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What Makes a Good Strategy Game?

Strategy games are a massively popular genre, and for good reason. The genre has a long history with the PC, with classic games like Command & Conquer and Starcraft dominating desktops for years. These games are addictive and challenging, not to mention the cognitive benefits you get from playing them. With clients like Steam and GOG making games more accessible than ever, we see a flood of new strategy games every year. But how do you sort the good from the bad? Any good strategy game is comprised of three simple elements.

Difficulty

Part of the appeal of strategy games is overcoming the immense odds in beating it. Just take a look at some of the best strategy games of all time. All of them are exceedingly difficult. A good example of this can be seen in the XCOM series, where players have to face increasingly difficult and aggressive alien races. The player must balance their resources and outwit their often-times more powerful and numerous enemies. Strategy games shouldn’t be a walk in the park. They should be true challenges that only a skilled and mindful player can beat.

One way strategy games up the difficulty level is by introducing a state of entropy in the game. Late in the game, the world may fall apart in various ways. Allies suddenly become enemies, resources are suddenly cut off, or some other means of chaos. Entropy is a great way to keep players on edge and force them to think outside the box to beat the game.

An Engaging World

The player should be actively engaged in the world of the game. Giving players something overly simple is a good way to lose player interest. The world of any strategy game should be layered and complex, with multiple factions, competing interests, and a chance for failure. XCOM has the impending alien threat, human sympathizers to the extraterrestrials, limited resources, and a global council that vies for your time and energy. The Civilization franchise pits you against some of the greatest leaders in history, each with their own countries vying for your land, resources, and commerce. Creating a world that truly seems alive is paramount in making a good strategy game.

Strategy 

Strategy games require… well, strategy. Your game should be flexible allowing for multiple approaches and playstyles, but it should also adhere players to those styles. Someone who takes a middling approach should not be as or more successful than a player who has meticulously thought through their approach to the game. Chance should always be a factor, but a beatable one.

Indeed, strategy goes beyond strategy genre video games. You’d also need strategy playing Quick Hit slots for instance, a game total centered on overcoming the odds, is simple yet requires discipline. Players must establish clear win/loss limits and focus on betting low and winning high. Though it seems simple, only a player with self-control and a good amount of experience can see real success in quick slots. The same goes for casino staples like poker and roulette, while nobody can argue that even sports titles like FIFA have turned more strategy/RPG than action in their gameplay in recent years.

In the Civilization series, players must build cities around plenty of resources as well as make great strides in improving technology and research so they stay ahead of the curve with other nations. This strategy guarantees players will have a successful campaign, especially early on. XCOM, on the other hand, requires players to focus heavily on technology improvements, training a large pool of reliable soldiers, and gaining as much satellite coverage early on as possible.

The best strategy games out there have these three components. While they may seem obvious, they are often difficult concepts for developers to master. Once they do though, they can create an engaging and difficult title that will enthrall players for years to come.

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