First Impressions – Grey Goo

I was intrigued when I first heard about Grey Goo. A strategy game that recreates the classic Real-time Strategy (RTS) formula from classic games like Starcraft (one of my favourite games of all time)? Sounds great, I thought, but I decided to wait and see what happened with it. Then, the reviews came out, with many calling it “the best RTS game made by anyone other than Blizzard in the last decade”.

But is it really that good? Can the gameplay, storylines and quality of the game possibly compete with Blizzard? Well, it recently had a free-to-play weekend on Steam, and so I decided to find out…

Grey Goo

The game opens with an impressive cutscene that, without wanting to give too much away, follows an advanced alien species experimenting with some kind of portal technology. Naturally, something goes wrong and trouble rains down on them.

The single player campaign then begins with you following this alien race, the Beta, and playing as one of their commanders. There is a series of missions where you learn the basics of the game and battle against two different opposing factions (and, on some missions, against the clock) to fight for the survival of the species. Each mission is accompanied by another high quality cutscene and fully voiced and animated briefing sequences.

The graphics are good and the gameplay is vaguely reminiscent of games like Starcraft, though it reminded me more of the Warhammer video games like Dawn of War.

Gameplay is also very good. As the Beta, you have to build hubs, which all of your other buildings can then be connected to. You can connect a factory to a hub, which allows the construction of basic military units, and you unlock heavy armour by also having a Tank Attachment connected to the same hub as the factory. Attaching a Stealth Attachment unlocks cloaked vehicles… you get the idea. Its an interesting system that adds some unique feeling tactical thought to base design. You have to collect a substance, called Catalyst, using harvesters, similar to harvesting Tiberium in the Command and Conquer games, and have to expand and build multiple bases across the map to take advantage of the extra available resources to defeat your enemies, which is an element of RTS gameplay that I’ve missed in most strategy games (except Starcraft) in recent years.

Inevitable Comparisons

I was expecting to make lots of comparisons to Starcraft, but, apart from aping the ‘three different races with different play styles’ thing, and the elaborate cutscenes to tell the story, it didn’t actually remind me of Starcraft all that much.

As I have already eluded to, I was reminded more of Warhammer Dawn of War – for reasons that I can’t quite put my finger on exactly – and the Command and Conquer Tiberium games (ignoring the abysmal Command and Conquer 4, obviously!).  Its not just the harvesters, but the way that aircraft have ammo and have to return to the hangar to repair and refuel, for example that have a whiff of C&C about it.

The game takes its ideas from a range of RTS classics and so there is no one game that it obviously, shamelessly copies from.

Value for Money?

My only concern, as a person who is primarily interested in the single-player campaign and maybe a the odd skirmish mission against the AI – and who is interested in multiplayer – is the fact that, after just 5 missions, which took around 3 hours to complete (even though I failed a couple by not meeting the time constraints!), I got the achievement for completing the alien campaign. There are, according to the game’s wiki, fifteen mission in the game and people reckon that it can be beaten in around 8 hours.

Now, 8 hours is not to be scoffed at. You CAN beat the campaign in Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty in under 8 hours (and there is an achievement for doing so). Grey Goo’s longevity can possibly be extended by completing all of the optional objectives and achievements. However, compared to the almost 30 missions in Wings (and the 10 missions per faction in the original Starcraft), 15 missions just feels like a short sell somehow…

Final Thoughts

I was very impressed with Grey Goo. It’s a great example of a genre of gaming that has all but died out in recent years. The gameplay is great and the storytelling through the elaborate cutscenes is great as well. I’m just not sure that such a small amount of – albeit very well-produced – content is worth the £29.99 price tag (+ £5.59 for the 3-mission expansion). But then, perhaps I’m just a PC gamer who has been spoiled by years of Steam sales! And perhaps the fact that people are unwilling to pay enough to cover the cost of developing these games is why the genre has all but died out!

It was probably worth the sub-£15 price that it was available for during this free-to-play weekend, but I didn’t go for it (though that was mainly because I’m currently broke). I’m sure that this game will end up in a Steam sale for £10 or less, and on that day I will snap it up. Until then, however, it will have to sit and wait on my wishlist.