I Suck at Games: Strategy/Tactical games

[It’s time for another Monthly Musing — the monthly community blog theme that provides readers with a chance to get their articles and discussions printed on the frontpage. — CTZ

Just about a month ago, I got together with my friends for the first time in quite a while for a night of Starcraft. I remember getting that game when it first came out, along with Brood War, and while I was never obsessed with it, I absolutely loved it. I’m way more of a futuristic-setting type of person than something that takes place in the past, so it seemed perfect for me.

There was just one problem — I. Was. Horrible. I still am. I don’t think I’ve ever won a single game of Starcraft or Warcraft on my own in my entire life. The only way I can even come close to winning is when I’m part of a team of people who have been playing for years, and who specialize in the strategy genre. It doesn’t matter what game in the genre it is, I can’t seem to win. Or come even close to winning, for that matter. In fact, I’ve never even finished any of the single-player Starcraft campaigns to this day.

When I was in middle school, one of the teachers in a computer class I had was really laid back, so we’d play stuff like Starcraft and Command & Conquer whenever we had some downtime, and that’s probably where I played those games the most. All the computers in the room were always networked, so we were always on big teams. Well, you know how there are those TV shows and movies where the kids in gym class in school are being picked to be on teams, and the non-athletic kids are always picked last? That non-athletic kid was me when it came to downtime in that class. I was always shuffled from team to team because everyone knew how I played, and I honestly can’t say I blamed them one bit. I wanted to make me stop playing half the time. No matter what happened, I was always swarmed from all directions by the enemy, seemingly only a minute or two into the game. I never even had time to build up a defense.

And that’s when I realized what my one true weakness is when it comes to RTS — I hate the pace. I’m not a strategical player; I’m all about run-and-gun. When it comes to stuff like Starcraft, I’m always trying to go faster than I should be. I always concentrate on nothing but offense, and way too little on defense, leaving my entire base wide open and ripe for the picking. And you know what really sucks? I know that it’s my weakness. I just never seem to be able to adjust my play style to do what I know needs to be done, so my suckiness is my own fault. I’m always relying on my teammates to come and bail me out, but I’m always worried that they’ll be slaughtered in the process. I love RTS games, but I think they actually stress me out more than anything.

You know what type of game I’m even worse at than strategy? Tactical. No, not like Tactical Espionage Action — I mean grid-based. Limited movements per turn, straight-up tactical stuff. I can’t play games like Ogre Battle or Final Fantasy Tactics to save my life. The kick in the crotch when it comes to that is the fact that I don’t even know why I suck so badly at them, which means it’s really hard to write about it here. I think part of it is the fact that most tactical games that I’ve seen look like they want to have free-roaming or real-time battle systems, but the grid system restricts that free movement. Now, I realize the grid system is there purposely, and it’s not meant to restrict anything. It’s just that when I’m playing, I feel like I’m purposely being held back not for the sake of gameplay, but just because the game wants to be a bitch. It feels like a negative thing to me. I’m not saying the games that utilize this system are bad by any means — I just can’t adjust and plan to move along the ground in a thoughtful way. It goes back to that run-and-gun mentality of mine, I suppose.

Another thing that tends to distract me in tactical games, for lack of a better term, is the sheer size of the fights. Some of the fights in tactical games tend to last a very long time, and I’m more of a quick-but-many type of guy when it comes to battles. I can do long battles, but I much prefer a break now and then instead of just one drawn out battle sequence. I tend to start falling asleep if it’s the same exact thing for such a long period of time. I can’t remember which game this one friend of mine was playing, but one battle seriously took about 45 minutes from beginning to end. Come to think of it, maybe that’s another thing that makes me suck at RTS games.

I’ll tell you what, though. There’s one tactical game that I truly do love and that’s Valkyria Chronicles because that game does stuff differently than any other tactical game I’ve ever played. It still limits your movement for the turn you’re taking, but everything is absolutely free-roaming and half the game is a third-person shooter. As you move, you’re being attacked by all the enemies in range in real-time, and once you’re done, you can take cover and manually aim your weapon to attack. You have much more freedom than any other strategy/tactical game I’ve ever come across and half the time it doesn’t even feel like it’s a part of that genre. I’m good at third-person games, and I think that’s what helps me like Valkyria Chronicles so much.

So there you have it. I suck at RTS and tactical games, I know this fact, and I’m fine with it. I do like what I’ve played of them, but I think the pace of them is just too slow for me to ever truly get into them, which is a shame since I’m extremely excited for Starcraft II. I’m sure I’ll still buy it, but I probably won’t be winning any games, at least not until I have about four years of practice or something. I’ll start winning games in Starcraft II once Starcraft III comes out.

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