I don’t like this focus of the genre. It dismisses actual strategy for micromanagement. One of my gaming highs was defeating the college Starcraft champion (back before there was even Broodwars) 1 v 1. How did I do it? I challenged him to play on slowest setting. The game had 8 speed settings and everyone was playing on the highest for “more fun”. Without his APM advantage, he was just mediocre.
The RTS that I’d call best written is Tier 5 carriers in World of Warships. Tier 6 got a particularly retarded micromanagement: manual drops and strafes. But T5, which had its first and second ranked sprint is free from these. Your APM is about 20. All you do is watching the battlefield and evaluating. Most of my thoughts is about figuring out which battleship will get the enemy torpedo bombers and place my fighters accordingly.
I believe there could be a sub-genre of the RTS genre: limited APM RTS. In this, the units have basic automatic behaviors, like patrolling an area or scouting. You can’t pinpoint-place a unit, you just send him “around that area”. If engaged, you can only give one order: “flee”, which make them automatically trying to find a way out. You can’t give any other order, forcing you to think when to engage without getting destroyed or routed.
The fun thing is that such game could be created with minimal effort from any existing RTS, as no further graphics or engine programming is needed. Just a new AI and the limitations of the commands.
Northgard is very close to it, but “very close” is not good enough. The “competitive scene” died, and without it the game only lingers, because high APM RTS players destroyed everyone else, then quit, because they didn’t find the APM game challenging enough and were bothered by the random maps that forces them to think. I have a feeling that Northard could be successfully re-launched with some marketing, if all battle micromanagement is removed.
Please note that I do not try to take away the top RTS games from the APM people. Let them have the current genre. I just wish to fork it for those who like the settings and the strategy, but not the micromanagement.