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Thread: The best strategy games on PC (UPDATED)

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    The best strategy games on PC (UPDATED)


    Here is our list of the best strategy games on PC. Whether you favour real-time bouts or brainy turn-based simulations, great strategy games throw you into uniquely massive scenarios that let you rule empires, control spacefaring races, and marshal cavalry charges against armies of hundreds. We love them. But we love some of them a little more than the others. Will you agree with our picks? Are there any you'd add or like to recommend to fellow readers? Have your say in the comments.

    As with our list of the best FPS games, we've focused on games that offer a strong variety of takes on the genre, and which still play brilliantly today. This list will be updated when new games make the grade.

    Northguard


    Tom Senior: Viking-themed RTS Northguard pays dues to Settlers and Age of Empires, but challenged us with its smart expansion systems that force you to plan your growth into new territories carefully. Weather is important too. You need to prepare for winter carefully, but if you tech up using 'lore' you might have better warm weather gear than your enemies, giving you a strategic advantage. Skip through the dull story, enjoy the well-designed campaign missions and then start the real fight in skirmish.

    Into the Breach


    Tom Senior: A beautifully designed, near-perfect slice of tactical mech action from the creators of FTL. Into the Breach challenges you to fend off waves of Vek monsters on eight-by-eight grids populated by tower blocks and a variety of sub objectives. Obviously you want to wipe out the Vek using mech-punches and artillery strikes, but much of the game is about using the impact of your blows to push enemies around the map and divert their attacks away from your precious buildings.

    Civilian buildings provide power, which serves as a health bar for your campaign. Every time a civilian building takes a hit, you're a step closer to losing the war. Once your power is depleted your team travels back through time to try and save the world again. It's challenging, bite-sized, and dynamic. As you unlock new types of mechs and mech upgrades you gain inventive new ways to toy with your enemies.

    Total War: Warhammer 2


    Samuel Roberts: The first Total War: Warhammer showed that Games Workshop's fantasy universe was a perfect match for Creative Assembly's massive battles and impressively detailed units. The second game makes a whole host of improvements, in interface, tweaks to heroes, rogue armies that mix factions together and more. The game's four factions, Skaven, High Elves, Dark Elves and Lizardmen are all meaningfully different from one another, delving deeper into the odd corners of old Warhammer fantasy lore. If you're looking for a starting point with CA's Warhammer games, this is now the game to get—and if you already own the excellent original, too, the mortal empires campaign will unite both games into one giant map.

    XCOM 2/War of the Chosen


    Tom Senior: The game cleverly uses scarcity of opportunity to force you into difficult dilemmas. At any one time you might have only six possible scan sites, while combat encounters are largely meted out by the game, but what you choose to do with this narrow range of options matters enormously. You need to recruit new rookies; you need an engineer to build a comms facility that will let you contact more territories; you need alien alloys to upgrade your weapons. You can’t have all of these. You can probably only have one. In 1989 Sid Meier described games as "a series of interesting decisions." XCOM 2 is the purest expression of that ethos that Firaxis has yet produced.

    The War of the Chosen expansion brings even more welcome if frantic changes, like the endlessly chatty titular enemies, memorable nemeses who pop up at different intervals during the campaign with random strengths and weaknesses. There are also new Advent troopers to contend with, tons more cosmetic options, zombie-like enemies who populate lost human cities, the ability to create propaganda posters and lots more. War of the Chosen does make each campaign a little bloated, but the changes are so meaningful and extensive that XCOM 2 players need to check it out regardless.

    (continue on page #2)

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    The best strategy games on PC (UPDATED) Page #2

    Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak


    Rob Zacny: Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak sounded almost sacrilegious at first. Over a decade since the last Homeworld game, it was going to take a game remembered for its spaceships and 3D movement and turn it into a ground-based RTS with tanks? And it was a prequel? Yet in spite of all the ways this could have gone horribly wrong, Deserts of Kharak succeeds on almost every count. It's not only a terrific RTS that sets itself apart from the rest of the genre's recent games, but it's also an excellent Homeworld game that reinvents the series while also recapturing its magic.

    Civilization 6


    Samuel Roberts: The Civ game of choice right now for us, and it's packed with enough features that it feels like it's already been through a few expansions. Its Districts system lets you build sprawling cities, and challenge you to think several turns ahead more than ever. The game is gorgeously presented—while the more cartoon-y style takes some time to get used to, it's lovely to look at in its own right.

    We're really curious to see how the inevitable expansions will build on what's already here, but taken as it is, this is the best Civ to play right now.

    Stellaris


    Samuel Roberts: "I hope upcoming patches and expansions can fill in the gaps," is what Phil's Stellaris review said at launch. There's still room to improve for Paradox's sci-fi game, but the updates have been coming fast. The Utopia expansion made major changes to the game's internal politics system, and various other changes could plausibly see you put another hundred hours into the game. Plus, it lets you build Dyson spheres around a sun, letting you drain all the energy from it and leave any nearby planets freezing, which is amazing in a cruel way.

    Endless Legend


    Chris Thursten: A sleeper hit of recent years, Endless Legend is a 4X fantasy follow-up to Amplitude’s Endless Space—a pretty good game, but apparently not the full measure of the studio’s potential. Shadowed at the time of its release by the higher-profile launch of Civilization: Beyond Earth, Legend is easily the best game in the genre since Civ 4. It’s deep and diverse, with fascinating asymmetrical factions, sub-races, hero units, quests to discover, and more. It looks gorgeous, too.

    Neptune's Pride


    Tom Senior: As much a social experiment as a strategy game, Neptune’s Pride pits friends against one another in a battle for control of a star system. The rules are simple: upgrade your stars and get them to build ships, then deploy them to poach more stars. The war unfolds slowly in realtime over the course of a week or so, and may slightly ruin your life during that period. The simple but elegant ruleset leaves lots of room to make and break alliances, and before you know it your friend’s getting up at 3am to launch sneak attacks while you sleep. A simple game that orchestrates amazing drama.


    (continue on Page #3)

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    The best strategy games on PC (UPDATED) Page #3

    C&C: Red Alert 2


    Samuel Roberts: I still love the first two Red Alerts, and most of Westwood's C&C entries are fantastic—but this one has the best campaigns, most interesting units, great maps and of course, superb FMV sequences. The different factions are so distinct, and have more personality than they did in the original game—hence Soviet squids and Allied dolphins. They found the right tonal balance between self-awareness and sincerity in the cutscenes, as well—they're played for laughs, but still entertain and engage.

    Nothing's as OTT as this beautiful disaster from EA's Red Alert 3, basically.

    Galactic Civilizations 2


    Andy Kelly: If you’ve ever wanted to conquer space with an army of customisable doom-ships, this is the strategy game for you. It has smart, creative AI, and a full-size game can take weeks to complete. You have to balance economic, technological, diplomatic, cultural and military power to forge alliances, fight wars and dominate the galaxy. Reminiscent of the Civilization games, but on a much grander scale, and with a lot more depth in places.

    Homeworld


    Chris Thursten: Mechanically, Homeworld is a phenomenal three-dimensional strategy game, among the first to successfully detach the RTS from a single plane. It’s more than that, though: it’s a major victory for atmosphere and sound design, whether that’s Adagio for Strings playing over the haunting opening missions or the beat of drums as ships engage in a multiplayer battle. If you liked the Battlestar Galactica reboot, you should play this.

    Supreme Commander


    Tom Senior: Only Total War can compete with the scale of Supreme Commander's real-time battles. It’s still exhilarating to flick the mousewheel and fly from an individual engineer to a map of the entire battlefield, then flick it again to dive down to give orders to another unit kilometres away. When armies do clash—in sprawling hundred-strong columns of robots—you’re rewarded with the most glorious firefights a CPU can render. It’s one of the few real-time strategy games to combine air, ground and naval combat into single encounters, but SupCom goes even further, with artillery, long-range nuclear ordnance and megalithic experimental bots.

    StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty


    Chris Thursten: In addition to being the preeminent competitive strategy game of the last decade, StarCraft II deserves credit for rethinking how a traditional RTS campaign is structured. Heart of the Swarm is a good example of this, but the human-centric Wings of Liberty instalment is the place to start: an inventive adventure that mixes up the familiar formula at every stage. From zombie defence scenarios to planets that flood with lava every few minutes, you’re forced to learn and relearn StarCraft’s basic elements as you go.


    (continue on Page #4)

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    The best strategy games on PC (UPDATED) Page #4

    Tooth and Tail


    Samuel Roberts: A somewhat leftfield choice for this list, Tooth and Tail charmed us with its simpler take on the RTS, which has clearly been built around using a controller—but it still has most of the things that make a great strategy game. It's more Pikmin than Halo Wars, with units rallying around your character and following simple orders, with unit creation automated according to your population limit and available resources. Battles only last for ten minutes, and with a background of political conflict between anthropomorphised animal factions, each trying to survive, it's thematically rich, too.

    Warcraft 3


    Chris Thursten: Most notable today for being the point of origin for the entire MOBA genre, Warcraft III is also an inventive, ambitious strategy game in its own right, which took the genre beyond anonymous little sprites and into the realm of cinematic fantasy. The pioneering inclusion of RPG elements in the form of heroes and neutral monsters adds a degree of unitspecific depth not present in its sci-fi stablemate, and the sprawling campaign delivers a fantasy story that—if not quite novel—is thorough and exciting in its execution. It also has the best ‘repeated unit click’ jokes in the business.

    Rome: Total War


    Chris Thursten: Total War’s transition to full 3D marks a point before the gradual escalation in complexity that would lead to Empire’s initial instability and the longstanding AI problems that have dogged the latter games in the series. The original Rome presents a simple, compelling image of ancient warfare and delivers on it phenomenally. It’s a great introduction to one of the most interesting eras in military history, and holds up to this day.

    Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II


    Tom Senior: It was tempting to put the excellent first Dawn of War on the list, but the box-select, right-click to kill formula is well represented. Instead let’s appreciate the experimental sequel, which replaced huge units with a handful of rock-hard space bastards, each with a cluster of killer abilities. In combat you micromanage these empowered special forces, timing the flying attack of your Assault Marines and the sniping power of your Scouts with efficient heavy machine gun cover to undo the Ork hordes. The co-operative Last Stand mode is also immense.

    Sins of a Solar Empire


    Chris Thursten: Sins captures some of the scope of a 4X strategy game but makes it work within an RTS framework. This is a game about star-spanning empires that rise, stabilise and fall in the space of an afternoon: and, particularly, about the moment when the vast capital ships of those empires emerge from hyperspace above half-burning worlds. Diplomacy is an option too, of course, but also: giant spaceships. Play the Rebellion expansion to enlarge said spaceships to ridiculous proportions.


    (continue on Page #5)

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    The best strategy games on PC (UPDATED) Page #5

    Crusader Kings II


    Phil Savage: Crusader Kings II is a political strategy game. It’s as much about who your imbecilic niece is marrying as it is about leading armies into battle. Every landed character is simulated, and each one has goals and desires. It’s complex—you can blame the feudal system for that—but offers clear and immediate drama on a personal level. Its simulation corners you into desperate situations and encourages you to do terrible things to retain power. One time I executed a newborn baby so that his older and smarter sister could reign instead. Feudal times were messed up.

    DEFCON


    Tom Senior: DEFCON’s sinister blue world map is the perfect stage for this Cold War horror story about the outbreak of nuclear war. First, you manage stockpiles, and position missile sites, nuclear submarines and countermeasures in preparation for armageddon. This organisation phase is an interesting strategic challenge in itself, but DEFCON is at its most effective when the missiles fly. Blooming blast sites are matched with casualty numbers as city after city experiences obliteration. Once the dust has settled, victory is a mere technicality. It’s nightmarish, and quite brilliant in multiplayer.

    Company of Heroes


    Tom Senior: Some games would try to step away from the emotional aspect of a war that happened in living memory. Not Company of Heroes. It’s torrid and difficult and brutal. Sure, its methods are pure Hollywood—the muddy artillery plumes could have come straight from Saving Private Ryan—but the result is the most intense RTS ever made, brilliantly capturing the tactical standoff between WWII’s asymmetrical forces.

    Xenonauts


    Andy Kelly: Its deep strategic systems and clean turnbased combat make Xenonauts a triumph of rebooted game design. If you’re an old fan of the X-COM series, forget about finding your old install disks or putting up with 20-year-old graphics: playing Xenonauts is the best way to relive those glory days with deeper systems. And if you’re new to X-COM, this game will let you explore the series’ classic roots with added depth and details.

    Total War: Shogun 2


    Wes Fenlon: As Total War evolved after Rome it suffered bloat and other growing pains, but Shogun 2 was finally the one to get it right. A gorgeous setting and strong theme bolster the strategy side, where the honor of your clan leader and the struggle between Buddhism and Christianity play a key role. Battles offer distinct differences between clans (Chosokabe archers for life) and some especially fun special troops, like the bomb-throwing kisho ninja. Shogun 2 also introduced a 2-player co-op campaign to the series, which is an amazing (though slow) way to conquer the continent.



    (continue on Page #6)

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    The best strategy games on PC (UPDATED) Page #6

    Unity of Command


    Andy Kelly: Strategy expert Tim Stone described this, in our 2012 review, as a “fresh and friendly” wargame, praising the convincing, challenging AI. You’ll need to use genuinely clever battlefield tactics to beat these computerised generals. The simple interface removes the usual barrier to entry that most wargames have, but there are hidden depths to uncover as you learn the intricacies of its systems.

    Rise of Nations


    Tom Senior: Age of Empires gave us the chance to encompass centuries of military progress in half-hour battles, but Rise of Nations does it better, and smartly introduces elements from turn-based strategy games like Civ. Instead of marshalling troops from a single base, you build cities all over the map to grow your nation’s borders. When borders collide civs race through the ages and try to out-tech each other in a hidden war for influence, all while trying to deliver a knockout military blow with javelins and jets. There aren’t enough games that let you crush longbowmen with amphibious tanks and stealth bombers.

    Age of Empires II: HD Edition


    Samuel Roberts: I had to put this in here, too, even if Rise of Nations built upon this foundation in a bunch of ways. Age of Empires II is still a big draw on PC thanks to its HD edition, which is supported by new expansions like Rise of the Rajas, released in late 2016. That's not bad for a game released almost two decades ago.

    Build immense armies, upgrade them, farm like hell and enjoy a suite of entertaining campaigns in this RTS. Plus, if you get bored of the game's numerous campaigns and easily downloadable custom campaigns, enjoy making your own daft mash-ups in the scenario editor. We can't wait for the fourth game.

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    I also wanted to post this list but it misses Heroes of Might and Magic 3,Starcraft 1 is better then 2,it also dosen't include Age of Empires 1,Dark Colony and many other titles.Thanks for the posts though...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Xanadu View Post
    I also wanted to post this list but it misses Heroes of Might and Magic 3,Starcraft 1 is better then 2,it also dosen't include Age of Empires 1,Dark Colony and many other titles.Thanks for the posts though...
    yes I know the list is incomplete but I got it from a webpage and put all games who where listed..

    its me to thank you for the free game post this morning man

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    Post AoE and Starcraft

    AGE OF EMPIRES!

    hands down

    Then there's Starcraft which I've played alot, but there's something about AoE, ss_ad101c399356944164afaa4b6827d564619e7928-1024_1.jpgmaxresdefault.jpg
    you can't get enough of it.
    Xanadu, Rhialto and kirill like this.

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    the aoe 1 definitive edition looks great, i hope they make the same with aoe 2
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