There weren’t many great strategy games this year! It was really hard just finding five of them that were worth Game of the Year for Strategy. I had to resort to nominating expansion packs! What makes a great strategy game is great tactics, that is the core component. A solid UI that isn’t confusing, great AI, and even great multiplayer. Graphics usually come last, as well as a story, but they help.
This probably doesn’t surprise anyone, XCOM was really the only anticipated strategy game this year. The UI is very streamlined, nearly revolutionary, and the small squad allows for some intense tactics. The research you do is really helpful, but the game’s only fall back is that it is relentlessly difficult. The deep tactics and the comeback of a 10-year-old game win it over the others.
After playing my first game of Civ 5 I realized how much of a greedy jerk George Washington was. 500 gold, all my resources, one city, and open borders for just one silk resource?! He’s just begging to get wiped out, but I keep my cool and press on as the most advanced civilization for the next 150 turns. I build many great wonders such as The Great Wall, The Great Lighthouse, The Colosseum, The Taj Mahal, and even The Hanging Gardens. Of course, it takes about 100 turns to create most of these but it keeps my people happy and sets us into a Golden Age.
This is just the beginning of Civ 5 and its deep turn-based strategy gameplay, yet it’s so simple to grasp and that’s the beauty of it. Civ 5 may seem like some overwhelming beast when you first play it (mainly newcomers), but you learn as you play. After my 50th turn I already had the hang of 90% of the game, and just learned little things from there on out. You start out by picking your leader of a country, but each one has special attributes like a better economy, military, or even science. You establish your main capital city, and from there you learn new sciences, produce buildings, great wonders, workers, or different military units. Different tiles on the map may have icons for mining, farming, etc. and you deploy workers here. Connect these to your capital and your income will increase.
Of course, after a while, you must expand your empire or people will get unhappy and may even rebel in the city due to overpopulation, or not having enough entertainment, food, or other resources. Keeping your people happy is just part of the struggle to create a great civilization. Other cities may want to ally with you by having you gift units, give them gold, or vowing to protect them. Connect your cities with roads and voila you have more income. Or you can just wipe them out and either annex the city (which requires building a courthouse before you can use it), or use it as a puppet city and just collect the income, but don’t control what they do. There’s also the option to just raze cities and let everything burn!
Yes, Civ 5 lets you play as you please sadism or masochism is all up to you. You can be friends with all your neighbors and just run out to 2050 and be the first and most advanced civilization. Or you can do what I did and get tired of the other leaders and build an army to take over. After having a rapidly advancing civilization over Washington I decided to open my borders to him, but he was still guarded because he didn’t like my huge army. Sure I made my people suffer a tad by the high upkeep of this vast army, but it was well worth it. I started attacking his capital and this declared war. After a few turns, he offered a peace treaty for 10 turns so I accepted and during this break, I got every unit I had and surrounded his capital. After the treaty was over I attacked and quickly took over his entire empire. It was easy thanks to my advancement in military technology so I was way ahead of him. Musketmen versus spearmen doesn’t exactly equal fair. He offered peace treaties, but I swiftly turned them down and he eventually declared defeat.
But…just…one…more…turn! Even though I technically beat the map I kept on conquering and even stole over his allied city before defeat. I bought tiles with lots of resources to quickly build my empire up and expand my borders. Turn after turn I swept up all resources, hoarded my gold, and built massive structures to be the greatest of all time.
That’s how every game plays out, and with the great AI, stunning visuals, and excellent little tidbits like Social Policies which act like perks, and the fact that not every map will play the same way twice. While you can’t stack units anymore it really makes for a better strategy and makes things a bit simpler so you’re not just concentrating completely on your army. There are so many little things to this game you just have to play it to realize what’s here. With a great in-game user-made map, scenario, and other item download section, excellent multiplayer, and countless hours of endless ways to play maps you will never get bored. Tactics must be changed up for each leader, each map, and each opponent. The only real issues I had were the fact that not every leader is balanced, and that a game can take days to finish plus some changes may turn hardcore fans off. So, the question begs the answer: Can your civilization stand the test of time?
Game of the Year is one of the hardest decisions because so many games are created every year. But to come out on top the game must be excellent in its genre (usually re-define it) and have great production values, and not feel repetitive, and usually, it changes the way we think about games.
What sets Red Dead apart from all of these other excellent games is how authentic its world is. It feels so real and feels just like the wild west. With excellent voice acting, a huge open world to explore, lots of missions, and it’s just the subtle details that make it a winner. Hunting, gambling, horseback riding, even down to the drinks, attitudes of the people, clothing, accents, it just all adds up to something spectacular and really shows what a game can do. It’s Red Dead’s subtle details that truly make this game shine over the others.
A good strategy game consists of balanced gameplay, lots of units to use, a good story, and great ways to execute strategy on the enemy. A lot of strategy games fail on this part, and tend to be overly complicated, and is mostly stuck on the PC due to complicated control schemes.
What sets StarCraft apart? It’s the epic story? Perfectly balanced units? Competitive Multiplayer? It’s everything about the game from the well-crafted missions, excellent and diverse factions, and the fact that it keeps strategy simple. It may not be fair to pit other strategy games against an icon like StarCraft, but it happens every few years. StarCraft II is an instant classic and should be loved by strategy goers everywhere.