With all the buzz and excitement around the latest shooters, it’s sometimes nice to kick back and think about the bigger picture. Strategy and Simulation games tend to lean towards a more PC orientated audience, but with more turn based and tactical games finding their way to the PS4 and Xbox One, the appeal of these typically niche titles becomes quite a bit wider.
2016 has been a remarkably good year for the genre, all things considered. With the sequels for three venerated franchises of varying scope, as well as the latest annual update to probably the most niche of the management sims out there, and even spiritual successors to long forgotten games that shaped gaming back in the 90’s, there’s never been a better time for Strategy and Simulation fans to set aside some time and really get stuck in.
This time last year, not only was XCOM 2 one of the most hotly anticipated PC games of 2016, but was also reportedly not coming to consoles. A year later, and not only do we have a rather excellent turn based tactics game that turns the classic formula on its heard, it also had a very good console port that was launched in the same year.
XCOM 2’s concealment mechanic drastically changes the feel of the game. From being the hunted cattle in the original, XCOM are now the rebellion, setting up ambushes to take on their would-be oppressors. With the aliens from XCOM: Enemy Unknown now shedding their former selves to reveal more monstrous forms, the sense of peril is always around the corner.
Above all else, XCOM 2’s biggest strength is its dystopian setting. It dared to ask the question that the previous incarnation of XCOM never bothered: What if the aliens won? What if humanity was enslaved? The result is a game that certainly looks futuristic, but at times also dark and disturbing. It was well worth the wait and a serious contender from early in the year.
It’s widely known, to those regular readers who have seen my work here on TSA, that I can be a bit tight when it comes to my verdicts. I’m essentially that food critic from Ratatouille. Civilization VI is the Ratatouille that warmed my cold unfeeling critic heart.
I’d longed to see a sequel for this venerated series that understood how to rejuvenate the franchise with minor tweaks to seemingly insignificant features, weaving them into something brand new. With Civic Cards, the usually slightly complex politics is streamlined into something easy to grasp, while Districts added that much-needed strategy. Aside from that, it’s the Civilization that we all know and love.
Accompanying all of this is an art style that I personally adored, right down to the unrevealed maps having very ye olde art of monsters. It also had excellent narration from Sean Bean, who sadly doesn’t make it past the launch trailer, and a musical score that evolves into even more beautiful renditions of earlier tunes as your game goes on.
Football Manager 2017
When it comes to football management sims, only one name really sticks out above the rest and that’s Football Manager. For years the series has dominated the management sim genre on PC, with each iteration adding features to make games feel as real as possible.
This year’s entry steps things up to a new level, not just by adding animations and player promises, but also including the potential ramifications of Brexit, one of the biggest political shake ups in the UK’s history. At some point during a game you’ll be notified the exit process from the EU has begun and will learn whether this means a soft Brexit which retains free movement of people, or a hard Brexit which means players from anywhere in the world including Europe will require work permits to play for a club in the UK.
It adds an entirely new dynamic and you have to base your long term strategy on the fact that some of the best players may become harder to get. Football Manager has always been about strategy, but adding a major real world event makes it one of the most intriguing strategy games of the year.
Our 2016 award for Best Strategy & Simulation goes to:
Runners up in alphabetical order
- Banner Saga 2
- Football Manager 2017
- Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence
- Total War: Warhammer
- XCOM 2