On 27 April 2018, the day we celebrate freedom, a free traditional real time strategy game was released on Steam. Developed by a group of volunteers and heavily inspired by RTS classics such as Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander, Zero-K has been a long time in the making. This means you can expect large swathes of robot armies, massive artillery guns, nuclear warheads and Strategic Zoom. There is even a nod to Planetary Annihilation in that one of the special buildings you can construct is able to collect and call down a shower of meteors upon your enemy's base.
Zero-K describes itself as "a traditional real time strategy game with a focus on player creativity through terrain manipulation, physics, and a large roster of unique units - all while being balanced to support competitive play. Construct fortresses or tear down obstacles with free-form terrain manipulation. Launch jumpjet robots into the air with gravity guns and have them rain down on your opponents base. Combine over 100 units types from 12 distinct technology branches. Every unit in Zero-K is defined more by its unique combination of movement and weapon physics than it is by raw attributes, such as health and damage. Use quick nimble bots to dodge the slow projectiles of weapons better suited at hitting ponderous tanks. Conquer the galaxy in a singleplayer campaign spanning 71 missions or grab some friends to fend off waves of alien invaders. Join our online community for games ranging from 1v1 to 16v16 as well as free-for-all and regular tournaments."
My friends and I gave the game try over the long weekend and had a blast playing together. We played some traditional skirmishes against the AI and tried out the Chicken mode where you team up to defend against wave after wave of alien forces leading up to a final battle against their Queen. Both modes were challenging and required us to quickly adapt our strategies as we played. I was very impressed with how competent the AI is. On the one map we played the terrain was a mix of water and land, the AI was smarter than us in that it focused on building amphibious units that were able to move through all types of terrain and attack us from the flanks, retreating before we could mount a retaliation. The unit AI is also impressive in that ranged units will automatically kite melee enemies and smaller, agile units will dodge around making it difficult for a slow firing enemy to get a hit on them.
Strategic Zoom gives you a complete overview of the battlefield (above) and the ability to get up close to the units (below).
The different game modes certainly cater towards all types of RTS fans, whether it is the tightly balanced 1v1, the expansive campaign (with all missions available as coop too) or the defensive base building of the horde mode. There is an incredible amount of depth to the game that I have scarcely been able to touch on in this short article so why not find out for yourself by downloading the game. It is completely free (not F2P) and available on Steam and Itch.io.