Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Upcoming Strategy Games in 2017




                I’m continuing the series of upcoming games in 2017 with strategies, a genre still staying strong despite the popularity lost by RTS in the past few years.


Warhammer 40,000: Sanctus Reach
Release Date: January 19

                Sanctus Reach is a Turn Base Strategy from Straylight Entertainment opening up a year filled with the endless war of Warhammer 40,000 universe.
                The players will lead the army of Space Wolves into battle against the expanding threat of the Orks fighting in two singleplayer campaigns to protect the world of Alaric Prime. The gameplay resembles the tabletop in army creation using points system for units which afterwards can be deployed in strategic areas of the map to fight in a good old turn based fashion. The twist is a progression system for each unit that carries on from one battle to the next.
The graphics and animation aren’t really impressive and the variety of units is limited by the two races, but the campaigns with over 40 missions, skirmish matches, multiplayer and a map generator sum a good amount of content to enjoy the mightiest Space Wolves.



Urban Empire
Release Date: January 20

                Urban Empire is a political City Builder or how the developers at Reborn Interactive call it, a City Ruler. The players will take over a mayoral dynasty spanning 200 years of European history from 1820 to 2020 and use political maneuvers to manage a city undergoing the changes of the modern era. Players won’t be placing buildings but instead they will create the shape of an expanding city for private enterprises to do the work while focusing on political mechanics to put things in motion. Establishing infrastructures and planning districts will require town council votes. Facing political struggle might force players into blackmail or bribery and introducing new technologies or ideas could help the city evolve or fulfill a personal agenda.
                Urban Empire will have players watch a city grow through 5 different eras each with its own challenges influenced by historical events in a combination of Democracy, The Guild and Sim City.


Halo Wars 2
Release Date: February 21

                The sequel to the Halo RTS returns now developed in a partnership between Creative Assembly and 343 Industries and published by Microsoft.
                The game has a singleplayer campaign composed of 13 missions and co-op support. The story takes place 28 years after the events of Halo Wars and shortly after Halo 5 with the protagonists and the crew aboard the Spirit of Fire warships unaware how the war between humans and the Covenant has concluded.
                Like its predecessor, Halo Wars 2 features 2 factions: the returning UNSC, humanity’s main army, and a replacement for the Covenant known as the Banished. The gameplay is balanced around a rock-paper-scissor system which makes each unit type effective against a different type, creating a necessity for a diverse army composition. The game’s multiplayer will support up to 6 player matches and a number of modes including one that borrows elements from collectible card games.
                As a PC player it is hard to follow the story and lore of the Halo universe, but Creative Assembly’s involvement in this project does bring certain expectations from Halo Wars 2.


Domina
Release Date: April 4

The indie developer DolphinBarn known for creating Corporate Lifestyle Simulator is making a return. Domina is a simulator powered by retro style graphics in which players attempt to elevate their family’s name in the ancient Rome by managing a group of gladiators. The gameplay will require training and upgrading warriors to get them ready for bloody battles and stack the odds in your favor through political manipulation.
                It’s unclear at this point if the game has an action combat or the battles are simulated with the outcome being influenced by player’s action. But whether that’s the case or not, Domina seems like an interesting combination of strategy and simulator that could provide some intense gameplay and good replay value.


BATTLETECH
Release Date: TBA

The imposing and powerful MechWarriors are back with the help of over 41,000 backers that raised over 2.7 million dollars to support Harebrained Schemes in the development of BATTLETECH.
                Jordan Weisman, the creator of the BattleTech board game and MechWarrior, returns with a turn based combat game featuring tactical battles between the iconic mech units. Set in 3025, the game will feature a story driven singleplayer campaign with proper production value which includes voice acting, cinematics and a customizable base. There’s also a PvP multiplayer that’s going to pit player against each other in a battle of tactical ingenuity and wits.
                Powered by Unity 5 engine, BATTLETECH’s alpha videos showcase a perfect transposition of the artworks into a 3D environment and a promising game. Let’s hope that’s true, because this universe deserves a comeback.


Blitzkrieg 3
Release Date: TBA, currently in Early Access

                The third installment in the legendary RTT series, Blitzkrieg 3 went far from its roots. Now a MMORTS, the World War II game entered Early Access in May 2015 and it’s still a work in progress.
The developer Nival promises 3 singleplayer campaigns featuring the three big parties of the war: Allies, Axis and USSR. Shifting from RTT to RTS, the gameplay of Blitzkrieg 3 doesn’t reflect realism as it used to do. The units have health points changing the combat orientation towards micromanagement, a change that bolds well with the game’s MMO component.
In the multiplayer mode, each player has a foothold on which they can set a base building defenses and fortifications to stop the assaults from other players. A progression system allows players to expand their base and army size while an advance AI provides continuous matches by taking over the defenses while the players aren’t online.
                I have mixed feelings about Blitzkrieg 3, but I’m patiently waiting to see how the finished product will turn out.


Call to Arms
Release Date: TBA, currently in Early Access

                From Digitalmindsoft, the creators of Men of War series, comes Call to Arms, a game that entered Early Access in July 2015 and has gone through some changes that upset many players.
                Call to Arms, like Men of War, is a RTT that plays in an extremely similar way. Players control a small group of units, each with their own equipment and limited resources, and have to use tactics and the resources at hand to succeed in either the singleplayer campaign, skirmishing vs AI or multiplayer battles. The complex gameplay filled with realistic details that create the perfect environment for extreme tactical play is the core of Call to Arms and what makes it such a promising game. Enhanced through mechanics and a better technology. The addition of a 3rd person action mode has made the control of some critical units a lot, fixing one of the problems from Men of War. The advanced physics allow for an extensive destruction of the battlefield forcing players to constantly adapt to the changes. There is also the praise worthy vehicle’s damage model which is as realistic as it gets and probably the best I’ve seen in a military video game of any kind.
                Call to Arms was an extremely promising game when it went into Early Access and it was welcomed by the fans. But a prolonged development, performance problems, the inherited annoying UI and ultimately the switch to a free to play multiplayer with microtransactions has brought the mixed score it currently holds on Steam. The Allied campaign is already in the works which is a pre-order only DLC bringing hope that the full release is finally closing in.


Door Kickers 2 – Task Force North
Release Date: TBA

                Door Kickers 2 – Task Force North is a highly ambitious game that was supposed to enter Early Access in 2016. The sequel to the RTT game that takes a top down approach to the first Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon is coming with a wave of improvements. Despite trading the indoor city setting for the Middle East battlefield and the SWAT teams for a highly equipped Task Force, Door Kickers 2 is going to retain the base gameplay of the predecessor while adjusting what’s needed. Shields and Tasers are no longer useful against enemies equipped with RPGs and high caliber weapons, instead, drones will guide the frag grenades and belt-fed weapons of the Task Force. A new battlefield needs new tactics. Jumping over ledges and breaking windows are a given, but turning off lights and grouping units will widen the possibilities from guns blazing to slow and methodical to sneaky. But one of the biggest improvements is the switch from 2D to 3D graphics. The benefits stemming from the change in graphics go past the visual aspects as far as fixing one of the predecessor’s greatest problems: the path plotting.
                The list of new features is bigger, including CO-OP, and hopefully all of them will make it into the final game. Door Kickers has managed to bring back the tactical and punishing gameplay lost almost for decades and I’m hoping that Door Kickers 2 will carry on the torch.




Endless Space 2
Release Date: TBA, currently in Early Access

                In Early Access since October 2016, AMPLITUDE Studios’ Endless Space 2 is only 2 updates away from a full release.
                The Endless universe opens up the vaults of mystery with new lore in this sequel still centered around 4X gameplay but with the innovative RPG elements of the fantasy Endless Legends. Minor factions and questlines join the huge list of features and improvements which include a new combat system, a more varied base roster of races and a refined progression. Focused on strategic decisions instead of micromanagement, the game has the players taking the role of a true galactic leader choosing from 8 different races in a vast galaxy filled with colonizable planets, precious resources and peculiar factions.
                Using quality graphics with a remarkable art style and a mesmerizing soundtrack to accompany a solid gameplay, AMPLITUDE is preparing to deliver another strategy hit with Endless Space 2 with the help of fan’s feedback through GAMES2GETHER. I’ve played through the Early Access and I can’t wait to see this game completed.


The Guild 3
Release Date: TBA

                One of the games that has been on the upcoming list of last year, The Guild 3 is set to release in 2017 (if everything goes as planned). 
                The Guild 3 is a medieval life and trade simulator set in 1400s Central Europe. Players create their own dynasties spanning over centuries of political, economic and social struggle influenced by the NPCs actions and decisions taken by the players.
                Taking place in a living and breathing 3D world based on historical locations, The Guild 3 promises hours of gameplay driven by many story quests, complex mechanics, a multiplayer that supports 16+ players and a mandatory scenario editor.


SpellForce 3
Release Date: TBA

                The third and probably the most important chapter in the RTS/RPG series has to make up for the mistake of the past and prove that the series has a future.
                SpellForce 3 is supposed to go back to the roots of the series when RTS was the base platform while RPG elements were adding finesse to the gameplay. Players will return to the world of Eo before the events taking place in The Order of Dawn and once again create and develop their own hero and build massive armies to fight strategic and tactical battles. The story won’t require any knowledge of the story so far but narrative connection with past games won’t be severed as small story elements will provide the deserved fan service to those dedicated to the series.
                With appealing visuals, a 30+ hours long campaign and multiplayer, SpellForce 3 might be the return in force that the series needs to redefine itself after the troubled continuation of SpellForce 2.


Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III
Release Date: TBA

                The series that started as a hybrid, became a fully-fledged RTT is now set on becoming a RTS in all rights with Dawn of War III, a move that won’t make everyone happy, including myself.
                Dawn of War III is the long awaited sequel to the renowned series developed by THQ’s subsidiary studio, Relic Entertainment, now part of SEGA’s roster of strategy games. Continuing the story of the sequel with the legendary hero, Gabriel Angelos, leading the Blood Ravens to battle, Dawn of War III features 3 singleplayer campaigns, one for each playable race: Space Marines, Eldars and Orks.
The shift in gameplay and graphics has brought a lot of controversy. The Starcraft II like visuals with somewhat streamlined animations and the removal of sync kills hasn’t been taken lightly by the community, while the return to an RTS oriented gameplay is received with mixed feelings. But at the end of the day, Dawn of War III is the 40k game with enough resources and a worthy production value capable of delivering the dark and violent narrative that we all want to see from this universe.
                A lot has changed since 2011 and the series is not the same, but as a devourer of Warhammer 40k lore and games, I can’t help myself wanting to play Dawn of War III in spite of the questionable changes and the storm of DLCs we all know is coming.



Historical settings and fascinating universes like BattleTech, SpellForce, Endless or Warhammer 40k set a diverse strategical playground for the enthusiasts of the genre. The solid titles covering the complete array of subgenres proves once again that the interest for strategy games hasn’t been lost despite living in a gaming era focused on cinematic narratives and open world environments.




Nodrim

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