear missiles and defend against constant attacks. ‘The strategic launch detected’ warning chills you to the bone the first time you hear it. A great game and a great mission
2. CnC Red Alert – Spy mission
There are many great missions in this brilliant game but the absolute best has to be the fantastic allies mission 10. One of the best RTS missions ever. Stalin is losing the war and in fury he’s about to launch a mass nuclear strike. Your only hope is to get to his launch controls and blow the missiles up in mid-air.
This mission starts off as a standard but excellent base mission. You mine resources build units and kill your enemy. But after you capture the enemy control centre that’s not the end as the mission continues inside. Your small specialist team of spies, engineers, medics marines and yes Tanya (if you can find her) must deactivate all those missiles before time runs out. It feels like a James Bond mission but as an RTS. Brilliant!
1. Starcraft Brood War – Patriot’s Blood (The traitor mission)
The best RTS mission has to come from the best RTS game of all time. Starcraft: Brood War. The only installation mission on Brood War, and my all-time favourite mission. What makes this mission so great is how its woven into the plot of the whole game and a major plot point takes place during it.
You start the mission in a Terran installation with nine marines. Your mission without wanting to give too much away, assassinate the traitor. But before you know it objectives and the whole story line have changed. Now the entire facility has been penetrated by the Zerg and there all coming for you! You’re going to have to fight your way through but the damn critters are burrowed in the walls and floor all around you. Worse still you’re running out of time. No mission encapsulates the true fear and horror of the Zerg as well as this one. I remember the first time I played this over ten years ago being absolutely terrified as I desperately tried to keep my small band of units together as I fought through the swarm. Without doubt the best RTS mission of all time.