Whether you’ve been playing strategy games since Age of Empires, or you’re totally new and have no idea where to begin, there’s a lot of new and different experiences out there to consider as the genre enjoys a resurgence. Here are some of the recent interesting strategy games you should consider adding to your game queue.
‘BattleTech‘ by Harebrained Schemes
Made by the studio behind the recent and very successful Shadowrun games, and published by Paradox Interactive, the people behind everyone’s favorite royal lineage simulator, BattleTech takes the classic giant-robot wargame and brings it into the modern day. In this turn-based strategy game, you’ll be in command of your own mercenary company trying to make ends meet while in the middle of a massive interstellar civil war. The game is tense and beautiful, with an astonishing soundtrack by Shadowrun series composer Jon Everist to accompany a story-based single-player campaign and multiplayer matches. With all that said, BattleTech isn’t perfect — reviewers have knocked the game for its sometimes dour tone and the brutality of its RNG, but if you like giant robots and space opera, BattleTech is the best fix you can get right now.
‘Frostpunk‘ by 11bit Studios
Frostpunk is an ice-cold city-building game. Literally, as in the world has been covered in ice and what’s left of humanity huddles around a coal-fired furnace, and it’s up to you to build out a city that can save whoever is left. From the furnace, your city grows out radially, and you must make choices about Order versus Discipline, Faith versus Spirituality, what technologies to research, and how to keep as many people warm and alive as possible. The game’s stark visuals and heavy premise have lead reviews to wax philosophical about its similarities to our modern-day “industrial apocalypse”. This is a less traditional strategy game — the battles that are fought are internal — but it uses the language of its genre to great effect, much like 11bit’s last project, the bleak refugee-survival game This War of Mine, and it’s definitely worth a look, especially as it finally starts to get warm out.
‘Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun‘ by Mimimi Productions
This highly–regarded stealth tactics game puts you in control of a motley crew consisting of a ninja, a samurai, a marksman, a geisha, and a street urchin as you sneak through challenging and intricate missions set in Edo-period Japan. Using their abilities separately or all at once with the game’s “Shadow Mode,” which lets you line up a set of commands and trigger them all at once, is incredibly satisfying, and the missions are always clever without being overly difficult — Shadow Tactics doesn’t have the problem of, say, 2016’s Hitman, where there’s too much to take notice of and track. Here it’s just the guards and their patterns, and how you want to handle them from the top-down perspective. Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun is beautiful, smart, and incredibly solid, just different enough from the usual strategy fair that I can recommend dipping into the shadows for a while to try it out.
Bonus: This is the only game on the main list that is also available on console.
Mobile: ‘Subterfuge‘ by SnappyTouch
If you’re looking for grand strategy on the go, and are willing to maybe sacrifice some friendships, Subterfuge might be the game for you. A match of Subterfuge plays out in real-time, and can take up to a week or more as you deploy submarines to take over outposts and mine for resources. The mechanics are a classic example of “easy to learn, hard to master,” and there’s plenty of depth to them if you want to be a strategic mastermind. But there’s also the opportunity to be a maverick and freak out your enemies, as the true crux of the game is communicating with them via the in-game text chat. Lies will be weaved, alliances forged and broken, and quotes from The Hunt for Red October traded. Subterfuge is played five minutes at a time, but you’ll find it taking over your thoughts, and every match is a roller coaster accessible from your phone.
VR: ‘Brass Tactics‘ by Hidden Path Entertainment
Speaking of Age of Empires, Brass Tactics proudly points out that it comes from the creator of Age of Empires II. For those of us with an Oculus Rift,Brass Tactics is a full real-time strategy game in virtual reality, with a story campaign, battles against AI, online competitive and cooperative play, and a lot of units and upgrades. The game is played out in front of you on a giant war table, and you use your hands to place and direct units as if you’re composing a symphony of battle. In the online play the other player is in the room with you, so you can watch them and even read their body language. If you want to try it out, there’s also Brass Tactics: Arena, a free demo with unlimited play against an AI on a single map.
There are even more great strategy games out there that are well worth your time, including the anthropomorphic, simplified RTS Tooth and Tail, or the excellent giant-robots-versus-insects chess game of Into the Breach, both of which I absolutely wanted to give a shout out to. I could do this all day, Y’all.
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