Universe at War is a unique RTS game. Akin to Starcraft (2), I think it is very original. There are 3 races total, and they all play extremely differently. For me the game was my first breakthrough on the multiplayer scene, so it holds some sentimental value, as well as the entertainment value I gained from playing.
As far as gameplay goes, there are a few things to note:
The tech tree is the main way to upgrade; the tree has a maximum of 6 techs out of 12 that can be researched at a given point, with up to 4 tiers in 3 branches. Tech can always be undone to make room for a change in direction.
All factions have access to 3 heroes they can summon on the battlefield. These heroes can drastically change how battles occur and need to be engaged.
The maps are mostly asymmetrical, with varying resources. This is due to the unique way that factions gather resources, which are scattered across the entire map. This makes for games where players can easily expand to different places, use proxies, hide, and take map control in.
Here’s a brief overview on the factions:
Hierarchy is a race of alien beings that play a role in galactic conquest. This faction uses massive walkers as assault and production buildings as their primary force. Walkers have multiple parts to be destroyed before they fall on the battlefield and are highly feared. Walkers can customize their arsenal of hardpoints, being able to optimize in either combat, production, or a mixture.
Novus is a race of robots that are trying to combat the Hierarchy and slow their progress. They operate similarly to Protoss in the sense of requiring power. They build flow generators which then send power through conduits. Novus infantry can use flow conduits to rapidly cover distances around the map. With proper tech, ALL Novus units can use the flow network.
Masari is a race of gods that were awakened by the conflict between Hierarchy and Novus. Masari have the ability to transition between light and dark modes. Dark mode gives all units additional armor that can recharge (similar to Protoss shielding), but it also grounds all air units. In light mode units gain additional damage, but have no armor.
It is available on Steam (and possibly retail) for only $20.
Universe at War, sadly does have a few short comings. The game does use Windows Live, which is viewed as a massive flaw by many. (and does cause various stability issues occasionally)
Also due to a severe decrease in activity, the game has also lost patch support, thus is currently stagnated for future updates. This is unfortunate as the game still has a few balance issues and bugs.
Regardless of this however, I truly think Universe at War is an amazing game to try for any RTS player and would be very well worth their time.
For more information, go to Petroglyph forums: Petroglpyh
Thanks for reading, and I hope I can spark a bit more life into this game!