It's a great time for fans of strategy games, as XCOM: Chimera Squad is out now on PC, bringing in some new changes to shake up the dynamic, whilst Gears Tactics is dipping its toes into the strategy world for the first time. Will either of these titles reach the heady highs of the best the genre has to offer?
That relaxing vibe slowly ebbs away as the action increases.
Sam | Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden
I’m not a big fan of traditional RTS games, and turn-based combat more often than not leaves me pretty cold. There are certain strategy games that’ve really grabbed me, though, enough even to become exceptions to the above.
The likes of Mount & Blade, The Banner Saga and Dungeon of the Endless crossed my mind, but The Bearded Ladies’ Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden has to take this mantle. MYZ marries narrative, exploration, RPG mechanics, stealth and direct character control with turn-based tactical battles in the style of XCOM.
It might sound like an impossible hodgepodge of genres and mechanics on the surface, but everything ties seamlessly together in-game. It’s quite similar to Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle in many ways - which was definitely another contender for my pick - though with far more depth, likely owing to the older target demographic.
We eventually got more Road to Eden with the release of its Seed of Evil expansion, which picked up right where the main game’s cliffhanger ending left off. It speaks volumes that the shambolic technical performance at launch didn’t stop me from devouring and enjoying the entire expansion over just a couple of play sessions.
Having a pre-existing world to draw from helped Mutant Year Zero pull in fans.
Liam | Kingdom: Two Crowns
Are my walls strong enough to withstand tonight’s attack? Have I hired enough archers? Should I have upgraded my towers? These are the sort of questions that run through your mind every sunset in Kingdom as your underlings hunker down behind your defences in preparation for another onslaught.
On the surface, the Kingdom series might seem like a relatively simple affair compared to other strategic games; you’ve no real direct input, save for ordering the building of structures or recruiting subjects to fill your ranks, and the 2D layout limits exploration to just two directions, but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in depth.
Having to carefully cultivate gold resources and strike a balance between daring explorer and cautious defender is great fun and can lead to some incredibly tense showdowns with the troll-like Greed that rock up to your walls every night.
The gameplay might be a little rudimentary, but it keeps things accessible, particularly for casuals and non-gamers. I’ve spent dozens of hours building kingdoms in the series’ two-player iteration, Two Crowns, with a playing partner whose interest in games is almost non-existent. Not only did they quickly grasp Kingdom’s core concept, but revelled in it, proving that a strategy game doesn’t need to be overly complicated to be engrossing.
Sometimes, simpler is better.
James | Red Alert 2
At the end of the 90s, strategy games were on a high. Command and Conquer was finally seeing competition from the likes of Age of Empires, Total Annihilation and Starcraft, which meant industry legends Westwood Studios had to hit back. Their answer? Red Alert 2.
While the first instalment was ground-breaking, the sequel re-defined the series graphically, with a more refined, isometric perspective, and the live action cutscenes having significantly more polish - but just the right amount of cheese.
Whether it was the campaign, which led you on a time-hopping, reality-twisting adventure to further the cause of your chosen side, or the multiplayer, which was my and many others’ first experience of online strategy - which tried hard to get away from the traditional rock/paper/scissors of balancing land, sea and air units, and succeeded.
You could even pick a game type called “Unholy Alliance” which saw you get access to units from both sides. The infantry units in particular packed more of a punch, with capturing a building quickly creating a killbox, even if you fortified your regular GIs in the field to give them access to heavier weaponry.
If you haven’t checked the game out before (or its equally impressive expansion, Yuri’s Revenge) there’s a remastered collection just waiting to be explored.
Is it time for another game-changing Red Alert title?
Share your favourite strategy games with us.
Some of you will have already sunk your teeth into Capcom’s Resident Evil 3 remake and blitzed through it in time for Final Fantasy VII which (officially) launched on Friday. Whilst these classics rightfully deserve a makeover, there are a few other games from that era which are crying out for a fresh lick of paint.
A touch of humour and a ton of gore.
Sam | Dino Crisis
My love of Ape Escape and desire for a reboot or remake is already well known to Team Talk regulars, so, since that pick pretty much goes without saying, I’ve opted instead for Dino Crisis.
Dinosaurs are thoroughly under-utilised in horror; the towering, toothy reptiles actually existed way back when and that fact arguably makes them far more terrifying than any dreamt up monstrosity. Imagine the sheer terror of finding yourself face-to-face with a Tyrannosaurus if they’d never gone extinct or you’d lived back in prehistoric times.
They’ve been dumbed down and made more child friendly over the years, but set that aside and, in reality, carnivorous dinos are downright scary. Dino Crisis knew this and leveraged it, leaning on survival horror mainstay Resident Evil as its gameplay template.
With much of the same talent at Capcom being responsible for both series, it’s a real shame that Dino Crisis ultimately fell by the wayside as Resident Evil prospered. With survival horror currently enjoying a resurgence, plus Capcom said to be open to making more remakes, the odds are actually looking decent when it comes to Dino Crisis’ return. In lieu of any confirmation, however, we can only hope that dinosaurs soon get back the bad name they deserve.
Resident Evil meets Jurassic Park was never going to be a hard sell.
Liam | Firestorm Thunderhawk 2
Firestorm Thunderhawk 2 was one of the many PS1 games I’d get to play whenever I would babysit my uncle’s console while he was away on trips, and I remember being hugely impressed by it, even back then.
Up until that point, the only flying game I’d really spent any significant amount of time with was Starwing on the SNES, which was rather limited compared to what FT2 was offering. Being able to explore in any direction and seek out enemies/objectives was, at the time, mind blowing, and hopping from first to third person views was also pretty amazing.
A spruced up, expanded and much better-looking modern version would be a great thing, in my opinion, as there aren’t enough flying games knocking around these days, let alone ones starring attack choppers. Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown (my personal GOTY for 2019) showed that there’s still a market for action-oriented flying games, especially those with a meaty single player campaign.
It seems unlikely we’ll ever get a new Firestorm game (the series seems to have disappeared after a follow up for the PlayStation 2) but I would happily snap up a remastered Thunderhawk 2, should a publisher/developer be willing to take a crack at it.
We need fewer zombies and more attack choppers.
James | Cool Boarders
While Ubisoft attempted to take the snow-covered world of extreme sports back with Steep (a title so forgettable I just had to look it up), there’s a lot to be said for going back to basics to bring some energy and entertainment to the digital world of snowboarding.
In a similar way to how the acclaimed Skate did in response to the over-saturation of Tony Hawk’s games, Cool Boarders could sweep in and pick up the torch after its former self wiped out on the soft powder back at the turn of the millennium.
Steep didn’t catch on as it tried to do too many things, whereas the updated graphics alone would give Cool Boarders the chance to really showcase the power of the PS5 with some sick snow effects.
Of course you’d need to retain the sense of humour that the series had in its day (or am I just projecting that?) to get young’uns interested, since there isn’t a huge amount of brand recall for this particular gem.
Still, more has been done in the past with more obscure franchises and they’ve come out shining, so why not give the borders another chance to stack it for our amusement?
Cool Boarders was getting us pumped before SSX even had its boots on.
Which iconic PlayStation titles do you think are deserving of a remake?
VR prequel Half-Life: Alyx released last week and though it may not be the sequel we were all wanting, it gives us a faint glimmer of hope that Valve could finally bring the series to a satisfying conclusion one day. Will that ever be the case for these sought-after sequels that seem unlikely to see the light of day, though?
Though, a Far Cry-like skill tree is almost certain to feature.
Liam | Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 4
Rogue Squadron is my favourite Star Wars gaming series, and, as unlikely as it seems, it would be great to see it revived in some way on modern hardware.
According to the video below, which I only recently saw for the first time, it appears there were numerous attempts to reboot the franchise following the series’ successes on the N64 and Nintendo GameCube, including remasters and all-new entries for the Xbox 360/PS3/Wii era.
None of those projects ever came to fruition, sadly, and it doesn’t look like that will be rectified anytime soon, since original developer Factor 5 ended up closing down for good more than a decade ago following financial trouble.
A shame, because the Dark Squadron spin-off that was said to have been in production at some point, in which you played as Darth Vader as he took the fight to the Rebels, sounded like an interesting new direction for the series to go in, what with Luke and Co. having been firmly in the spotlight previously.
While it’s very unlikely we’ll ever get Rogue Squadron 4, I’m still hopeful there’s an old fan somewhere at EA that’s championing this fantastic series. Perhaps a Xbox Series X/PlayStation 5 remaster is in order, just to test the waters?
With multiple new entries in the Star Wars canon, Rogue Squadron 4 could us on an interesting journey.
Sam | Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem
2002’s Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem was well ahead of its time. Released exclusively for the GameCube, it’s a psychological thriller featuring several different playable protagonists that occupy different historical periods.
In itself that was ambitious for the time - and still would be today, to an extent - though by also breaking the fourth wall in creative ways things were taken that bit further. Eternal Darkness definitely took cues from the iconic Psycho Mantis boss encounter in Metal Gear Solid, and is perhaps just as fondly remembered on the whole.
After scoring an impressive 92/100 on Metacritic, its sequel seemed like an inevitable matter of when and not if. Until no confirmation came for over a decade and then developer Silicon Knights went out of business, that is…
We’d learn that Eternal Darkness 2 had been in active development, and that the team’s demise brought an unfortunate end to the project. Despite that, key figures reconverged as Precursor Games and sought to crowdsource a follow-up titled Shadow of the Eternals.
Unfortunately, the game failed to meet its funding goal… twice over. Precursor disbanded and Eternal Darkness has remained dormant ever since, much to the disappointment of survival horror fanatics.
Though it may look like a simple Resident Evil clone, Eternal Darkness had a unique take on psychological horror.
James | Left 4 Dead 3
While it’s a running joke that Valve can’t count to three, the real joke is this teasing they are doing in raising our hopes for the return of Half-Life at all.
As far as other sequels we might never be graced with though, I was torn between Portal 3 and L4D3 for this topic and in the end it feels as though the Left 4 Dead world has more to offer, despite how played-out zombies as a concept may seem.
The joy of a game of Scavenge in Left 4 Dead 2 may be one of the most rewarding and exciting new game modes for cooperative multiplayer in the last 20 years (or, if you’re being picky, simply a clever twist on the capture the flag).
It’s been tried of course, with original game creators Turtle Rock spinning up Evolve and more recently Earthfall trying to tread a similar path, but perhaps - just like Half-Life: Alyx - Valve’s urge to innovate and change the game could be the missing ingredient.
Imagine the vindictive AI director - a key factor in giving the game its replayability - beefed up with the power of cloud computing, and a few procedurally-generated elements thrown in for good measure, keeping the experience fresh, exciting and an unexpected challenge every time.
Rather than relying on the tropes of zombie games to carry it through, Left 4 Dead built its foundation on solid gameplay and well-executed, simple ideas. Then, on top of that, it sprinkled its lore naturally throughout, with suggestions scrawled on walls by survivors and campaigns which only hint at the extent of the event which ravaged its world. It’s time to lock and load, and don’t forget the pills.
Will Valve ever release a properly numbered second sequel?
Let us know which unlikely sequels you'd like to see.