Sega Retrospective16-Bit GeneralsSega Retrospective - RSS 2.0
This, to me, is still one of the game's most arresting and, sadly, least imitated features. This wasn't Age of Empires where you were a god-like manipulator sitting above the action, directing units with a simple click of your mouse. No, in Herzog Zwei you were your avatar and you could only interact with the rest of the world through this one unit. Dune 2 may have given us the control model for the modern RTS, but it seemed positively easy compared to the level of micromanagement required in this Genesis game.
If your infantry needed to be carried across a river of lava, you had to fly them across one-by-one. If a tank had run out of ammunition or fuel on its way to fight the enemy, you had to pick it up and bring it back to a friendly base for resupply. If a self-propelled anti-air gun needed to move its patrol route to intercept the enemy mech's own supply runs, you had to physically pick up the AA gun and change its orders. This meant your mech's location on the battlefield was critical. While you were busy building defenses around your base, or building and sending new units up to the front, you weren't able to influence what was going on elsewhere in the battle. And if you stopped to fight on the front lines, you might have units stuck in the production queue or simply waiting for resupply.
Your physical location on the battlefield really mattered in this game and, since you could only be doing one thing at a time, your attention had to be incredibly focused. Moreover, each new order you issued to a unit cost additional cash, so you had to be very sure about your overall plan before you started telling your troops where to go. You didn't want to waste money telling a unit to stay and guard a base when the very next second you'd need the same unit to pursue and eliminate an enemy scout. It was a unique approach to strategy gaming that still isn't seen much today. Outside of quirky games like Sacrifice or today's various Defense of the Ancients clones, which are in some ways extensions of what Herzog Zwei was doing twenty years ago, today's RTS games are much more detached, at least as far as the control perspective is concerned.