Strategy games are the perfect genre to just lose yourself in and have a great time. It’s easy to lose hours working your way around the battlefield and manipulating your units. If you are looking for a little more than just pointing and shooting, or mindlessly blowing through hordes of enemies, strategy games, and specifically those of the 4X variety, are perfect for you.
What is a 4X game?
Technically, 4X means explore, expand, exploit, exterminate. Almost any strategy game of this type will feature goals that revolve around these four objectives.
However, almost all strategy games actually feature these elements, so 4X games have been more specifically narrowed down to those that have a larger scale and a heavier reliance on diplomacy than most. They tend to be less combat focused and more focused on the economy than a game like Command & Conquer, which is far more about on basic resource gathering and fighting.
Many people tend to mistakenly think that 4X games need to be turn-based, but real-time strategy games can fall into the genre, but it is far more rare.
So now that you know what a 4X game is, let’s dive into some classics of the genre that you can easily spend hours enjoying.
When you talk about games of this sort, Civilization is the first series that comes to mind for most gamers, and with good reason, as it offers a level of depth that rivals any of the other games in the genre. Additionally, Sid Meier’s games feature an additional level of polish and quality that few other games can match.
You could swap Civ IV for Civ V if you want a slightly more modern game, but the AI in Civilization IV is a little more reasonable, which makes winning via diplomacy a much more likely endeavor. Any of the Civilization games are good, and if you crave a little more old-school action you can always go back and play one of the originals, but Civ IV strikes the perfect balance between old and new, and for new players to the genre, it’s the perfect game to jump into. You can scoop up this game for $19.99 for just the base and $29.99 with all of its expansions.
This is one of those rare 4X games that opts to go with a real-time element instead of turn-based strategy. This changes the way it plays because players lose the ability to slow down and take their time making decisions. It’s a space strategy game that features much of the massive scale for which 4X games are known.
If the slow pace of games like Civilization has turned you off in the past, and the non-stop in your face action of a game like Starcraft doesn’t do it for you, Sins strikes a great balance between the two genres. It speeds things up a bit, but it also puts a great emphasis on economy and other elements that are lacking from combat-focused RTS games. Sins is on Steam for $19.99, which is a great value for the amount of depth available in the game.
Yet again we have to mention another game from the 4X strategy master Sid Meier. This game is actually part of the Civilization series, but it makes a massive change in setting, opting for science fiction instead of quasi-realistic wars.
In spite of this game coming with many of the same features as Civilization II, it does add some new mechanics that are still present in modern Civ games such as climate, customizable units, and the ability to win a Domination victory through votes from the population. If real-world wars don’t do it for you, but you want to be part of the Civilization fun, this is the game for you. It’s available for only $2.99 on GOG, which means you can jump in without breaking the bank.
This is actually the first game to officially call itself a 4X game, so there is no way it could not be included here. It’s a little on the older side, having been released all the way back in 1996, which means it might be difficult to go back to if you are used to playing more modern strategy games. However, the gameplay holds up very well, and the depth of the strategy is on par with any of the modern games available today.
It’s a space game that features a massive galaxy for players to explore and control. It also features tons of diplomacy, tactical combat, and all the other elements that you expect from the genre. It’s only $2.99 on GOG, and that actually gets you a copy of MOO 2, so it’s quite a deal. If you want to take a trip down memory lane with a true 4X classic, these are the games you need to play.
You Tell Us
What are some deep 4X strategy games you think all fans of the genre need to play? Or do you prefer your strategy games a little more fast and furious? Hit the comments section and let your voice be heard.