2012 has proven to be an wonderful year for the hardcore strategy gamer. With a large number of high quality releases and expansions breathing life into old favorites, world conquerors like me have plenty of new territories to subjugate and enemy armies to reduce to ashes. The following titles are all excellent options in the genre, and one of them (Crusader Kings 2) should be included in the pantheon of best strategy games of all time. Be you an RTS junkie, a turn based emperor, or a battlefield aficionado, 2012 has been an excellent year.
Crusader Kings 2
What better way to begin than with the best game Paradox Interactive has ever developed? Crusader Kings 2 is the triumph of more than a decade of developing real-time pausible historical strategy games that began with the original Europa Universalis. This is the crowning achievement, a game that is exciting, playable, and steeped in authenticity. It’s not for everyone, but for those willing to invest their time, they’re in for a delight experience of Medieval proportions. Paradox recently launched an expansion allowing you to play as Muslim leaders, adding even more depth to the game. This offers a ton of content, and is a must buy for any strategy fan.
King Arthur 2
King Arthur 2 allows us to revisit Neocore’s take on the Arthurian legend. With inspired graphics and level design, this is also an interesting take on the turn base/real time gameplay initiated in the Total War series. With awesome magic, terrifying bosses, and legendary heroes, who could ask for more? This effort appeals to both the RPG and strategic gamer parts of my gaming brain. It’s a little linear for my taste, but is certainly a strategy game worth investing a lot of time in.
Civilization V: Gods and Kings
Gods and Kings is the much anticipated expansion to Civilization V. It added some much needed depth to the politics and the combat (especially the AI and naval aspects), and introduced a fantastic new feature: religion. These, combined with some exciting new civilizations (I love my Carthaginians) and scenarios (Steam Punk Civilization? Sign me up) add up to new life for the two year old game. Any excuse you can get to lose yourself in another game of Civilization is a good one.
Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion
Rebellion is a stand-alone expansion to the much lauded Sins of a Solar Empire trilogy. This 4X/RTS game offers real time strategy on a grand scale, with massive fleets battling each other across a wide solar system. With tough, smart AI, 6 different factions (each with different research trees and units), and a plethora of different scenarios, this is a worthy addition to Stardock’s ranks of excellent strategic space epics. This is certainly worth a buy, especially with the addition of Titans appealing to any Death Star fans. Look for Vagary’s in-depth review sometime next week.
Victoria 2: A House Divided
There are a distinct lack of strategic level Civil War games available, and this Victoria 2 expansion looks to fill the gap. Taking real-time pausible gameplay at a strategic level to the 1860s, this allows you to explore the real possibility that the South could win the Civil War and operate as an independent country. It also makes substantive changes to the Victoria 2 political model. For any fan of Paradox’s real time model, the Civil War certainly makes this a module worth exploring.
Total War: Shogun 2: Fall of the Samurai
I will take any excuse I can get to return to Total War games, and Fall of the Samurai, a stand-alone expansion to Shogun 2, is certainly an excellent one. This effort takes Shogun 2 to the 19th century, and the introduction of gunpowder to Japanese battlefields. It’s a compelling twist to see the old style samurai battle foes armed with machine guns and canon, and the game even allows the player to hope down to battlefield view and fire off a few rounds themselves. There are some very interesting additions to the Total War arsenal in this game, and I can’t wait to see if they carry on to further efforts in the franchise.
Endless Space is the product of Amplitude Studio’s cooperation with many genre fans. While I found the end result to be par for the 4X turn-based space strategy course, the game has continued to evolve post-release. This indie title does offer a lot of extremely playable empire simulation, and the hero system is certainly worth exploring. If you’re a fan of games like Masters of Orion or Galactic Civilizations 2, this is definitely a distraction you should look into.
Warlock: Master of the Arcane
If you were wondering what Civilization V might look like if you made it a Wizard Empire Simulation, then look to Warlock: Master of the Arcane. This is a turn-based magical empire game, set in the world of Ardania (the same world that the popular Majesty RTS game is set in). This is an interesting twist on the old 4X formula, and while not quite as deep as some of the other games on this list, offers a lot of play for the enterprising magic user.
It’s been a great year so far, and there are still many strategy games coming down the pipes, from X-Com and Legends of Pegasus to the latest Paradox gems. Welcome to the strategy gaming Renaissance.