The Best Strategy Games of 2019 (Still to Come)10 Jul 2019 2
2019 has already had a choice selection of games come down the pipe, and things show no sign of stopping. There's so many releases due which will tickle the fancy of nearly everyone, and that's just the ones we know!
From big-hitters to indie newcomers, we've researched a range of new titles that have stated they're due to release during the 2019 calendar year (Not 'financial' year, that's a bit of a cop out). We've already seen several games shift release dates, and new projects will be announced all the time, so make sure you check back to look up any updates.
Now -- things to be informed about!
Auto Chess PC
Estimated Release: Alpha - soon, Full Release TBD
You may have seen us talk about Auto Chess a fair bit recently - with the breakout success of the DOTA 2 Mod now apparent, everyone's looking to get involved in this new emerging sub-genre of turn-based strategy (if you want to get technical, Auto Chess-like games could be described as 'WEGO', like BSG Deadlock). The original Auto Chess creators have been spending most of their time porting the mod to mobile in a more legitimate form. With that done, the team are now planning to come back to PC with a more souped-up version of the game made in the Unreal engine.
The PC Alpha was due to start early July, although we haven't been able to confirm this yet. It's definitely due soon though, so anyone who's still playing the DOTA 2 mod but want a more bespoke, supported experience will finally be able to support the original creator in an official capacity. As an alternative for PC players who just want to play some fake Chess, Valve's DOTA Underlords and Riot's Teamfight Tactics (Accessible from within League of Legends) are already available, although they're officially in 'beta'. Considering this is all brand new territory for everyone involved, we're not sure how long these games will remain in 'Early Access'.
Estimated Release: 2019
New 4X strategy games are a bit rarer these days now that Iceberg Interactive have decided to be a bit more chill about that sub-genre. We've got Planetfall to look forward to, of course, but Slitherine have announced a new space-based 4X game that will try and follow in the footsteps of Star Control and its ilk. Astra Exodus will include headline features such as a choice-based narrative campaign, a ship designer with over 100 modules, real-time tactical battles and eight unique factions.
It'll be interesting to see how this one develops - Stellaris, for all its faults, very much set some new standards I think it would be wise that everyone else tried to follow, because as much as you can remember the older games with fondness, certain 'classic' design ideas just seem rather archaic in the face of randomised tech-trees and emergent narrative design. Slitherine aren't in the habit of announcing games too early these days, so while we don't know when, we can be fairly confident this will release this year.
Age of Wonders: Planetfall
Estimated Release: August 6th, 2019
Paradox Interactive shows up a lot in Strategy Gamer content because they produce and distribute some of the finest strategy games available on any platform. This year looks like another strong one for the guys in Sweden as they hook up with Triumph to bring a new entry in the Age of Wonders series to both PC and consoles.
Age of Wonders: Planetfall takes the strongly fantasy-themed franchise into the sci-fi future, putting you in charge of a fallen House, a shard of a once thriving Galactic Empire, now competing with others to claw your way back into the light of the stars. If you really enjoyed Endless Legend and the mix of lore-exploring RPG and relatively hard-core hex-based strategy, this game is aimed squarely at your tastes.
Having played quite a lot of AoW, I have to wonder how it's going to make the transition from high magical fantasy into science fiction while making a real distinction between the two in terms of gameplay. The available video (which Paradox is really quite good at providing) makes a good case that the aesthetics are well chosen but combat still feels a little bit similar to me at this point. We also have some hands-on impressions you can read, otherwise we'll find out for ourselves when the game launches in August.
Estimated Release: Subjective
The official grand-daddy of sim/management games, Dwarf Fortress is finally coming to Steam in a bespoke, premium version aimed at offering a more accessible version for new audiences. It's a bit of a bitter-sweet event - the joy of many being able to dabble in a legend in way that doesn't involve looking at ASCII code (although there are skin-pack mods available for the free version) is mitigated somewhat due to the fact that the only reason we're getting this is because the developers are being let down by the US Health System. Still, we're hoping this is going to drop this year.
Estimated Release: TBD
There's more than one contender for X-Com's throne. While the original creator is busy working on a bona-fide successor, anyone who wanted a more modern X-COM experience who didn't want to have to deal with 2K's mainstream offering had Xenonauts to scratch that itch. The sequel, Xenonauts 2, is not a direct follow-on more an updated portrayal of the same events using a different scenario. Alien interference has prevented the end of the Cold War, and you're tasked with heading up a clandestine organisation charged with combating the alien threat and holding the world together by any means necessary. We're not sure how realistic the March date is for the Early Access launch, but it's highly likely you'll be able to get a hold of this before Phoenix Point releases, at any rate.
Estimated Release: Summer 2019
The creators of the rather excellent real-time tactical game Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun are working on the third instalment of the Desperados series. Desperados 3 will see you take control of up to five desperadoes as you go on an epic journey through 1870's America. Missions can be approached from multiple angles, and there are lethal and non-lethal ways of dealing with anyone who gets in your way. We quite enjoyed Shadow Tactics, so we're very much looking forward to seeing Mimimi's new game, although your mileage on the theme may vary.
Iron Harvest : 1920+
Estimated Release: Dec 2019
There's no secret that I love big, stompy mechs. Huge exposed servomotors, dangling cables, hard-core industrial appearance? I'm the guy you want to sell your game to. But like a lot of you, I'm kind of burned out on World War II. It's one of the biggest, most fabulous (as is, there's a lot of fables about it) wars in recent human history, but it had a serious predecessor. World War I. What if we put big stompy mechs alongside horse mounted cavalry, and the poorest of poor bloody infantry --with base building, battlefield control, and an original plot? Then you might have Iron Harvest.
You can preorder the game right now, even the collector's edition that involves a customized logo bag, if that's your thing. Actual gameplay reminds me of Men of War a lot. This is a good thing for some of you and for me.
Estimated Release: 2019
Hands up, all of you serious geeks who spent your time in computer class on an Apple II playing Karateka and Oregon Trail? While I can't do much for helping you punch a hawk, I can bring happy and familiar memories of taking a bunch of people out in a wagon to trying get cross-country while everything in the world tries to kill you and you have to scavenge for everything you get. And isn't that what we all want in life?
Overland gives you a backpack, a car, and an invasion by hideous alien bugs that live beneath our feet, and challenges you to get across the country to find someplace safe for yourself and everyone you pick up along the way – or don't pick up if you decide that they'd be more hindrance than help. It's been in early access for a while so I would expect actual release somewhere around mid year.
Estimated Release: September 2019
Everybody wants to protect the world from hideous alien invaders, one way or another. For many of us, turn-based tactics games offer an intense, strategy-first, powerful challenge which has manifested in a number of games that made an impact on entire generations. Squads of men and women, each with their own talents and powers, enhanced by the best research human minds can put together, and thrown, knowing full well of the sacrifice, against an unrelenting alien menace.
Sure, it was the plot of the seminal X-COM (the Julian Gollop version not the later, perfectly lovely Firaxis streamlined version) but there's no reason not to go back to a perfectly good well – especially if you intend to do so with upgraded and improved graphics and more disgusting biological horrors.
Phoenix Point has had a bit of a wild ride in the past couple of months. Several delays have pushed the release back to September, and the recent announcement that it will be exclusive to the Epic Store for the first year have ruffled many feathers. Still, this deal has also some-what garunteed at least a year's worth of DLC after launch, so it can't be all bad.
Age of Empires 4
Estimated Release: 2019? Maybe?
This is more a reminder than anything else - there's been painfully little news on the Relic-helmed sequel to Microsoft/Ensemble's iconic RTS franchise. Hell, the company has spoken about Age of Mythology getting a remaster more recently than Age of Empires 4. We're hopeful this may be a last-minute release in 2019, but if an announcement doesn't happen soon it's more likely this will slip into 2020.
It's crazy to think that, half-way through 2019, we've had to create a separate section dedicated solely to all the re-masters coming out. I mean it's great for anyone looking to ride some more nostalgia waves but, as a trend, it doesn't do anything for the long-term evolution of our favourite genre.
Warcraft III: Reforged
Estimated Release: 2019
Where have you been for the last 20 years? Probably playing one of the innumerable offspring of the 2002 Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos, from whose loins came some of the most well received and well loved games of the last two decades, including that pioneer of MMOs, World of Warcraft. While its predecessors established the world, Warcraft 3 truly established the game and provided a platform on which new games could be created.
Warcraft 3: Reforged rebuilds every single asset of the original to a 4K standard. The gameplay hasn't changed nor have the 62 missions which are available in all the campaigns changed from the ones that you remember. Night elves, undead, orcs, and humans – they're all here.
Players have wanted the return of W3 for years and it's great that there will be an easy way for those who really enjoy the nostalgia to bring new players into the fold. My guess is that gamers who have grown up in the field forged by Blizzard may have friction with the extremely old-school design; after all, the last 20 years have not exactly stood still when it comes to development. Updating the UI with tons of quality of life improvements but retaining the classic gameplay may remind folks why we've moved on.
Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition
I mean sure, ok. Because what the RTS genre really needs is yet another remaster of Age of Empires 2. I imagine there are enough people our there who care enough about 4K textures to warrant this but... whatever. It's happening. According to the E3 announcement, it's not just a another hi-res pass at the textures - there'll be a new expansion with new factions too. This is due to drop later this year.
Commandos 2 & Praetorians HD
This was a rather more pleasant surprise to come out of E3 this year - Kalypso Media have announced that they're also getting in on the remaster game by bringing back to classic strategy games - Commandos 2 and Preatorians HD. The two iconic RTS games will be coming to PC, PS4 and Xbox One, with Commandos 2 being ported to additional platforms such as mobile, and the Nintendo Switch. These games are due to land 'Q4' 2019, which means they technically could slip into the 2020 calendar year as financial years are weird.
Command & Conquer (& Red Alert) Remastered
Estimated Release: 2019
Warcraft isn't the only classical RTS franchise making a comeback. EA have confirmed they're working with Petroglyph to remaster the original C&C games for modern machines, starting with the first Command & Conquer. This entry is short because we don't know much about it at this point, but it's believed that at least one of the remasters at least could be out this year.
Other Games of Interest
The Lord of the Rings: Adventure Card Game
You may remember I spoke about this last year - Fantasy Flight Games (via their recently formed digital development studio Fantasy Flight Interactive) have tried porting one of their more successful physical card games to digital. While The Adventure Card Game isn't as much a translation as it is an interpretation of The Living Card Game, it does do some kinda neat things that can only really work with digital tools. It's struggled a bit to find its identity over the past year, especially with regards to its business model, but it's in a pretty interesting place right now. If you've been waiting for the Early Access period to end, you'll be pleased to know the game will release 'for reals' on August 8th, 2019.
If you're into your board games, you'll have heard of the mammoth Legacy board game Gloomhaven. A tactical-RPG dungeon crawler with big ambitions and an even bigger box, we've heard both good and terrifying things about it. It's one of Asmodee Digital's latest candidates for a digital adaptation, and the Early Access is due to launch on July 17th for the hefty price of $24.99. There's a gameplay trailer you can watch, if you want to know more.
Announced during E3 2018, all we know is that this will be a XCOM-style turn-based tactical strategy set 12 years prior to the events of the first Gears of War game, with all new characters. There was no mention of this game during the 2019 E3 show, so we're not sure if this is planned for a 2019 release or not. It's here as a an 'FYI' until we find out more, but it's possible this will slip to 2020.
A new RTS from Slitherine, this is a post-apocalyptic game where you must lead a group of survivors to try and retake, and rebuild, one of a few launch cities that will be based on real map data of Paris, Tokyo and New York. You've got to invest your resources and expand your influence street by street, district by district while competing against other factions. It seems like a cross between Frozen Synapse and, say, The Division, except if The Division had been created by nerds. Release window is unknown, but we'd be surprised if it wasn't due out by the end of the year.
A Year of Rain (Link)
Daedelic, a company mainly known for their point-and-click adventure games, are dipping their toe into RTS for ht first time with A Year of Rain. This is a co-op RTS with an eye towards competitive Esports. Two players each take charge of hero-led armies from one of three factions. It's due to involve usual RTS design, mixed with MOBA like team-play, especially around army recruitment. The specific mention of Esports is a bit concerning - a game 'designed' for Esports rarely does well, but the core game premise at least sounds solid. It can also be played solo with an AI companion, if you're billy no mates. It's due to release into Early Access later this year.
End State (Link)
A cross between Phantom Doctrine and XCOM, this squad/turn-based tactics game puts you in charge of a mercenary outfit hunting down terrorists in a fictional war-torn country. It's got an open-world strategy layer with all the trappings of modern XCOM, coupled with a free-form approach to goals and objectives. It will be launching into Early Access sometime this year.
Dual Gear (Link)
Does this game have a chance in Hell of seeing the light of day in 2019? Probably not, even though they did do a major update only a couple of months ago. The creators responded on Twitter that things are still underway. I want this game. Really crunchy giant robots in a semi-turn based architecture? Oh yes.
Nothing to report at the moment - that Imperator: Rome expansion we thought was coming is probably being pushed back to 2020 so that the team can get a few more free updates out of the door. It does look like we may be getting a paid-for content pack of some-kind though this year. Some other things to look out for:
- Warhammer 40K Gladius: Relics of War - Chaos Expansion (July 17th)
Other Management & Sim games
We dabble in management & sim games from time to time - they're not purely 'strategy' games, but the mainstream perspective quite often lumps them all together for ease, so we can't help but feel a certain kinship. There are some really interesting city-builder, management and sim projects on the horizon that we're expecting this year. We've mentioned a couple above, but there's also:
Best 2019 Strategy Releases (So Far)
We're only half-way through February, but already there's been some pretty decent releases in strategy gaming that you'll want to check out:
- Total War: Three Kingdoms
- Fort Sumter
- Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark
- Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2
- Jon Schafer's At the Gates
- Tropico 6
- Anno 1800
- Various expansions & DLCS!
Check back later as we keep this list up-to-date with everything there is to look forward to in 2019!