The Strategy Gamer's Guide to 2017 (Updated)11 Jul 2017 2
Hello and welcome all to Strategy Gamer’s Guide to 2017! Here you’ll be privy to all things strategic that we have to look forward to in 2017. We've divided the article in a couple of sections - games with full retail releases expected this year, games that we think are going to be entering or leaving Early Access this year, and everything in between. Information is correct as of the date shown just below, as we'll try and update this article as we go along.
Last Update: 11 July, 2017
Battlestar Galactica: Deadlock
Battlestar Galactica: Deadlock [Steam] throws the player into the heart of the First Cylon War in an original story developed in conjunction with Universal. Developer Black Lab Games (creators of Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy) will put you in charge of the entire Colonial Fleet after a catastrophe leaves the chain of command in ruins, and the Cylons on the verge of victory.
Deadlock is a fully 3D tactical space-battle strategy game; both player and AI plot moves, issue orders and then resolve at the same time (known as 'WEGO'). Control fleets of iconic vessels, like the Galactica itself, launch Viper and Raptor squadrons to engage in close-quarter dogfights and even take charge of the big picture via the War Room. Much like Star Hammer, there will also be RPG-like elements connected to the single-player experience – recruit officers, keep the Quorum of Twelve unified, and fight the Cylons wherever you can. It will also feature online multiplayer in the form of 1v1 skirmishes.
This new tactical space combat game is scheduled for release onto PC, Xbox One & PS4 later this year. Anyone interested in signing up to join the beta can go here.
Drawing inspirations from Age of Empires, Empire Earth and Stronghold, this ambitious RTS developed by newcomer DESTINYbit aims to capture the excitement and wonder of collecting resources, building an army, and leading it to victory. It adds features from MOBAs and MMORPGs to try and modernise the formula, while keeping it's heart intact.
With a distinctly unique art style, Empires Apart aims to fill the gap left by the death of Age of Empires, and build its own legacy in the process. Keep an eye out for this one.
XCOM 2: War of the Chosen Expansion
You saved the world from aliens, you took Earth back from aliens, and now you will fight alongside aliens, in the latest XCOM 2 expansion, War of the Chosen. Acting as a secondary campaign to XCOM 2, the expansion adds three special enemies that act as champions of the alien armies, along with three different faction which desperately tries to hunt them down. As you fight against the new enemies, the other rebels slowly warm up to you, allowing you to eventually recruit from their ranks or issue orders to in an strategic level. Enemies also learn from your tactics and constantly adapt and upgrade like you do, creating a unique power balance structure that should keep players on their toes.
When the aliens invaded Earth before XCOM 2, they glassed a few cities in order to lower resistance and subdue the populace. According to creative director Jake Solomon, we never saw those cities in the base game, but we will now. When performing missions in these desolate and utterly destroyed locations, players will come into contact with a new enemy race called the Lost. A horde of mindless alien/human zombies, they attack anything in sight and will create a lot of chaos as three-sided firefights ensue.
A new squad bond system will also be added, allowing squadmates to create relationships between each other and generating effects in combat. Best buddies can rush to each other and calm them when panicking under fire, for example, or give up one of their actions so their bestie can pull an extra move, finally realising all the internal narratives we all had going on in our minds.
Age of Empires HD Remake
Off the heels of Age of Empires II and Age of Mythology, Microsoft is remastering and fully updating the original game into Age of Empires: Definitive Edition. With a completely remade interface, new assets, and considerably better graphics (including 4K support), this is your chance to experience the world before "wololo" was a thing.
Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord
Don your armour, ride into battle, and lead your army to victory. While considerably more adventure-y and historical than the regular strategy game, Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord offers an extensive strategical side that most RPGs lack. Siege castles, upgrade and protect your own, and control huge armies as you seek to conquer the land.
El Presidente is back again, but this time, his island government is bigger. Forgoing the classical one island setup, Kalypso' newest banana republic simulator features multiple landmasses connected via bridges into one massive communist/socialist archipelago of stupid political ideas. As always, you will guide dictate the nation through four different historical eras, and.. that's it, really. That's all Tropico was ever about.
A turn-based strategy game for up to 4 players, in which each one controls an army and its commander and wages war on everyone else. Billed as "extremely easy to pickup, with accessibility at the forefront of its design" yet "very difficult to master", this is a 2D strategy title made by the studio behind Starbound, and it looks kinda cute.
Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
Yep, that's a thing. Ubisoft, flagship company of weirdly misplaced ideas, teamed up with nigh-suicidal Nintendo to create a strategy game. An upcoming turn-based tactical RPG, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is a crossover of Nintendo's Mario franchise and Ubisoft's Raving Rabbids franchise, and is set for release worldwide in August 2017. Don't ask me why, just run with it.
Look at Kalypso, back at it again. As if dictatorial Tropico 6 wasn't enough, they're also expanding into the Wild West and it's highly important logistical railroad business. Set in 1830’s America in the golden era of steam trains, Railway Empire allows players to run their own transport business and expand it throughout the United States, researching innovative new technologies and outmanoeuvring their rivals to stay profitable and control the market.
Total War: Warhammer 2
With this one being only just announced details are still quite sparse but what we do know is that players will get to choose between four from the Warhammer Fantasy universe which are believed to be; High Elves, Lizardmen, Dark Elves and The Skaven. Each faction will have two sub factions that come with their own legendary lord who has their own specific skill tree.
Creative Assembly have promised that each campaign will have a strong narrative component that helps drive it forward towards a “climactic end game” which should prevent players suffering from “late game fatigue” that often affects games of this kind. And if that’s not enough for you they’ve also promised a “mega-campaign” further down the line for owners of the first game that will combine the maps of both games together. Total War: Warhammer 2 has no set release date but it set to come out at some point this year.
Aven Colony (Mothership Entertainment)
First off we have Mothership Entertainment’s debut title, Aven Colony, which looks like a mixture of Tropico and Anno 2040. Players run and expand colonies on an alien world, and must survive in the face the planet’s hostile environment and indigenous creatures. The landscape is gorgeously handcrafted and the buildings fully rendered in 3D, all the way down to the transparent pedestrian tunnels and small colonists going about their business. You can buy into the beta over at itch.io if you are so inclined, or just wait for it's release on July 25th.
Frozen Synapse 2 (Mode 17)
The original Frozen Synapse is a game I wish people stole more ideas from. It’s simultaneous turn-based system made the game an interesting ballet of gunfire and explosions that was always a joy to watch unfold.
Frozen Synapse 2 is taking a few pages out of the XCOM book this time around by having a strategic overworld map that players can deploy their forces too. Frozen Synapse 2 will also included an X-COM Apocalypse faction system, with each faction having its own objectives that may clash or align with yours.
One of the most interesting facts about Frozen Synapse 2 is the ability to invade/assault on the overworld map and that buildings will be represented accurately in the corresponding tactical level. According to Mode 17, Frozen Synapse 2 is due out this year, but there have been no details on when as yet.
Dungeons 3 (Realmforge Studios)
Do you miss Dungeon Keeper? You do? Well, you’re luck, as so do the people at Realmforge Studios. Just like the series from which it draws it’s inspiration, Dungeons 3 will cast you as an evil lord whose task it is to manage, defend and expand your dungeon whilst plotting the downfall of those damnable do gooders.
This newest entry in the series will feature co-op so a friend can join in on your dastardly deeds, more rooms and creatures of darkness to fill your ranks and procedurally generated levels to ensure replayability. Dungeons 3 is expected in fall of this year.
Abandon Ship (Fireblade Software)
This next one is a roguelike set in a high sails-esque fantasy world, in which you traverse the dangers of the ocean deep aboard your ship. According to Fireblade Studios, players can expect tactical combat, character and crew customisation and a vibrant procedurally generated world. Also, upon the destruction of your ship, if your captain happens to survive, you may row your way back to safety and continue on your journey.
With its oil painting aesthetic and the heavy amount of inspiration from both FTL and Sunless Sea, Abandon Ship looks like it’ll be a unique indie title, to say the least. Abandon Ship has been announced for 2017, but no solid date so far.
Battletech (Harebrained Schemes)
Oh boy, is it a good time to be a mech fan. Another game hot off the Kickstarter presses, BattleTech (based off of the popular tabletop game of the same name) will have players ordering about a “mech lance” (a squad of mechs in BattleTech lingo) as they conduct mercenary missions for a variety of sci-fi noble houses.
Players will be able to customise a plethora of options on each mech from big things such as chassis, weapons and armour to the smaller details such as gyros and actuators. Unlike most tactical games, BattleTech will not feature any cover mechanics as the devs thought the prospect of giant humanoid robots huddled behind waist high walls seemed a bit silly.
Mechs won’t be the only customisable thing in the game, as pilots will all have their own skill trees and can bail out of mechs to save themselves. For any BattleTech fans out there, the game seems to be in very capable hands as Harebrained Schemes was co-founded by Jordan Weisman, creator of the BattleTech franchise and Mitch Giletman, who was producer on both Mech Commander and Mech Assault. BattleTech is due out in early part of this year.
Expeditions: Viking (Logic Artists) [Released, Read our review here]
Back in 2014, Expeditions Conquistadors cast players as a Spanish conquistador charged with exploring the new world and bringing about the downfall of the Aztec empire. This new instalment in the series will have players leading bands of viking warriors as you gallivant about England.
While the engine and art direction remain largely the same as the previous entry, Expeditions Vikings definitely looks like a step up from Conquistador. Players will be able to choose sides and possibly even form alliances with a several historical factions of the time (Picts, Angles and so on), and may even choose to focus more on trade than combat and raiding.
Expeditions Vikings looks like a must buy for any history nerd (such as your truly) or fans of the show Vikings. It’s due out on April 27th of this year.
Shock Tactics (Point Blank Games) [Released, Read our review here]
“XCOM in spaaaace!!!” is basically the sales pitch behind Shock Tactics, not that there’s anything wrong with that of course. However unlike in XCOM, you aren’t defending invaders but in fact, you are the invaders.
You lead a team of intrepid explorers searching for a new home when you stumble across Hephæst, a planet beset by pirates and hostile aliens. Naturally, you decide it’s a great place to set up shop, so you and your strike team set about on some home decorating... with high explosives.
Shock Tactics will have a strategic map over which you and your strike team can traverse, gathering loot and alien technology whilst also uncovering the mysteries of Hephæst. Alien tech and loot captured can be used to upgrade your team members and your base. Shock Tactics was originally due out last year, but due to delays is due out Q1 of this year.
German developers Robotality released Halfway back in 2014. It was an Aliens inspired Turn Based Tactics affair on board a spaceship, beautifully depicted in a 16 bit art style that came with a decent story as an added bonus.
This time around, Pathway (see what they did there?) will take place in a slightly more grounded setting. In 1936, bizarre and mysterious artefacts are popping up all over the globe, drawing the attention of the dreaded Third Reich. Your company Langford & Co look towards profiting off these artefacts and uncovering a lost civilisation before the damned bosch can get to it.
Halfway veterans will no doubt find Pathway familiar to look at, and probably to play as well. Robotality have however promised on the game’s FAQ page that they’ve learnt from past mistakes and are improving on past successes; the sometimes frustrating hit chances from Halfway are now gone, and procedural generation has been added to each level to help give Pathway some replayability. Pathway has a set release date of 2017, but nothing more specific than that as of yet.
Sudden Strike 4 (Kite Games)
Beside looking absolutely stunning, Sudden Strike 4 is promising several features new to the series, such as being able to pick from commanders who have unique abilities a-la Company of Heroes and Steam Workshop support. 3 sides will be available at launch -- Allies, Germans and Soviets -- each with their own campaign. Sudden Strike 4 is slated for a release sometime in Spring of this year.
Steel Division: Normandy 44 (Eugen Systems) [Released, Read our review here]
Alongside such giants as Total War and Company Of Heroes, the Wargame series stands as one of the few examples of strategy games achieving lasting mainstream success. Taking what they’ve learnt from that success and combining it with Paradox Interactive’s rather deep pockets, Eugen Systems have announced Steel Division: Normandy 44.
Setting in the Allied invasion of Normandy, France during WW2, players control divisions on both the Axis and Allied sides. Like the decks and divisions in the Wargame series, each division in Steel Division: Normandy 44 will have its own advantages and drawbacks. This will be combined with a “Phase System”, where more powerful unit are unlocked as the battle progresses to ensure a nice balance and ensure infantry heavy divisions like the US 101st aren’t immediately overrun by an army of Tigers and Panthers (the armoured kind, not the furry kind).
Steel Division: Normandy 44 will also include a single player campaign with AI that is hopefully not clairvoyant, huge 10 vs 10 player multiplayer battles and an in-game illustration of the battlelines to help players keep track of the ebb and flow of the battle as it progresses. Steel Division: Normandy 44 is due out at some point this year, but no solid date has been announced.
Uboot (Deep Water Studio)
Describing itself as Fallout Shelter on a U-Boat, UBOOT promises to be one of the most unique sub-sims around. Taking a heavy amount of inspiration from the classic Das Boot, you control a U-Boat in the Atlantic during the Second World War, and you must keep a close eye on your crew status if you want to survive. Each individual's morale or level of hunger affects their performance, and each of your crew is promised to have their own backstory, face or personality.
As the game progresses, the dastardly Allies will get progressively more dangerous; equipping their ships with sonar or breaking the Enigma Code, for example. In tense situations, sailors will also have hidden traits that are revealed. They could be a drunkard, a dangerous psychopath or even... a spy. Lastly UBOOT looks gorgeous and promises to recreate German U-Boats in painstaking accuracy. UBOOT is due out in Q3 of this year.
Dawn Of War 3 (Relic Entertainment) [Released, Read our review here]
This one doesn’t even need much of an introduction, as Relic returns to their hit Dawn of War series (based of the Games Workshop Tabletop Game) after almost a decade. Taking what they’ve learnt from the previous entries in the series, they seem to be riding the line between the original Dawn of War games and Dawn of War 2 by combining elements from both.
Players can expect the return of things such the army painter and unit abilities along with new features such as the titans to make the battles feel that much grander. Sadly, only three factions will be at launch -- though more will undoubtedly follow via DLC. Dawn of War 3 launches on the 27th of April.
The Guild 3 (Golem Labs)
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 7 years now since we last heard from one of gaming’s most popular management sims. For those who are unaware, The Guild games cast players as a medieval trade dynasty in the high middle ages (that's around the 1400s, for non-history buffs).
Through a mix diplomacy, trade and good ol’ fashion murder you expand and strengthen your dynasty. Think of it as if Anno and Crusader Kings had a baby that took a lot of inspiration from the RPG genre, as well.
Story quests along with pre-made scenarios and access to a scenario editor should ensure a vast body of content to keep players happy, not to mention multiplayer. The Guild 3 is due out at some point in 2017 but not official date has been set.
SpellForce 3 (Grimlore Games)
Yet another returning classic, SpellForce 3 also blends a couple genres together. Namely RPGs and RTSs. Chaos grips the land of Nortander as it recovers from a brutal civil war. You are a member of the Royal Army, and with your party, you are tasked with restoring order to the land and dispatch any remaining rebels. But one of the powerful rebel mages is none other than your father, so you must choose a side.
Along your journey you will recruit armies, conquer new territory, customise and manage heroes and build bases to house and support your forces. Think of it as Age of Empire with some RPG elements. Details on gameplay itself are still scarce, however, and so far no specific release date has been given (apart from the fact that it’ll be at some point this year).
Cold Waters (Killerfish Games) [Released, Read our review here]
Naval sim fans out there may remember the reasonably priced Atlantic Fleet -- covered by both our twin sites at Wargamer and Pocket Tactics -- and Killerfish Games are at it again, this time with a PC-only release. Cold Waters claims to be a spiritual successor to the classic Red Storm Rising (based off the Tom Clancy book of the same name), and it puts players in the role of a US Sub captain during a fictional war between NATO and the USSR at some point in the 1980s.
Each time, the dynamic campaign can play it vastly differently as your missions will differ depending on how well the ground war is going and vice-versa. Did you manage to take out that convoy of troops transports headed for Iceland? No? Well, now the USSR has a new island. Were NATO not able to hold Denmark this time around? Yes? Well, now getting into the Balkan Sea for any operations is gonna be a lot easier.
Killerfish are also promising realistic sonar modelling, which will allow such tactics as shadowing other vessels to drown out the noise of your sub’s rudder. Oh, and did I mention mod support? Cold Water is set for release sometime this year, though Killerfish have yet to confirm a set date.
Shrouded Isle (Kitfox Games)
One of the most unusual (and interesting) items on this list, Shrouded Isle will have the player controlling a cult village as they try and maintain a balance between the numerous families. Very little detail has revealed apart the game’s 2D art style and the fact that a heavy amount of human sacrifice will be involved. Shrouded Isle was originally meant for a February release, but was delayed until June 2017.
A road trip from hell presented in a minimalist art style, Overland places players in charge of a band of survivors after the end. North America is in ruins after some apocalypse and you must traverse it, scavenging for food and supplies. Every time you pull the car over to scrounge around, you will be presented with a procedurally generated map filled with untold dangers and rewards, so players must weigh up their decisions. Overland is currently available in alpha over on Itch.io and will have a full Steam release some time in 2017.
Games Leaving Early Access
Warbands: Bushido (Red Unit Studios)
Next up are the often murky and dubious waters of Early Access, though Warbands: Bushido is most certainly neither. A title that sneaked its way under most people’s radar last year, Warbands: Bushido describes itself as a digitised miniatures board game. Players face off in feudal Japan with small bands samurai, archers, ronin and other warriors of that period in quick five to ten minute games. At the moment it only has a multiplayer mode, which Wargamer’s Nick Vigdahl seemed to enjoy, but the devs are planning a full story driven single player for its full release sometime in Spring of this year.
Wartile (Playwood Project)
A game in a similar vein as Warbands: Bushido, Wartile is another game looking to capture that miniature board game style. Instead of feudal Japan, however, Wartile has players ordering around axe wielding, mead drinking vikings. Despite it’s boardgame aesthetic, Wartile is going to be real-time, utilising a cooldown system that the devs promise will be “a refreshing take on the real time strategy genre”. Wartile will come with both a full story mode and competitive multiplayer by the end of it’s Steam Early Access period (6-9 months). On its initial release, it currently features a quarter of the campaign and quick match multiplayer.
Endless Space 2 (Amplitude Studios) [Released, Read our review here]
The original Endless Space wowed many with it’s unique take on the genre along with its stellar soundtrack and interesting factions, and so far, Endless Space 2 doesn’t seem to disappoint. This time around, Amplitude have taken some ques from their other title Endless Legend and added in quests and story missions.
There is now also a greater degree of control in ships creation/customisation and fleet tactics, not to mention ground combat mechanics to help make lengthy planet sieges less of a bore. According to Amplitude, its Early Access period should last no more than six months, placing its release sometime in the early half of this year.
Ultimate General: Civil War (Game-Labs)
Next up we have Ultimate General: Civil War, which Wargamer’s James Cobb had a look at not long ago. Following on from Ultimate General: Gettysburg, this next entry in the series has expanded out to cover the US Civil War in its entirety.
Players can expect hours of content in the game’s campaign and varied minor battles, with more to come after it’s Early Access period. As with before, unit AI will pick out appropriate paths to objectives, cutting on tedious micromanagement, and there is now a greater emphasis on cover and terrain. Finally Ultimate General: Civil War also boasts a higher degree of unit control so players can do things like detach skirmishers or merge several units together to one huge division.
According to the Steam page, the devs are only keeping the game in EA for two to fours months; since it started its life in EA back in November of 2016, the release shouldn’t be far off now.
Oriental Empires (Shining Pixel Studios)
With such heavyweights as Stellaris and Civilization dominating the 4x landscape, it’s nice to see a title approaching the genre on a smaller scale. Oriental Empire is a turn based 4x game set primarily in the regions of China and Mongolia where you start off as a humble tribe before expanding outwards.
Players may choose from one the 16 in-game factions to start with and determine whether to expand through force, diplomacy, trade or a mix of all three. As they advance through the ages, players will gain access to new technologies and edicts to enact as a budding emperor. Battles play out in a similar way to Endless Space, where it’s automated in real time but players decides strategy and formations before hand. Oriental Empires is due out at some point soon this year, with multiplayer coming with the full release.
Divided We Fall (Kava Game Studio)
We also have Divided We Fall, a multiplayer only strategy game where players battle it out either one-on-one or in teams in a WW2 setting. Each player controls their own squad of soldiers, with player teamwork being key to success. The game also has a chain of command in larger multiplayer matches, along with clans and ranking systems so you can buddy up with your friends. Wargamer’s Richie Shoemaker did a tour of duty there and you can find his views on it here. Divided We Fall is meant to stay in EA for about 6-9 months, which places its full release sometime in the second third of this year.
Games Entering Early Access
Atomic Society (Far Road Games)
There’s just one entry in this category so far, and the best way I can describe this one is Apocalyptic Tropico (Tropocalypse?): the world as we know it has come to an end, and you are in charge of holding together the broken shards of humanity.
From screenshots and gameplay, it seems like Atomic Society adheres to the same format city builders have been following for quite some time now, where you have to balance profit and productivity with the happiness of your people. Players will also be able to enact laws and determine how citizens are punished for their crimes.
Atomic Society is due out at some point this year, though there has been no word on a specific release date. The devs are also offering the opportunity to buy into the alpha for any of you who’d be so inclined.
Battle Brothers (Overhype Studios)
After two years of early access, Battle Brothers released on the 24th of March this year to a fair amount of acclaim. For those who haven’t followed its development, Battle Brothers is a turn based tactical RPG in which you control a rag-tag band of mercenaries as you traipse about the land.
Death lurks around every corner and a man lost is one lost forever. But on the flipside, of course keeping your brigands alive allows you to train and upgrade them up into warriors of myth and legend. Each character will also have their own backstory and character traits.
The Great Whale Road (Sunburned Games)
Like the Viking: Expeditions above, in The Great Whale Road you control your village as you lead it to greatness. Go on and raids, trade and form alliances with period appropriate factions. You can also expect a fully fledged story, character progression and an event system that keeps each playthrough fresh.
Xenonauts 2 (Goldhawk Interactive)
Whilst XCOM: Enemy Unknown was undoubtedly popular with fans of the original, some thought it strayed too far from Julian Gollop’s classic. Xenonauts, released by Goldhawk Interactive, was an attempt to create a game more closely aligned with the 1994 classic whilst also adding in a few ideas of it’s own.
Goldhawk were largely successful in that endeavour, but this time around they are aiming to make a game packed with a few of their own ideas. For starters, Xenonauts 2 has changed from it’s old 2D playing field to a three dimensional one -- which will hopefully eliminate the camera control problems that the original Xenonauts suffered from. They’ve also added things such as soldiers crouching automatically at the end of each turn, since there was never a reason for soldiers not to be crouched in the first one.
With Xenonauts in very early alpha at the moment, it’s scheduled Steam Early Access release is a ways off. In the meantime, however, you can pop on over to GOG and have a go at the game’s free alpha demo that’ll be updated fortnightly. Xenonauts 2 was announced for 2017 in a devblog post back in early 2016.
Blitzkrieg 3 (Nival)
The Blitzkrieg series seems to be in a permanent state of identity crisis with the first being a hard as nails and the second being a more arcadey experience all together. Blitzkrieg 3 appears to have split the difference, balancing both realism and fun.
It includes three fully fledged single player campaigns, along with numerous multiplayer modes and the ability to go up against AI opponents in skirmish. Most interesting of all is “Boris”, an apparent Neural Net AI who learns from its countless matches against spiders around the world and allegedly doesn’t use any of the common cheats or shortcuts game AIs use to be challenging.
The game was meant to leave Early Access a few months after its 2015 release (which it obviously didn’t), but there are numerous rumblings around the forums that it’ll be leaving at some point this year.
Whew! What a list. As 2017 progresses you can expect this article to be constantly updated and if there’s anything we missed feel free to let us know in the comments below.