The Most Anticipated Strategy Games of 201908 Jan 2019 0
We've talked about how amazing last year was for strategy gamers and about how much new stuff was on the table. That doesn't end with 2018. This year has a choice selection of games coming down the pipe which will tickle the fancy of nearly everyone, and that's just the ones we know about!
Keep in mind, it's the early days of 2019. Definitely try a game out if you can; nothing sucks more than getting excited about something that's not going to deliver. Get into betas and early access (as long as they don't require pre-purchasing), watch actual gameplay on YouTube and Twitch, and be an informed consumer.
Now -- things to be informed about!
The Big Guns
Nothing says loving like the heavy hitters of the industry, and we've already got several big productions announced for the coming year. Whether you want to go to space today or just indulge your fantasies of a Banana Republic, the gamut will truly be run.
Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2
Estimated Release: Jan 24, 2019
The Emperor commands and the Emperor protects. One of the games which has really found a following over the last year involves a lot of guys and really crazy powered armor engaging in religious crusades against other guys with really crazy equipment and some other dudes who happen to be giant collections of sentient fungi. There's only one setting that could describe: Warhammer 40,000. Some of the ground game lately has been less than impressive – but the space game was shockingly good. Now, we get more through Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2.
The original was a fine strategic title which put you in command of a number of the classic Battlefleet Gothic ships of the line but this year you're going to get three campaigns from the perspective of three of the twelve factions available, more ships, more strategic options, and just more of everything you enjoyed from the first.
If you offer me the opportunity to play in enormous spacefaring living ships which are invading the galaxy in order to consume it right down to the bacterial level, I'm excited about being in your universe. This one can be picked up by the end of the month if you like turn based space-shooty.
Estimated Release: March 29th, 2019
Everyone has fantasized about being the ironfisted leader of a Caribbean island, surrounded by your ill-gotten gains and terrified populace, at least once in their life. Probably while standing in the grocery aisle, transfixed by bunches of bananas, wondering where they came from. Kalypso has been providing the opportunity for many years now, getting thousands of gamers the chance to play up to Cold War powers, play factions off one another, and skim as much off the top to build a crazy presidential palace as they can. Now Limbic Entertainment has taken the reins of development and shaken things up a bit.
Tropico 6 is going to hand you the power to control multiple islands in the same archipelago, a far more extensive system for creating and maintaining transport infrastructure (possibly just a little bit inspired by Cities: Skylines), and a fully customizable palace.
For my money, the most interesting thing is the addition of four player multiplayer. How that's actually going to work is still a little bit of a mystery, but whether it's cooperatively exploiting the masses or aggressively wrestling with other tinpot dictators, there's a lot of promise. The end of March should see this one in your hot little hands.
Age of Wonders: Planetfall
Estimated Release: 2019 Sometime
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'll all find out together sometime this year, "whenever it's done."
Total War: Three Kingdoms
Estimated Release: Mar 7, 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.
Estimated Release: Feb 2019
The creators of the Anno series turned managing city building and logistical chains into an enduring example of solid concept mated with solid execution, and have done so since 1998 with only a few missteps. There is an exacting kind of balance toward which these games strive to drive the player, putting competing and compelling desirable outcomes opposite one another in the game space and letting the player decide how to steer between them, all the while producing resources necessary for pushing into the next stage of development.
Seven games after that groundbreaking Anno 1602: Creation of a New World, Ubisoft is publishing a Blue Byte design with Anno 1800, pulling back from the post-ecological disaster break which they explored in 2070 and 2205 and turning a gimlet gaze on the rise of the Industrial Revolution.
The visuals look top-notch and of the return of shippable trade goods and items from earlier games in the series is a big plus things to the depth of strategic decision-making the mechanic brings. City attractiveness is bringing gameplay reminiscent of being concerned with pollution specifically from the two previous entries while encompassing a wider selection of influences.
Players who were really invested in the historical grounding of the earlier Anno titles have a real reason to rejoice at this release following Valentine's Day.
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.
Steel Division 2
Estimated Release: 2019
It's impossible to do a round up of games coming out in 2019 without doing at least one World War II title. So if I'm going to have to do a WWII title, it's going to be one which comes from a company with a proven track record of putting boots and steel on the ground: Eugen Systems.
Building on the success of the first Steel Division: Normandy '44,(and the more-to-my-taste Wargame franchise) Eugen is going their own way and self-publishing the follow-up which promises to respond to player feedback about things which were a little troubling in the first outing. The fascinating frontline control mechanism and focus on maneuver and lines of approach are here to stay. Better graphics, more responsiveness, and perhaps even bigger maps are peeking over the horizon.
Eugen are notoriously sketchy when it comes to dates, but they have said that 2019 looks like the year that we will get to rampage across the countryside in really pretty Tiger tanks and I'm inclined to believe them.
Outside of the big boys, there are a lot of interesting games coming down the pipe in the new year which stand alone as new intellectual properties and new games. It's possible that you may have never heard of any of these games, but if you're interested in World War I with mecha, driving cross-country in an insect-infested United States, or just making your mark on the ancient world, the coming year has something for you.
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: June 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 had a very successful crowdfunding round and with the midyear release date and regular updates which illuminate more of the gameplay. It looks like things are going to turn out all right after all.
Estimated Release: 'First Half' of 2019
There was absolutely no way that I would not include another Paradox game in here, nor could I avert my eyes from the majesty that is ancient Rome. Paradox bringing their particular style to a more focused environment than found in EU4 or CK2 carries a lot of weight. You'll be managing provinces, carefully crafting trade agreements, marching out to war at terribly inappropriate times, and doing everything in your power to make the Palatine Hill stand tall above your powerful domains.
Or you can probably try to get an entire incest family tree ruling your olive groves and backstabbing each other. This is the company known for incredible historical accuracy, right? You can't have Rome without incest family trees and backstabbing. That would be unthinkable. (It's almost like Rome and the reign of the Sun King were made for Paradox.) Imperator: Rome will let you fiddle away.
Release dates, as usual for these guys, are a bit hazy but "early 2019" is the closest to a real number we've got.
Targets of Opportunity
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:
I'm a big fan of Atlas Reactor, so anything in that vein has easy access to my attention. Throw in some hexes rather than squares? I'm curious.
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.
Can you believe this beautiful creature is still in early access? Not only that, still getting updates regularly? I feel like I've been playing it for years – and like I'm going to be playing it for lots of years to come.
Aside from the name, which should sell it immediately to any and everybody who reads this article, this weird mashup of dungeon explorer, crafter, and first-person shooter reads in a strange way like a much more humorous Space Hulk.
It's going to be a very, very busy year. There are new releases and strategy gaming in every quarter, both financially and in parts of the genre we all love.
Make sure to keep an eye on some of the smaller players in the field. Give them a hand. Help them out from time to time. Tell people about the games which have excited you the most and which make you want to share that excitement. The big dogs will always get publicity, but if you nurture and cultivate some of the smaller producers of games you love – you'll get more of the games you love. 2019 is looking pretty good.