11 Best Strategy Games Released in 2015
The Gems Released Thus Far
Having crested the hill of 2015, some games definitive of the strategy genre have been released, with some exciting ones yet to come before the year's out. But with a decent chunk of the year gone, let's take a moment to look back on what we've been given so far. Be forewarned, however, that we'll be casting a wide net here, covering a couple of the more obscure subgenres of the category, in addition to the more expected Explore, Expand, Exploit, and Exterminate (4X), Real Time Strategy (RTS), and Turn-Based Tactics games that have been released; as well as trying to work in some more recently released games that haven't had much time for the reviews to come in, but show promise. As always, suggestions and even predictions are welcome!
1. Shadowrun: Hong Kong
Orkses and elvesies and guns. Oh my!
Though it may be too early to tell if it will be one of the best strategy games this year, Shadowrun: Hong Kong is the latest in a series of the much loved Shadowrun games, and is being heralded as the best of the three so far. For those not familiar with the franchise, Shadowrun is a tactical turn-based rpg developed from its pen and paper roots, where magic and fantasy meets future tech (in a more cyberpunk way than, say, a Star Warsian sort of way). Each Shadowrun game is a stand-alone campaign, and Hong Kong takes you on a new adventure with new characters, gripping narrative, and a more refined combat system than their previous games.
2. Hearthstone: Blackrock Mountain
Who can resist a dwarf serenading them into reliving Cataclysm via cards?
Turn-based and tactical, Hearthstone obviously doesn't look like the typical playing field, instead presented in the form a free-to-play CCG by Blizzard set in the Warcraft universe. It's similar to the Magic: The Gathering line of games, where you face off against an opponent, one of your friends, or the computer using a deck of your own making, or a pre-assembled one, in a variety of game modes. Blackrock Mountain takes you down into its molten core to face off against Dark Iron Dwarves, Orcs, and bosses like Nefarian, Emperor Thaurissan, and Chromaggus.
Oh, and it's free.
3. Homeworld Remastered
An old favorite prettied up to enjoy all over again.
For fans of the original Homeworld games, and RTS and space flight simulator fans in general, Gearbox teamed up with some of the original creators of Homeworld to update both its and Homeworld 2's graphics and sound – from the musical score to hi-fi dialogue by the original voice actors – bringing it into this millennium and its operating systems. The game itself allows you to construct ships, control a fleet, develop armadas, and go on missions against the game or play with others.
4. Invisible, Inc.
Invisible, Inc. is lusciously stylized and full of the sneaky-sneak.
Through turn-based tactics and stealth, Invisible, Inc. offers a gripping adventure. The game itself sports a wide variety of agent classes, highly customizable builds, randomly generated map scenarios to keep you on top of your game and at the edge of your seat, 5 different game modes to challenge yourself with, and immersively scripted and animated cutscenes as you work your way through a dark and dangerous web of corporations.
5. Age of Wonders III: Eternal Lords Expansion
The second major expansion for Age of Wonders III, keeping things fresh and relevant.
Eternal Lords is the second and latest expansion of Age of Wonders III. As an expansion, it adds a slew of new, game-sweetening content, bringing the Necromancer class to the game, as well as the Tigran and Frostlings races, new specializations, a new campaign, new map locations, new hero items and more – tweaks and shiny bits incorporated from fan feedback – as well as the new Race Governance system, which lets players tinker with the features of the races in their kingdom for your empire building and warfare needs.
6. Cities: Skylines
It has all the glory of micromanaging a community to the height of civilization without all of the pesky plagues and warring nations.
At the outer edge of the strategy spectrum lies the builders and sim games – the 3X, if you will... unless exterminating waste counts as the fourth X here. And here we find Cities: Skylines, which is being sung as the answer to the latest SimCity and a return to what world building and placating pixel people should be. Everything works! The fact that you can actually play it aside, it's fully moddable and the game's mechanics are refreshingly in depth and intuitive, from citizen behavior to sewage and pollution to the building tools themselves. Build your empire, or accidentally flood it by placing a damn in the middle of a suburban area and start over. You live, you drown, you live again.
7. Heroes of the Storm
Blizzard's contribution to the MOBA scene is slightly different from the others.
Aka Blizzard DOTA, the free-to-play Heroes of the Storm pulls heroes from various Blizzard franchises such as Warcraft, Diablo, and StarCraft into a single arena, allowing Jim Raynor and Tyrael a chance to go out and bust some heads together. It follows the standard MOBA model of 5v5 moving through 2-3 lanes, depending on which map you're on – of which, HOTS offers 7 unique arenas with secondary objectives, all in Blizzard's colorful splendor.
And here, HOTS begins to deviate into its own beast where gold and individual experience is gone in favor of a single experience bar for the entire team, drastically altering typical MOBA gameplay. Team-centric isn't just an idea, it's a necessity. And while some of the changes HOTS offers make it seem easier for people new to the genre to pick up, it adds new challenges and a new style for veterans in the MOBA world to master as well.
8. Act of Aggression
Where diplomacy fails, superweapons prevail.
New game, old school RTS flavor, with traditional base building, resource hunting, upgrades galore, and intensive micromanaging, Act of Aggression takes place in a bleak near-future where three military forces are in a stand off. Released only a few days ago, the reviews have, so far, been highly favorable – at least, if you like a certain type of RTS – being compared a good deal to the non-EA Command & Conquer games. On its own, it's painted as fun and having the sort of freshness that comes with returning to your roots.
9. Galactic Civilizations 3
How will you rule your galaxy?
If you were a fan of the previous Galactic Civiliztions game, then this one will be worth losing yourself in. Essentially Civ in space, it's a traditional 4X strategy game, but out in the cosmos and with some snarky alien AI. All in all, it's bigger and shinier than the other Galactic Civilization games and, unlike the other games, has a multiplayer mode. There's extensive ship customization, you can create your own aliens, and the maps are simply ginormous – the downside to this bigger, shinier-ness, is that it's 64bit systems only. That aside, Stardock plans to improve and expand on this game for years to come, so it can only get better and promise endless hours of entertainment.
10. Total War: ATTILA
It's good to be a Hun.
Addressing the criticisms and grumps acquired from Rome II, Total War: Attila is a fearsome creature by comparison and one of the best Total War games to date. The UI has been vastly improved with newer and more streamlined features, the pathing is smoother and more intuitive, as is the AI. It's also heavily campaign-oriented while still blending deliciously with the fast-paced, ravaging brutality of leading a Hun army.
11. Grey Goo
Sentient nanobits sweeping across the galaxy. Hide yo kids. Hide yo wife.
Like others on this list, Grey Goo is another back-to-basics RTS. While it's not revolutionary in any particular way, it is very well done from story to management, which is what makes or breaks an RTS. Petrograph has developed a sci-fi flavored world that is nice to look at, nice to listen to, and smooth running. It's also fairly friendly toward those who are new to the genre without as much NOW NOW NOW in the fighting as in other games on this list while still keeping a good, exciting pace.
And that's the list so far, with 2015 sure to churn out at least a few more gems with Might & Magic Heroes VII due out at the end of the month, Star Wars: Battlefront coming in October, and the much anticipated Star Craft: Legacy of the Void arriving in time to wrap out the year in December.