Somebody may disagree with me on this but Starcraft (or Starcraft 2 which is practically the same) has everything one would want from RTS game. That is base building, multiple races, multiple resources, near perfect balance inbetween. But for me in all RTS game after a while it boils down to -> do this, this and this in exactly this order, under certain amount of time and you will win.
I completely disagree. I feel Relic has a far superior system seen in Company of Heroes and the Dawn of Wars. I will touch on what I love about them below and what I feel is necessary as well. Don't get me wrong SC2 has a tremendous following, but that doesn't mean it's the best RTS available.
I love Dawn of War and Company of Heroes over say Starcraft for two reasons. Simpler micro managing and no gatherers. The gathering is based off of territorial control which in turn forces combat. Simple micro managing lowers the skill base while still allowing room for expertise. By forcing combat and lowering the skill level required to compete you have now turned a time-sink RTS into a Thinking RTS, which is where I think most RTS' lack.
Other things like cover are just icing on the cake.
With that said here are some things I think are necessary for RTS:
- Two (or more) Resource System
- Objectives to force combat/taking actions
- An easy to understand Rock-Paper-Scissors unit approach (Doesn't have to be direct counters, For example AA guns hurt tanks in Company of Heroes but they do extra damage in the rear, Self Explanatory really but it makes you want to get behind them, but you don't have to and can still be effective)
- Keep the "racing to perform actions" to a minimum and the choice of "what actions do I take" at the forefront
Like another poster said I too also enjoy a limited number of unit choices but I don't mind if I have a small army (Company of Heroes) or a giant one (Homeworld). I