Game of the Year 2016: Strategy
Strategy - the Queen of Games
As a die-hard strategy fan, I look at 2016 with a bittersweet taste in my mouth. Sweet, because there were some games that really highlight the diversity and depth of the genre. Bitter, because there were also disapointments:
- Civilization 6 didn't make it to my toplist. I could go on and rant for hours about what it does wrong (while slightly improving over Civ5 and the shocking mediocre Beyond Earth), but that's a different story to tell. I will leave that to my future review once I feel fit to dive into this latest installment of one of my favorite series.
- The Guild 3 still isn't anywhere near a public beta or something I could play right now
- There wasn't any kind of relieving release for Starcraft II, after the Legacy of the Void I had hopes for some DLC / special AddOn that would round up the loose ends. Didn't happen.
- And even the best of the best strategy games in 2016, those I will list here below, have their flaws - sometimes even serious ones
Ok, let's start with...
3rd Place: Hearts of Iron IV
If you are living in Germany and got hit hard by the region-lock and heavy editing on this one, you might disagree. Indeed, removing ALL references to the Third Reich in a WWII strategy game kinda kills the mood.
However, the Swiss stand proud and unaffected!
The main reason for my placing HoI IV into the Top 3 of 2016 is the fact that Paradox managed to bring some of the old SSI Hardcore-Strategy-Feeling into our modern times, while still making the game easy enough to be accessible to todays gaming generation. Don't get me wrong: Hearts of Iron IV is still a monster and behemoth to handle, but it can be handled.
WWII at your fingertipps!
- Full simulation of all military and economic elements in the campaign
- Tough AI enemies
- Believable, rational dependencies between ressources and military production
- Epic war theatre with shifting alliances
- Half-way intuitive interface (at least for such a monster game)
- Immersive, you can really "feel" the war going on
- Extreme long-term motivation
- Even with fictional history, most alliances build themselves like in real WWII no matter what you do, leaving a taste of "scripted reality"
- From a visual perspective, it's as attractive as a Swiss tax authority office
- Some shifts in user interface handling half-way through the game
- Dont't laugh - it can actually get TOO EASY once you have figured everything out.
Overall, a well-deserved #3 this year.
Watch. Grin. Learn!
2nd Place - XCOM 2
Are you mad? XCOM 2 has been beaten?
Yes, it has!
But please let me explain first:
XCOM 2(for me still X-COM 2) is a great game, basically custom tailored for all my gaming preferences. It is all that round-based strategy should be, and it exceeds the first Firaxis approach to the X-Com universe in many points. I really feel like the boss of a rebel organisation always on the run, the menace of Advent and their alien overlords is always present, and the small stories woven deeply into the big narrative are brilliant. The balance between ressource management, research needs, strategical planning and tactical execution is simply perfect. I am emotionally tied to my soldiers and the characters and I found myself yelling in triumph when beating down a Sectopod or an Andromedon.
However, there are flaws I can't overlook:
- Balancing: Playing on Commander as always, there are missions you simply can't beat in time with the types of opponents thrown at you - unless you have bought the Last Gift DLC, accomplished this mission soon enough and then put the reward to work. This leaves a foul taste.
- The Avatar project randomness: it doesn't happen often, but when the game spawns the Avatar project research facilities always far outside your reach, in areas where you have 2 or three regions to contact untill you can attack the facility, you are screwed, no matter how good you play otherwise.
- The tech: Running on Unreal 4 with a great art design, but a rather unspectacular usage of polygons, shaders GFX fluff, X-COM 2 is surprisingly hardware-demanding, unoptimized and - yes! - unstable. It does occasionally even kill your save games - making any Iron Man run impossible (or outright stupid).
Overall one of the bext games I ever played, but I can't rank it #1 with those issues still present. However, there is still a chance that Firaxis will also tackle the Terror from the Deep scenario, so perhaps they can get it PERFECT then.
Don't let this #2 kill your joy, though!
And the winner is: BATTLEFIELD GOTHIC ARMADA
OldGamer's Adventure of the Year
Yes, this time the winner is from the Warhammer 40k universe.
And if you don't know it, you won't understand my judgement here. Just let me point out that is one of the most immersive, grim, convincing, stunning, entangling fictional scenarios created EVER.
Take this little gatewaydrug now, and never forget:
The Emperor protects!
Laudatio "Battlefield Gothic Armada"
Battlefield Gothic Armada sets its focus on the epic space battles within the Warhammer 40k universe, instead of the glorious ground combat missions the Space Marines endure and hopefully survive to protect mankind against the forces of Chaos.
This is a little setback for Warhammer fans like me, but in the end the game does everything right:
- The design of the spaceships, from the huge huge Gothic cathedrals flying in the name of the emperor to the etherical beauty of the Eldar starships, is beyond any doubt.
- It's an RTS with almost perfect balancing
- The story might be simple, but it has no plot holes and is convincing enough
- A great campaign with quite some surprises
- Technically, almost flawless
- Atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere!
So, yes, while it is neither perfect nor the best RTS ever, it deserves the crown for this year. If you played the previous Warhammer 40K RTS games and wondered how the battle is like in the vast, endless space, this will be your new favorite.