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Video Game / Herzog Zwei

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Herzog Zwei (German for "Duke Two") was an early Real-Time Strategy game developed by Technosoft and released in 1989 for the Sega Genesis. It is the sequel to the Japan-only 1988 Strategy Game Herzog for the MSX.

Herzog Zwei is an early influential example of a game with a feature set that falls under the contemporary definition of modern Real Time Strategy (RTS). It was the Trope Maker that spawned the genre, being the common ancestor of every modern RTS (it inspired 1992's Dune II by Westwood Studios), as well as the Trope Namer ("RTS" was coined in this 1989 interview). The game is also a predecessor to a more modern strategy/action hybrid, the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA). Herzog Zwei was also a precursor to the Hero Shooter, as it was also a shooter/strategy hybrid with a Hero Unit.

In the game, two opposing players each control a robot that can transform into a fighter jet. This robot is used to build and deploy weapons such as motorcycles and tanks across a battlefield. Infantry can be used to capture neutral and enemy bases, which provide fuel for the mecha, money, and places to deploy weapons from. If one player's mecha is destroyed, it simply regenerates at its headquarters after a few seconds. The game is won by using units to destroy the enemy's headquarters.

Zwei is the end of the series, but Airmech is heavily enough inspired by it to be nicknamed Herzog Drei by some. It's also received a Sega AGES release for the Nintendo Switch in 2020, with the addition of online play.

This game features examples of:

  • All There in the Manual: No, really, all of it. All information in the game is represented through symbols and abbreviations that will be incomprehensible unless you have a reference on hand.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: The game introduced the ability to capture bases and the goal of destroying the enemy base.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Given that it was an early real-time strategy, the unit pathfinding abilities are...less than impressive. It's not uncommon to see, for instance, tanks driving into ravines.
  • Competitive Multiplayer: The game introduced the competitive multiplayer feature to the strategy genre.
  • Easy Logistics: Early aversion. Both the mecha and units require fuel and ammunition; the mecha regains them from a base (in addition to repairs), while the units regain them from supply trucks.
  • Excuse Plot: The entire plot is summarized on the back of the box and never mentioned in-game outside of the ending.
  • Glass Cannon: The cannon unit. It can kill even the player mecha in a few shots, but has little health for its price.
  • Gratuitous German: The title and level names.
  • Guide Dang It!: If you don't have the manual, you're screwed.
  • Hero Shooter: Herzog Zwei was a precursor to the Hero Shooter, as it was a shooter/strategy hybrid with a hero unit.
  • Hero Unit: The mecha, from which the player does everything.
  • Mecha: The game's hero unit.
  • Money Sink: Issuing orders costs money. For the most part, this is cheap enough that it only slightly slows the player down, but ordering a unit to attack the enemy headquarters will often cost more than the unit itself. This can either drag things out or give the losing player the edge needed to make a miraculous recovery.
  • Multiplayer Online Battle Arena: A strategy/action hybrid, it was a predecessor to the modern Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA).
  • Real-Time Strategy: An early influential example of the RTS genre, as well as the genre's Trope Maker (establishing many genre conventions) and Trope Namer (coined in a 1989 interview).
  • Split Screen: Required for two-player play, as you might imagine, but the single-player mode lets you decide whether to use it, ostensibly to allow people still learning the gameplay to keep tabs on the CPU's actions and counter them early.
  • Tactical Shooter: The first game to combine tactical strategy with Shoot 'Em Up gameplay.
  • Techno: The game has a techno music soundtrack, making its soundtrack unique for the RTS genre.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Inverted. The mecha's weapon can't damage a headquarters, so it must be done by deployed units.
  • Transforming Mecha: The player's vehicle.
  • Trope Maker: It is the trope maker of the RTS genre, establishing the genre's conventions.
  • Trope Namer: It is also the trope namer of real-time strategy games (coining the "RTS" genre name in a 1989 interview).
  • Worker Unit: The introduced the creation and use of worker units to collect resources.
  • You Require More Vespene Gas: The game introduced the need to acquire resources in order to construct more units.