Guide to the games of 2017

Strategy and sims

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XCOM 2: War of the Chosen

Release date: August 28, 2017
Developer: Firaxis
Link: Official site 

The first major expansion for XCOM 2 is adding a ridiculous amount of different systems to the game. For starters, the Chosen are alien enemies that will track and hunt you through your campaign, evolving and growing as you progress in a way similar to Shadow of Mordor’s Nemesis system. New human factions can be contacted and befriended as you play, giving you access to unique units that are stronger than other in the game. There’s also a new bonding system straight out of Fire Emblem that will give soldiers who fight together special perks.

 The first major expansion for XCOM 2 is adding a ridiculous amount of different systems to the game. For starters, the Chosen are alien enemies that will track and hunt you through your campaign, evolving and growing as you progress in a way similar to Shadow of Mordor’s Nemesis system. New human factions can be contacted and befriended as you play, giving you access to unique units that are stronger than other in the game. There’s also a new bonding system straight out of Fire Emblem that will give soldiers who fight together special perks. Like we said, there’s a lot to this. Watch the full presentation from the PC Gaming Show here

BattleTech

Release date: TBA 2017
Developer: Harebrained Schemes
Link: Official site

We've got high hopes the turn-based return of BattleTech. The folks at Harebrained Schemes have earned a reputation for producing great strategy RPGs from responsibly-run Kickstarter projects, and the best conceivable people are in the cockpit: BattleTech creator Jordan Weisman, Mike McCain (creative director on Shadowrun Returns), and Mitch Gitelman, who worked on the wonderful MechCommander. 

The early prototype we played at PAX only featured one mission, but its internal structure seems sound. Harebrained's approach to translating BattleTech's tabletop ruleset shows reverence, but not at the expense of embracing new ideas: we're excited about the idea of light mechs having real utility as scouts and flankers in a turn-based game, where time and speed can be difficult to express. And because the map isn't on a grid, individual angles, rock formations, and details seem like they'll matter.

BattleTech met stretch goals that guarantee cooperative and PvP multiplayer, but we're glad that this game seems mostly focused on its singeplayer mercenary campaign. You'll be riding around in a massive dropship, which structurally seems like it'll resemble XCOM 2's modular base stations for managing mechs, pilots, and salvage.

Tooth and Tail

Release date: September 12, 2017
Developer: Pocketwatch Games
Link: Official site

The new game from the creators of Monaco is Tooth and Tail, an RTS featuring armies of humanoid rodents and a lovely pixelated art style. Focusing on short matches and straightforward controls, the devs describe this as an arcade take on competitive strategy.

RIOT - Civil Unrest

Release date: 2017
Developer: Leonard Menchari
Link: Official site

This is a socially-aware real time strategy game that simulates the processes leading to the outbreak of violence during times of civil disorder. The striking pixel art depicts real places (and real riots) in an evocative and atmospheric way.
 When you play as the police, you're tasked with choosing between passive and aggressive methodologies: trucks water cannon, smoke grenades, or even live rounds. As rioters, you choose whether to try to calm the masses and rely on the media or incite violence.

Punch Club 2: Fast Forward

Release date: 2017
Developer: Lazy Bear Games
Link: Official site

Those maniacs at TinyBuild are at it again. This bafflingly prolific publisher is known for putting out games like Speedrunners, Clustertruck, and the terrifying Hello Neighbor. One of their biggest hits of 2016 was the boxing management sim, Punch Club, which let players solve mysteries, travel, and punch interesting people. A follow-up titled Punch Club 2: Fast Forward is coming in 2017.

Frozen Synapse 2

Release date: 2017
Developer: Mode7
Link: Official site

Stylish turn-based tactical strategy in a procedurally-generated cyberpunk open world. Every building can be infiltrated, every faction manipulated and every battle overcome with sufficient smarts. The first game was really special both in single and multiplayer, so expectations are high for this long-awaited follow-up.

The Escapists 2

Release date: August 22, 2017
Developer: Mouldy Toof
Link: Official site

The Escapists may have been overshadowed by Prison Architect, but it was a fun prison escape sim that was much deeper than its simple graphics would lead you to believe. The Escapists 2 is adding online and local multiplayer to the mix, giving the pixel art graphics a more detailed makeover, expanding activities and crafting, and so on. What you'd expect from a sequel, really, but co-op prison breaks and versus mode sound especially rad.

Orcish Inn

Release date: "When it's done"
Developer: Steven Colling
Link: Official site

Orcs get a bit stereotyped as warmongering hordes of marauders, but when they’re not trying to wipe out elves in service of an evil wizard, they probably have regular jobs and hang out the pub, right? This management sim casts you as an enterprising orc and lets you build a tavern, farm crops, brew beer, and host thirsty orc customers. There are survival elements as you deal with harsh winter weather, there’s fishing and tavern games, exploration and trading, and this being an orc tavern, you may have to occasionally break up some pub brawls.

All Walls Must Fall

Release date: August 8, 2017 (Early Access)
Developer: inbetweengames
Link: Steam page

A "tech-noir tactics game set in Berlin 2089, where the Cold War never ended." We're pretty much sold based on that pitch, and also because All Walls Must Fall looks like a pretty rad isometric tactics game, and those are always in short supply. A taste of modern Syndicate, perhaps?

Dreadnought

Release date: 2017 (Open beta)
Developer: Yager
Link: Official site

We first heard about Dreadnought back at E3 2014 and we’ve been eager for it ever since. Giant spaceships, giant battles, giant lasers. Controlling these sci-fi aircraft carriers seems similar to the thoughtful, ponderous pace of World of Warships—except these beasts fly in three dimensions. No official date has been announced yet, but the devs recently warned beta players that their accounts and progress would be wiped in advance of the upcoming open beta.

Xenonauts 2

Release date: 2017
Developer: Goldhawk Interactive
Link: Official site

The first Xenonauts, which we really enjoyed, was a project launched in a different era: a time when great X-Com games were a thing of the past. Finally launching after XCOM (note the new capitalization scheme) came back in a big way was perhaps poor timing, but that didn’t stop this streamlined alien-fighting homage from kicking xeno butt. Now that Xenonauts 2 is in development, it has an opportunity to be more than an homage to a long-loved original. With the XCOM series driving that world forward, Xenonauts can become its own thing.

Overland

Release date: 2017
Developer: Finji
Link: Official site

Overland checks a lot of the boxes on our List of Favorite Things. Post-apocalyptic randomly generated survival strategy road trip game? Damn, that’s like winning the sub-genre lottery. Overland is creepy, tense, and it’s the kind of game that lets us make our own stories. Plus, in its most recent trailer, there’s a dog named Mustard.

Totally Accurate Battle Simulator

Release date: Summer 2017
Developer: Landfall games
Link: Official site

Did you ever use the level editor in Age of Empires to put 100 samurai against 100 Teutonic knights, just to watch them go nuts? Totally Accurate Battle Simulator is that, except with a healthy dose of slapstick. These stupid, awkward, brave idiots will charge each other with a variety of weapons just so you can see what happens. Truly, a noble sacrifice.

Oxygen Not Included

Release date:  May 18, 2017 (Out now in Early Access)
Developer: Klei Entertainment
Link: Steam Page

The next game from the makers of Don’t Starve, Oxygen Not Included is a 2D space colony manager. Instead of directly controlling the “duplicant” clones operating your base, it controls similar to Dwarf Fortress where you issue commands for them to complete as they are available to do so. What’s exciting about Oxygen Not Included is how driven by systems the game is. Heat, electricity usage, noise, and (as the name might imply) even oxygen and air quality are simulated, and your workers respond and react to their environments. If you don’t pump enough fresh air near a mining area, they’ll be holding their breath while they work. We spoke with Klei at PAX, and you can learn more about Oxygen Not Included here.

Pit people

Release date: January 13, 2017 (Out now in Early Access)
Developer: The Behemoth
Link: Steam page

A turn-based strategy game that's as wacky as you'd expect from The Behemoth, makers of Castle Crashers. "My team consists of a unicorn, a man wielding a sharpened candy cane, a cyclops throwing M-80s, a woman holding a giant stalk of broccoli and a floppy disk as a shield, and a sentient cupcake that heals them all," we wrote in our first hands-on. That's mainly what you need to know.

Northgard

Release date: February 22, 2017 (Out now in Early Access)
Developer: Shiro Games
Link: Steam page

A viking city builder that made waves when it released in Early Access. We liked it to Age of Empires, saying it succeeds by "cutting back on micromanagement in the spirit of modern RTS design, and its understated art style captures the contrast between bleakness and wonder at the foundation of Norse mythology."

Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War 3

Release date: April 27, 2017 (Out now)
Developer: Relic Entertainment
Link: Official site

The hordes of Warhammer games have a clear king in the Dawn of War RTS series, and its third installment will come eight years after Dawn of War 2. It was a big challenge for Relic to overcome the popular Dawn of War 2, and we found Dawn of War 3 to have a "merely serviceable campaign." Otherwise, though, it's good Warhammer, as we wrote in our review: "It isn't quite the pure RTS of the first game or the RPG experiment of the second, but it sits somewhere in between. In its finest moments, when armies are crawling over each other and mechs make the ground tremble, it's an exciting place to be. "

Everything

Release date: April 21, 2017 (Out now)
Developer: David OReilly
Link: Steam page

A game that defies genre conventions with the pitch "Be the universe." In our review, we wrote: "after a slow-burning first hour, when I started ascending through the cosmos and descending into the microscopic building blocks of life, I fell in love with it. It makes you think about life and your place in the universe, but it’s silly and playful too, which is a combination that shouldn’t work as well as it does."

Halo Wars 2

Release date: February 21, 2017 (Out now)
Developer: The Creative Assembly
Link: Official site

This unexpected sequel to a console-only RTS is coming to both PC and consoles early in 2017 from Total War studio Creative Assembly. The pedigree is great, although this Creative Assembly team last worked on our 2014 game of the year Alien: Isolation. We found plenty of fun in Halo Wars 2, but it's not an RTS to set the genre on fire. As we wrote in our review: "It's aimed less at the hardcore crowd that eagerly checks for announcements of a new Ashes of the Singularity expansion and more at the Halo shooter fans who'd like to see that universe from a perspective besides the sights of a rifle. And most of the time, it does its job. It's even occasionally fun. But if it's challenging strategy you want with PC-friendly controls, there are far more satisfying worlds than this."

Loot Rascals

Release date: March 7, 2017 (Out now)
Developer: Hollow Ponds
Link: Official site

For those who like turn-based strategy, but don’t want to stare at a screen for six hours on end, Loot Rascals may be your new jam. It turns live movement across a hex board into ‘turns’, shifting around enemies and changing the status of the world as you move across the grid. Step on the same hex as a bad guy, and you’ll engage in quick, automated combat. Win, and they’ll drop some kind of loot, which you can use to bolster your stats and rearrange in your inventory to optimize its bonuses. Presented in a cool ‘70s cartoon aesthetic and layered in cheeky British humor, Loot Rascals is shaping up to be a great strategy game for casual players and enthusiasts alike. If you’re curious, an early build is available on itch.io.

Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf

Release date: February 17, 2017 (Out now)
Developer: Herocraft
Link: Steam page

This card-based strategy game has been out on mobile for a while, but the developers promise a proper PC version rather than a straightforward port. You command a squad of Warhammer 40,000's grizzliest space vikings and face down the forces of Chaos on a hostile jungle planet.

Killers and Thieves

Release date: May 23, 2017 (Out now)
Developer: Mode7
Link: Steam page

A medieval thieves guild strategy game from one of the creators of The Banner Saga. Build up your crew and take them out into the city for some heisting. Early Steam impressions praise the concept but criticize the UI and controls.