What is RTS? [Gaming Definition, Meaning]

What is a RTS? Action Happening in Real Time!

RTS or Real Time Strategy, is a genre that is formed around strategic gameplay in real time. Real time meaning everything happening within the moment, as opposed to a controlled predetermined format. Whatever is unfolding in front of you, all control is within your grasp as you form clever tactics around protecting the base and outsmarting the opponent before they can get any momentum going. RTS games tend to place a lot of emphasis on the strategic appeal, much like commanding a large faction of soldiers to assist you on the battlefield, and so every decision must be concise while ensuring that casualties remain minimal in the long run. RTS stemmed from a lot of the classic board games that we grew up playing such as the popular Risk, or even Diplomacy and Nexus Ops. Now that technology has evolved, it has allowed us to expand on this classic genre so let us take a closer look at RTS, and some great games to exemplify it.

Being Aware of Your Surroundings

In any battle, being aware of your surroundings is imperative to coming out on top. Of course we only have two eyes to see everything, but it’s using those very tools you have to your advantage that will seal the deal. We just never know what direction the opposing side is coming from, so it’s important to have an extra set of eyes in order to assist you so putting together a unit of strong individuals will certainly prove resourceful. The leader needs to keep his or her head in the game at all times and so, delegating tasks to other parties will ensure that strategies are laid out thoroughly before engaging in territorial warfare. One great example of this is Total War: Rome II, which puts you in charge of making sure that Rome stays afloat, and the nation is protected from outside threats. You don’t have to be a professional or have years of diplomatic experience to be good at playing; All that’s required is you plan accordingly and never make rash decisions.

Total War: Rome II

  • System/Platform: Windows, OS X
  • Publisher: Sega
  • Developer: The Creative Assembly
  • Release Date: September 3, 2013

Taking care of yourself is one thing, but imagine taking control of an entire empire and its troops as you battle your way towards victory. In Total War: Rome II, the spiritual successor to the critically acclaimed Rome: Total War that released back in 2004. The premise is still very much the same, you’re a commander and you’ll need to ensure that your assembly is organized and ready for battle. The theme is set in the classical antiquity period which portrays a much more sophisticated atmosphere. Once you dive deeper into the game players will need to get accustomed to the numerous changeable stances such as the Forced March Stance, and Defensive Stance, both of which have their strengths and weaknesses.

The whole point of Total War: Rome II is to pick a general that best suits you, recruit new units as you see fit, and gain skills for the army as you progress forward into the game’s long campaign. However an RTS game just wouldn’t be the same without making you decide what the best plan of action is, and so in Total War: Rome II there plenty of moments where prompted decisions will pop up for you to choose. There’s an abundance of things to grasp and understand as well such as controlling the navies along with understanding how the three core agents work. Each has their own profession and you can invest in them to help further your objectives and help put a stop to the opposing side. The plethora of things you’ll need to strategically think about is crazy, but it certainly is rewarding when everything starts to align in your favor and the battle ends with your side still standing.

Total War: Rome II - Find a Way Trailer


Tactical Precision

Tactical Precision is imperative in RTS games because they require you to always be on alert for any significant changes that could turn the tide against you at any moment. Being cautious and meticulous is certainly remunerated in the long term, but when it all begins you’ll need to be sure things are organized quickly and efficiently before the enemy strikes. A lot of teamwork is incorporated into RTS games a lot, not just by the NPC at times but also real people. One of the finest examples of the RTS genre is none other than Blizzard’s epic Starcraft franchise. For years, the Starcraft series has stood atop the podium as the main competitive title that teams would compete in order to take home the trophy. Sadly, over the years the popularity of the series has waned due to new fish diving into the scene such as Overwatch and League of Legends, and so Starcraft needed to pass on the throne. That doesn’t mean the competitive aura has died because Starcraft is still very much alive and well across parts of Asia, particularly in South Korea where they completely own the Starcraft scene, but also in North America along with EU.

Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void

  • System/Platform: Windows, OS X
  • Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
  • Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
  • Release Date: November 10, 2015

When you apply tactical precision with awareness you get a high level competitive title that is not only fun to watch, but it’s also great for your brain. Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void is the most recent expansion in the series, and it still gets a lot of play despite its drop in popularity over the past several years. This is of course a given considering that not everything lasts forever, but Blizzard clearly wanted to expand their horizons and create something that catered more to everyone. Starcraft certainly catered to a wide audience, but what separates it from the pack is just how technical it is once you actually start to notice the intricate details that go into creating a successful unit. You always have to be constantly aware of resource management, moving your units in strategically to the opponent base to infiltrate without losing too many casualties, while keeping track of your own base to see how much income you’re bringing in to sustain everything.

It’s like running your own city if you will, and so everything within that city must be managed with the utmost care and attentiveness otherwise, the enemy may find cracks in the defense and break through. RTS games cater more towards defensive offensive play more than the reverse because, unlike in other action oriented games where there are shorter time limits and less responsibility, Starcraft II, for example, gives you a longer time span and bigger responsibilities. That means if you’re in a tight position and need to somehow find a way out, your brain has to be on high alert in order to accomplish those tasks sufficiently. When you watch a high level match of Starcraft II you’ll see what we mean, since most of the opening phase is both teams constructing their units and building their base, then it’s perhaps 10 minutes later or even more when the hype starts to build and the battle ensues. It’s a lot like a soccer match where your set pieces are quintessential to slow the opponent down, and the opposing side starts to falter that’s when you strike back and secure the victory.

Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void - Launch Trailer


Slow and Steady

Everything works in unison with RTS games so being aware of your surroundings, while using tactical precision to take out the enemy requires a slow and steady process to achieve success. These step by step procedures are imperative when it comes to truly enjoying the RTS experience also because, if you’re the type to be impatient and want that a short term fix, you’ll end up losing faster than you should and dislike the game without truly seeing its long term benefits. Some RTS games will take you hours just to get through one or two objectives, while the entire campaign could take you months to finally say you’ve completed it. Even then, the game is constantly evolving along with you as civilizations grow stronger, economies grow bigger, and the battlefield is constantly expanding. So in order to feel the absolute reward of playing a RTS game, you’ll need a lot of patience and perhaps some coffee to keep you awake. One great example of this is another award winning title, and that’s none other than Europa Universalis IV.

Europa Universalis IV

  • System/Platform: Windows, OS X
  • Publisher: Paradox Interactive
  • Developer: Paradox Development Studio
  • Release Date: August 13, 2013

Europa Universalis IV is what you’d call grand strategy in gaming jargon because, it’s a grandiose title with so much to offer the player in terms of not only a wonderful gaming experience, but an educational one as well. We spent an enormous chunk of time playing Europa Universalis IV when it released back in August of 2013, and honestly we can’t even calculate how many hours we invested into all because it just seemed to speed right by us. You become so absorbed in just about everything in the game, from something as simple as gathering resources to build your local economy, to the more grandeur missions such as preventing the enemy from destroying your country. Throughout the time you play Europa Universalis IV, the game will constantly provide real historical information pertaining to countries and their cultural significance, along with major problems they faced in the past.

All this constant flow of incredibly resourceful information made the experience more profound since it felt like you were actually in control of a country, and intel would be shared with you about neighbouring countries over time. Sometimes you’d have to wait days just for your diplomat to return home so that your relations with other countries would be sustained, while suddenly south of the country one small territory is being attacked and you’ll need to protect that economy too. It’s certainly a lot of work and it puts you in the hot seat as if you were say the president of the country, but the feeling of seeing your country come to life is absolutely gratifying. You celebrate victory when your soldiers do, raise your hands in joy when your economy starts to see surplus in international trade, and feel the emotional low when your country gets invaded and resources must be salvaged to protect it all. That’s the true fun of Europa Universalis IV, it’s that the fun never stops even when you do because it’s like a real living world right under your fingertips and so when you wake up, your country awaits you for the next decision on your personal adventure.

Europa Universalis IV: Mandate of Heaven - Announcement Trailer


Final Thoughts

RTS games will forever be a part of the gaming conglomerate so long as die hard fans sink thousands of hours into them. The charm of these games is that they never really have an ending, and so you can continue on this incredible journey for as long as you please so long as you don’t destroy your nation. The genre certainly isn’t for everybody, but for those who get touched by its striking appeal, we certainly hope you check these titles out if you haven’t already. As per tradition we’ll provide you with some honorable mentions before we let you go. Supreme Commander, World of Warcraft III, Age of Empires, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War, Rise of Nations, Civ V, and many more. Let us know which RTS game you enjoyed the most in the comments below, and be sure to share our articles with everyone on social media to keep the community buzzing!

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Rob

Editor/Writer

Author: Rob "NualphaJPN" B.

100% Vegan. A passionate fan of gaming, writing, journalism, anime, and philosophy. I've lived in Japan for many years and consider this place to be my permanent home. I love to travel around Japan and learn about the history and culture! Leave a comment if you enjoy my articles and join me on Discord! Take care!

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