Monday, January 26, 2015

Upcoming Strategy Games in 2015!

                From all the video games genres, strategy is probably the one that is going to receive the most attention this year, at least from the perspective of developers.
This is a list with some of the top strategy titles that are most likely going to be released this year.

Heroes of Might and Magic III – HD Edition
Release Date: January 29

                This title needs no presentation, every fan of the genre (and not only) already knows everything about this game. Heroes of Might and Magic III is considered by most the best game of the series and stood as an etalon over the years for all turn based strategies.
                The game is going to be re-released in HD and will include some updated visuals and support for wide screen format. The HD Edition will feature 7 new campaign scenarios and 50 new skirmish maps with local multiplayer and a new online multiplayer lobby.
                Heroes of Might and Magic III – HD Edition is a good chance for the younger gamers, who didn’t get to experience this masterpiece at its time, to play a Heroes game from the golden age of turn based strategies.

Total War: Attila
Release Date: February 17

                Total War: Attila is the ninth installment in the strategy series developed by The Creative Assembly and published by SEGA.
                The game takes the players to the year 395 AD at the beginning of the Dark Ages and puts them in the shoes of the one to be leader of the Huns.
The campaign features up to 56 factions each with their own units and goals on the map of Europe and its surroundings. The historic period will be detailed in abundance including specific technologies, armaments, cultures, religion and many others.
The game has received some RPG specific elements with characters now having their own skill trees, equipments, companions and even a wife. These new elements influence the army management.
There are many new features and game mechanics to improve core of the Total War series and fit better with the grim era that is presented in this game.
                The visuals have been enhanced and are much more detailed than the ones seen in Rome II, hopefully this time around the graphics will be optimized and will offer a proper performance.
                Total War: Attila seems like SEGA’s and The Creative Assembly’s chance to redeem themselves after the fiasco that was the launch of Rome II, a game that required countless updates to work properly, but which they didn’t abandon up to this day (a thing that doesn’t happen so often in this industry).
If the launch of this title isn’t rushed we might see a game worthy to be part of the same series as Rome Total War or Shogun 2.

Homeworld Remastered Collection
Release Date: February 25
                Every strategy fan knows this series and probably most of the gamers have heard of it. This was Relic’s Entertainment first masterpiece with which the studio started its incredible legacy. The games were originally published by Sierra Entertainment, THQ bought Relic in 2004 and in 2007 acquired the rights for the franchise as well. After THQ went bankrupt in 2013 the license was auctioned and it was bought by Gearbox Software which later on announced the HD remake versions for the original titles.
                The Remastered versions of the games will feature enhanced graphics with new effects and high resolution textures and support for up to 4k resolution. Cinematic scenes and audio effects have been updated as well based on their original versions.
The game will also support modding and have integrated mod tools so the community can go wild with the content.
                One of the biggest features of the Remastered Collection is the multiplayer mode which has been merged into one central mode for both games, this way players will be able to play with races from the first game against races from the second one.
Multiplayer mode will include 23 maps and support up to 8 players and comes with new game modes.
                Homeworld Remastered Collection seems rich in content and is a good chance for all of us to re-experience some of the best strategy games ever made in a more up to date fashion.

Invisible, Inc.
Release Date: Q1, currently in Early Access
                Invisible, Inc. is an upcoming hardcore tactical stealth game developed by the talented people at Klei Entertainment.
                As the Operator, the players will guide teams of invisible agents in covert operations to infiltrate corporation facilities in procedurally generated turn-based missions.
Each agent has a limited number of moves and can perform various actions like opening/closing doors, taking out guards, picking locks or safes and disable alarms or security cameras.  Wrong moves can cost an agent his life, when all the agents that the Operator has at his disposal are dead the game is over. New agents can be rescued throughout missions to secure a flow of characters.
Money can be obtained throughout missions and can be spent on upgrades and equipment for agents which will make their missions easier.
                Invisible, Inc. is a game about infiltration and espionage that puts a big focus on difficulty, it has roguelike elements that make every mistake count and patience is required to succeed.
This game takes the stealth gameplay seen in Klei’s Mark of the Ninja to a different and higher level.

The Mandate
Release Date: Q1
                The Mandate is an amalgam of genres, combining 4X with tactical combat and RPG elements for an ultimate space experience. The game was funded through Kickstarter raising over 700,000$ and is developed by Perihelion Interactive using the Unity engine.
                In a universe with 1500 years of written lore the players become the captains of a space vessel and lead their expanding crew through space. Exploring the galaxy, fighting pirates, doing mercenary jobs and being involved in faction wars is just a glimpse of what the The Mandate can offer.
                Much of the focus of this game has been on the ships, which come in different shapes and sizes serving varied purposes, they can be upgraded and have to be managed all the time.
The ships are home for hundreds of crew members and can be explored through an isometric view checking on everyone on board. The crew has to be carefully managed with officers being handpicked by the players. Crew members are subject to wounds and even death and a constant recruiting might be required to keep everything running.
The combat is a combination of space battles and tactical troops battles, as the players’ vessel can be engaged both in space battles or boarded by foot soldiers. Hostile ships can also be boarded by the players in an attempt to destroy the enemy from the inside.
                The Mandate offers a singleplayer experience or up to 6 players co-op with many aspects of the game complementing the teamplay.
                This game is an ambitious project that promises everything I wished for in a game since I was a kid and I always hoped one day a game like this will show up. Since its Kickstarter announcement in 2013 up to this day I’ve been following this title and can’t wait to see how the final product turns out.

Galactic Civilization III
Release Date: April, currently in Early Access

                Galactic Civilization is a famous 4X strategy series developed by Stardock Entertainment with the first game released in 2003.
Galactic Civilization II is praised as one of the best strategies ever made because of its entirely different factions, their personality, the AI and the methods one could win the game which included the destruction of all stars in the galaxy.
I’ve never got to play any of these games, despite the fact that I like 4X strategies a lot, but when these titles were released I was busy enjoying the good shooters of that time and a good deal of awesome RPGs.
                Galactic Civilization III is still developed by Stardock Entertainment and is currently in Steam’s Early Access in Beta 4. The game attempts to bring back some of the magic that made the previous title of the series so famous.
                The players will be able to pick one of the six different factions (with more to come), each with its own unique technologies and play style, and lead them to expand in a sandbox galaxy.
GalCiv III will include a story driven campaign that will introduce the players to the universe, presenting the factions and their motives.
The gameplay will be based on the major factors that stand at the base of any 4X strategy, which are exploration of the world, researching new technologies, diplomacy, management of territories and resource exploitation.
The game will allow the players to design and configure their own space ships, modifying their weaponry and defenses. Ships don’t necessarily need the strongest weapons to win a fight but rather upgrades that counter the enemy ships.
Future updates to the Early Access will bring planetary invasions, an enhanced AI taking advantage of the 64-bit game engine, minor factions that can be dealt with peacefully or conquered and many more features.
                Galactic Civilization III seems like the next step for the 4X strategies, after the great leap Endless Legend made in the last year. This genre has been in stagnation for a while and the time for some changes is now.

Chaos Reborn
Release Date: May

                Another game made possible through Kickstarter crowdfunding, Chaos Reborn is a turn-based combat game with RPG elements from Julian Gollop, the mind behind X-COM: UFO Defense, and developed by Snapshot Games Inc.
                In Chaos Reborn the player take control of a wizard with randomly assigned spells battling against 3 other wizards in a spectacular turn-based tactical magic showdown.
Summoning powerful creatures to control on the battlefield and casting devastating spells while using tactics and trickery is required to secure the victory.
Players will be able to trade items, join Orders and rank up their wizards in the online segment of the game. There are planned features including singleplayer and co-op content in which the players will explore procedurally generated content, fighting against the AI opponents and collecting new spells and items.
                Chaos Reborn reminds me of Etherlords, which I loved, and while it doesn’t aim for the same things as that game and is more focused on online play it does seem like a title that is worth checking out.

Satellite Reign
Release Date: June

                Satellite Reign is an isometric class based tactical game developed by 5 Lives Studio and made possible through a Kickstarter campaign that raised over 450,000£. The game is considered a spiritual successor to the 1993 Syndicate game
                The action is set in a cyberpunk universe and takes place in a fully simulated open world city. The game world is designed around emergent gameplay and the player’s actions will arouse those around them and will react accordingly to what they saw.
                The players will take control of a team of four agents, each having their own traits and with customizable weapons and augmentations, battling the big corporations over the control of the city. Infiltrations, espionage, stealing, hacking or full out combat are choices that the players have to make when completing their missions in this open world environment.
                The game graphics and art design looks spot on with a neon cyberpunk city in a continuous movement which creates an atmosphere that I’ve been waiting for from such a game for a long time.
                I have tested the game in its Early Access state and it looks and feels quite amazing. The development is far from over, there is content to be added, optimization to be done and features to be polished (especially the interface which I found horrible), but it looks like an extremely promising title.
Satellite Reign should be released at the beginning of the summer and based on how the Steam Early Access sales go the game might receive additional content.

Hearts of Iron IV
Release Date: Q2

                Hearts of Iron IV is a grand strategy game from Paradox Development Studio, one of the best studios developing grand strategy games with popular series like Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis.
                The game puts the players back in their role as a leader of a nation in the bloodiest war humanity ever faced, choosing between world powers that fight for the total victory or small countries that attempt the best they can to survive the terrible conflict.
This game will put the players in total strategic war from commanding troops, negotiating with other countries or invading them, signing treaties and using the advanced machinery of war, these are some of the game mechanics that are expected from this title.
                Hearts of Iron IV will depict WW2 as seen by world leaders at that time, the fate of a nation can change based on the player strategic actions.

Blitzkrieg 3
Release Date: Q3

                Blitzkrieg 3 is an upcoming online real time strategy game by Nival developed using the Unity engine.
The game shifted its focus from the RTT approach of the previous title to a more standard orientated strategy with gameplay mechanics like setting up a base being a big part of the game now. 
While Blitzkrieg 3 will have singleplayer campaigns for each of the three main factions, the new and innovating feature of this title is its online multiplayer.
                The online mode will be available for free and has an optional subscription. The players can set up their bases and defenses and engage in rewarding online warfare.
Being offline won’t be an impediment in this game, the players will be able to battle each other even if one of them is not in the game.  With the help of their installed defenses and the troops placed in defensive the AI will take over the battle and protect the base from the attacking players. This feature can keep a cursive system of online battles without having to be online all the time.
There are three factions to choose from, each with their own unique buildings and units all designed according to the WW2 equivalents.
                Blitzkrieg 3 might be something different compared to what the fans would expect from this series. The game is much faster paced and seems oriented on unit’s micromanagement and designed around the idea to be a MMORTS (yes, we have this as well now!). We shall see how the fans will receive this game, but I’m pretty sure Blitzkrieg 3 can find a serious player base between the competitive gamers.

Mordheim: City of the Damned
Release Date: TBA, currently in Early Access

                Mordheim: City of the Damned is a tactical game with RPG elements and the video game adaptation of Games Workshop’s skirmish table top game Mordheim, set in the Warhammer Fantasy universe. The game is developed by Rogue Factor and published by Focus Home Interactive.
                After a twin tailed comet crashed into the city of Mordheim, the place turned into a vicious battlefield for warbands who fight for loot and Wyrdstone fragments.
The players will be able to choose from iconic warbands like Skaven Clan Eshin, human mercenaries from the Empire, Sisters of Sigmar or the Cult of the Possessed. The warbands can be expanded with new recruits and customized with better equipment and new abilities can be unlocked through an XP system to turn them into real war machines.
                The turn-based movement and combat system in the game is influenced by an initiative ladder so units don’t move team by team but rather based on each individual unit’s initiative stat. Initiative is determined by the unit type and configuration, different weapons, armors and even skills can influence this stat for better or for worse.
Combat is about tactical gameplay, ambushing the enemy, setting up defensive positions or focus targeting are key moves to win a battle.
                The game will feature competitive multiplayer as well, with procedural generated maps in which players can battle for dominance.
                The Warhammer Fantasy universe didn’t receive much attention in the past years, but lately more and more video games set in this universe are announced. Mordheim: City of the Damned is one of the first to get released and being based on the cult classic table top game it might be a must play for the fans.

Project AURA
Release Date: TBA, currently in Early Access

                Project AURA is a strategy/simulation game developed by the independent studio Pixel Quality Games. The game was at first a personal project but it started to grow and attracted other developers that believed in it.
                At the end of the 21st century, realizing that there is no hope to save the planet from their own doings, humanity has put all its effort to ensure the survival of the species. Humans built a network of cities on the seas resistant to the now hostile atmosphere and entered a hibernation state waiting to wake up in a better time.
                Project AURA lets the players take control of one colony of climate disaster survivors, starting from scratch to develop and manage it in order to ensure the continuous survival of the human race.
Training and specializing citizens, building and expanding, researching new technologies and exploration are just some of the key features that add to the complexity of the gameplay.
                The game has some good graphics and detailed animations to give life to a title where most of the time is spent in the statistics menus.
                Project AURA is currently a work in progress and is available since January through Early Access program. For those that like sim games and got tired of Banished this might be the next title to look up for. But beware; it is not the best idea to play this kind of games in an unfinished state.

Massive Chalice
Release Date: TBA, currently in Early Access

                Massive Chalice is a turn based strategy developed by Double Fine Productions which had a successful Kickstarter campaign raising over 1,200,000$.
                The player takes control of an immortal ruler over a nation and leads them in a 300 years war with the enemy known as Cadence.
The main and innovative feature of this title is the Bloodline Genetics system which allows the players, as the immortal ruler, to strengthen their armies by forging marriages between heroes in an attempt to obtain stronger children that take the best genetic traits of their parents. This system is randomized and a child can end with the best or the worst features from his parents.
The game has a permanent death system for heroes putting the players in difficult situations where they have to deal with tactical fights and the possible loss of the stronger heroes.  This can lead up to interesting decisions where the players have to make management and tactical decisions including which heroes to sacrifice.
                Massive Chalice is currently in Beta testing available for some of the tiers from the Kickstarter campaign and through Steam’s Early Access. The current game version is 0.90 and is getting closer and closer to its full release.

Call to Arms
Release Date: TBA, Early Access Q1
                Call to Arms is a tactical game designed and published by Digitalmindsoft, the studio behind the highly tactical Men of War franchise.
                The game is set on innovating the genre by combining real time tactics with 3rd person action combat. The players will be able to command their troops or join them by taking control over an individual unit to make the difference on the battle.
                The action is set in modern times and features two factions, the United States Army and the Global Revolutionary Movement. Each faction will have its own units based on modern warfare technology.
                Call to Arms has an ongoing crowdfunding campaign raising close to 40,000$. The game will be available soon through Steam’s Early Access.

Starcraft 2: Legacy of the Void
Release Date: TBA
            Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void is the upcoming stand alone sequel to Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm, ending the trilogy of Starcraft 2 with the Protoss race on the main stage.
                In the singleplayer campaign the players will take control over the Protoss race as the Hierarch Artanis, leading the powerful fleet known as the Golden Armada to reclaim the lost planet of Aiur (my life for Aiur!). As the evil entity Amon threatens the galaxy it is Artanis’s duty to reunite the Protoss factions and stand together against the coming darkness.
Characters like Zeratul, Kerrigan, Raynor , Valerian Mengsk  and many other will make an appearance and play their role in the climax of the story.
                Starcraft’s II multiplayer needed some new features to bring back more players into its competitive gameplay and revitalize the esports scene that some are saying it is dying.
Besides the new units and abilities for each of the three playable races, Legacy of the Void brings many new multiplayer features that will change the game for the better.
Automated Tournaments have been added which are daily competitions where players of all skill levels can sign up and battle to be the best.
Archon Mode is a new multiplayer mode that allows two players to play as one, sharing control over bases and units. Starcraft II is a very hard game at its core and at higher competitive levels it becomes insane, this new feature gives those players that don’t have the time to play and train constantly to share their workload and play higher level matches.
Allied Commanders is an objective based co-op mode where players choose their commander from the three races in the game and join in a two player co-op to fight in different scenarios with dynamic objectives. Leveling up the commander will give access to new abilities, units and customization options for the army.
All these new multiplayer features look amazing and I’m quite excited to test them out with my friends.
                One additional thing that makes this game so special is the fact that it will be a standalone title, giving those who don’t own all the previous titles the opportunity to play with one purchase and join their friends in online games without any problems.
Starcraft II Legacy of the Void seems to bring the features that the game direly needed after such a long time on the market.
En Taro Tassadar!

Act of Aggression
Release Date: TBA
                Act of Aggression is an upcoming RTS game developed by Eugen Systems, the studio behind the tactical masterpiece series Wargame, as a spiritual successor to Act of War.
                The game’s action is set in 2020 in a time when many states around the globe have gone bankrupt after a major economic crisis. Taking advantage of the situation, an organization named Cartel has been drastically growing, infiltrating in governments and agencies all around the globe and forcing a reaction from the United Nations.
                Act of Aggression aims to be a classical RTS game centering its gameplay on resource gathering, building bases and on units micromanagement, similar to C&C or Starcraft series.
There will be two singleplayer campaigns, in one the players are taking control of the Chimera organization, which was created by the United Nations. The singleplayer will include headquarters for each faction which can be upgraded to unlock new units, buildings or different upgrades. Units can be specialized through skills for different types of combat, e.g. anti-tank or anti-air specializations.
The game will feature multiplayer as well and matches can have up to 40 players simultaneously, it will be interesting to see how this works out.
                The graphics look like an upgraded version of Wargame Red Dragon adapted for RTS gameplay and it features a day night cycle as well for increased immersion.
                The RTS genre has been poorly represented in the last years with Starcraft 2 being the major title and not many titles worth mentioning. Act of Aggression comes to change this and by knowing how talented and devoted to their games Eugen Systems are, I’m quite confident that this game will succeed.

Dungeons 2
Release Date: TBA
                Dungeons 2 is a strategy/simulation by Realmforge Studios following in the footsteps of the legendary Dungeon Keeper series.
                The players will retake their role as the Dungeon Lord in his quest for vengeance and build a network of terrifying and dangerous dungeons and recruit all kind of fearsome creatures in order to defend their kingdom against the heroes.
The singleplayer campaign in Dungeons 2 will offer 2 playable factions with a total of 26 unique creatures and many types of heroes for the ultimate dungeon simulation experience.
The game combines RTS with dungeon simulation, the players will be able to control their troops in order to attack and conquer the overworld while in the underworld the dungeon is still being worked on. The view can be switched at all time between the dungeon and the overworld making the game require a higher level of attention as players now have to take care of the army and the dungeon at the same time.
                This game features competitive multiplayer as well, via Internet or LAN, with four different game modes for up to four players. One of the game modes will have the players building their dungeons and battling with their armies for the overworld.
                Dungeons 2 looks like a promising title, blending two genres for a more complex and dynamic approach. There aren’t many games using this style and fans of Dungeon Keeper have a reason to be excited for the release of this one.

Might & Magic Heroes VII
Release Date: TBA

                Might & Magic Heroes VII is the continuation of the famous fantasy TBS series now developed by Limbic Entertainment and published by Ubisoft.
                The game’s plot is placed between Heroes VI and V, ten years after the assassination of Empress Maeve Falcon, following the story of the young Duke Ivan as he strives to obtain peace in a land troubled by civil war. On his ascension to the throne he will gather six councilors, one from each faction, to support him in his quest.
The six factions that will make a return to the game are: Haven, Academy, Stronghold, Necropolis, Sylvan and Dungeon. Besides these factions some familiar faces from the previous titles will make appearances as army leaders or story NPCs.
                Developers made it clear that they want to get back to the roots of the franchise with Heroes VII, the game will take heavy inspiration from the systems and features that made Heroes III a fan favorite.
Many loved features will make a comeback to this game including detailed townscreens (!!!), seven hero stats system from Heroes III, magic guilds, map editor and even the city governors from Heroes IV.
                Heroes VII looks like a promising title consolidating on Ubisoft’s reboot of the franchise. The development is done taking into account the voice of the fans which can register on the official website and join the Shadow Council voting for features and passing comments onto developers that might influence the end result.

SpellForce 3
Release Date: TBA
                The SpellForce series was quite innovative at its time as it heavily combined elements from RTS games with RPGs. The franchise was quite popular spawning many expansions and sequels, but had a troubled past with Phenomic (one of the many studios shut down by EA) and JoWood Entertainment going under years ago.
                The publisher Nordic Games has announced a few months ago that Grimlore Games, a studio with many developers that worked on previous titles from the series, is currently working on SpellForce 3.
                Some gameplay footage has been seen at Gamescom 2014, but other than that there are not many details about this game.
The general hope is that SpellForce 3 will be fully revealed and later released this year.

                I knew 2015 was going to be good for strategy games after I took a glimpse at all the new titles coming this year, but I haven’t really realized how great it can turn out until after I wrote most of this article. These titles are some of the most important and most anticipated to launch in 2015, but there are even more games that I couldn’t put on this list.

                Strategy games don’t usually get much love, the genre is popular, but nowhere near as popular as shooters or MMOs. I don’t know if this is a beautiful coincidence or some of the studios out there decided to turn back to the roots, but there is no dispute that 2015 has the chance to be the best year this genre has ever had (I sincerely hope that this optimism of mine doesn’t turn into something else by the end of this year).


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