STRATEGY GAMES OF 2018
Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord
TBA | Taleworlds Entertainment | Link It’s been a long wait for the sequel to Mount & Blade: Warband, and it may be a bit longer still, but previews have indicated a strongly expanded combat system to the cavalry battle simulator. Chief among those changes is a directional shield blocking system, chain attacks, and a command structure that allows you to focus on the task at hand while letting your A.I. commander dictate the overall flow of the fight.
April 12 (as Early Access) | Chris Hecker, John Cimino | Link
A “competitive espionage game about subtle human behavior,” which honestly sounds like every socially awkward party I’ve ever been to, SpyParty pits two players against one another in a battle of wits and deception. The spy must blend in with a gathering of A.I. characters while a sniper lies in wait outside, attempting to deduce his target, not unlike the similarly titled Team Fortress 2 mode. It’s been hailed as a “vanguard of the future of indie,” so you know it’s carrying some bonafides behind its nine-year development cycle. Yes, you read that right: Nine years.
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden
2018 | Bearded Ladies, Funcom | Link
A hybrid RPG-strategy game with the stealthy pedigree of a team of former Hitman designers, starring mutant animals in the post-apocalypse. If you're not already intrigued, let's sweeten the pitch: this game is basically XCOM in combat, but with RPG party recruiting and questing around it, and the whole package is pretty rad. That instantly catapulted Mutant Year Zero to the top of our most anticipated strategy games of the year.
Banner Saga 3
July 24, 2018 | Stoic | Link
The saga of banners continues with more turn-based tactical combat as the Viking RPG series comes to a close. The finale promises "deeper strategic combat" and increased customization. We loved the first two games, so the quick turnaround of the finale was a pleasant surprise.
Age of Empires 4
TBA | Relic | Link
Age of Empires is unexpectedly returning, and with probably the best RTS studio still around, Relic, at the helm. It looks like the Homeworld, Company of Heroes and Dawn of War developer has been borrowed by Microsoft from publisher Sega. Details are slim at the moment, though we know that it will take a broader look at history, from antiquity to the conquest of the New World, than Age of Empires 3.
Frozen Synapse 2
First half of 2018 | Mode 7 | Link
2011’s Frozen Synapse surprised with its cool blend of turn-based gameplay and scenario simulation that allowed you to sweat some ideas before committing to your moves. Its sequel expands the action to a procedurally generated city filled with varying factions that will react differently to your actions, stealth maneuvers, and new unit types.
"Second Half of 2018" | Chucklefish | Link
Taking clear inspiration from the likes of Advance Wars, Wargroove combines turn-based, grid-based strategy with knights, flying mages, the occasional golem, and more fantasy fare. You’ll need to exercise caution during each match’s 40-60 minute runtime as you fight to capture the enemy commander or raze their fortress, or show off your design skills with a fully featured map editor.
February 21, 2018 (Early Access) | Fireblade Software | Link
Abandon Ship is undeniably evocative of FTL, but it’s set in a fantasy world with ships inspired by the Age of Sail. It’s also a lot prettier. With a ship and crew, you’ll be able to explore a procedural ocean, encounter random events, and fend off other vessels and monsters from the deep. If your captain dies, then that’s you done. Good thing you can escape in a lifeboat. The game is currently out in early access, with some major updates on the way, according to the developer.
Warhammer 40,000: Gladius—Relics of War
TBA | Proxy Studios | Link
The 40K universe gets a 4X game, this one set on a world called Gladius Prime. Ultramarines, Orks, Imperial Guard, and Necrons all compete for it and, yes, there are hexes. This one's being published by Slitherine, who also brought us turn-based 40K strategy games Sanctus Reach and Armageddon.
2018 (Early access) | Petroglyph | Link
The Star Wars: Empire At War and Grey Goo lot are back with another RTS. Forged Battalion looks bright and frenetic, all neon explosions and cute tanks and mechs charging at each other. Rather than playing as a faction, you’ll be able to craft your own armies with customisable units and a persistent tech tree as you try to save Earth from The Collective. Want your tank to hover and spew out glue? Go for it.
Late 2018 | CreativeForge Games | Link
Phantom Doctrine plays out like Cold War XCOM. You and a band of conspiracy-fighting agents known as the Cabal must stop a plot to pit world leaders against one another, and you send agents on missions to recover intel, sabotage operations, or stealthily infiltrate enemy ranks. Most interestingly, you can defeat enemy agents, then bring them back to convert them, extort them for info, or plant a trigger phrase in their head for later. Just don’t leave your guys behind, as the enemy may have equally nefarious plans.
TBA | Tetragon Works | Link
This turn-based mech combat game pulls inspiration from Armored Core and Front Mission, with tabletop-style rules determining unique damage statistics, destructible buildings, and pilots that evolve as characters, like a simpler Nemesis System from Shadow of War. Mod support promises new events, missions, order, mech parts, and more.
RELEASED AND DELAYED TO 2019
Into the Breach
February 27, 2018 (Out now) | Subset Games | Link
This tactical mech combat games from the creators of FTL threatens to be one of the best games of 2018, if it ends up coming out this year. Battles happen in turns on small grids of terrain. Your custom bots can push enemies around to manipulate them into disadvantageous positions and keep them away from the civilian zones that power your units. It’s a clever procedural puzzle game with giant robots, what’s not to like?
Age of Empires: Definitive Edition
February 20, 2018 (Out now) | Microsoft Studios | Link
The classic RTS is returning, remastered with 4K HD art, new animations and mod support for PCs running Windows 10. The art overhaul looks terrific and naturally the game comes with the full original campaign and a scenario editor so you can pit hundreds of horses against hundreds of priests to see what happens.
April 24, 2018 (Out Now) | Harebrained Schemes | Link
BattleTech creator Jordan Weisman and the developers behind Shadowrun Returns team up for turn-based mech combat based on the 33-year-old tabletop strategy game. Customize your squad of mechs, oversee a crew of support personnel, and fight for the throne in a full single-player campaign.
A Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia
May 3, 2018 | The Creative Assembly | Link
Total War travels to 878 AD Anglo-Saxons, Gaelic clans and Viking settlers clash for control of the rainy isle Britannia. Expect your classic Total War formula, complete with strategic maps and huge real-time battles, but focused on one particular historical flashpoint rather than an era.
June 2019 | Snapshot Games | Link
Julian Gollop, the designer of the original X-Com, is taking another shot at the genre he pioneered in Phoenix Point. Early footage on Snapshot’s development blog suggest that the team are going for a more gritty, realistic look. Enemies in Phoenix Point will apparently adapt physically to your tactics, evolving new defences and installing new weapons to counter your elite troops.
Total War: Three Kingdoms
2019 (Delayed) | Creative Assembly | Link
After delving through dark fantasy Total War: Warhammer and briefly returning to British history in Thrones of Britannia, the Total War franchise returns to the eastern hemisphere, specifically the fall of China’s Han Dynasty. Fans of Dynasty Warriors might get some wild ideas once they see the ancient warrior Lu Bu running around, but rest assured that Three Kingdoms will likely follow a much more historically accurate (though no less bloody) timeline. If you need a refresher on the setting, check out our college-approved history lesson.