10 Best 4X games to Play in 2015

Time to strategize.

The Top 4X Games You Need to Play.

4X games, for those of you who may be unfamiliar with the term, stands for eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate. 4X games generally begin with the player founding a single city or settlement, then proceeding to explore the map, expanding their empire to exploit the resources they find and, finally, exterminating the competition.

4X games often feature no single player campaigns, instead offering different scenarios, challenges, or single player modes, in which the player faces off against one or more AI opponents. It is also typical of 4X games to feature robust multiplayer modes which allow players to pit their skills against one another.

Here’s our list of the top 10 best 4X games:

10. Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War: Dark Crusade (Relic Entertainment)

‘OP robots are OP.’

For anyone not familiar with the Warhammer 40,000 universe, I suggest you check it out because it’s awesome. Dark Crusade throws the player headlong into the war for the planet Kronus taking the role of one of the seven factions who all have an interest in keeping control of the planet.

‘Kind of like Risk, only more killy.’

Each faction begins in their stronghold and from there proceeds to expand by conquering opposing factions’ lands and strongholds. If you take over an enemy stronghold then that race will be exterminated from the game and you will assume control over their lands. Each race has its own unique flavor and distinct starting advantage.

It’s a must play for gamers who always find themselves going for domination-type victories when playing their favorite 4X games.

9. Sid Meier's Civilization IV (Firaxis Games)

‘Reminds me of Vegas.’

Civilization IV is a traditional 4X game in which the player guides a civilization from its infancy in ancient times to ultimate dominance through the centuries. There are five ways to win a game of Civ IV: controlling over two-thirds of the world’s land and people, constructing and launching a spaceship, having the most dominant culture, being appointed “World Leader” by the United Nations, or just conquering any who stand in your way.

Civ IV also had a fun online multiplayer mode not to mention some great mods released by Firaxis Games such as an Ice Age Earth map and a mode which starts each civilization all the way back at caveman times.

8. Endless Legend (Amplitude Studios)

‘It ends.’

Set in the land of Auriga, Endless Legend is a fantasy themed 4X strategy game by the same developers as Endless Space. It features seven civilizations of which the player can assume control. The land of Auriga is randomized on every match, as per usual in these kinds of games.

Endless Legend features new and intuitive research screen designs. Anyone who has played the Civilization games knows that the research tree can be a bit tedious to manage at times. Endless Legend also features a fun hero system which actually allows you to manage and customize your civilization’s heroes and lends the game some personality.

7. Sins of a Solar Empire (Ironclad Games)

‘Sins not included.’

The game was impressive at the time for its sheer scale. The largest maps in the game comprised multiple separate star system with dozens of planets each. Sins of a Solar Empire was also not a true turn-based strategy game, but events in the game took place on such a measured pace that it never grows overly burdensome to keep ahead of them.

We think the non-turn-based system employed by the game is actually one of its positive features as it forces the player to stay on their toes, constantly thinking ahead, deciding where to invest their scarce resources, and managing their fleets.

6. Galactic Civilizations III (Stardock)

‘The loading screens play Intergalactic by The Beastie Boys on repeat.’

Galactic Civilizations III brought the Galactic Civilizations series into the next generation of gaming. It employs what is today considered the standard hexagonal grid system for its map, moving away from the square grids of the previous Galactic Civilizations games. It is also the first game in the series to feature multiplayer.

The game features eight unique, playable races as well as a fair number of minor factions which interact with the players, but cannot be controlled by them – much like city-states in the Civilization games. Galactic Civilizations III also allows the player to create their own race, customizing their stats and racial abilities to suit their tastes.

5. Master of Orion II: Battle at Antares (Simtex)

‘Set course for the enormous angry face. I’ve got a good feeling about it.’

This one’s an oldie, but a goodie. Released way back in 1996, this game is considered by many critics to be the grandfather of modern 4X games and its influence can be seen in many other sci-fi-themed 4X titles.

In Master of Orion II, the player assumes control of one of thirteen races or create their own custom races. Each player is allowed ten points to allocate to the design of their race much like the system found in Galactic Civilizations III. Picking a helpful trait uses a point, while picking an unhelpful trait gives back a point.

The game also featured eight player multiplayer matches, in 1996! You know a game has succeeded when, nearly two decades after its release, it is still being played online by a surprisingly large number of people.

4. Endless Space (Amplitude Studios)

‘This one ends, too.’

Follow in the footsteps of the mysterious Endless civilization, who colonized the stars with incredibly advanced technology before apparently wiping itself out. The Endless civilization’s speedy demise left behind powerful artifacts spread across the stars. Controlling the technology of the Endless is key to survival, but humans aren’t the only ones to have discovered the power of the Endless.

This game actually features one of the most interesting and fun concepts for a race of any strategy game we’ve played. The faction, called The Horatio, is actually a race of clones created by an eccentric trillionare named, you guessed it, Horatio, who discovered a planet containing advanced cloning facilities abandoned by the Endless. Horatio, being bored and a bit lonely, used his own DNA as a template for the cloning machines and the Horatio civilization was born.

3. Total War: Shogun 2 (Creative Assembly)

‘Gotta hand it to the Samurai, they had some cool-looking gear.’

The Total War series has been around forever and Total War: Shogun 2 is a shining example of why the series has endured. The player assumes control of one of the dozen warring clans of feudal Japan, guiding them as they battle and manipulate their way into securing their clan’s ascendancy.

Total War: Shogun 2 is notable for having huge battles involving many units in which tactics play a key role. Deciding to charge your cavalry into a group of spearmen can quickly lose you a battle, while exploiting an opponent’s weak flank can secure you an easy victory. You can choose to autoresolve battles using the AI, but doing so will lower your odds of success.

2. Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri (Firaxis Games)

‘How long did it take you to notice the faces?’

The words like ‘spiritual successor’ get thrown around a lot in conversations about Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri and anyone who has played the earlier Civilization titles can see why that is. The game was released to great critical acclaim and is widely regarded as one of the best 4X games of all time. Even today, new Civilization games are compared with systems and mechanics which first appeared in Alpha Centauri.

In a nod to the game, completion of a science victory in later Civilization titles saw the players completing a spaceship to fly to Alpha Centauri. Patches and mods for the game were still being released as recently as a few years ago which gives you some sense as to the game’s enduring popularity particularly given that the game was released in 1999.

1. Sid Meier’s Civilization V (Firaxis Games)

‘There is a lot going on in this picture.’

Civilization V, specifically, with its two expansions, Gods and Kings and Brave New World, is one of the best strategy games ever made. The whole game is polished, the strategy is deep and rewarding, and the AI is smart and clever. Winning a game on Deity difficulty is a daunting prospect.

One of the reasons this game made it to the top is because of the huge numbers of mods created for the game including new game modes, new wonders, new races, and map improvements. The game provides hundreds of hours of replayability by itself and that is only extended with all the mods available. The cost of the expansions is still a bit high, but in our opinion it’s money well spent.

Didn’t see your favorite game on the list? Tell us your favorites in the comments below, then check out some of our other great articles like our list of the 12 New PC Games That You Must Play in 2015.

Are you an Elder Scrolls fan? Check out our list of All Elder Scrolls Games, Ranked Best to Worst.

For all you Malaysian gamers, be sure to check out Video Games Live Set to Rock Malaysia and the World, Video Games Live: 5 Reasons Why You Should Attend The World’s Greatest Video Game Music Concert, and Video Games Live: The World’s Greatest Video Game Music Concert.

  • Gamer Since: 1993
  • Favorite Genre: RPG
  • Currently Playing: Civilization 5
  • Favorite Games: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Dragonborn, Fallout: New Vegas, The Witcher
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