I can still remember my junior year of college, blowing off more important activities like going to class and talking to my family, and staying in my room on my PC. I was fortunate enough to live in a suite of four rooms, each with a desktop computer and one game that just took away all of our free time: StarCraft. The interesting map design, diversity of play that came from having three different distinct races and the wide variety of units gave me and my suite mates some long and entertaining nights, hearing my friends’ anguished screams after I called in multiple nuclear strikes. In this new release, Grey Goo appears to be the next generation of this concept.
Based on the scientific, end-of-world scenario of the same name, Grey Goo lets you play at the Beta, a four-armed bipedal race of creatures (with Australian and Scottish accents, for some reason) that find themselves running from, and in a resource war with, an invading force, the Humans. While defending their home planet from invasion, the Beta find themselves amidst a third group – a race of quick-spawning, fast-moving, amorphous group of creatures that do not appear to have any hope of being stopped known as the Zerg… I mean, Goo. The titular Grey Goo is a series of nanomachines, created by the humans many years prior to the events of the game, that have since grown sentient and banded together to stop an even greater evil.
Grey Goo takes many of the same concepts from other games and expands upon them. The gameplay is almost identical to StarCraft – isometric playing view, resource scarcity and management, and a diverse mix of infantry, heavy artillery, armor, stationary defense posts, and specialized weaponry for each race. The heads-up display allows for quick access to formation of buildings and units, and information on each unit is easy to access. However, Grey Goo takes many of the concepts and simplifies the process. For example, your group does not have any requirements to maintain food supplies for your soldiers; rather, there is a general cap of 200 units that you may have at a given time.
This concept frees up the theater of war to create more structures, and the use of hubs gives the player a chance to customize the types of units that can be made at any given location. The energy resources that you collect through extractors act as your overall currency, meaning that you need energy both for investing in buildings and developing units. The resource design helps players jump directly into building units, making this a critical element of engrossing new players quickly into the action.
The all-important multiplayer aspect is easy-to-use, and the community has some of the nicest individuals that I’ve played against. I played one 2v2 game, and being the slow builder that I am, had a polite nudge from my teammate to build another refinery. And as I watched as we were overwhelmed by the enemy and found our structures being destroyed, it was great to see my teammate congratulate our enemy on a job well done. As many of our communities can be dominated by very caustic language and inappropriate behavior, knowing that we have a community that can maintain sportsmanship is very attractive for those that want to just play a few rounds and unwind.
There are only a few problematic elements. First, the units can be hard to distinguish without moving in closer to the map and knowing the strength among the different types of units and accessing them quickly can mean the difference between victory and defeat. However, moving too close to the map keeps the player from seeing as much of the action, or in the case of my multiplayer game, my imminent doom. The voiceover sound for not only built units, but also units in production can be disconcerting and difficult to hear as you are trying to find a new place to build. Still, many of these issues can be rectified if given a decent amount of time to focus and play.
Grey Goo doesn’t employ any new elements to the landscape of real-time strategy gameplay; it does, however, use those tried and tested RTS elements while improving upon them, finding new ways to reduce the extra bits of work required by the player in order to focus on strategy and battle. I’m looking forward to what the next installment has to offer, and given the ending of the game, there should be plenty more to offer.