It’s called Three Moves Ahead, and the cast of characters is Tom Chick, Bruce Geryk, Julian Murdoch, and Troy S. Goodfellow, all familiar names for strategy gamers who like to read about their hobby.
In the latest episode, they tackle an issue that I am going to be addressing in my next GD column (#5), which is whether separate strategic and tactical sub-games can live together happily in one single title. They use the Total War series as the primary data point, and I’m not surprised. I’ve never enjoyed the tactical battles of the series – too slow and ponderous for my RTS tastes weaned on StarCraft and Age of Kings – while also finding the strategic levels too vague and opaque to enjoy, with simply not enough meat on the bone. Having the top-level game be constantly interupted by the unwelcome tactical battles certainly didn’t help matters either. However, the mix can be done well, as games like Lord of the Realms or X-Com prove. The trick, in my mind, is to make sure that one half of the game is always subservient to the other half. X-Com, for example, is clearly about the tactical combat while Lord of the Realm is clearly about the strategic level. Still, in general, I’m not sure it’s a challenge that is worth tackling. It’s a lot easier to make one great game than two good (let alone great) ones that actually fit together.