Review: Grey Goo
One of the games that was at PAX South 2015 that I was really excited to know more about was Grey Goo. Unlike with other RTS games where strategy is a one size fits all, Grey Goo gives you the freedom to play the game the way you want to play it. You have to spend time with it to learn what works for you and what doesn’t.
30 Second Review
+ Real Time Strategy (RTS) that is a Macro vs Micro experience
+ 3 unique factions that are extremely diverse from one to the next
+ Story driven CGI cutscenes that deliver
– Default key bindings are poor but can be changed
– Learning from trial and error can be frustrating
What’s in the Grey Box?
Grey Goo features a 15-mission single-player campaign, skirmish mode, and multiplayer. Play coop against the AI with friends, go online and destroy all human opponents, or in my case, die trying. Regardless of which game mode you choose you’ll be able to play with as many as 4 players.
The game has an extreme amount of customization. Multiplayer has its own dedicated maps; it doesn’t reuse campaign assets. You really can create unique and enjoyable experiences utilizing the settings and options. Play this game the way that makes you happy!
There is a very detailed story complete with CGI cutscenes. I do not wish to spoil any of the story, but if you like story driven games, and if you’re interested in a sci-fi setting, then playing this game once for the story and cutscenes is extremely enjoyable and satisfying.
Grey Goo has three distinct factions:
- Humans – In order to get the most out of your experience with humans, you have to understand that this faction is heavily defensive. They have a solid core base design along with fortifications. However, they gain these by also sacrificing some mobility and map control. They can eventually unlock technology that will allow them to reconfigure their base. This ability allows them to move structures around the map grid as needed. Game tip: Unlock the teleporter structure so that you can instantly relocate units anywhere on the battlefield. You can only teleport to locations that you have explored. You cannot teleport into the fog of war.
- Betas – When you look at this faction, you need to view them as the Jack of all trades. They can do everything fairly well. You can play defensively or aggressively to suit your play style. The Betas can create expansion hubs that allow them to gain a command post at any position on the map you desire. These hubs make them much more versatile, and they can attack more aggressively than their human counterparts. Game tip: When you go to attack a human base, set multiple expansion hubs surrounding the base; build a quick strike force, and then attack from all angles at once. This tactic creates massive confusion and causes the human player to experience a lot of stress. If you want to win just by breaking the will of your opponent with force, Betas are the right choice for you.
- Goo – This faction is ultra aggressive and extremely agile. The Goo, when played correctly, are in constant motion. They have a few support units that can provide some defensive cover, but honestly if you’re in defensive mode with the Goo, you’ve already lost. They have a unique ability to traverse terrain that is inaccessible by other factions, which gives them an element of surprise. You have the ability to try to outmaneuver your opponent. Do you want to stalk your opponent, or do you want to lead them on a grand and futile chase straight into an ambush? Game tip: While the Goo is the easiest faction to learn, truly mastering it can take time. Understanding that can help keep you from getting frustrated during the learning process.
Micro vs Macro
Real Time Strategy games are best known for their micro management. What sets Grey Goo apart from other games within this genre is the fact the developer set out to make a macro experience rather then a micro one. How they accomplish this is no longer having to go and click on something specifically to interact with it; now you can just manage everything the game has to offer with several hot keys. This control style is a very neat idea, and one that I think is awesome and brings something more to the genre. I hope this concept can be expanded upon further, and we see more of this style in the future.
I’m unsure why the the default key bindings for Grey Goo were assigned in the position that they are, which is the biggest complaint I have for this title. The camera control default keys are set to the arrow keys, and wasd are bound to other actions. Plus, it uses the number keys and the top two letter rows of the keyboard. I don’t like the camera controls being set to the arrow keys, because it creates moments where I have to take my hand off the mouse to do something, reach for the keys, then put my hand back on the mouse. I also have to divert my eyes to the keyboard, because I don’t regularly use the arrow keys.
Thankfully, every key is rebindable. It took me a half hour to rebind all the keys and set it up in a way so that I could fully maximize this macro experience. Some of the keys I wanted to use were already bound to something else. It took some time to adjust the key in order for it to feel more feel natural and comfortable; your mileage may vary. I succeeded in rebinding every key within comfortable reach of my left hand, and now my right hand never has to leave the mouse. After rebinding the keys, Grey Goo immediately went from a frustrating to a very enjoyable experience.
Deciding on how you want to advance your technology is critical. When you first start playing Grey Goo, you have to tell yourself, “I’m going to die a lot, and I’m going to lose when I first start out.” Only through trial and error will you discover which techs work for you and which do not.
There is no one size fits all approach in Grey Goo. You have to develop a plan from the beginning of the game and do your best to stick to it. It is very difficult to try to switch tactics and change your tech options halfway through the game if your plan isn’t working. Trying to go in a different direction may only make things harder for you. You have to do your best to create a plan, stick to your plan, and make your opponent play to your strengths. At times you may be fighting a losing battle, but if you can survive and hold out long enough, then you can potentially launch a counter offensive and win the game.
Grey Goo is devious in design. Everything feels so simplified and runs so smooth; the entry level into this RTS game is greatly reduced. If you’ve never played an RTS game, then this is almost the perfect game to start exploring the genre. Just know that RTS games in general are notorious for being soul-crushing at times.
If you’re looking for an RTS with a bit more depth than Starcraft that cuts down on all the micro managing, then Grey Goo is what you are looking for. I would recommend that if Grey Goo interests you, then at the very least put it on your Steam wishlist. The summer sale is only a few months away.