Top Strategy Games To Play When Your GPU Dies

By Marcello Perricone 28 Aug 2017 1

On the first week of August, tragedy struck. My trusty GTX died after nearly four years of use, and I was left stranded in an ocean of gameless seas. Waiting for a new GPU to arrive, I delved into my rather sizeable strategy game collection, testing dozens of titles using an Intel 4600 onboard graphics card.

While chatting with Joe about the joyless existence that is life without good games, he jokingly suggested I write about the "top strategy games to play when your GPU dies". I missed the "joke" part of it, and ran with the idea. These are some of the best strategy games you can play when your graphics card unfortunately bites the dust.

Age of Mythology

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Age of Empires, while historical, wasn't exactly accurate. Age of Mythology isn’t either, but given it's legendary source of inspiration, that doesn’t matter as much. Personally, I've always been drawn towards mythological stuff, so I prefer Age of Mythology over it’s more famous historically-lite sibling.

Featuring a brilliantly awesome soundtrack, a fantastic “God” system, and wonderfully quaint 3D graphics, Age of Mythology was a title that occupied a lot of my time as a kid. From Arkantos to solar beam-firing alligators, it is packed full of powerfully amazing units, and the unique architecture, UI, and mechanics of each culture just causes the title to ooze personality onto the carpet.

Being an old game recently remastered, Age of Mythology: Extended Edition’s performance was quite smooth. There’s not a lot to talk about here; running on 1080p without a dedicated GPU, everything worked as expected. Playing as the Atlanteans is an amazing feeling regardless of your rig.

Banished

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A small yet surprisingly competent game, this is one of the few "survival sims" that actually managed to hit the spot and make something challenging yet fun. In charge of controlling a village from inception to... well, forever, Banished features one of the best colony management games/city building games around. The harsh winters, amazing soundtrack, and overall excellent level of polish made this one of my favourite indie strategy games ever.

Surprisingly, the performance is notoriously stable on an onboard video card. I was able to play it at 1080p with all settings on max, and never had a single frame drop -- overall, it was an amazing and unexpected experience. The full game download is only around 300MB, so if you got a potato PC and want a good survival strategy game, check out Banished.

Stellaris

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Having sunk over a hundred hours into Stellaris, I had to check out how Paradox’s awesome yet flawed sci-fi epic would behave. It is a very pretty and expansive game, even if it isn't nearly as technically demanding as AAA open-world or shooters are.

Without a dedicated GPU, Stellaris ran surprisingly okay, except when zooming way back in the galactic maps. The core loop of selecting planets, giving orders, picking researches, and moving ships worked fine, as the game focuses on one system at a time. Once you pan back the camera to see the whole galaxy, however, things do get rather sluggish.

Needless to say, battles completely murder your framerates. Not that much of a problem, since Stellaris' current warfare mechanics are infamously bad and in dire need of a significant revamp, so I currently tend to avoid large battles as much as possible.

Civilization V and VI

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As expected, Civ VI is just too darn sexy to run on an onboard GPU. On low settings, I had barely playable frames on normal view and a surprisingly high framerate on strategic view, but who wants to play Civilization in that cardboard-like interface? Certainly not me.

Civ V, on the other hand, was mostly okay. It still ran rather badly for such an old and graphically unimpressive game, but on medium to high settings, it was perfectly enjoyable.

Battlestar Galactica: Deadlock

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I know, this one caught me by surprise, too! Turns out Slitherine latest and greatest sci-fi strategy game is so well optimised, I was able to play it on a motherboard's integrated graphics card. Granted, I had to bump the settings from Ultra to Medium (and on one specific battle, to Low), but I managed to have a great experience with it.

Frames often dropped to low 20s and the performance truly tanked when zooming in, but given the turn-based nature of Battlestar Galactica: Deadlock, the game was surprisingly enjoyable... as long as I kept the camera a healthy distance from the models once the simulation phase began.

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