Fun fact: the first real-time strategy (RTS) game is argued by many to be 1989’s Herzog Zwei, and it’s a console game. Anyone who says that RTS games belong entirely on PC can and should be swayed by this fact, because Herzog Zwei is the progenitor of what we know as real-time strategy today. Since then, seminal titles like Warcraft, Starcraft and Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War have further refined the formula, and today the genre is hale and hearty.
With RTS games doing a roaring trade and showing no signs of slowing any time soon, we thought now was a pretty good time to take a look at some of the outstanding RTS titles which will be coming to a PC or console (remember the genre’s heritage) near you. Whether you’re an experienced armchair general or a newly promoted commander, you should be keeping your eye on these titles.
Warcraft III: Reforged (2019)
Blizzard’s seminal Warcraft III was long overdue a remaster, and here it is. Reforged will feature completely overhauled visuals and new dialogue lines, as well as several game improvements and modernisations to bring the title up to speed with today’s RTS offerings. Reforged will also come complete with the game’s excellent Frozen Throne expansion, so 2019 is looking like a fantastic time to get acquainted with Arthas Menethil and his descent into madness (spoiler alert). Fans of World of Warcraft, StarCraft and Dawn of War should apply here to find out where it all began (well, sort of, anyway).
They Are Billions (March 2019)
They Are Billions is already available on Steam via its excellent Early Access program, so this might be cheating a little, but we’re expecting a full release of the game in 2019, hence its presence on this list. They Are Billions takes place in a “distant future” in which a zombie apocalypse has wiped out the vast majority of the human race. Players must guide their colony through a harsh and unforgiving randomly generated wasteland, managing their economy and building an appropriate settlement to help their survivors…well…survive. Transposing standard RTS gameplay into a zombie setting is an inspired choice, so we hope that Numantian Games builds on the solid foundation it’s created for the full release of They Are Billions.
Anno 1800 (February 2019)
Created by the same studio as The Settlers, the Anno series has enjoyed an unbroken run of popularity since the original release of Anno 1602: Creation of a New World back in 1998. After a couple of slightly less well-received jaunts into the future, the Anno series is returning to the historical setting that garnered it so much favour in the first place with Anno 1800. Players must create and maintain a complex metropolis, currying favour with citizens while also keeping tourists and diplomats from other nations happy. The Anno series is a reliable RTS workhorse, and Anno 1800 shows no signs of breaking the habit.
Imperator: Rome (2019)
We’d be fools not to include an offering from the wonderful folks at Paradox Studios on this list, so here’s Imperator: Rome. Fans of the Crusader Kings, Hearts of Iron and Victoria franchises need read no further, as this game effectively transposes the addictive gameplay loop of those titles to an Ancient Roman setting. For the neophytes among you, Imperator: Rome is a grand strategy title rendered in staggering depth and detail; you’ll control your economy, your military and your society, managing the minutiae of each aspect of your civilisation while navigating the tricky world of international diplomacy. If you’ve never played a Paradox grand strategy game, the relatively safe setting of Ancient Rome seems an excellent starting point.
Iron Harvest (2019)
We still don’t have a concrete release date for KingART Games’ upcoming Iron Harvest, but we’d be very surprised not to see this one make an appearance next year. This traditional RTS is set in an alternate post-World War I 1920s, one in which trench warfare and clunky, awkward mechs have replaced the rush of technological advancement that happened in real life. Iron Harvest promises to be an RTS that prizes tactics over speed; the game will feature multiple routes to objectives, as well as allowing players to choose which objective to prioritise, leading to a game experience that feels personal as well as large-scale.
Abandon Ship (2019)
We’re very excited about this one. Abandon Ship takes place during “a” (not necessarily “the”) golden age of piracy, and allows players to captain their very own ship. The game is open-world, which means players can choose their own route through its cutthroat waters, and it’s got RPG elements in the form of upgradeable ships and crew members. There’s even a storyline to discover involving cultists bringing about the apocalypse. We wouldn’t be surprised to see a Lovecraftian influence sneaking into this one; old Howard was very fond of the water, after all. Gorgeous visuals and a unique gameplay loop make this one to watch closely.
Driftland: The Magic Revival (2019)
Finally, we have a game that’s more for people who like to see the big picture. Driftland: The Magic Revival comes to us from the folks behind Alien Rage and Sniper: Ghost Warrior, and promises to provide players with a mixture of life sim elements, RTS gameplay and 4X features (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate). With gorgeous visuals powered by Unreal Engine 4, Driftland: The Magic Revival is set in a fantasy world in which pieces of the land are drifting after a cataclysmic battle. Geography will play an important part in the game, as will the traditional resource management and combat.