Following on the streak of articles about upcoming games of 2016 I’m going to list now some of the most notable strategy games that should be released this year.
Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak
Release Date: January 20
Originally a free to play game, Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak is the planetary prequel to the space RTS series Homeworld.
Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak is developed by Blackbird Interactive, a studio founded by veterans of Homeworld and Company of Heroes. The game changes the scenery from ship battles in the vastness of space to ground battles on the deserts of planet Kharak.
The game promises an origin story to the series and it will feature tactical combat in massive environments following a similar concept to the previous games.
Considering the videos detailing the game have just started to come a few weeks before release I would say Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak is a flight risk. But with the experienced and creative minds behind the game there is the potential for something good.
Release Date: February 5
While I wasn’t a big fan of XCOM: Enemy Unknown due to the focus on a good combat system and production value but not much else, I have to say that XCOM 2 is looking more intriguing.
XCOM was shut down and the aliens took over the Earth. Twenty years have passed and the commander is brought back and reinstated to lead the XCOM organization in a desperate attempt to take back the planet. Lacking the resources and with little support the last free warriors of humanity are on the run aboard the Avenger, an alien supply ship converted into a flying base, and carry a guerilla warfare against the occupying alien forces.
XCOM 2 takes a jump forward into customization with an in depth system which allows for numerous changes in each character’s appearance, but customization isn’t only about looks. Five classes will be available each with its own unique skill tree, weapons and abilities.
Researching new technologies, developing new items and upgrading the Avenger will bring XCOM one step closer to victory. But the real victory comes on the battlefield which now is unpredictable as never before with procedurally generated maps that look visually amazing but never have the same layout.
The combat system was the strongest point of XCOM: Enemy Unknown and has been refined. Various new mechanics will allow for a wider variety of tactics which will be required to face the newer and deadlier enemies.
From all the videos shown to date, XCOM 2 looks amazing and it seems like a big improvement over the previous title and its expansion. Leaving the shooting through walls aside which hasn’t been fixed, if we get a bug - free release and a better written story I don’t see a reason why XCOM 2 won't be a success.
Total War: Warhammer
Release Date: April 28
The newest title from the never-ending cycle of Creative Assembly annual releases isn’t a historical one instead is set in the universe of the popular tabletop game Warhammer. A bold and welcomed change since Creative Assembly leaves the comfort zone and while that can be a little dangerous there is a great opportunity to get creative.
Right off the bat the second most iconic faction in the universe, Chaos Warriors, is blocked behind a pay wall. The Chaos Warriors come as a DLC available for free with pre-purchase and most likely as a separate purchase after release, a mischievous but not totally unexpected move from Sega/Creative Assembly.
Leaving bad practices aside, Total War: Warhammer is the first big change in the franchise in years. The Warhammer setting comes with a set of rules and mechanics that even if they work together quite well with the base mechanics of Total War will still make this game different.
The game will give the players the opportunity to play with four (five through DLC) of the Warhammer factions: the Empire, the Dwarfs, the Vampire Counts and the Greenskins. The factions are represented accurately in game through units, heroes and special mechanics.
Gigantic monsters, flying units and magic will be part of the battlefield now adding the needed diversity in tactics and gameplay.
Total War: Warhammer is the first big step that Creative Assembly takes in years and if all goes well we might get to see more Total War games outside of the overused historical settings.
Battlefleet Gothic: Armada
Release Date: Q1
Powered by Unreal Engine 4 the space title from Tindalos Interactive is going to take the players into the contested space of the Warhammer 40k universe.
In order to take control the Gothic sector, the forces of Chaos, Eldar, Ork and Imperium of Mankind clash in epic space battles using their gigantic and powerful space ships.
Armada will include a singleplayer campaign against the infamous Abaddon the Despoiler and various game modes for singleplayer and multiplayer. The game will also has a progression to provide more ships and better upgrades for them but also special skills for their captains.
Never before a video game has featured space battles in the Warhammer 40k universe. The uniqueness of this Armada’s setting is going to be extremely appealing for the huge number of fans of the Games Workshop universe and strategy fans alike.
Release Date: May, currently in Early Access
Blitzkrieg 3 is a MMORTS but with a singleplayer campaign that takes place in the Second World War covering events from the invasion of Poland to the capture of Berlin by Soviet forces in 1945.
While the Blitzkrieg series has always been about strategic singleplayer, the third installment in the series changes things quite a lot and aims for being the first truly working MMORTS.
The main multiplayer mode is an attack - defense scenario which functions even when the defending player is not online as AI takes over player’s bases and continues to defend. The battles take place in a unified world on the same server where people from opposite parts of the globe can fight each other without restrictions.
Even the gameplay has changed to accommodate with the new style, Blitzkrieg 3 is now a faster paced and less realistic RTS compared to its predecessors.
Blitzkrieg 3 has come a long way from its Early Access launch in May 2015 switching from Mixed to Positive Steam reviews score and it’s now preparing for a full release this year.
StarCraft II: Nova Cover Ops
Release Date: First mission pack by June 19, all three mission packs before December 1
The main story in StarCraft II might have come to a conclusion but Blizzard isn’t done with the universe or the game. The developer found a good way to cash in on the fans that really want more (and the fans of StarCraft: Ghost).
Nova Cover Ops is the first mission pack for StarCraft II coming in the form of a DLC pack split in three parts composed of three missions each. The story takes place years after the epilogue of Legacy of the Void with the reign of Emperor Valerian Mengsk threatened by political opposition. Dominion ghosts have gone mission in action and their trail leads to a Terran group called the Defenders of Man.
Nova will dive into this conspiracy to uncover the truth behind the ghost’s disappearance and the plans of this new organization.
This mini-campaign will have players controlling Nova in each mission with her personalized gear which includes a loadout feature. She will be supported by various black ops forces which will be unlocked in a manner similar to the main campaigns.
The campaign will come with the typical production value of Blizzard games, including fully voiced cutscenes.
I can’t say that I’m totally on board with this practice, but there are many StarCraft II fans out there who want more. DLCs are an efficient way to deliver new content and if Nova Cover Ops delivers quality and length for the money than it’s more than welcomed.
Age of Mythology: Tales of the Dragon
Release Date: TBA
Age of Mythology: Tales of the Dragon is an upcoming expansion for Age of Mythology: Extended Edition, an updated enhanced and complete version of the original game which was released in 2014.
Via a livestream in October 2015 it was revealed that the expansion will expand the game with the Chinese Major Gods and various Chinese units including Terra Cotta Soldiers, White Tigers, Chu Ko Nu and many other.
Tales of the Dragon’s campaign will feature a new story unrelated to the Fall of the Trident and The New Atlantis campaigns.
The information about the expansion is scarce and more details are expected from the developers Forgotten Empires and SkyBox Labs which released a new expansion for Age of Empires II last autumn.
Ashes of the Singularity
Release Date: TBA, currently in Early Access
Ashes of the Singularity is best known for being one of the first games to use DirectX 12 and for being the benchmark that got the AMD cards in front in the performance race on Microsoft’s new API.
The game is a RTS that is advertised as a technological advancement for the genre with a 64bit engine capable of creating extremely large maps. Huge and detailed units will engage in massive-scale tactical battles and a sophisticated AI engine that needs a minimum of 4-cores CPU will make the players’ life hell by using ingenious strategies.
A lot of what could make Ashes of the Singularity great comes from the investment in technology and I sincerely want this game to succeed. This could set a good example that holding back technology not only affects the graphical fidelity but gameplay quality as well.
Call to Arms
Release Date: TBA, currently in Early Access
Call to Arms is the upcoming RTT game from Digitalmindsoft that looks feels and plays like Men of War but it has enough new features to stand on its own.
With Call to Arms Digitalmindsoft finally move to the modern warfare era where the USA Army and the Global Revolutionary Movement will battle for control of a Middle-Eastern looking location.
There are a group of new features that make Call to Arms feel different than its siblings. One of the most exciting ones is a fully fledged campaign spanning over several missions enticed through storytelling.
Another feature that is rather unique for the strategy games is allowing the players to take control over the aiming of their units in a weird 3rd person action mode designed to help with accuracy in tough situations. This new feature is extremely cool as now you can control the fire of precious units like tanks and armored vehicles preventing the waste of ammunition on failed shots by the AI.
Last but not least, the game has some technical improvements. While the visuals are strikingly similar with Assault Squad 2 the physics have been ramped up by a lot. Call to Arms features extensive destructibility with most of objects on the map being destroyable.
Call to Arms is currently in Early Access and I had the chance to play it and I can say it looks very promising and I’m waiting for a full release to experience the campaign and the intense multiplayer battles.
Release Date: TBA
After a 10 years break from the series time in which they made the cult following STALKER, GSC Game World is returning with Cossacks 3.
Cossacks 3 will be a remake of the original game set again between the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe. The scope is ambitious with 12 playable nations and a total of 70 units and the number of scientific researches and building also goes into the hundreds. But that’s not all. The game looks technologically promising with detailed graphics and realistic physics for bullets and cannonballs.
Players can expect ferocious and tactical battles in a multiplayer mode that can hold up to 7 players on a map and up to 10,000 units.
Cossacks comes from a different time when the RTS genre was in its prime, but hopefully that will change with the return of such a classic and many other titles set to release in 2016.
Endless Space 2
Release Date: TBA
I respect AMPLITUDE Studios because of the work they invest in their games even after release and the way they listen to their fans through the GAMES2GETHER program.
Endless Space is a good 4X strategy but has undeniable problems. That might be about to change with the release of the sequel which will bring the players back to the Endless universe to guide the various races through an era of space colonization.
The sequel might tie the story of the space game to the other 4X strategy from AMPLITUDE that is more fantasy oriented, Endless Legend.
At the current time not much is known about Endless Space 2, but in a gameplay video we got a glimpse at an improved combat system which was the previous game biggest flaw. The politics will also be made more complex so the population management doesn’t rely only on happiness and the space exploration has been slightly changed. With such welcomed improvements we can hope that Endless Space 2 will be a better game.
Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars
Release Date: TBA
Conquer the Stars is a reboot of the classical 1993 4X strategy Master of Orion created by Argentinean-based NGD Studio and published by Wargaming, the new owner of the license.
All 10 of the original races will make a return in the reboot but with an enhanced AI and brought to life through quality voice acting. The game will also feature a complex research system and customizable ships.
The action takes place on vast galaxy with up to 100 different solar systems each with a multitude of planets.
4X strategy is returning to its roots with Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars and to make sure things turn out right Wargaming has some of the developers of the original game overseeing the project.
RollerCoaster Tycoon World
Release Date: TBA
The fourth game in the series to make it on the PC platform, RollerCoaster Tycoon World should take theme park simulation to the next level.
I’m not very familiar with the series but the game comes with a multitude of features that should make park creation and customization complex and fun. With features like Freeform Object Placement, Fully Deformable Terrain, Expansive Selection of in-game Objects and an actual 3D tool that allows creating and importing objects into the game it seems that each theme park will be completely unique.
RollerCoaster Tycoon World currently holds a Mixed review rating on Steam due to various problems and bugs met in the Beta version. The game has been delayed for a 2016 release which will hopefully give the developers enough time to fix the issues pointed out by the community.
Space Pirates and Zombies 2
Release Date: TBA
The indie strategy with a quirky theme gets a 3D sequel in Space Pirates and Zombies 2. With the space zombie apocalypse defeated, the Galaxy is now a post-apocalyptic mess in which survival is all that matters. With the infrastructures collapsed fuel is hard to obtain, which leaves scavenging and banditry as the only options.
The Galaxy will contain hundreds of AI controlled fleets trying to survive and as the limited resources are used conflict between fleets is imminent.
The most appealing feature of the game is its factions system which is in a continuous and constant change as the game progresses. Factions split, allies becomes enemies and new factions will form out of necessity or desperation. The players will have a small role in this and things will happen whether or not they are there to intervene.
SPAZ 2 will have a fully physics based environment with everything being destructible including the ships. The ship building is complex and every design choice matters. A poorly designed ship will result in a salvageable debris floating in the vast vacuum of the Galaxy.
The movement is on a 2D plane and screen relative, this will lead to battles where positioning and ship power management will be the determinant factors for victory.
Spaces Pirates and Zombies 2 takes gameplay to an unexpected level of complexity. Get ready to fight for survival in this post zombie apocalypse Galaxy!
Release Date: TBA
Since SpellForce 2: Shadow Wars this game has seen more sequels and changed more developers/publishers than I can remember. What can I say is that SpellForce was a great game and one of the most innovative strategies that have seen the light of the screen and I wouldn’t mind more sequels if they were up to the quality of the original game.
SpellForce 3’s story will take place before the action in The Order of Dawn and it won’t require any knowledge of the franchise. The game will continue using the unique mix of RPG and RTS elements allowing the players to create and customize their own hero and develop it as they want. Alongside their hero, the players will build and control an army and use advanced tactics worthy of an RTS to defeat any foe.
Now that the time has passed and the slate has been wiped clean, Grimlore Games has the chance to regain this franchises name and I’m pretty sure there are many gamers out there eager to see another Role Playing Strategy (that’s right!).
Release Date: TBA
Paradox Interactive doesn’t give up on grand strategies and three years after Europa Universalis IV Paradox Development Studio is bringing Stellaris.
Stellaris is a grand strategy that has space exploration at its core. With a multitude of alien races, a system that rewards interstellar exploration, strategic gameplay and an emergent storytelling, Paradox is going away from their classic historic formula that the fans love so much and tries to mix things more.
Stellaris has some competition this year in Endless Space 2 and Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars and despite being part of different sub-genres, Paradox must bring their A game if they want to come on top.
The Guild 3
Release Date: TBA
The Guild 3 will let the players experience a medieval Europe blending economic simulation, history, RPG elements and strategy into one game.
Start as a common citizen and work your way up by acquiring business and properties, producing and trading goods and getting mixed in politics, war and even love to create a dynasty that can last for centuries.
The game features a day and night cycle and four seasons influencing the world and building immersion. There are 12 unique scenario maps based on historical location which will provide a complex and detailed environment with story quests leading up to hours of gameplay.
The Guild 3 is probably the most unique game on this list and I’m eager to see some gameplay footage to showcase all these intriguing features.
Looking back at this article I can’t believe how many strategy games are coming in 2016 and I’m glad to see that the genre is finally finding some stability. RTS, RTT, TBS, 4X, grand strategies, simulators and even an RPS, 2016 will be a busy year for the strategy fans.