The gold standard of just-one-more-turn-oh-dear-its-3am
Strategy games are excellent, but often have little mainstream media coverage.
The PC as a games platform has never been richer for strategy games than now.
But which games should you play? With such a wide range, potential players can often feel lost in a sea of just-ok and often mediocre titles.
To remedy this, DESIblitz has compiled a list of strategy game behemoths that you absolutely should be playing.
There are two things that set XCOM up as the ultimate extra-terrestrial busting strategy game.
One, it perfectly encapsulates the childhood feeling of playing toy soldiers. Two, its fiendishly unforgiving difficulty make every action meaningful.
XCOM: Enemy Within is a game that you will return to time and time again. Player created characters allow you to form a personal relationship with your soldiers and make your own war stories.
This personal relationship becomes all the more heartbreaking when you do lose a member of your team.
While XCOM: Enemy Within is arguably the better version of the game, the recent XCOM 2 does something interesting with the formula.
Returning to the XCOM project years after the aliens won the war, XCOM 2 adopts a guerrilla warfare approach to strategy, upping the difficulty, but adding new tools to your arsenal also.
The gold standard of just-one-more-turn-oh-dear-its-3am, the Civilisation series has captured the imagination of strategy fans for decades.
A rich, dense play experience that takes players on a whirlwind tour of history’s greatest moments. Expansive campaigns with endless customisation. Civilisation offers a range of play-styles to reach win conditions.
Military, scientific, diplomatic or cultural victories; these methods of play are coupled with a constantly ticking clock, facing off against an opponent whose modus operandi you don’t always know.
Fascinating still, games can continue after completing a victory condition or after passing a max turn count, leading to this compelling and awful ten year long game of Civilisation 2.
Multiplayer adds an unpredictable human element to the mix, allowing keen strategists to take on friends and strangers alike, allowing for tonnes of replayability.
But which version is the best? Civilisation VI is coming soon, capitalising on the changes to the formula brought in by V and Beyond Earth.
Civilisation IV, however, is regarded by many as the strongest entry in the series, for good reason. Well balanced, with a satisfyingly complex mechanical structure, Civ IV is an addicting strategy game that will easily take you into the early hours of the morning without realising.
Crusader Kings II
You loved Civilisation, but found its approach to historical perspective a bit lacking. You want something more challenging, something that dives deep into the minutiae of running a demesne, warts and all.
Crusader Kings II, by Paradox Interactive, is a hardcore strategy title. One that is almost impenetrably complex, but deeply satisfying once you get your head around its systems.
Picking a region and era, the game has you control all aspects of monarchical rule. Marrying off children, assassinating opponents to the crown, ensuring your lineage remains pure.
The game’s systems are so sophisticated that it becomes more a simulation than a strategy game, and can easily get out of control if you aren’t careful.
Your lands taken over by warlords, your people ravaged by plague, your king being murdered by his own child. There is so much going on in Crusader Kings II that it will likely be overwhelming for some.
Get inside the games many systems, and you’ll find an excellent, deep strategy game that will challenge even the smartest of player.
Stellaris is another treat from Paradox Interactive, this time looking to the stars, to vast worlds and alien races.
Stellaris marks a return to their staple mix of strategy, story-based diplomacy and defense, systems based gameplay.
A pausable real time strategy, the game allows you to fully customise the race that you play, and your decisions affect the way you progress through the game.
Different races give different options for technological research and culture. If you want to take advantages of the technologies of other races, you must find these things while exploring and reverse engineer them.
This ensures that there are no wrong choices, allowing players to be more adventurous in their strategic choices. More options mean more chances for unique, organic storytelling.
All of these choices and systems are wrapped in a very attractive and easy to understand user interface. A pleasant surprise for science fiction fans.
Total War: Warhammer
Creative Assembly’s Total War series has received a lot of love over the years.
Taking players to a number of historical eras and putting them in the shoes of warlords and emperors alike, a mix of turn based and real time strategy helps recreate battles on a big scale.
When news of the latest entry in the series revealed a fantasy take on the formula, fan reaction was wild, and the game has enjoyed a lot of positive coverage from the press and the community alike.
Total War: Warhammer has you take control of the armies of man, dwarf, orc and vampire, to put huge swathes of soldiers against one another in epic warfare.
All this is held together by the Warhammer lore, allowing players to explore famous battles from the tabletop series, stunningly recreated in 3D.
Other new gameplay elements, like faction specific campaign elements, unique ‘agent’ units and an array of magic spells are all present in this strategy title.
Bringing high fantasy to a series known for being grounded in real-world history was a great decision that has paid off in droves. If you are a fan of Warhammer, Total War, or both, then this is a must have.
If you plan to dive into any of these excellent strategy titles, be sure to have plenty of time on your hands. These games will eat up your life, if you aren’t careful.
For those with patience and time, there is plenty here to love: Science fiction, fantasy, history – a varied range of game types under the strategy banner.