2009 was a good year if you’re an RTS fan. The sheer amount of variety we had in different RTS games that were released last year was amazing to see. And nowhere was this reflected better than in our nominees for Strategy Game of the Year.
Both Anno 1404 and Tropico had great city building mechanics. They were easy to get into and almost impossible to get out of. Empire: Total War and Hearts of Iron focused on historical combat at a larger scale than any other game released. Halo Wars merged the tried and tested formula of Age of Empires with the Halo universe and threw in some stunning CGI cutscenes to make it stand out. But it was Warhammer 40000: Dawn of War II, with its mixture of RPG and RTS elements, which came away with the majority of the votes and won our Best Strategy Game of 2009 crown.
Relic took quite a risk with Dawn of War II when it decided to infuse RPG elements into the sequel to (what possibly was) one of the most pure RTS games of recent times. In turn, this also meant they had to reduce the number of squads you controlled in game. So in some ways, the core strategy elements of the game were reduced massively in favour of RPG elements and squad mechanics. But it turned out that it wasn’t such a bad trade off. This meant that the game became more focused and the battles became more intense.
The ability to upgrade your squads and deck them out in better gear as you progress gave the game a much needed RPG-like addictiveness. Purists will argue that the simplification of the game mechanics has hurt the series in the long run, but with the excellent post release support Relic have provided and an expansion on its way next year, it’s hard to argue that the change has been for the worse. Certainly our voters didn’t feel that way.
Our staff pick for Best Strategy Game was also Dawn of War II. In fact its gameplay mechanics were so popular, it even got votes of approval from our non-RTS playing staff members.
IVG Staff Pick: Warhammer 40000: Dawn of War II