Another year, another list of interesting space-based, science fiction and fantasy-themed games to look for. Strategy has always the priority here, but you’ll also find other types of games in this list, namely simulation, RPG and even a bit of action. To note that fantasy strategy is having another strong presence this year, as are 4X games. As always in this type of article the release dates are only tentative, so it’s very likely that not all of the games present in this list will be officially released this year, but at least some form of early access is expected to be released in most cases. So, here you have it. Now, and in no particular order, the list we here at SpaceSector think are the most interesting games which we believe you should have a look at in 2015. Enjoy!
Stars in Shadow
Release Date: Q2-Q3 2015
Stars in Shadow is a turn-based space 4X game that will feature turn-based tactical combat. It is being developed by the two man team of Sven Olsen and Jim Francis (Arioch). The game is inspired on the classic Master of Orion 2 and uses an art style that is reminiscent of that era. Unlike other games which are also ‘inspired’ by MOO2, Stars in Shadow attempts to recreate the experience, however it also tries to add new elements so that the game is a worthwhile experience. The game also takes some inspiration from Sword of the Stars to explore giving races different techs to differentiate them from each other. Ship customisation and space battles seem reminiscent to MOO2.
The expected release date is middle of 2015, however the beta testing should begin in the next month or so, which players can sign-up for at the game’s official website. Though games have come a long way since Master of Orion 2, and there have been many solid titles since then, many feel a certain charm that MOO2 had which has always escaped the grasp of the current generation of 4X titles. Perhaps Stars in Shadow could help revive that old charm once more.
5 Lives Studios
Release Date: Q2 2015
Satellite Reign is a “spiritual successor” to Bullfrog’s popular 1990s game series, Syndicate. The Syndicate series is one of many excellent Bullfrog series deserving of a proper successor, so hopes are certainly high that developer 5 Lives Studios can do it justice. Satellite Reign puts you in control of 4 futuristic agents in a real-time strategy game set in a cyberpunk world of corporate corruption. What has me most excited about this one is the emergent gameplay which should offer the opportunity to deal with situations as we see fit, be it through stealth, hacking, corporate espionage, or guns blazing.
As we reported back in mid 2013, Satellite Reign achieved its Kickstarter goals and then some stretch goals. Though the game missed its estimated 2014 release, they have recently launched on Steam’s Early Access with plans currently forecasting a full release in the first half of 2015.
\Update: Early Acccess Frst Impressions (Jan 22nd 2015).
Galactic Civilizations 3
Release Date: Q2 2015
Stardock’s Galactic Civilizations series is a staple for turn-based space 4X gaming, with Galactic Civilizations 2 being among the best the genre has to offer, providing a very rich and challenging experience. So, it was with great excitement that I received news that a third installment was in the making. Galactic Civilizations 3 was made available on Steam Early Access in March of 2014.
Can’t say I was impressed by what I saw by then, but that’s hardly unexpected for any early version of a game, I thought. But still, I was expecting more because what I was seeing reminded me of GalCiv2 a bit too much. Then, in an interview with did with the lead designer Paul Boyer he was very upfront and confirmed that while his wish is that “GC3 is going to be a bigger and richer experience” he also said that “we did not want to make a completely new game, we wanted to make the GalCiv2 of our dreams.”. So, there you have it. If you’re a veteran GalCiv player and you don’t share Paul’s ideal, this may leave you a bit underwhelmed. But, I know better not to judge a game too hastily, so we’ll have to wait and see.
Stars Beyond Reach
Release Date: April/May 2015
Stars Beyond Reach is developed by Arcen Games, a company renowned for thinking outside the box with games such as AI War and The Last Federation. It’s a sci-fi planet-based 4X game that will have SimCity like elements as the player will place buildings down on the map as they expand their faction, these buildings directly interacting with the environment around them. Unlike their previous game, The Last Federation, the player will have a more direct control of their faction. The game will still do things off of the beaten path, this includes a system where the player will not be micromanaging individuals units on the map.
Though there isn’t much detail about the game as many of the new systems are still being tested, the game is slated for an April or May release and it’s expected to receive significant post-release support like with previous Arcen games. Though space 4X, fantasy 4X, and historical 4X tend to have their niche filled, we do not see many Sci-Fi themed 4X games that are played on a scale similar to a fantasy or historical 4X game. This alone makes us eager about Arcen’s latest title.
StarCraft 2: Legacy of the Void
Release Date: Late 2015 / Early 2016 (unconfirmed)
You never know with Blizzard regarding release dates, and we’ve missed the mark last year, but judging from a comment made by the community manager, StarCraft 2’s standalone and concluding expansion (Legacy of the Void) should be entering beta in the first half of 2015 (beta signups have already started by the way). As presumably the last two betas lasted between 6-8 months, according to a Battle.net forum member, there’s a good chance that we’ll see this game release by the end of 2015 (or early 2016).
StarCraft2, as its predecessor, is not a game for everyone. Its focus is more on quick pace, rapid thinking and twitch gameplay optimized for competitive multiplayer. Nevertheless this is one of the best experiences sci-fi RTS games have to offer at this point. Solo players can still take a lot from this game as the campaigns are rich in both story-telling and production value. The balance is also superb, so there’s still a decent experience to be find here for the leisure-paced turtling kind of players (like me). StarCraft2: Legacy of the Void will now focus on the Protoss race; the previous two releases focused on the Humans and the Zerg, in that order.
Sovereignty: Crown of Kings
The Lordz Games Studio / Slitherine
Release Date: 2015
Sovereignty is a turn-based fantasy strategy game, but it may not be quite what you’re expecting. It’s described as Risk meets Master of Magic meets Panzer General, which is an interesting combination to be sure. It’s not a 4X game, nor is it just a war-game. Imagine taking a traditional war-game featuring area control, then mixing in some magic spells and fantasy units, then mixing in some resource trading and political intrigue, and finally some tactical abilities, and you’ve mostly got the idea.
Sovereignty’s unique approach to fantasy warfare compared to other recent releases has got me excited to uncover its mysteries when it releases later this year. My only hope is that it offers enough fantasy and strategic elements to give it broad appeal outside the traditional hex-based war-gamer who its visuals may initially attract.
Release Date: Early 2015
In December of 2012, Josh Parnell embarked on a quest to make an open world space simulation RPG where everything you see is procedurally-generated, all this in an infinite universe. Josh plans to offer large-scall space battles, rich mining features and even planetary interaction where you should be able to land on planets and do trade, take jobs and even construct buildings.
Sounds very ambitions, right? Especially for a single and young solo developer. Though Josh seems driven and although he has slipped his release date once, he states that he’s doing his best to release the beta “as soon as humanly possibly”. He says that he can’t advance a firm date for the release yet but reinforces the intention to hit it by early 2015. If this release will be in some form of early access or a full-blown release is yet to be seen. This is a title that caught our attention, and we’re eager to see what Josh has in stock for us. Here’s the latest video development update.
Brain and Nerd
Release Date: 2015 (Early Access)
Brain and Nerd indie studio is developing Predestination, a turn-based space 4X strategy game in the traditional sense that wants to build and improve on the gameplay found in classic games “like Master of Orion II, Civilization and the Galactic Civilizations series”.
Featured in both the previous 2013 and 2014 “can’t miss lists” this is a title that has come a long way but has yet to see the day light. It isn’t easy being an indie developer, especially when only one person (Brendan Drain) is doing the programming alone. In a recent update, Brendan explains that his plan to push the Early Access out to beta backers before the end of the year has failed due “to a few game breaking bugs”. Steam Early Access should happen in 2015 but if the full version will also release this year is still uncertain.
Release Date: 2015 – 2016
Judging by the frequent delays, it’s still unclear if IdeaLcenter will meet their new target for releasing M.O.R.E. already this year. However, contrary to previous years, there’s a good chance (or at least a hope) that they’ll be able to release some form of early access version in 2015.
Like Predestination, M.O.R.E. also went the Kickstarter route, and while both seem to be treading the same path of seeking to develop a turn-based space 4X game that is worthy of classics like Master of Orion and Galactic Civilizations, M.O.R.E. seems to be even more ambitious than Predestination, at least in terms of complexity and scale (they didn’t choose this name for nothing that’s for sure). So, the question is if ideaLcenter will manage to deliver an experience that is both rich and deep, as it seems to be their goal, but also polished and engaging. In any case this is a title that all space 4X fans should keep in mind for the near future.
Release Date: May 2015
Legendary designer Julian Gollop, the co-creator of UFO: Enemy Unknown (aka X-COM: UFO Defense), has returned to the development scene, this time to remake one of his classic games from the 80’s, Chaos: The Battle of Wizards. In Chaos Reborn you’re a wizard fighting other wizards for supremacy, casting many different spells in a hex-based arena in a turn-based fashion.
Chaos Reborn was made available on Steam Early Access in December of 2014 and I’ve been playing this fantasy turn-based strategy game since then. Recently, I produced some first impressions of this early version. Overall, I’m very pleased with this title and I highly recommend it. Meanwhile, Julian is still adding content to his game and the plan is to release it officially somewhere around May of 2015. This is a game I’m already having a lot of fun playing and I can’t wait to play the full version soon.
The Mims Beginning
Release Date: Jan 14th 2015 (Early Access)
The Mims Beginning reminds me of the good old days of playing Populous, Dungeon Keeper and Black & White. It’s a god game where you control little creatures called the Mims while they go on on their busy lives expanding your colony in a floating island in some point in the universe, with the objective of managing livestock and sell it at the intergalactic market! :)
Other features include technology research, building upgrades, protecting the colony from wildlife predators and planting different types of fruit crops. This is a very interesting and intriguing sci-fi/fantasy game, and it looks gorgeous too. And while I haven’t played it yet, I sense that we may be up for a treat. The Steam Early Access version is scheduled for January 14th 2015 and we plan to give you some coverage on it as soon as possible.
Offworld Trading Company
Release Date: 2015 (Early Access – unconfirmed)
Soren Johnson, the lead designer and programmer of Civilization 4, has ventured in the world of indie game development by founding Mohawk Games to develop “innovative strategy games”. Soren’s first game as an indie dev is Offworld Trading Company, a sci-fi economic RTS set in Mars where different corporations fight for economic power on the red planet. But, the fighting isn’t done with weapons but with money.
Money is made by selling mined and processed resources on the open market, and it is spent by buying other resources you’ll need to keep your colony running. In a black market you’ll be able to recruit pirates to disrupt your opponents supply routes or to conduct sabotage on their facilities. The objective of the game is to buy out all your opponents and take control of the entire planet’s economic power. A game prototype is already available to those who buy the founder’s elite version. The game is expected to release on Steam Early Access somewhere this year with a final release date set for “When it’s done!”.
Zero Sum Games
Release Date: 2015
StarDrive 2’s unique blend of TBS empire management, RTS space combat, and TBS ground combat are what help separate it from the pack when it comes to space 4X strategy games. StarDrive 2 is far from a playing it safe type of sequel. Aside from the aforementioned switch from RTS all the time to TBS for many aspects, new and enhanced features like heroes and slavery should provide a completely different experience this time around.
Unlike StarDrive, professional QA has been on-board since the beginning. It is also using a solid and well understood Unity engine, so the performance issues that plagued some StarDrive players should hopefully be a thing of the past. Its development is now “feature complete” with only polishing and bug fixing remaining prior to release.
Space Pirates and Zombies 2
Release Date: 2015 (Early Access)
It’s hard to describe what exactly Space Pirates and Zombies 2 is so here’s my best shot: it is an action-RPG with strategy elements with a focus on space combat. The game is about exploration, territorial control, ship construction, space combat and salvaging. Here’s the reveal trailer so that you can see what the game currently has to offer.
SPAZ2 is set to release on Steam Early Access on 2015, so there’s a chance that the full release will also happen this year, or the one after. If you enjoyed the original than you should keep an eye on this one.
Age of Wonders 3 (second expansion)
Release Date: Q1 2015
The first expansion for Age of Wonders 3, Golden Realms, took what in my opinion was a decent game and turned it into a great one. This next expansion looks like it is going to add even more content than that one did, so I am very anxious to see just how high my opinion of this title can climb. A new race, the Frostlings, is included and contains a slew of new and interesting unit designs. Unlike Golden Realms, this expansion will also introduce a new class, the Necromancer, and just like other classes it will come complete with new class specific spells and units. Of course Triumph Studios didn’t stop there, so also included are new cosmic events that can dramatically impact the plans of you and your rivals. Cosmic events can even spawn threats like an ancient Lich King who will attempt to destroy any who cross his path.
The thing that really elevated my opinion of Age of Wonders 3 with the first expansion wasn’t really the new race or units. Golden Realms introduced some completely new game systems that dramatically improved the general gameplay. Thankfully, this upcoming expansion looks set to continue this approach with cosmic events that will shake the game up at its core once again. In addition, a free patch will release that adds even more features to the base game, including further increases to racial variety and an interesting new race upgrade system that will provide special benefits to players who specialize their cities towards specific races.
Worlds of Magic
Lucid Dreamers / Wastelands Interactive
Release Date: Q1 2015
Worlds of Magic burst onto the Kickstarter scene in early 2013 with a promise to become a true spiritual successor to the Microprose classic fantasy 4X game, Master of Magic. It was and is a bold claim, but many fans jumped at the chance to help this dream come to life. A few months ago, early access on Steam was opened to all, and I provided some first impressions of the game as it was at that time. Worlds of Magic showed promise and looked like it may just achieve its lofty goal after all. It did however feel like it was an early access game in need of a lot of polish.
Originally on our 2014 release list, the game experienced a few delays that have placed its current release date in February 2015. Worlds of Magic has enough ambition to succeed in the hotly contested turn-based fantasy strategy genre, but it has a hard road ahead as the bar has been raised significantly in the past year.
Release Date: Q1 2015
Void Destroyer has been Paul Zakrzewski’s labor of love for the past 5 years. Paul’s goal was to combine space combat simulation with real-time strategy, in the same game. He made it on Kickstarter and with that was able to secure some extra funds for art assets. The game got on Steam Early Access in Jan 15th 2014. And now, one year after, it is almost ready for its official release.
In a nutshell, Void Destroyer is a 3D space combat sim and real-time strategy hybrid where you can fly any ship, research new technologies, do asteroid mining and do combat in six degree of freedom with Newtonian physics. Joystick and mouse piloting are supported. It’s a single-player game with a campaign as its primary mode but you can also create your own maps through a battle editor for extended game longevity. So, there seems to be a whole space combat sim experience here. And, on top you have a strategy layer, which upon completion could rival with other space RTS games currently on the market, and even perhaps Homeword, who knows.
\Update: Void Destroyer officially released (Jan 20th 2015).
Release Date: 2015
If you haven’t followed our prior coverage, you may not have heard of Rimworld. Rimworld is one of the few games I play that is not currently available on Steam. Rimworld is a sci-fi colony simulation game that is driven by your choice of AI storytellers. Every game is completely customizable and offers a truly unique and satisfying experience. While updates have been frequent and feature rich, it’s also worth noting that a thriving modding community has already been built around this game.
I honestly can’t say whether or not Rimworld will actually “release” in 2015, but even in alpha it feels like a complete game. I am ashamed of myself for not covering the incredible amount of changes it experienced in 2014, and I’ll be correcting that mistake in 2015. Suffice it to say, if you’re a fan of simulation games and of base building and survival on an unknown world, Rimworld is certainly worthy of your consideration.
Release Date: Q1 2015
Sorcerer King was a surprise to me when first announced by Stardock Entertainment. With an excellent fantasy 4X title already in their grasp, Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes, I never expected another fantasy strategy title to come from their studio so soon. It was only once I’d played it that I realized it was something quite different after all. An asymmetric 1v1, placing the player’s empire against the foul Sorcerer King. It’s a game quite unlike any other recent release.
How successful this game will be is difficult to judge based on my early access experience, as there just didn’t seem to be enough content present at that time. My hope is that the change in scope allows them to really create a solid single player AI capable of challenging the player, but that wasn’t what I experienced in the early access. I will say that having experienced past Stardock betas, I know better than to be too concerned until the final release.
Deep Space Settlement
Escape Velocity Studios
Release Date: 2015/2016 (unconfirmed)
Deep Space Settlement is a space 4X RTS from Escape Velocity Studios, a small indie firm. The player will design their own ships and space stations as they extract resources from nearby space. The player will also command their fleets in real time while building up their empire as one would in a 4X title. The game will feature diplomacy, trade, and empire management along with a ship designer, real-time tactical combat, and an experience system for unlocking new ship abilities. The game will also have a storyline for release.
It is uncertain if Deep Space Settlement will be released by the end of 2015, as the developer is willing to take extra time to make sure the game is fun and works properly at each stage of development. The First Playable version of the game for those that supported its development via pre-orders will be released in the coming months. It is not hard to be reminded of Homeworld with this game, making it a definite curiosity for many.
Gratuitous Space Battles 2
Release Date: Q1 2015
Gratuitous Space Battles, originally released in 2009, was one of the first games SpaceSector reviewed way back in 2010. After nearly 5 years, developer Cliff Harris is almost ready to unleash its sequel on the world. Features include an all new engine, new special effects, new ship designs and visual customization options, multi-monitor support, and more. If you’re a fan of designing not only ships, but entire fleets of complimentary ships, and if you can accept being hands-off as you watch your designs engage the enemy, this should definitely be on your watch list.
Whereas we’ve seen a lot of space 4X games release in the past few years, with still many promising ones coming this year, none of these quite fit the same mold as Gratuitous Space Battles 2. While it did miss its original late 2014 release date, things are looking good for a Q1 release.
Star Ruler 2
Blind Mind Studios
Release Date: 2015 (no estimates given)
Star Ruler 2 is sequel in name only as Blind Mind Studios decided to re-explore the way to make a real-time 4X strategy game. The game uses an internal resource trade network system to simulate the growth of your empire and individual planets. The game takes the focus away from micromanaging your planets and more on managing your empire as a whole as you interconnect your worlds to increase the output of your faction. Using a card based Diplomacy system to perform actions such as peaceful annexations of systems and other global measures making Diplomacy something the player can’t ignore. The game also has a robust ship customizer where the player choses the placement of vital systems.
Star Ruler 2 was slated for a late 2014 release. However, the release has been postponed to give the developers more time to fully develop the game before it is officially released. The game is available on Steam Early Access now, and you can find my impressions at the time it entered Early Access here. A perfect hybrid of 4X and real-time, along with a unique diplomacy system and empire management system makes this game garner our attention easily.Subscribe RSS
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