To understand how absolutely not ridiculous this video game’s name is, is to understand the origins of it. “Grey goo” is a doomsday scenario based on a term coined way back in 1986 by American engineer and molecular nanotech pioneer Eric Drexler. In this scenario, technology begins to engulf other tech and replicate until it becomes an insurmountable force.
With this theory in mind, developer Petroglyph Games embarked on a journey to create a fresh, potential mainstay in the RTS genre. With founding members previously involved in the development of titles such as Command & Conquer and Dune II, Petroglyph has been sharpening their tactical prowess up until this possibly defining moment. Where does Grey Goo land?
In Grey Goo, you have three factions you control: The Humans, the Beta, and the highlight of the game: the Goo. The first two aren’t anything entirely original, but the Goo offer an interesting perspective. The Beta are an alien people on the last legs of their civilization and the Goo is initially found by the Humans as they scavenged a barren land that’s potentially been erased courtesy of the illusive Silent Ones. You don’t learn much about these Silent Ones, but it’s clear that they will be the main antagonist of the franchise.
The gameplay is mostly your usual RTS fare, but the developers removed some of the resource micro-management in order to better focus on tactics and your build tree. There’s only one resource to acquire, creating a much more forgiving environment for players. This change is the foundation of the strengths that Grey Goo could build upon . The simplicity will welcome new players and put everyone onto a bit more level of a playing field. Instead of having to be incredibly quick and savvy in the resource gathering phase, which could make or break you in other titles, your focus will be on the units and tech trees.
In the meat of the game, Grey Goo misses only a few steps. The strengths of an RTS lies in its differing factions and their units. Sadly, there aren’t a huge amount of units allowing for very diverse tactics. Not even the “hero” units change the fact that your end-game battles can be a bit stale. The air units are also an area of opportunity. They’re hindered in such a way that makes balance easier to manage, but makes them a chore to use. These development approaches may be another example of Petroglyph’s focus on simplicity, but hopefully an expansion offers up more exciting units and fixes some balancing that makes the Betas significantly more potent of a faction.
The illusion of vibrant, living environments, though somewhat hindered by pedestrian visuals (even at max settings), is complimented by ambient noise that changes as you move around the maps. The waterfalls and wildlife enhance things that are otherwise gone unnoticed. Sadly, these things alone don’t make up for the repetitive banter of all units. The Goo is at least interesting to begin, but the lack of varying units make their queued sounds all the more repetitive and annoying rather quickly. The CGI and voice acting are very well done, filling the space between campaign missions fittingly.
The story in Grey Goo has all the pieces for an intriguing narrative, but remains very predictable from beginning to end. You’re shown the three perspectives of a major conflict that purposefully doesn’t make any sense until you reach the Goo phase. The villain offered up toward the end is illusive and undefined, leaving a wanting feeling when the credits roll. Again, hopefully the devs will offer more with additional expansions.
Grey Goo is a decent new IP in the RTS arena that has its heart in the right place. A lighter learning curve but tight game-play needs to be enhanced with more units and maps, but Petroglyph has a solid franchise to work with. Time will tell if the game is fully embraced in the competitive market, where this game would need to thrive in order to win over more experienced players.
This review is based on a digital copy of Grey Goo for the PC provided by Grey Box.