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Video Game / Grey Goo (2015)

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"We were explorers. Each step forward took us deeper into the unknown. There were many dangers. But none so relentless as these monsters- who would see us wiped from existence. We call them monsters because among the countless planets we have discovered, this species is by far the most ruthless. We set out to chart the stars. To seek out intelligent life. Little did we know, it would find us. Once we were explorers. We. Have. Evolved."

Grey Goo is a Real-Time Strategy game developed by Petroglyph Games and released for PC on January 23rd, 2015.

Set in the future on the planet Ecosystem 09, it started with three races that each play very differently from another, with a fourth being added after launch:

  • The Beta: Once a great spacefaring culture, the Beta have fled, beaten and broken, to Ecosystem 09 after war has torn their civilization apart. With the sacrifice of their last starship, they hope to utilize the ample resources of Nine to rebuild, and to perhaps one day return to the stars.
  • The Humans: Generations removed from space exploration and concluding themselves alone in the Galaxy, Humanity is surprised to hear a strange signal coming from a planet on the edge of charted space. As a young scientist leads an excursion to investigate the anomaly, she discovers that humanity's warring past cannot fully be put to rest.
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  • The Grey Goo: Explore. Gather. Report. The Pathfinder program was created by Humans as a way to chart the Galaxy. Though the program was retired, the Goo continued its mission into the farthest reaches of space. Now, it has reemerged. Having evolved beyond its original programming it is seemingly driven by a single directive: consume all that stands in its way.
  • The Shroud: Added in the mini-expansion, the Shroud have finally shown up. All we know so far is what the goo is able to tell us. Other than that, the only things known about them are their "highly parasitic and ever-increasing hunger for energy, therefore consuming planets to do so, draining the universe relentlessly" and that the only other thing known about them is that they're unknown. They're the answer to the Fermi Paradox: The Stars Are Going Out.

Tropes appearing in Grey Goo:

  • A Commander Is You:
    • The Goo is a spammer (surprised?), and extremely mobile, able to ignore terrain completely. Likely one of the most mechanically unconventional RTS factions ever devised, the Goo have no base-building or standard resource gathering to speak of: Mother Goo grow and duplicate when exposed to catalyst and rapidly break down enemy units and structures on contact, or can form smaller, more specialised units using their mass.
    • The Beta is the balanced faction. Playing most like a conventional RTS faction, the Beta offer modular base structures that can be customised through attached buildings. Beta units rely on mobility and firepower, they can cover ground quickly and many of them can shoot on the move, but their garrisonable walls and defences mean they can hold ground well too.
    • The Humans are the elitist faction, with weapons technology more advanced than the Beta and perhaps even the Goo, with intelligent walls, specialised defences and powerful combat drones. However this power comes at a price of immobility: everything must be connected to the central headquarters for power, which means expanding outward with the humans is a slow process, and power lines can be left vulnerable.
    • The Shroud are an incredibly aggressive faction, and the most advanced in playstyle, requiring knowledge of all prior factions. They have a higher resource income rate; and this is extremely explosive, to the point of being able to virtually spam out units and structures as much as the player can micromanage not his resources; but his ludicrous level of production buildings. This is also why the shroud has such long build times and pays upfront. Timing your production is key.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: If we ignore the Goo trying to nom everything around this is actually averted: humanity lives perfect lives with their intelligent creations. And even the Goo are just fighting for their survival.
  • Aliens of London: The Beta, in the campaign, have an accent that sounds South African or New Zealander, with a bit of Russian and Middle Eastern mixed in.
  • Alliterative Title
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: One of the Human-aligned Valiant robots, Singleton, despite organizing peace between the Humans and the Beta by translating between the two factions, and sacrificing himself to destroy the Goo, is assimilated into the Goo and becomes their tactical and strategic advisor.
  • Antagonist Title: The game is named for the Gray Goo scenario. It's also the name of a playable faction that turns out to be Obliviously Evil and fighting only to survive the Greater-Scope Villain. It just turns out that the other two factions taste nummy.
  • Apocalypse How: The Shroud / The Silent Ones has caused numerous Type 6es across the galaxy and, according to the Goo, will eventually cause a Type X-3.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: The amount of troops you can field at any given time is strictly limited, especially when you opt for higher-tier units that take up larger portions of that limit. Don't expect to go to war with huge armies covering your screen. The best you can hope for is two to three dozen units until the cap gives you the finger, and even that is possible only if you refrain from building an Epic.
  • Arc Words: "Silence" is referenced somehow in each campaign, referencing a version of the Fermi Paradox in one way or another. Likewise, "So Others May Live", the creed of the Valiants, is reflected by all three factions and their characters throughout the campaign.
    • The Beta are initially on the defensive against the Human attackers, and only bring the fight to a new enemy, the Goo, during the last of their campaign missions.
    • The first half of the Human campaign has them trying to find other survivors from the destruction of their ship from an unleashed Goo captive, then unite with the Beta in order to stop both sides from losing people to the attacking Goo.
    • Singleton goes on what becomes a Suicide Mission to destroy the Goo once and for all, to end the conflict.
    • The Goo attempt to reunite their scattered colonies so they may evolve to take on The Silent Ones.
    • Singleton, as a part of the Goo gestalt consciousness, contacts Lucy to persuade her to stop defending the Aperture Device so there will be no unnecessary bloodshed, and so they can unite together to take on The Silent Ones.
    • However, Lucy, in turn, refuses to let the Goo have the Aperture Device, not wanting them to reach Earth and consume the last of humanity.
  • The Assimilator: Part of the territory of the Goo being, well, Grey Goo. They consume other matter to replicate and make more of themselves. They also occasionally consume other intelligences, as evidenced by Singleton, who gave them more advanced tactical and strategic capabilities.
  • Attack Drone: All Human units, save for the Alpha, are unmanned. The Goo as a whole count, even though it wasn't created for war. The only unmanned unit the Beta use is the Seeker, an unarmed scout with Invisibility Cloak.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Alphas are personally piloted by field commanders and are the strongest units in the Human arsenal.
  • Base on Wheels: The Hand Of Ruk, the Beta's Weapon of Mass Destruction. A massive hovercraft that is built by combining a specific combination of structures. It hovers slowly over the battlefield, is armed with a devastating nuke cannon, has lots of armor, has six turret hardpoints, and can build ground units on the fly. The Goo on the other hand have their Proteans, which can consume units and make use of the newly acquired resources to make more of themselves or create specialized forms on the go and when needed.
  • Beast of Battle: Invoked with the Beta's units, save for the Commando, which are modeled after animals. In this case, dinosaurs.
  • Big Bad: The Goo. Except they're not. The only reason they're eating everything and multiplying themselves was because they're building an army to take on an even bigger threat, The Silent Ones.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: The Goo has a very simplistic and amoral way of looking at the world; it wants to eat and survive, and any other life form is regarded as hostile to that end.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: Nearly all of the Humans' weapons and technology are leftovers from their warring past. Being still vastly technologically superior than what the other two factions can come up with, they aren't exactly outdated relics.
  • Cast from Hit Points: The Goo's economy works differently from the other two faction in that literally everything is built using the Mother Goo's health. It harvests Catalyst to heal itself, having five health bars max. These health bars can then be used to split off blobs of Goo, which can again be split up into whatever specialized units you require, for free. Filling up these health bars takes a while, though, and Goo units still fill the population cap.
  • Conlang: While far from possessing the broad vocabulary and solid grammatical rules of Klingon, Quenya or Na'vi, the Beta language was designed in order to possess an internal logic of sorts and thus sound more like an actual, alien language than an apostrophe laden string of repeating gibberish.
  • The Conscience: Singleton appears to be this to Lucy, trying to dissuade her from violence where it's not needed. He later becomes this for the Goo.
  • Death from Above: Both the Beta and the Humans can take advantage of their air superiority, having a scout plane to spot enemies, a multirole fighter for harassment, and a bomber to knock out structures and clumps of enemies. Meanwhile The Goo lacks an airforce but compensates with some of its units being able to scale hills and mountain ridges, places where the other two faction's ground units can't reach. One such unit is an artillery.
  • Easy Level Trick: One of the Beta campaign missions requires defending three far-flung resource points against assault waves coming from an enemy base entrenched with enough turrets to take up half their population cap. You're spread thin as it is, but one of the bonus objectives is a Timed Mission, and the other requires you to destroy that monstrous base. ...except one side of the base has its entire defense array powered by a single conduit line, and that line is within artillery range of a brush-covered cliff.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Silent Ones.
  • Enemy Mine: The Beta and the Humans team up against the Goo threat. Eventually the Beta, the Humans, and the Goo band together against the coming onslaught of The Silent Ones.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Two very rare species name example of this.
    • The aliens, who refer to themselves as the "Morra", are called Beta by the humans (and consequently by the game) since they are suspected to come from a planet previously designated the "beta candidate" for intelligent life due to its radio emissions. The humans had never made contact with them since subsequent exploration of the planet revealed it to be lifeless (probably because of the Silent Ones).
    • The Goo itself is, as their proper name are the "Pathfinder Probes". Unlike the Beta, they are called such a few times, but most just call them "The Goo".
  • Expy: The Humans have a lot in common with Novus from Universe at War, from their design to the fact that their armies consists of nothing but robots. Their commanders are also the only living beings among them and they both pilot Humongous Mecha (Mirabel and Viktor, field commanders and their Alphas). Not too surprising since both games were made by the same developer.
    • The Beta channel Tiberian Sun-era GDI in their usage of Walking Tank and Boring, but Practical technology. The Avalanche could be a nod to the Mammoth Mk2.
    • The Beta's flying buildings and emphasis on big explosions bring to mind Terrans pretty well.
    • And The Goo are like those damned Visceroids, murderous Blob Monsters that are fast and can create more of themselves by consuming units (although The Goo won't just settle down for infantry). They even come in different sizes and can combine themselves to form even bigger, deadlier entities (Large Visceroids, The Purger).
    • Speaking of The Purger, it functions similarly to the Scrin Eradicator Hexapod in that it converts any unit destroyed within it's vicinity into resources (although The Purger seems to be actively absorbing everything around it).
    • The Dweller looks a lot like the Tiberian Wars-era Visceroid and is even used as a suicide bomb ala Tiberian Twilight.
    • During the campaign, the Goo, which are a gestalt consciousness of their species, see many things as "irrelevant".
    • The Beta Seeker is a robot probe with a cloaking device. It sounds like the Protoss Observer from StarCraft.
    • The Humans needing to connect everything back to their HQ with conduit is reminiscent of the Eurasian Dynasty. Likewise, the Goo using basic units offsprung from each other rather than building structures and being a higher stage of evolution of said basic units is reminiscent of the Morphidians from Earth 2160. The Betas use of giant robots, modular buildings, and good old projectile guns and rocket launchers are reminiscent of the UCS. The only Earth 21X0 faction that doesn't line up with a Grey Goo faction is Lunar Corp.
  • Face–Monster Turn: Subverted. Singleton's sacrifice during the tenth campaign mission was not the end, as he survived, though was absorbed and assimilated by the Goo. Now working for them, he fights his former comrades, even commenting on their tactics and strategy. He retains his personality, though, making him the Token Good Teammate and ultimately part of the reason the fighting stops without all sides decimating each other.
  • Forced into Evil: Despite Singleton being assimilated by the Goo, he does protest when their actions would lead to high casualties, and even tries to warn Lucy before the last campaign mission to simply abandon the defense of the Aperture Device.
  • Gathering Steam: The human faction has access to the Lancer unit which fires a continuous laser beam, growing in power as it draws from more and more auxiliary batteries. This makes it incredibly potent against structures, and because the humans, as the game's Higher-Tech Species, have access to a six-unit teleporter, six lancers can show up in an undefended base instantaneously and turn it into a heap of molten slag before a defense can be mounted
  • Glass Cannon:
    • Goo Proteans, even the smaller ones, can consume entire armies in seconds but this requires them to get into melee range and they don't have a lot of health. In the case of the Mother Protean, health is essential in building units and you cannot split off Goo Proteans when you're low on health.
    • Human Revolvers can dish out tons of damage but can't take it in return. They're designed to work in tandem with Tridents.
    • Frankly, just about every unit in this game is ridiculously fragile when compared to other contemporary RTS titles. Even the specialized tank units go down awfully quick. The sole exceptions to this rule are the Epics, which pay for their resilience and firepower with extremely low speed.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Silent Ones, the mysterious race or entity that nearly wiped the Beta to extinction.
  • Grew Beyond Their Programming: The Goo are descended from deep-space exploration robots humans sent generations in the past. Although the "Pathfinder program" had long ended, the machines continued to function and develop on their own, ultimately evolving beyond their original programming.
  • Grey Goo: The Goo is one of the three playable factions, and is the most mobile of the three.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: The Beta/Human conflict is born of survivors making decisions without good intel. The Beta mistake the Humans for the Silent Ones (and later a different race of invaders), and the humans were confused and disoriented after their ship crashed and they shot back to defend themselves. Goo-versus-everyone-else is this too; as it turns out, it didn't want to eat everything in the universe, it was trying to build up its resources after the Silent Ones started attacking them, and the Humans went Wrong Genre Savvy about A.I. Is a Crapshoot.
  • Guide Dang It!: Good luck trying to figure out how to build a Hand of Rukk without a lot of trial and error or consulting an online guide...
  • Heel–Face Turn: The Goo itself, when Singleton convinces it to help stand against the Silent Ones with the Humans and the Betas.
  • High-Tech Hexagons: Goo blobs are covered with them.
  • Higher-Tech Species: Uniquely, humans have taken this role. After generations of searching for life outside the solar system (going so far as to invent The Grey Goo to scout out the galaxy), they concluded they were alone and withdrew to the Earth that spawned them, seeking to perfect the existence of themselves and their intelligent creations. This shows in sleek designs across their vehicles and buildings. Even the page for the humans mention that although they have only 'academic experience with war', (with their war-like tendencies left behind generations in the past) they have access to The greatest technology in creation.
    • That is until The Shroud / The Silent Ones arrive, while mankind has advanced nanotechnology, energy weapons and A.I.s, the Shroud as mastered gravity (their gravity weaponry), has near-perfect holograms (in their Mimic units), superior Deflector Shields, and psychic technology (their wall equivalent, the Aversion Field), as well as bio-mechanical structures and Zerg-like mastery of genetic manipulation and augmentation (Their epic unit The Dirge evolves into stronger forms the more enemies it kills). Not to mention that they can drain entire planets of their energy putting them on the border between Type 1 and Type 2 on the Kardashev scale, well ahead of the solid Type 1 humanity.
  • Horde of Alien Locusts: Part of the territory of being Grey Goo, the Goo gestalt intelligence considers strategic and tactical advice irrelevant, preferring to simply swarm their way through anything and everything in their path.
  • Hover Tank: If it's from the humans, it either floats or flies - no exceptions.
  • Humanity Is Advanced: As noted above, a rare and refreshing example in a genre where humans are typically depicted as the underdogs.
    Redgrave: [on the Beta] They still use bullets in their guns.
  • Interface Spoiler: The cover art, splash screen, and all the promo material show Saruk, Lucy, and Valiant Singleton, tipping the hand that Singleton becomes a prominent force among the Goo.
  • Irony: Despite the Arc Words relating to them being "Silence" and the Beta knowing them as "the Silent Ones", most Shroud units have Theme Naming of sounds and things that make sounds (Howler, Siren, Klaxon, Echo, Fugue, Coda, Chime, Shriek, and Dirge).
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Valiant Singleton. Valiant when he valiantly volunteers to manually detonate the Catalyst to stop the goo, and Singleton when he becomes the single distinct entity in the Goo's collective consciousness.
    • To a lesser degree, it's possible to note that the Beta's highest ranking general, Bas Barca, shares his name with a historical human general famous for fielding an army of nigh-invincible quadrupeds: Hannibal.
  • Mecha-Mooks: Humanity's increasing tendency towards automated warfare in Real Life was embraced in this game; most of the Human units are actually their sapient robots, with only the Super Soldier Alphas being organic combatants.
  • Mechanically Unusual Class:
    • The Goo doesn't have any aircraft or buildings. All goo units are offsprung from the Mother Goo and specialized.
    • The Silence doesn't use the modular architecture system the Beta and Humans do. Instead, they build pylons that power up the buildings in their radius.
  • Mighty Glacier: Epic units can deal a lot of damage but are ludicrously slow; even the hovering Alpha, for some reason. Watching them crawl to the front lines can be a real pain, to the point that losing an Epic to the enemy hurts less because of their resource requirements and more because now you have to wait for another eternity until they (hopefully) finally get to where they're needed.
  • Nothing Is Scarier:
    • The Silent Ones, the mysterious force that made the Beta flee their worlds, is still out there, destroying Goo colonies. The cutscene showing the Goo contacting their kin across the galaxy then depicts the various nodes of Goo colonies winking out in rapid succession into darkness. The credits depict various worlds being consumed by an enigmatic darkness, culminating in a post-credits sequence showing that same strange darkness closing in around Ecosystem Nine...
    • It's also what led humanity to finally end all their wars. The realization that there were no other sentient life in the universe shook the human race as a whole, and made them realize that if they went extinct, the galaxy would be silent.
  • The Paladin: Singleton and the Valiant series, in a rare robotic example. The Valiants were created to protect humans with the simplified version of Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, which is the creed "So Others May Live".
  • Poor Communication Kills: The entire campaign could have been avoided with a single conference call. All three factions are facing the same adversary in the Silent Ones, but the Goo and the Beta aren't aware they're on the same side because the Goo won't talk to them and the Humans, who the Goo might listen to, aren't aware of the Silent Ones at all because the Beta never told them. This leads to all three factions wasting immense time, manpower, and resources on fighting each other instead of preparing for the Silent Ones.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: This appears to be Humanity's hat this time around, as demonstrated by Lucy Tak, they are the only faction that seems to be trying to figure just what the hell is going on and examining alternative strategies to resolve conflicts.
    • More so then Lucy is Singleton, who is the only character in the game who realizes that the humans, the Beta, and the Goo need to get their shit together and pool their strengths and resources to combat the incoming eldritch abomination.
  • Rubber-Forehead Aliens: The Beta, naturally.
  • The Remnant: The Beta on Nine are descended from the last remaining survivors of the wars who have taken refuge on the titular planet.
  • Sequel Hook: The humans and Beta stand down, and the Goo uses the aperture device to call the rest of its colonies back to Ecosystem 9, so that all three faction can stand against the Silent Ones. Meanwhile a darkness swallows every planet mapped for humans by the Goo, gathering around Ecosystem 9.
  • Slap-on-the-Wrist Nuke: The Hand of Ruk's nuclear cannon, while very powerful in its own right, has a tiny explosion compared to the graphics it causes.
  • Space Elves: Interestingly enough, Humanity had become this and only recently decided to rediscover war.
  • Spider Tank: The Beta's heavier mechs tend to be quadruple walkers while all specialized Goo forms are these.
  • Starfish Aliens: The Goo has evolved into this; they've become intelligent amoebic masses of nanobots with the ability to instantly reconfigure themselves into complex organic-looking robots, usually more than one at a time.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Command & Conquer, particularly the Tiberian arc.
  • Theme Naming: All over the place.
    • Nearly ll of the human units are named after historical weapons like the Dagger, the Revolver, the Gladius, the Longbow or the Trident, fitting with their mostly academic knowledge of war as a part of their history almost nobody's experienced in centuries (fittingly, the only units that don't follow the pattern, the Valiant and the Alpha, are the only ones representing entities with actual knowledge of combat))
    • Most Beta units are named after natural phenomena, like the Nimbus, the Predator and the Hailstorm, the Avalanche, and the Squall, fitting with their identity as longtime inhabitants of Ecosystem 09 and therefore Closer To Nature.
    • The Goo give their units utilitarian, no-nonsense names clearly descriptive of their function (Drover, Strider, Siphon, Bastion, etc.).
    • Despite being heavily associated with silence, almost all of the Shroud's units areironically named after loud things, like Howler, Klaxon, Dirge, Siren and Echo.
    • The Valiants are all named after famous historical mathematicians like Singleton, Bloch, and Godel.
  • Three Laws-Compliant: Somewhat played with with the Valiant series. They were created to help protect humanity through the simple creed of "So Others May Live", which allows for them to focus more on ensuring organic life survives.
    • The Goo are actually operating exactly and unironically how they were programmed too. They have enough intelligence to recognize the Shroud as a Godzilla Threshold whereupon assimilating everything in sight, including organic life and human scouts, was preferable to inaction putting Earth at risk.
    • The rest of the Human drone units may mention "Armistice Override" i.e. the universal armistice that humanity had over itself once they decided to be peaceful amongst each other.
  • Tomato Surprise: The trailer is narrated by a voice who talks about how they once were explorers who ventured in the unknown, faced dangers but none so relentless as the monsters they currently fight - the most ruthless species they have ever met. At first it sounds like it's one of the Betas talking about the goo and the humans, then one feels it might be the humans talking about the Goo and the Betas, till the end of the trailer where it becomes clear - it's the Goo who is doing the narrating, talking about the humans and Betas. Or so you think. Then you find out about The Silence, the real threat.
  • Triumphant Reprise: The end credits theme "War is Evolving" contains a more upbeat reprise of both the Beta and Human themes (complete with an Ethereal Choir and a guitar riff), and its bookended by a reprise of the main theme/Goo theme to symbolise the three factions finally uniting against the Silent Ones.
  • Tutorial Failure: This game must have one of the worst tutorials in recent RTS gaming history. Where most other tutorials take the player's hand and tell them step by step what to do, what to build and what the stuff they're building will be good for, Grey Goo's tutorial takes the opposite approach by not telling the player squat about anything until after they've poured their scarce resources into some random building or unit - while the player's "base" is already under attack constantly. Chances are very good that the new building or unit then turns out to be completely useless for halting the enemy's onslaught for one reason or another. Advanced features that become available later in the campaign are given only the barest of hints as to how they're supposed to be used, with some of them being so obscure that many players only figured them out after consulting a game guide.
  • Wham Shot: In first few missions of the campaign, you play as Beta — alien race under attack by mysterious invaders, who are supposedly their old nemesis, The Silent Ones... though our hero, field commander Saruk, has some increasingly serious doubts about it. Come mission three ending cinematic, one of those mysterious invaders gets captured and Saruk takes off his helmet to reveal... a perfectly normal (if battered), ordinary human face.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: The Humans think the Goo is out to destroy everything in its way, including eventually Earth. They're actually building up forces to fight the Silent Ones, the enemies of the Beta. Unfortunately the Goo thinks in such simplistic terms that even with Singleton advising it it's difficult-to-impossible for it to explain this.
  • Zerg Rush: Or Grey Goo rush if you will - even small lumps of nanobots are capable of devouring a lot of units if not careful. Just to give you an idea about how Zerg the Goo are: Drovers are built in fours. Mother Proteans can split off five Small Proteans on full health. 5 x 4 = 20 shotgun-wielding spider nanobot thingies. Instantly. Now have several Mother Proteans... Yeah, The War Sequence against the Goo you saw in the launch trailer? You can probably have that many Drovers... if there's ever a mod that disables the Arbitrary Headcount Limit.


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