1) You start off with a modest force and a few buildings, basically an ineffective force versus the object at hand
2) Collect Resources, build a base (and the buildings necessary to advance in the "tech-tree"), amass an army
2.25) While doing 2, you must fend off occasional attacks from enemy
2.75) On later maps you need to leap-frog from resource patch to resource patch whilst doing 2.25
3) Destroy the enemy with a simple all-out attack of ogres or siege tanks or mammoth tanks, mission ends
4) New mission begins, start back at step one but you don't keep any of the resources you collected from the previous mission
This is the major problem that held back the genre in my eyes then (and now). However, in all the RTS games I played, there were a few missions that had no resource management, and not a moment of time was wasted on base building. Because of the limitations you were forced to care about individual units and had to rely on other tactics other than just rushing (though in WC/SC/C&C, the AI was very limited and the combat wasn't too honed). If you don't know what I mean, try to remember these examples (hard to do if you haven't played Warcraft 2, Starcraft, and Command and Conquer [Dawn]):
--Warcraft 2: The missions where you need to escort Cho'Gal the ogre mage, and the one with Uther Lightbringer. In Beyond the Dark Portal the first mission of each campaign was one of these kind of missions (Take Alleria and the other heroes to the circle of power and use Grom Hellscream and the other heroes to destroy the temple of the damned).
--Starcraft: Any mission set in an installation.
--Command and Conquer: Where you have a commando unit with a powerful anti-personnel rifle and C4 charges and no other units. Intense stuff.
But aside from these few missions, the majority of the games was in the same repetitive style of the previously mentioned four-step program.
Then came Myth: The Fallen Lords; a game that took the best element of those games, improved upon them a billion-fold, and added realistic physics. So where to begin the review of the actual game? Let's just start with the bad, all of which is superficial and after playing it for a few hours you'll forget about those issues, but anyway:
-The camera doesn't zoom out far enough on some missions (partly due to higher elevations of hills), which can interfere with delicate troop maneuvers and being able to see far enough to use your archers as effectively; one example is the mission "The Five Champions," where there are at least two plateaus you cross over and due to their height, your field of view is reduced.
-There are a few inconsistencies between artwork (victory screens) and things in the game. The fallen lord the Watcher comes to mind, where the lore says he is missing an arm, but in the artwork his other arm is missing. A simple mistake, far less worse than the idea of shooting a barrel in a FPS with non-incendiary rounds and the barrel explodes (instead of just being punctured, sorry for the misplaced example, lulz).
-Another issue is a slight graphical problem in that characters don't exactly looking like they are walking on the ground (dwarves are the most obvious) but something that resembles sliding.
-You can only control up to thirty units in the game… but there is only one, maybe two missions where you have more than thirty troops anyway (aside from playing multiplayer).
-The game is "hard." Depends on the difficulty really.
Those are the issues. That's it; perhaps you could gripe on how the graphics aren't top notch (though they were extremely impressive "back in the day"), but that would be expected from the average (read as "stupid" or "shallow") gamer.
With the bad out of the way, what does this game do right then? Oh-ho, where to begin?
For starters the game's story is one of the best fleshed out tales ever devised in gaming. I don't want to give too much away, but the game is a very gritty and grim affair where it seems hope never existed to begin with. You have the last remaining people fighting for survival against what sense like an indomitable coalition of the undead, awesomely designed Ghols (seriously, the greatest unit ever devised for an RTS), and the towering Trow. The universe itself is "low fantasy," unlike other series that rely too much on magic like Warcraft or the Lord of the Rings, so the game's world has a very grounded feel to it. There is a touch of the supernatural (I.e. armies of the undead) but magic (and micro-management of spells) plays very little role in The Fallen Lords (and Myth 2... And even the disappointing 3rd game)
The story itself is told by a journal writer (a very good voice actor) who partakes in most of the battles you fight in. I don't think adding more is necessary; just play the game and you'll find this part to also be far better done than any mission briefing to any other RTS... ever, seriously (aside from Myth 2).
In addition to having one of the best stories in a computer game, this game also has some of the best combat mechanics of the RTS genre (or all games?). Arrows, javelins, molotovs, lighting bolts, etc all have a trajectory and a flight path. Kinda like how catapults in Warcraft 2 worked, but better in practice. Because of this, you can make you men dodge said projectiles and keep them alive. At the same time, with a control-click, you can target the ground in an attempt to "lead" the enemy. This, especially in multiplayer, leads to a far more strategic play style which adds more depth.
In addition to this; elevation plays a big role in battle as it can be both a friend and enemy at the same time (for both the attacker and defender). Which leads to the need for the use of formations to avoid friendly fire. One misused molotov can result in the death of your own troops.
To put this all in a historical perspective of what these elements mean, we need to examine other games. Warcraft, Starcraft, C&C all suffer from a lack advanced tactics involving troop movement (though with C&C, rockets/grenades added more variety). When an axe was thrown or a gun was shot, that projectile always hit. This lead to a very simple combat scheme that rewarded having a mob of troops over using effective squad tactics. Granted, those games had their own form of micro; but through resource/base management and spell selection, and as a result the games focused less on the action but more on clicking on your own units and using hot-keys.
Now why did I just waste my time with that comparison? Because in this game you're greatly outnumbered. Depending on the difficulty, it can be anywhere from 1-3 to 1-12; and as a result I hope you can see the importance put on squad tactics in this game.
To move on to another thing that is done extremely well done is the design of your units. Even with the enemy units, they're all quite balanced and all have a use (especially in multiplayer). You have shield wielding warriors (who can block melee attacks), archers (your long range attackers, weak up close), dwarves (the demolition experts who fill a niche between archers and warriors), berserks (armor-less warriors who take and give more damage), and journeymen (the healers and meat shields), all of which have a specific use that don't just involve plain ol' rushing the enemy. Why? You don't get replacements in this game (though in some single player missions you get a few reinforcements). Also, unlike other games of the genre, your units have individual names, which some how makes you form some kind of attachment to your troops. It is weird, but once you get Solbini the dwarf (names are random) to get 80+ kills you can't help but praise his efforts.
There are many other units available (especially in multiplayer) and like the above, they're streamlined units. By this I mean, the tools they have are limited but effective for their role and require mapping keys to make them work effectively (think of how spell casters in other games often need to be individually selected, and then select one of several situational spells). All of this is reduced to special actions: warriors/archers taunt, dwarves drop satchel charges, journeymen heal, etc. Simple, but anything else would be unnecessary and would make combat feel cluttered.
What you end up with is a game with an excellent story (voice acting) and deep combat tactics (helped with a physics engine and well balanced units). You can't possibly go wrong with this game. I didn't even talk about the awesomeness of the weather mechanics + molotovs, but that would be another thousand words, but I shouldn't continue. This game, and it's sequel, are the only games of the genre I can stomach to play anymore because they're just no nonsense. The era of base-build-charge died with Warcraft 1.
It just makes me wonder how Bungie could go from the Myth series to Halo... o_0 but that is for another time.