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Posted on Jul 9, 2010 in Boardgames

Strategy Games Overview: A Look Ahead to the Best Upcoming Strategy Games

By Peter Suciu

The same old story was heard at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles; that being that PC gaming was truly dead, that strategy games are a thing of the past and anything to do with military history is just in the past. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. Despite the hype with the new consoles including motion control, and even a controller system that worked sans actual controller, the PC lives on. It remains a tried and true video game system, delivering robust gameplay, excellent connectivity and a proven interface.

As for the argument that strategy games are dead – that usually comes from gamers whose idea of thinking ahead is twitch action and button mashing. Strategy games and war games are also very much alive and well. This summer and fall will see the release of several must-play games, with both solid looking offers in the real-time and turn-based spaces. The former will have you waging wars and fighting battles without the chance to consider every option, while the latter promises to offer the type of gameplay that will have you wanting to play one more turn even in the wee hours of the night. Here is a post-E3 look at the best and brightest upcoming strategy games for 2010.

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Civilization V (2K Games)
While one of the original 4X games (explore, expand, exploit and exterminate) strategy games, Sid Meier’s Civilization wasn’t technically a war game. It was as much an economic and nation management simulation as it was about conquering the world. In fact, the wise player often avoided conflict entirely, as taking a passive role was one way to reach the ultimate goal – that being reaching to the stars and sending a manned starship to another planet. The game had seen several updates, as well as numerous knock-offs and even a quasi-sequel, but now the latest version of the game could be the best one yet.

Civilization V does more by actually including a bit less. Whereas Civilization II built on the original, only to have Civilization III add so much that it was overwhelming, Civilization V is more streamlined and even a tad minimalist in its design. More importantly, this turn-based strategy game has finally taken a needed cue from boardgames and has replaced the tried and true, or should we say tired, squares with actual hexes! More importantly, taking a cue from various real-time strategy games, each playable civilization will have special abilities and special units. Thus there is the added bonus of replayability, as you can try various nations to see what each offers besides just different looking units. But the most promising improvement might be the AI, which finally has the promise to offer diplomacy more along the lines of actual humans. All this means you’ll want to conquer the world all over again!

Shogun 2: Total War (SEGA)
The total war series has been going strong for more than a decade, but while the Roman and Medieval versions are remembered, few recall the original Shogun: Total War. Now it is time to unite Japan all over again. This time around there will nine different historically based clans, where players can battle through a main campaign in single player, or even take part in a competitive and cooperative multiplayer campaign. This version will also support an eight-player multiplayer battle mode, complete with leaderboards to see who is the ultimate Shogun warrior.

Streamlined interface seems to be the name of the games with the latest strategy titles, and this is certainly true with Shogun 2, which is looking to make it a bit easier to manage your growing kingdom. You’ll still be able to recruit and train troops, conduct diplomacy with the other computer powers and manage your various agents. Building on the Napoleonic series, this one will also bring naval battles into the mix, complete with actual coastal battles where you can use the terrain to aid your efforts. There will even be new multi-stage castle sieges, which promise to make you want to try your hand at controlling the rising sun until sunrise.

Lionheart Kings Crusade (Paradox Interactive)
With the Third Crusade as the backdrop, this one combines the action of a strategy game with a bit of roleplaying action as you can take part in two single-player campaigns. As King Richard I of England, the Lionheart, or Saladin, you’ll lead either Crusader forces or Saracens in a campaign for control of the Holy Land. Familiar settings – at least to those who know of the conflict – will be included including Damascus, Cairo, Baghdad and of course Jerusalem. While the real Richard may have never set foot in many of these cities, you’ll have to see if fate deals you a better hand.

But it won’t be all luck. You’ll have to use your forces wisely, and armies will include more than 20 different types of soldiers including archers, foot knights and spearmen. As you and your respective army gains experience you’ll be able to increase your soldier’s abilities. And there will be a few wild cards thrown in for good measure, as forces from the Templar Knights, the Holy Roman Empire and even the Pope will be to help, or more likely hinder your efforts. Of course would you want it to be easy?

Victoria II (Paradox Interactive)
While the title of the game is Victoria II, this isn’t about some fictional queen. For the record, there has so far been only one British monarch to bare the name Victoria – but this game is a sequel to the epic, and to some overwhelming, empire building game. However, noting that the original game took as long to play as the age named for the monarch, the developers have worked hard to make for much more manageable follow-up.

This has elements that are similar to the Total War series, where successfully managing your growing nation is the key to victory. Thus while this is about building empires, and spans the globe from 1835 to the mid 20thcentury, this one isn’t technically a war game. It is more a strategy game, where wars are just an extension of state policy through other means (thank you von Clausewitz). But consider that in most of the Victorian Age the great powers typically avoided long and protracted conflicts. So too you must tread carefully, as this isn’t about conquering the world but in becoming a dominant power. With more than 200 playable nations, you’ll have many chances to try and try again.

Napoleon: Total War – The Peninsular Campaign (SEGA)
While Napoleon was off doing his thing in Austria, Prussia and deciding that a journey to Moscow was a good idea, there was another theater of the war to the west in Spain and Portugal. The expansion pack for Napoleon: Total War – The Peninsular Campaign focuses on these exports, notably where Arthur Wellesley came to fame to become the Duke of Wellington. The pack features a new campaign map with 32 controllable regions, and is playable as the French, British or Spanish.

This add-on also features new units, include guerrilla forces, as well as the British 95th Rifles for those fans of the Sharpe’s series. New agent, including a Guerillero as well as an unrest-spreading Priest are available, while both the French and British have a new Provocateur to still up trouble. And you won’t have to wait long to stir up your own action. This downloadable add-on is available now for the PC exclusively via Steam (the original game is necessary to play).

Kings and Castles (Gas Powered Games)
Game developer Chris Taylor may not exactly be a household name, but if you know strategy games you know probably know Taylor’s work very well. He’s the creator of the epic Total Annihilation series as well as Supreme Commander. He also created the hack and slash role-playing series Dungeon Siege. But now Taylor is back in the saddle, working on the next generation of real-time strategy games with Kings and Castles.

Much of the plot and backstory is still under wraps, but at E3 and from a series of blog posts, Taylor has hinted that this could be the next big thing. “We’re doing something different this time around,” said Chris Taylor, Creative Director of Gas Powered Games. “We want to take our fans on a great adventure with us. They’ll get to go behind-the-scenes and watch the game come to life from start to finish.” Check out his video blogs at the official site. This will be one that promises to be worth the wait.

End of Nations (Trion Worlds)
Since the Command & Conquer franchise has been a bit played out, there haven’t been much in the way of over-the-top military strategy games. Nothing that just gets you hooked in all out intense gameplay, at least not in the way the original C&C did. But it isn’t the end of the world, because End of Nations might just be the cure for the RTS blues.

The game follows a familiar track. Anarchy follows an economic collapse (like that could ever happen), and new super power rises from the ashes. At first this seems like good old hope and change, but instead it offers a darker and more sinister bend that demands unquestioned obedience. The result is a revolution all over again. The big twist here is the End of Nations combines the typical RTS with a massively multiplayer online experience, where players can take part in solo campaigns or team up with thousands of other gamers online. Players can play along side veterans as well as new recruits and climb up the ranks, to unlock new units and abilities. And because the online version is a persistent world, it will change with each battle, as alliances (and probably friendships) are made and broken.

Stronghold 3 (South Peak)
There are two kinds of people when it comes to castle simulations. There are those that enjoy designing and building a castle, and those that like besieging and destroying a castle. Fortunately in the Stronghold series you could do both, and each had its own brand of fun. The game, which actually felt like an update of the classic Castles and Castles II titles from Interplay, had seen various improvements, and numerous expansions.

So the newly announced upcoming Castles 3 is actually the sixth game in the series, but whose counting. What is in a name or number? What is important is that this one will have an improved visual engine that should make for more detailed and potentially larger castles and keeps. Unfortunately a castle game, much like a real castle or Rome for that matter, isn’t built in a day, so you’ll have to wait until next spring. Start thinking about dream castle in the meantime.

3 Comments

  1. Great article. Sounds like we’ll have some great fun with these upcoming games.

  2. Ha, just when I was getting interested in real life again…

  3. Axix and Allies various game are really good. For PC Battlestations Pacific is really great.
    It has great fun scenario set with 10 maps, 3 sizes each with 3 difficulty setting that you can either side. That’s at least 180 different games you can play right there. Through in the fact that you can add one ungrader unit typr to your side, Eacg side has 4-7 choises of each of the 180 games types. The you have all the campaigns to play also. I’ve been playing it for over 18 monthes and still find new ways to play.

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