This year strategy games went back to their PC roots with the launch of three highly anticipated sequels, two of which came from SEGA. Though much of the spotlight has been on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and their slightly older counterparts, the strategy genre has continued to thrive, both visibly and behind the scenes.
Take Valve’s DOTA 2. Though not listed in our nominations (due to its constantly-evolving nature and shifting release window) it’s a prime example of how the strategy genre has evolved from its RTS roots. Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas, or “MOBAs”, are now the biggest multiplayer games in circulation, drawing in players by their millions day in, day out.
Our category winner, XCOM: Enemy Within, is another game which has demonstrated just how diverse the genre is. Though it carries a multiplayer component, the core XCOM experience lies in its single player campaign: a combination of intense turn-based battles and global security simulation. As a crack squad of xeno hunters you scour the globe for alien sightings, trying to wipe out the threat as fast and efficiently as possible. Enemy Within, given its nature as an expansion, is exactly the same as last year’s Enemy Unknown albeit with a few tweaks. There’s a litter of new missions to take on and enemies to fight as well as new projects and technology to research. Enemy Within let’s players go that one step further in enhancing their troops by allow both bionic and genetic modifications. Tap into the extra-terrestrial’s hidden powers or go wading in Pacific Rim-style, either way is equally as awesome.
Close behind we have Company of Heroes 2 and Pikmin 3. Out of the two, Company of Heroes is perhaps the more conventional. Adopting Relic’s approach to real-time strategy, players go mission to mission, gathering resources and building structures as their units scout the map to complete objectives. It’s a much more condensed affair compared to one of our runners up, favouring smaller squads, also featuring a dynamic combat system. Cover, position and unit type are all taken into account when soldiers meet in the field of battle. CoH 2’s Truesight also helps to keep battles as authentic as possible.
Pikmin 3 doesn’t have the same penchant for realism. Set on a luscious, leafy planet, the game has players commanding a troupe of multi-coloured Pikmin, each capable of different tasks. The real strategic element comes from knowing how to use your Pikmin effectively and keep them out of harm’s way. The game scored 8/10 in our review, marking a grand return for the franchise after nine years of absence. Graphics and sound design aside, Pikmin also won points on its “perfect controls”, the game offering three different set-ups.
In third place we have one of year’s most controversial titles. Even before the launch of Sim City, few people had a good word to say about EA’s Origin service. It’s basically a DRM measure combined with a digital store-front and online hub for gamers. Even for console gamers, Origin has proved increasingly intrusive though nothing can top the disaster surrounding Sim City’s launch earlier this year. To stamp out piracy and galvanise its online functionality, Sim City could only be played with an internet connection. This lead to huge launch-day traffic and a raft of online issues for EA. Still, once the dust had settled, Sim City still proved to be a remarkable in-depth experience, more or less living up to fans’ expectations.
XCOM: Enemy Within is TheSixthAxis’ Strategy or Simulation Game of the Year 2013.