Strong sense of accomplishment from completing levels.
Feeling of progression when unlocking new units and structures.
Competent friendly and enemy AI.
Irritating voice acting.
UI can be a little unfriendly at first.
Grey Goo Review
When I was told I would be reviewing Grey Goo, I instantly thought of a sequel to the puzzle game “World of Goo”, connecting blobs together to get to the pipe at the end. What I didn’t expect was a surprisingly competent and engaging RTS (Real Time Strategy) complete with different factions, mechanics, maps and multiplayer to mess around with.
The single player campaign starts with aliens known as Betas opening up a portal to somewhere else in space. A blip is seen on the radar, but the voiceover lady tells you to ignore it. All of a sudden, something comes through, explosions, death, impalement so on and so forth. Then the game thrusts the reigns into the player’s hands and tells them to sort it out. Overall, the story is passable, but you don’t really feel connected to any of the characters, and a lot of the time the character you follow just monologues in a boring, gravelly voice.
Speaking of which, the voice acting in Grey Goo is grating to say the least. The lovely voiceover woman I mentioned earlier absolutely loves to narrate everything you do. Build a unit, construct a building, go into any sort of combat and she’ll dutifully remind the player of what they just did. Think Navi from Ocarina of Time but with the capacity for more than three different statements. You can obviously turn down the speech volume, effectively muting her, but the fact that the developers made this the default is surprising. Plus every now and again she actually does help if the camera is focusing on something else while the enemy snuck around and started destroying a building. But this is honestly about five percent of the time, and the other ninety-five percent is absent rambling and stating the bloody obvious.
Now, most RTS games have a UI about as friendly as a cricket bat to the knee, but Grey Goo is surprisingly gentle. Instead it feels like a swift blow to the stomach It’s unexpected and unpleasant, but it doesn’t do any lasting damage and you soon become accustomed to the pain. The screen is filled with icons for buildings, units of varying classes and strengths, a map and various other numbers and statistics that went straight over my head. After a while though a lot of the options feel like they’re in the right place, and everything is easy to handle. Every building needs power to run. You can either connect it all to your headquarters, which is a viable option at the start or, as you branch out, make small, medium or large mini bases. These provide power to buildings connected to them, and the larger they are the more buildings can be connected to them. All buildings and units need resources to purchase. These resources are farmed from resource points, which look like water springs. Once you have resources, it’s a good idea to build a factory, which churns out ground units. Once you have these ground units, congratulations! You can now go explore the rest of the map, killing everyone in your path! Of course, there is strategy to this Real Time Strategy game. I’m sure armchair generals across the globe spend quite a long time with furrowed brows, ceaselessly trying to predict the battle outcome as they decide the best place to strike. My play style is much clumsier- some units stay behind, but most units march like an angry mob, forging a new path. If you ever come across an enemy, shoot it till it stops moving. This method, while unrefined, got me a way into the game, until the enemy started attacking from different areas. That got me good.
The graphics are incredible, especially for an RTS. Most games of this genre feel like the far away camera gives them an excuse to scrimp on the texture quality and so forth, but Grey Goo looks absolutely gorgeous. The lighting is brilliant, there’s plenty of wildlife and vegetation purely for show, the planet looks alive. It all comes together for a more immersive experience.
On the other hand, the music is somewhat forgettable. There are a couple of crescendos whenever combat starts, but other than that it’s either silent or simply boring background music. Even then it’s hard to hear over the incredibly eager announcer reminding the player that they blinked half a second ago.
Stages can take upwards of 40 minutes to complete, since you start from the bottom with no resources at the beginning of every level. But this honestly isn’t a complaint, and just adds to the level of investment the player feels. They say it’s not about the destination, but the journey. This is illustrated beautifully here, as while you have a definite goal (destroying the enemy base), it feels much more rewarding and satisfying after needing to get the amount of units necessary to tear their base a new one.
Both AI’s are pretty good, though I feel the enemy AI is slightly better. This is obviously to compete with the human input, i.e. myself. Place a unit in a spot and leave him, and he’ll shoot anything that falls into range. This may sound like the most basic of functions, but it’s wonderfully underrated, especially after playing some RTS’ with the most helpless friendly AI which wouldn’t attack until you pretty much pointed their heads in the enemy’s direction and pulled the trigger for them.
Grey Goo is a pleasant surprise. Mechanics weave, interlock and complement each other (e.g. the brush mechanic encourages and supports team play, and my “angry mob” style of gameplay). The Humans, Betas and titular Grey Goo blob monsters all provide varied attributes, with the latter sporting a mobile base (which feels like cheating to me) and feeling like the more aggressive of the classes. This is recommended for seasoned armchair veterans and those (like myself) who are inexperienced with the harsh and harrowing realities of ordering simulated men to fight and die while you drink hot chocolate.
Grey Goo Review
23rd January 2015