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 game types in this list, namely simulation, RPG and even a bit of action. There’s 4X games of all shapes and sizes this year, with much to offer in both real-time and turn-based fashion. There’s also a couple more classic-style RTS games to look for and a few sequels. 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 that we here at SpaceSector think are the most interesting games which we believe you should have a look at in 2016. Enjoy!
Paradox Development Studio / Paradox Interactive
Release Date: 2016
Stellaris is Paradox’s venture into the space Grand Strategy genre, breaking away from their historical focus. The game will be 4X, especially in the early game, but the developers assure that by the mid to late game it will be more similar to their Grand Strategy style of games. Stellaris will let the player choose their FTL-type, do a complete customisation of species, AI factions will be randomised and population composition will be an important element of your empire. There will be internal politics and factions, events galore (including a late game crisis or menace), diplomacy and the possibility of forming a Federation; and a war system similar to other Paradox games. Though combat is hands-off, the player will get to customise their ships.
Stellaris is already shaping up to be shaking the established formula for the space 4X genre by bringing in elements from Crusader Kings II, Europa Universalis IV, and Victoria II into space, which onto itself is shaking up the Grand Strategy genre as it leaves the familiar setting of history. This alone makes this a highly anticipated and eagerly awaited title by anyone who is starting to grow tired of the established formula. A weekly (Monday) Dev Diary is available in the game’s official forums.
Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars
NGD Studios / Wargaming.net
Release Date: 2016
Being developed by NGD Studios, with the collaboration and publishing of Wargaming.net, Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars tries to bring players back to the granddaddy of turn-based space 4X games. Though many details remain hidden as of this date; the game will feature espionage, tactical combat(*), diplomacy, and a high production value not seen in the genre outside of Firaxis’ games.
The game does seem to take several lessons from Civilization V and will have star-lanes between star systems (established routes you must travel through between systems). Though personally, star-lanes don’t bother me, it is a significant game element for many players. Hopefully, the other aspects of the game will make up for it. Either case, it’s a safe bet that many will be looking for this title with expectations set high by the name alone.
*\Update (February 4, 2016): A recent comment in the Steam forums by an official representative of the game said the combat will be real-time. This comes as a surprise because the screenshots shown earlier from several tech descriptions suited a turn-based model. The representative assures the combat will not require pro-RTS skills or high APM.
Firaxis Games / 2K Games
Release Date: Feb 5, 2016
XCOM 2 is the sequel to XCOM: Enemy Unknown (2012), Firaxis’ remake of the classic X-COM: UFO Defense (aka UFO: Enemy Unknown) sci-fi strategy game from the 90’s. This time around, the XCOM organization acts as an underground force fighting a resistance war against the aliens, who have taken over Earth in an alternate course of events. Among other features, we are expected to see procedurally-generated maps this time, a “deeper level” of modding support, five soldier classes, more soldier customization options, “more alien and enemy types”, melee weapons, enemies’ weaponry hacking, stealth as a main game element, corpses’ loot and secondary objectives.
Despite the bugs, the lack of map variety and the heavily scripted feeling (if you compare it with the original X-COM title from the 90’s), we loved XCOM: Enemy Unknown at SpaceSector. With more map variety, a more fleshed out strategic layer (we hope), while maintaining the aesthetics flair, XCOM 2 (currently available for pre-purchase for $59.99/49.99€/£34.99) is certainly one to have high hopes for. But, we’ll see.
Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak
Blackbird Interactive / Gearbox Software
Release Date: Jan 20, 2016
The next title in the Homeworld series (last being Homeworld 2 in 2003) will be released in January 20th of this year for the Windows PC. Originally called Hardware: Shipbreakers, in a time where Blackbird Interactive was developing the game privately, it is now called Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak, after Gearbox has purchased the Homeworld IP in 2013. It’s a sci-fi real-time strategy game, like the original Homeworld games were, but now everything takes place in the ground, more specifically in a desert world and not in space as before.
Judging from the Steam’s store page description, there will be a campaign, presumably single-player, involving an expedition to investigate an anomaly on the deep desert. There’s “fleets of land and air vehicles”, “resource management” and “technology research”. Regarding other modes of play, “online solo or with friends” is mentioned, including “ranked play” in a “variety of game modes”. Now, how big the solo campaign is and what exactly these “variety of game modes” are, we don’t know yet. Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak is currently available for pre-purchase on Steam for $49.99/45.99€/£29.99 and we’ll keep an eye on it and let you know more about it when/if it’s pertinent.
Total War: Warhammer
Creative Assembly / Sega
Release Date: April 28, 2016
Total War: Warhammer by Creative Assembly, and published by Sega, is the latest entry to the Total War franchise set in the Warhammer fantasy setting. The Total War franchise combines a turn-based strategy layer with an instanced real-time tactical combat system between armies. The game will feature a campaign for humans, dwarves, and orcs, along with a few others, and it will be more story-driven than its historical Total War predecessors. Generals and agents will have even more of an RPG progression in their skill trees than previous Total War games, with an additional focus on acquiring magical items as well.
With a release date for April 28 (currently available for pre-purchase), the only concern is Total War’s past experience of releasing buggy titles, with Total War: Rome 2 requiring one year of patches and a free expansion to bring it up to standard. Hopefully, this title will have the smoother release of Total War: Attila. Despite the shaky past of the developer, one can hope Total War: Warhammer will be given the just attention it deserves. This is definitely a title that Warhammer fans and Total War fans should keep a close eye on.
Battlefleet Gothic: Armada
Tindalos Interactive / Focus Home Interactive
Release Date: 2016
Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is a real-time space combat RTS developed by Tindalos Interactive set in the Warhammer 40K universe. The game will feature several factions (Imperium, Chaos, Orks, and Eldar) to play in skirmish (both single-player and multiplayer) and will also feature a single player campaign where you play as the Imperium of Man. The game focuses on managing your fleet of ships in combat engagements against the enemy, while vessels will have a slew of abilities and customisation options.
Tindalos is still unproven as a developer. Their last game, Etherium, fell short on meeting expectations, but it wasn’t a bad game. Hopefully, they will fare a better chance with this title. There seems to be no indication to write this title off, as such it’s worth following in case it turns out to be good. Something for 40K fans to keep an eye on for 2016.
Deep Space Settlement
Escape Velocity Studios
Release Date: Late 2016 (estimated/unconfirmed)
Deep Space Settlement is a space 4X RTS from Escape Velocity Studios, currently in pre-alpha/alpha stage and available for pre-purchase. The game will feature many of the elements expected from a space 4X game such as diplomacy, trade, and empire building by expanding and building up your infrastructure. It will play in real time with the player being able to customise their own ships and gain experience to unlock abilities to use during space battles in real-time tactical combat.
Though the game has been delayed, progress has been made and early backers of the project have now access to a playable early alpha build. This makes Deep Space Settlement a probable candidate for a 2016 release. The developer has taken diligent time in making sure the game is not rushed. Since there is always a need for a space RTS, one that is also a 4X at the same time, makes this a title worth watching out for.
Stars Beyond Reach
Release Date: Early 2016
Stars Beyond Reach is the latest game being developed by Arcen Games. It’s a sci-fi planet-based 4X game that tries to stay away from emulating the classical Civilization model by incorporating some of the elements found in city-builders and exploring original concepts, which the company is renowned for. One such concept is to do away with the micromanaging of individual units on the map and exploring ways to keep the late game tense as victory is never assured till the very end. Despite this, the game will still maintain a more traditional 4X play-style.
Stars Beyond Reach was slated for a 2015 release but it was delayed numerous times to ensure the project turned out right. Eventually the game was pushed to a 2016 release. An understandable delay as the sci-fi planet-based 4X is a less serviced sub-genre and the game needs to make a good first impression. Definitely a title to keep an eye on for any fan of the sci-fi 4X genre that is looking for a planet-based variant. Here’s an interview we did with the lead developer, if you want more details on what to expect.
Ashes of the Singularity
Stardock Entertainment / Oxide Games
Release Date: 2016
Ashes of the Singularity is a massive scale RTS by Stardock Entertainment and Oxide Games currently in Steam’s Early Access. The game focuses on waging a war and not a battle, and using the newly minted 64-bit only Oxide engine. The game focuses on mass production of large swarms of units and fighting on a large map for control and ultimately victory. Despite the massive scale, the game incorporates a map control and point capture system that is similar to the more tactical driven RTS tittles. The game will feature an Ascendency War mode, which seems to be similar to a persistent campaign conquest mode.
Though there are no exact details on just what this Ascendency War mode will be like, it is already evident that Ashes of the Singularity is trying to capture at least some of the elements of titles like Total Annihilation (which the developers have listed as one of their sources of inspiration). With most RTS titles following in the Warcraft/StarCraft and C&C footsteps, or taking the more tactical path such as Company of Heroes, it is nice to see another RTS that is going back towards the massive scale approach. Here’s some impressions we wrote back in November of last year.
Brain and Nerd Ltd
Release Date: First Half of 2016
Predestination is a turn-based space 4X strategy game with turn-based tactical combat from the folks at Brain and Nerd Ltd currently in Steam’s Early Access. The game has a heavy focus on planetary management (with the early game being set on a single planet as you build back up) and will feature a fully customisable ship designer where the player can also design the look of their ships. The game will also have a 3D star field, with the option for a 2D star field for those who prefer it flat.
The game has appeared quite often on our “list of games not to miss”, but finally a release can be expected. The game has come a long way and many of the features are now in. After the last bits are added and a beta shakedown phase proceeds, the game will finally see a release for this year, or so we hope. Predestination seems to be billed for those who love the exploration phase and building up their planets portion of a 4X title, which this game delivers in spades.
Space Pirates and Zombies 2
Release Date: 2016
MinMax Games original Space Pirates and Zombies, also affectionately known as SPAZ, has had a very positive reception since its release in 2011. Its sequel looks to advance the strategic depth of the series and is one we’ve been anticipating since its announcement a couple of years ago. It promises new advanced threats to deal with, a better attempt at storytelling, a more dynamic galaxy, additional parts for ship design, and an all new 3D fully destructible environment.
There is still no set release date. The December progress update notes say that they are now in the tuning and fixing stage rather than the implementation phase, so it looks like there is a glimmer of light shining in to the end of this tunnel.
Release Date: 2016
While this may mark the third annual appearance of Rimworld on our list, we are confident this will finally be the year of this space colony sim’s official release. One could argue the game in its current state is “done”, and in fact lead developer Tynan Sylvester stated as far back as July that he felt he had accomplished what he set out to. In the past year, the game has added animal husbandry, ancient artifacts, traps, a joy/entertainment system, and brewing, just to name a few things.
While talk of a Steam release was in the air last summer, Tynan ultimately decided to postpone this until he returned from a six month extended vacation. This has been a source of some controversy, and some speculated the game may never actually “release”, but as recently as November, Tynan checked-in and stated that things were still on track and progress on the game was even being made during his absence. When he does return, sometime in “early 2016”, a new update with additional features is expected. A launch on Steam will likely follow shortly thereafter.
SoftWarWare / Slitherine
Release Date: 2016
Polaris Sector is an upcoming real-time space 4X strategy game with a pause option from Slitherine and developer SoftWarWare. While there are many space 4X games on the market, and in development, Polaris Sector is one of the few RTS with pause options. Time will tell if it can deliver on promised features like an “Innovative research system” and “Unique espionage system”, but it is certainly encouraging to see space 4X spreading out into new directions. As in our real life, space games, like space itself, are ripe for exploration. Let’s hope we like what we find once Polaris Sector reaches full release.
It is currently in closed beta. In fact, if you’re interested, it looks like the beta sign-up page is still accessible if you want to apply to take part.
That Which Sleeps
King Dinosaur Games
Release Date: 2016
For some of us, putting Cthulu into our complex grand strategy games is like putting peanut butter into our chocolate. That Which Sleeps is the exact type of unique and risky design that only crowdfunding can make possible. It’s no doubt a daunting task to make such an intertwined world of complex factions and systems. While it does suffer from some of the radio silence (lack of updates) that often accompany a new studio, we believe the game is still moving forward behind the scenes at this point.
Word is that the game is very near beta state, although several features that are still being fixed may need to be temporarily disabled to make this possible. Whether or not it will fully release in 2016 is anyone’s guess at this point, but we do anticipate that we will see something playable at the very least. Here’s a brief preview we did back in November for a few more tidbits of information.
StarDrive 2: Sector Zero (Expansion/DLC)
Zero Sum Games
Release Date: 2016
While StarDrive 2 was overall a “good” game for SpaceSector, we hoped it would eventually improve with additional work. It certainly has received some improvements since release, including a change to the latest version of Unity, the addition of planetary governors, and numerous AI adjustments. Thankfully, Zero Sum Games is also looking to take care of a few of the larger issues, including items such as a lack of victory conditions and ground combat issues, with their upcoming Sector Zero DLC. We can also expect to see a hex/sector based galaxy management system, new technologies, new events, new quests, and new battlefields. Overall, it is shaping up to be a rather large DLC enhancement.
Originally scheduled for release “later this year” in 2015, Sector Zero has been pushed back to sometime in 2016. It was not originally going to include a ground combat revamp, but the latest Steam discussions indicate that the developer is actively engaged with the community regarding implementing a new system with the DLC. If you aren’t a fan of StarDrive 2’s ground combat and long for a more abstracted and traditional 4X system, it’d be worth checking out what’s going on in the discussion.
Sovereignty: Crown of Kings
The Lordz Games Studio / Slitherine
Release Date: 2016
Sovereignty is a game we expected to see a full release of back in 2015, but to our surprise Slitherine opted to instead have only an Early Access launch back in April. It’s a unique title incorporating strategy, fantasy, and war-game mechanisms, so the fact that they chose to do an early access release is encouraging as it should help them strike the right balance in the long run. One of the biggest events in the past year has been a complete rewrite of the engine to utilize OpenGL in order to “streamline” and “improve performance”. This is set to be revealed for the first time, alongside some new features, in the 2.0 version of the game, that should be releasing in the near future.
The early access page indicates they plan to spend at least a year in early access, so it looks we can say that a full release is unlikely before at least Q2 2016.
Stars in Shadow
Release Date: First half of 2016
Stars in Shadow is a turn-based space 4X strategy game that takes a lot of inspiration from Master of Orion. The game will feature diplomacy, ship customisation, tactical turn-based combat, and the classical free-form space movement. The game aims to reduce the micromanagement of managing several planets – that tends to become tedious in the late game for many other 4X titles. The game features a colour rich and comic book art style that is refreshing to see when compared to the monochromatic sleek look that other strategy games have taken recently.
The progress on the game has been slower than expected, but a 2016 release seems be on the horizon as the game was just recently Greenlit on the Steam platform (pre-orders are currently available granting closed-beta access). Though Stars in Shadow doesn’t seem to break any new grounds, it does experiment with planetary economy mechanics, a richly immersive setting, and offers players who have been longing for MOO 2’s style of space combat an option to look forward to.
Release Date: 2016
The Mandate is a sandbox military sci-fi RPG. If you’ve ever wanted to be the captain of a starship, develop your own fleet, and then do with it what you will, this may end up being just the game for you. While release date projections for The Mandate have been made several times at this point, thus far none of them have come to fruition. The Mandate has however had 55 Kickstarter updates since its campaign launched back in 2013, and all signs indicate that the game is still being actively developed.
Endless Space 2
Release Date: 2016
Amplitude Studios are following up on their hit fantasy 4X strategy game, Endless Legend, with a follow-up to their 2012 release, Endless Space. It appears they are taking the lessons they learned as well as some of the criticisms of the original game into consideration according to the public development diaries available on their forum. Key features like a deeper, yet still cinematic, combat system, new political systems and influence takeovers, and a redesigned tech system are just a few things which have us excited yet again for an Amplitude Studios’ game.
With a few years of 4X development and 3 games now in their portfolio, Endless Space 2 seemingly has everything going for it. While we certainly can’t judge a book by its cover, it certainly has a beautiful one with some of the best artwork in not just 4X, but all of PC gaming.Subscribe RSS
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