Our Favourite Upcoming Strategy Games 201902 May 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!
Estimated Release: May 30th, 2019
Petroglyph are continuing their tireless crusade to keep the classical RTS genre alive. Following on from their interesting yet ultimately flawed Forged Battalion, the studio have partnered up with Funcom to produce a real-time strategy game set in the Conan universe. Conan Unconquered is a 'survival RTS', possibly in a similar vein to They Are Billions, where you must build up a strongheld and defend it against hordes of barbarian invaders and monsters.
The action can be paused, allow you to issues commands to either your armies or to start the construction of new buildings, but it's still an RTS at its core. How long you will survive will depend on how well you build your fortress and command your army. We'll have more to share on this soon in the run up to its release, so check back later.
Dark Future: Blood Red State
Release Date: May 16th, 2019
Games Workshop have been a bit more generous with their older IPs in recent years, and no-where is this more true than with Dark Future. It was a board-game from the 1980's that involved cars, dystopian futures and Mad Max-style racing shennanigans, and now UK studio Auroch Digital are bringing it to digital with Blood Red State. These devs have been a bit hit and miss with their strategy projects - the also brought Steve Jackson's OGRE to digital, which was ok, and they also created Last Days of Old Earth, which really wasn't ok.
Still, they're a veteran studio so here's to hoping they've learned form their past mistakes and can make something interesting out of this unusual IP.
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.
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.
Field of Glory: Empires
Estimated Release: 2019
Slitherine have been trying hard to make the same kind of paradigm shift Paradox made with their own line of strategy experiences that try to capture the mainstream imagination, but possess a very hardcore design philosophy. Field of Glory: Empires. It's using one of their war game brands to offer a grand-strategy experience comparable to that of the upcoming Imperator: Rome.
You can take control of an ancient empire and guide it through the tumultuous period after the collapse of Alexander the Great's empire. Rome is still a fledgling republic, so it's very much anyone's guess as to who will come out on top. It's a turn-based system, but one that follows the 'WEGO' principle of turns being resolved simultaneously. It will have empire management as good as what you can get elsewhere, and Empires key 'trick' is that you can integrate the in-game battle system with their turn-based tactical wargame, Field of Glory II. Load the data, fight the battle in full, and then input the results back into Empires. As a counter-point to the Paradox brand of grand strategy, this is as interesting as they come.
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.
Total War: Three Kingdoms
Estimated Release: May 23rd, 2019
There are a few 900 pound gorillas in the field of real-time strategy, and the Total War series is one of the biggest. From the blood covered samurai of Shogun: Total War in 2000 to Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia in 2018, The Creative Assembly has consistently brought high unit count, high detail military command to the desktop of kill-hungry gamers. (Somehow along the way they managed to completely flip around the order of words in their titles, which few franchises have ever managed to do successfully.)
Total War: Three Kingdoms dips a little bit into the territory of Dynasty Warriors to mine one of the greatest supplies of national-level drama, bigger than life characters, and empire building at the largest scale. Interestingly, TW is taking on more than the setting in bringing extra focus to individual personalities as individual heroes commanding your armies and governing your provinces. It's a bold choice to go deliberately head-to-head.
With 11 unique warlords, each with individual histories, backgrounds, and relationships with each other, the vast panoply of China to fight over, and a campaign which is specific to each of those 11 starting choices, there's no question that TW3K will bring a tonne of content to anyone that picks it up. Three Kingdoms is going to romance you.
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.
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.
I didn't want to just let things go with no mention because they're not a major player. So if you've done the big boys and you're looking for more stuff to be curious about, check out some of these:
Iron Marines (Link)
This is more 'old friend' than 'new blood', but Kingdom Rush developers Ironhide are porting their RTS Iron Marines to Steam on the 15th May. Released in 2017 for mobile, this is a slick RTS that sees you leading a band of elite troops through 21 story missions, offering a range of objectives and missions, with plenty of customisation. You can read our original review over on Pocket Tactics, although the game's had nearly 3 years of TLC by now.
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.
Her Majesty's Ship (Link)
Every Single Soldier is known for making interestingly abstract strategy experiences covering niche topics. their latest work puts in charge of a ship-of-the-line during hey-day of the Age of Sail. You've got to sail around the map, carrying out tasks for the Admiralty to gain promotions, with the ultimate goal to become the next Admiral of the Fleet.
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. Pictured above.
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.
BattleTech finally has a new expansion on its way. Urban Warfare is going to introduce some new combat environments (urban cities), as well as new mechs and mech parts themed around the idea of ECM and electronic warfare.
Haemimont's take on city-building/survival on the surface of Mars is getting another add-on pack themed around terraforming. Surviving Mars: Green Planet is due out on May 16th, and adds new building and technologies that can help you turn the Red planet a niche shade of... well, yellow? Green + Red?
While nothing's been formally announced yet, now that the game is out the dev team have started to lay out their plans for the game as far as post-release support. They've pretty much guaranteed we'll get at least one big expansion this year, so we'll update this section when we know what it is. The same can be said for all of the PDX titles, actually.
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:
- Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2
- Jon Schafer's At the Gates
- Tropico 6
- Imperator: Rome
- 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!