If you love strategy games, then 2017 is a great year for you. Gamers who love the strategy genre have more options than ever before, including immersive, real life strategy games like those we have here at Room Escape Fairfax and a huge sampling of free online games that you can play without spending a cent. Today, we’re going to provide a rundown of some of the Room Escape Fairfax team’s favorite games currently available in the strategy genre, with a special focus to online games that can be played for free. We want to focus on these types of titles so that we’re not excluding anyone who might not have a certain console or a large budget to go exploring a bunch of new titles, but we might have a few honorable mentions along the way that don’t adhere to these strict criteria. Strategy lovers and puzzle enthusiasts, read on!
The Best of the Best
Vikings: War of Clans
First off, Vikings in general are looming large in the popular culture thanks to the success of the television series by that name. Vikings: War of Clans is not related to that franchise, but pulls from the same historical setting. Couple that with great gameplay, and you have an option that is sure to satisfy almost all fans of strategy games.
In the game you take on the role of a Jarl, and you must find a way to build your city and raise your clan to greatness. It has a familiar interface focussing on both realm-building and combat that is typical of most games of the genre, but where the game stands out is in the various progression paths you can take yourself down. There is a huge amount of customization in terms of what type of town, and for that matter, what type of hero you want to craft, making this a great option for fans who love to labor over decisions of skill progressions and perks.
Stronghold Kingdoms is another free-to-play strategy game that is available on Windows, Mac and mobile platforms. The focus here is on building a truly legendary castle, something that is sure to appeal to many fans of the strategy game genre. The village that supports your stronghold can be assembled building by building, with a high degree of specificity to the design of your kingdom playing a part in how effective and efficient the resulting stronghold is. The online play allows you to complete against 1000s of other players without spending a dime.
Total War Battles: Kingdom
Total War Battles: Kingdom is a very versatile title because of its cross-platform compatibility. You can start a game on your computer, then pick it up later on your phone for a seamless experience that lets you take your new favorite strategy game with you wherever you go.
As the name implies, Total War Battles: Kingdoms, places a larger focus on combat than some of the other titles we’ve reviewed so far, making it more familiar to those who are long-time fans of the real-time-strategy (RTS) genre. Unlike many of the free-to-play games that dominate the strategy category, this title has a huge creative team, including Sega, as part of its development group. The result is a very polished, professional experience that doesn’t feel at all like a free to play, but which still won’t cost you a cent.
Available on Steam, Epic Arena takes elements from some classic strategy-based games such as the Heroes of Might and Magic franchise, and combines those mechanics with a base reminiscent of a collectible card game (CCG). The combination is one that will certainly appeal to nostalgic gamers, but which remains very accessible to newcomers.
Play as the forces of Chaos, Order or as Pirates, with each faction offering specialized strategies and abilities. The collectible card aspect to the game means that you can continually unlock and grow your capabilities within the game, while the tactical combat interface allows for a high degree of replay-ability and customization. The variety here means that those who love laboring over statistics and coming up with the optimum strategy within a fixed rule framework will love fighting their way through Epic Arena.
Empires Apart is not released yet, but given the amount of hype surrounding this title and the face that it is coming out this year, it seemed appropriate to include it on this list. Rather than trying to shy away from the great things that worked in the past and which created a generation of RTS lovers, Empires Apart is embracing its heritage. Billed as an ‘old-school’ medieval RTS, this game is sure to appeal to fans of the classic Age of Empires series and other, similar games.
The game is going to include all the elements that you would expect from a title that makes this claim, including distinct civilizations, unique heroes, and the ability to play endlessly on randomly generated maps. At the end of the day, Empires Apart is a title that we think any strategy game fan should be excited about.
StarCraft 1 and StarCraft 2
We simply couldn’t write an article about great strategy games in 2017 without mentioning what we feel is one the greatest games in the genre of all time. StarCraft 1 laid the foundation, and StarCraft 2 perfected the form, with both offering a unique gaming experience that any strategy fan simply can’t miss.
Of course, if you’re a fan of strategy games there is a good chance that you have already played both of these titles for countless hours. However, there is still reason to be excited. Blizzard has recently announced that summer of 2017 will see a remastered edition of the classic StarCraft game released to the public, allowing long-time fans to enjoy a newly polished edition of one of their favorite games while also introducing newcomers to one of the all-time greats.
Now, if you haven’t played these titles, we have one more reason for you to be excited. In the months leading up to the release of the remastered edition of the original StarCraft, Blizzard has made the original version free to download.