Review: Grey Goo (PC)

You never realize how much you need a game like Grey Goo until it’s dumped in your lap. I had the pleasure of playing this Real-Time Strategy (RTS) game at PAX South in late January. The game felt oddly familiar, and with its history it’s no surprise. Grey Goo has been released by Petroglyph, a company built by former members of Westwood Studios. Years ago Westwood Studios made some of the greatest RTS games (Command & Conquer), but after being absorbed into EA, Westwood vanished. EA kept Command & Conquer for a few years, but has recently put the franchise on the back burner. This move left us with only Blizzard Entertainment creating any RTS games. That is, until now. The sordid history of Grey Goo is clear, but the skills of its developers is nothing short of stunning. Petroglyph has focused its energies into building, strategy, and mechanics, creating a solid RTS game to rival some of the greats.

Content Warning

The game is rated T for Teens in reference to the mild violence and blood in the game. There are no sexual themes or language.

Story

The story is pretty classic: two species war against each other, until a greater threat (Grey Goo) forces them to work together. “Grey goo” is a hypothetical end-of-the-world scenario in which nanobots self-replicate infinitely, destroying everything in their path. There are three factions you can play as: The Betas, the Humans, and the Grey Goo. The Betas are the most familiar-looking in their buildings and units. The humans are the most advanced technologically. Their units and buildings are more challenging to play than the Betas. The Grey Goo faction plays differently than a standard RTS game. You don’t necessarily build a base unit, and then factories, and other buildings, but you replicate the “mother goo.” From there you must make new units off of it, and upgrading the mother goo will give you better units.

The story is broken into 15 missions; each faction gets five missions a piece. The pacing is decent, but since the missions rotate through the factions, it’s hard to maintain your grasp on each story. Once you’ve got a handle, the mission is over and you move onto the next faction. The difficulty ramps up pretty fast in this game. I had to bump down to easy, and I still had to replay some missions.

None of the units felt super powerful, which made the game more challenging to play. Just building one type of unit doesn’t make you unstoppable. I had a large group of tank units get taken out by a slightly larger group of base units. This mechanic adds a nice layer to the unit building; you want to make your squads a mixture of different types of units to fit the situation at hand.

Graphics and Sound

The graphics are pretty typical in Grey Goo. They’re not really high end, but they’re not terrible either. There is a few times where the environment looks pretty great, but the graphics really shine in the facial features of the different characters. The emotions in the voice work really carry into the facial features. You can see the worry and concern in the characters’ faces.

One of my biggest pet peeves was with the game’s fictional language. In the initial cut scene the characters are speaking in their native language, yet in the rest of the game they are speaking English with a South African accent. While the voice acting is really great, the accents and English felt forced, breaking the fictional world.

Game Play

The biggest thing that I like about this game is that it gets you to use hot keys. This is something that most casual players (including myself) never really use when playing an RTS. Hot keys aren’t that common outside the professional gaming world, so it felt a little strange (and nerdy) to use them in Grey Goo. After putting in a few hours however, I can’t believe I’ve been playing RTS games without hot keys. It makes everything so much easier: controlling the field, making sure all of your units are healthy, and proper placement for ultimate field control.

Multiplayer is pretty standard in Grey Goo. It’s the typical list of game types found in any RTS. Most of your opponents will feel better than you (as is common in RTS multiplayer), but unlike Starcraft II where I just stopped playing, the challenge has made me want to get better. Thankfully, Grey Goo is so initially easy to grasp, I found myself really striving to learn more in multiplayer.

Conclusion

If you’ve been wanting to get into RTS games, but think Starcraft II is too daunting, Grey Goo is a the perfect place to start. Not only is Grey Goo just a great game, but the skills obtained from playing will translate into other RTS games. In the end, Grey Goo might not become the stand-out hit like Starcraft, but that’s not a bad thing. Grey Goo gives new players a feel for the RTS genre, and will ultimately bring more gamers into the field. They may move on to other games, but Grey Goo is exciting enough in and of itself. It’s fun to explore the different mechanics and strategies of the game; there is more to discover if you dig deeper. Ultimately, Grey Goo is a great RTS game, for new and seasoned gamers.

Ryan Thompson

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