2019 was a very good year for strategy games, and 2020 is looking to be even better. We have all sorts of flavors of strategy here, from RTS games featuring giant robots, grand strategy games in the medieval era, pirates, giant lasers, crime bosses, and even a 4X game that can put a Neanderthal in space. There’s a little something for every strategy gamer in 2020, and here are some of our most anticipated titles.
Age of Empires IV
We start with a new installment in one of the most important franchises in strategy gaming. While not developed by its original studio, Age of Empires IV seems like it will be completely faithful to its predecessors. It’s still an RTS with a heavy focus on civilization building, and you’ll get to control several different civilizations from across the world with even more technological, cultural, and military differences than ever before. The single-player campaign will feature “humanized histories.” We aren’t quite sure what that means, but creative director Adam Isgreen said this is going to be something really cool and very different from RTS campaigns in the past. Of course, it will also have a fully fleshed out multiplayer suite as well.
Crusader Kings III
What if Age of Empires is just too simple for you? Then maybe you want to dive into the grand strategy genre with Crusader Kings III. The game stretches from the Viking Age to the Fall of Byzantium, and tasks you with controlling a medieval dynasty, with all the economic, social, and military complications therein. This is also the first Crusader Kings game that features full 3D models for its important characters, rather than 2D portraits. The maps will also be four times more detailed than previous installments. Add to this a new lifestyle system, new options for religions, a new genetics system when creating your heirs, and many more subtle gameplay tweaks, and you have a grand strategy game that you can sink hundreds of hours into.
Empire of Sin
What if medieval empires aren’t your thing? Want something more modern? Then try Empire of Sin which puts you in controls of a crime family in Prohibition Era Chicago. You’ll have to manage the hierarchy of your crime family, build illegal businesses like speakeasies and casinos, manage your illegal brewing, and combat other crime families in a rich, grid based, tactical-style RPG engine. Just remember that your underlings have a mind of their own, and if you don’t manage them well they might start taking your business into their own hand. Nothing left to do but make an example out of them at that point, eh?
Evil Genius 2
If the idea of being a crime boss is just too small potatoes for you, then you can always be an EVIL MASTERMIND. Evil Genius 2 lets you step into the shoes of a cartoonish Bond-style villain, complete with massive bases, giant lasers, hired grunts, and plans for WORLD DOMINATION!!! Hatch nefarious plots while building a base that serves as a death trap for any would be do-gooders that dare to step on your turf. Just make sure your base isn’t too deadly, or you might find yourself quickly replacing your hired henchmen.
Still too small for you? Then let’s zoom out and look at the really big picture. Humankind is a 4X game that looks to take you from the prehistoric era through the near future. Yes, this means you can end up being a Neanderthal on a space station, just like you saw in the trailer. Much of the game is gathering resources, building your cities, and defending them, like you might see in any Civ game, but Humankind differs in that you really get to choose how your civilization evolves from era to era. Developer Amplitude Studios says that there are over a million different civilization patterns that players can develop over the course of a game.
Maybe humankind isn’t your thing. Maybe you are more of a giant robot kind of guy? May we point you toward Iron Harvest, a real time strategy game that takes place in an alternate version of the 1920s where we all get to pilot gigantic diesel mechs. This isn’t a civilization builder. This is war. All your resources are going to be going toward building more units to take to the front lines…. And those units just so happen to be gigantic walking metal monstrosities. Dieselpunk isn’t really a genre that RTSes have fiddled with before, but this game is giving us feels similar to the board game Scythe. Definitely worth a look if you are a fan of RTSes in general, or if you just like the aesthetic.
Knights of Honor II – Sovereign
If Crusader Kings III seems like your jam but the idea of a grand strategy game simply feels too intimidating for you, consider picking up Knights of Honor II – Sovereign. It’s billed as a “gateway game” to the genre, with all the fun of handling religion, economics, family line, and more, but with a slightly streamlined, less complicated system. That’s not to say that this is just Crusader Kings for babies. What Knights of Honor II loses in its systemic complexity it gains in a robust RTS-style battle system. It’s the perfect game to check out if you have been a long time strategy gamer, but never quite made the leap into the world of Crusader Kings or Europa Universalis.
Port Royale 4
Yarr matey! All these other games be kid stuff! We know what ye be wantin, PIRACY ON THE HIGH SEAS! YAAAAR!!! Well did you know that piracy was actually motivated by a number of socio economic factors that drove people not only to attack merchant trade routes but also to establish their own? If that little factoid didn’t turn you away from the pirating life, but rather got you more excited, then Port Royale 4 is the game for you. Your goal is to create an economic empire on the islands of the seventeenth century Caribbean. That means securing goods, creating trade routes, fortifying cities, building an armada, participating in nautical combat and, yes, doing a little bit of good old fashioned piracy.
Maybe you are looking for something with a more eastern flavor. Stronghold: Warlords has got you covered. Take control of Mongol hordes, imperial warriors, and samurai clansmen as you wage war across Japan and China. Upgrade your warlords themselves to bolster your armies, or put them to work in your industry to supply your military with greater weapons and armor. This is also the first Stronghold game that features gunpowder technology, giving your siege engines and units new ways to storm enemy towns and castles.
Surviving the Aftermath
A few years ago, Paradox Interactive sent you to the hard red landscape of Mars and asked you to survive. Now, they are sending you to an even harsher landscape: the post-apocalyptic Earth. This isn’t about building oxygen rich domes and mining a planet for its resources. This is about establishing a colony in a ruined world filled with people gone mad. You once again will have to mine the planet for resources, but in a different way. You’ll have to scavenge for food and materials simply to get a small remnant of civilization back in working order. It will be years, decades even, before you see a single house with electricity and plumbing. That harsh Martian landscape must be looking pretty good right now.
Total War Saga: Troy
Finally, we end on another important franchise for the history of the strategy genre: the Total War series. Many major strategy franchises are now starting to turn ancient epics into game scenarios. Just look at the success of Total War: Three Kingdoms. Now it’s doing it again, but with the infamous Trojan War. You’ll still be able to control epic heroes, replay iconic conflicts, participate in a deep narrative, and appreciate the graphics which once again are stylized for the era. Supposedly, the single-player campaign will “Peel back the layers of myth and legend to reveal the realities that may have inspired them.” This seems like it would be a very interesting opportunity to explore the Trojan War from a more analytical perspective.
What are some of your most anticipated strategy games slated for release in the upcoming year? Let us know in the comments.