Strategy isn’t the most popular genre, but it’s a common choice among players who want a cerebral experience. In fact, strategy has been strengthened by new distribution methods and less expensive development tools, both of which make it possible for indie studios to create games about empire building and epic battles.
That’s reflected in the upcoming roster of high-profile strategy games, a majority of which are under development by small teams or received help from crowd-funding. Here are 5 upcoming games sure to keep your brain busy.
Fans of turn-based strategy games across the globe collectively dropped their jaws after the announcement of Civilization: Beyond Earth. Developed by Firaxis, the storied strategy studio founded by Sid Meier, Jeff Briggs and Brian Reynolds, C:BE is a spiritual successor to Alpha Centauri, which itself was a spin-off of the Civilization franchise.
Alpha Centauri became a benchmark in the turn-based 4x genre because it broke free of the shackles of history and forged new game mechanics on an alien world. Civilization: Beyond Earth seeks to do the same by introducing strange new units, terrain types and city improvements. The developers of this title have big shoes to fill, but Firaxis should be up to the challenge.
Civilization: Beyond Earth is due on the PC in the third quarter of 2014.
Galactic Civilizations 2 is one of the most loved sci-fi 4x games of all time. The developer, Stardock, eventually became distracted by an ill-fated attempt to create a fantasy strategy title, but now they’re back in the sci-fi genre and preparing Galactic Civilization 3.
In many ways GalCiv3 is a modernization of the classic’s theme. The map will be hex-based, factions will be more diverse and combat will be complicated with weapons that are more complex than the simple rock-paper-scissors approach found in earlier titles. The developers also hope to enhance the deep strategy of the previous game by improving the AI and adding more depth to the economy.
Galactic Civilizations 3 is PC-only and already available on Steam early access as an alpha, but priced at $99 to keep all but the most hardcore fans away. The final release date has not been announced as of this writing.
After a long period of abandonment the fantasy turn-based genre is finally receiving much-deserved attention. First there was King’s Bounty: The Legend and its spin-offs, followed by Heroes of Might and Magic VI, the franchise’s first release in five years. Now in 2014 we’re spoiled with at least two strong options; Age of Wonders III, which is already available, and Worlds of Magic.
WoM markets itself as a home-grown successor to Master of Magic, a beloved fantasy strategy title from 1994. The game features random generation of the world and opponents, a long list of character customization and a D20 rule set that leads to a table-top feel.
More importantly, though, the game will focus heavily on the use of magic. This isn’t unusual for the genre, but WoM seeks to flesh out the concept with a mind-boggling array of spells which may (or may not) be available depending on your in-game choices. In this sense the game’s more likely to revolve around turn-based tactics rather than strategy, but I doubt most players will care about that distinction.
Worlds of Magic is scheduled for release in the second quarter of 2014. A playable demo is available on the studio’s website.
Stronghold is an odd franchise. Though generally not listed among the best strategy games of all time, the concept of a castle-simulator has proven surprisingly robust and inspired a long-running F2P game called Stronghold Kingdoms.
This latest entry in the series refines the formula with improved AI, a new graphics engine and real-time physics. That latter addition is apparent in gameplay videos, which show castle walls crumbling in spectacular fashion under the bombardment of enemy siege weapons. There’s real-time combat, too, which can take place inside or outside the cast.
One of the game’s more interesting features is a co-op mode that lets two players work together within the same castle. Each player can give attention to different aspects or areas of the castle while fighting against the AI’s attempts to take it.
Stronghold: Crusader 2 is slated for a summer 2014 release on PC only.
Last year’s SimCity debacle dealt a huge blow to fans of city-building strategy games, but 2014 may help them recover from their wounds. Clockwork Empires, a steampunk-ish game about developing a colonial power, seeks to bring fans of this sub-genre some much needed love.
At a basic level this title feels very familiar. You have some colonists and some land and are expected to build from there. What makes the game interesting is its unique theme, which borrows from various pop-culture clichés. You’ll need to deal with Lovecraftian cults that can drive your people insane, research technologies like steam-powered war suits, and supply resources for the “empire,” which ties into the meta-game.
There’s a ton of sub-mechanics, as well. Customizable buildings? Check. Combat? Yep. Character development of villagers? You’ll find that too!
Clockwork Empires is targeting a spring 2014 release on PC, Mac and Linux.
These five strategy games represent a wide range of sub-genres, from turn-based 4x to real-time strategy and even city building. There’s a little bit of something for everyone, and while most of these games don’t have a firm date yet, most should be available by year’s end at the latest. Keep your wallet at the ready – this looks like a great year for strategy fans!