Absolutely and utterly the best RTS game you can get. The hours recorded in steam does not reflect the time i have spent in this game. I mostly played on GPGnet, but since its demise all players now use FAF - forged alliance forever, a community of dedicated players reaching at times up to 1000 players on at any given moment. FAF has player rating for balanced games, 1v1 ladder, and custom games. The game within FAF has been modified to rebalance the game further, whilst this is work in progress, major alterations have taken place to improve gameplay for the better.
The game features what i consider a must for any large scale RTS which is called Zoom. This means you can seamlessly zoom in and out of areas of the map that need your attention. Fixed view with minimap is no use at all for this scale of game where you control 100's of units.
The game is difficult i wont lie. Its made harder by the fact that dedicated players like myself have played the game for a long time and know it inside out, but we are here to help new players learn, and this is where FAF plays a great role in introducing and helping new players by offering video tutorials and a community lobby where people can chat in public and private messages.
The game features a flux economy system. This in my opinion is fantastic, you accumulate resources per second, and spend resources per second. Each structure or unit costs resources per second, and the time in which it takes for something to complete can be decreased if you have enough resources by channeling more build power into the particular unit or structure. This adds a dimension of strategy to the already obundant strategies available in game.
You have 2 resources, mass and energy. Mass is mostly made from building an extractor on fixed locations throughout the map forcing the player to expand, energy is made by making structures that produce it. You can enhance your mass production by upgrading the mass exctractors that you have built. Doing so will cost you mass and energy but you will be rewarded on completion with more mass per second. Finding the balance between spending resources and increasing them either makes you win or lose the game. It is extremely hard to find that balance especially when you play different maps.
Each game is its own, it feels different, because there are so many variables within a game, choices that you make or decisions that your oponents make. Playing the same map over and over will not bring you boredom, instead you will retain the interest and hunger for the win, cahnge your style, adapt your choices.
Like any RTS you are encouraged to expand, and rewarded with resources for doing so but what makes FAF so diverse is the map selection. Gameplay can vary extensively based on the type of map you are playing, so for those of you who are new to the game or prefer not to move to much, there are maps that cater for that play style. We call them turtle maps, where resources are located near to your start location minimizing any early raids so you can focus entirely on a smaller number of tasks.
Actions per minute do matter in this game, there are many things to do, early on you have less units and less things to monitor, its nice and relaxed, but as the game lengthens you are forced to do more as your units multiply, it becomes more challenging and it begins to become much more intense. A replay feature which can be watched at any point will show you your mistakes or how you won, its a great way to learn.
There are 4 tech tiers
Tech 1 - basic units that you can build right away, low heatlth and damage but low cost. Tech 2 - higher health more versatile, better selection, costs a little more Tech 3 - high health and damage, costs alot Experimantal - Collosal units with very high health and damage, game changers, slow to build, cost a lot
Certain maps enable games as big as 8v8, games can last as little as 7 minutes or as long as 2 hours depending on how balanced or aggressive the teams are. The rating system is based on trueskill, new player ratings will fluctuate greatly to begin with until it works out how well you play.
As you might already know the game features base building, engineers are a unit you have to build to make structures, you can have 1 engineer make a building in 3 minutes or 10 engineers make it 10 times faster, but it will cost ten times more per second. Structures you can make are land factories, naval factories, air factories. Point defense building to defend with, tactical long range missile launchers, tactical missile defense, nukes and anti nukes, stationary shields, or even giant artillary that can reach the entire map.
There are 4 factions at the moment, each faction is diverse, it feels different and has different buildings and units with different stats. You start the game with one unit, the Commander, which can be upgraded, it can build structures and fight against units. Your commander is on of your most formible units which can be useful both passively and aggressively. If he dies, you die so you need to keep him alive at all costs.
I have probly played this game more than 10000 hours in the 7 years i have owned it, i still play it most days even now. Please if you are an RTS fan give this a try, dont be put off by its difficulty, it can be frustrating at 1st but it is so rewarding when you start winning.
If you like RTSs than look no further. This game is everything an RTS should be, and is constantly updated by FAF, a private launcher/server for the game. Only negative is the heavy CPU load, but if you have a good CPU buy this game. I paid $3 for this game and those were some of the best $3 I ever spent.
An abosuletly fantastic game. Steam shows I've only played 186 hours, it is probably more like triple that as i was playing it before steam became a major player. i will say that you can find a physical version of it on amazon generaly for about $5 and activate the code on steam.