Strategy games have a long history that dates back to the very first game consoles and even arcade games (such as Rampart). As with any other genre, most of the games produced have been developed by one studio and then released by a separate publisher. This includes important titles such as Homeworld, Populous and SimCity 2000.
There are, however, some games that sneak in from independent developers who publish the games through their own publishing company. These titles often don’t achieve the mindshare of blockbuster franchises like Command & Conquer, but they are sometimes even better than their more popular competitors.
Let’s have a look at five classic indie strategy game you absolutely must play.
This game was developed by Introversion software and released in 2005. It immediately received excellent reviews, though the reviewers seemed unsure how to talk about the game. And who can blame them? Darwinia is remains one of the most unique game ever developed.
Having already told you how hard it is to talk about, here’s my attempt – Darwinia is a cross between Lemming, a puzzle game and DOTA that’s been spiced with excellent writing and retro graphics.
And that’s all I’ll say about it, because hey, there’s a demo! Go try it yourself.
Galactic Civilization II: Ultimate Edition is a proper title for the game’s latest release. The franchise, which has always been developed by Stardock, started in 2003 with the original Galactic Civilizations. It was an extremely competent but not mind-blowing entry into the realm of turn-based strategy.
The franchise really hit its stride with Galactic Civilization II: Dread Lords and its two amazing expansion packs. By the time the second expansion was released, GalCiv2 had become a classic. It includes everything you could want in this genre – a cast of unique alien races, a huge technology tree, ship customization, detailed planet development and an excellent AI opponent.
The Ultimate Edition contains Galactic Civilization II and all of its expansions and can be had for only $19.99. If you were thinking about buying Civilization V to scratch your turn-based itch, don’t. Buy this instead.
Released in 1998, this title from TimeGate Studios received rave reviews and was then forgotten by many gamers despite the release of two sequels.
The entire game is structured to force players away from click-fest gameplay and instead think about the composition of their units (which actually represent a large “company” of soldiers) and the weaknesses of the force deployed by the enemy.
Players also have to think about elements common in wargames, such as supply and fortification. Warping units across the map to conduct an attack isn’t a typical strategy. Terrain also has a major impact on how combat turns out, something that’s not often found outside of turn-based games.
Kohan is an old game at this point, and it has old-game graphics, but it’s still refreshing because nothing like it has been developed before or since. The original is $9.99 on Steam.
Bungie (yea, that Bungie) released a surprising real-time tactical game called Myth in 1997. It was a unique title for three reasons. It did not include any resource management, it featured a 3D world in which units were rendered as 2D sprites and it added buckets of comedic gore to a genre not known for its violence.
There were three titles in the Myth franchise and all of them are probably worth your time, but most players seem to agree that Myth II: Soulblighter is the one to play. The game still has a fan community that supports the game and there are several fan-made patches. Myth II is also the earliest version of the game to support Direct3D.
I’m not aware of any retailer that’s selling Myth II as a physical copy or a digital download. You can, however, play the demo version with the latest fan patch to see if the game is for you.
Though released only last year, Unity Of Command has become an instant classic among wargamers.
What makes this game great are the mechanics it does not include. You have to worry about unit strength and supply and terrain and other such important issues, but you don’t have to worry that your anti-tank unit won’t be successful because it has only .043 armor piercing when it should have .046.
In other words, this indie strategy game focuses only on the information that’s important, not minutia a real general would leave in the hands of underlings. Unity Of Command then throws in a host of awesome scenarios and a ferocious AI. The result is a wargame that’s mind-melting but also accessible.
The game is $29.99. You can try before you buy with the demo.
These five strategy games are among the best ever developed, and each can provide you with tens, perhaps hundreds of hours of gameplay. Better yet, they are all reasonably priced – the new Unity Of Command is the most expensive at $29.99.
What are your favorite indie strategy games, and why? Let us know in the comments.