Against The Storm
Against the Storm is the best example of continuous improvement with content additions and updates based on community feedback. A game where you will be hard pressed to find a dozen bad reviews in its thousands. This dark fantasy settlement builder with its production chains, roguelite replayability, and adorable art design has captured the hearts of many. It doesn’t have much of a campaign or story but its roguelike gameplay loop of setting up temporary settlements every few hours to push your overall progress has proved to be fun and refreshing.
Terra Invicta has a totally different scale and gameplay but it found its player base who love its highly complex grand strategy gameplay of leading the entire solar system and most of Earth’s nations against an alien invasion, coupled with some highly simulated tactical spaceship battles. It is a game made by ex modders, made with love for future modders and everyone else who enjoys toiling away for hundreds of hours to conquer through politics, technology, espionage and warfare. It started a bit rough on the edges but is already shining.
Songs of Conquest
Songs of Conquest is a game that only got more polished with a lot of balancing and content updates from the busy developers based on player feedback. This turn-based strategy adventure and kingdom management game filled with RPG elements and tactical combat reminds me a heck of a lot of Heroes of Might and Magic. And it’s just as fun and captivating, but in a whole new and original universe. It has top notch music and a great art style that sucks you in even more.
Dune: Spice Wars
Dune: Spice Wars had a questionable start due to players expecting an RTS and getting a real time 4X strategy game in Frank Herbert’s unique sci-fi universe. But as updates started to roll in and more content being added so did the positive reviews. Arrakis never looks so beautiful and the gameplay flows almost like Spice itself, on the edge and dangerous with half a dozen ways to win and conquer the dunes. Factions and units are unique and the gameplay is a perfect blend of RTS speed and 4X complexity, playable by all but hard to master.
Farthest Frontier came out to challenge Banished’s top position in the survival settlement builder category and it might just manage to topple the king as positive reviews keep flooding its Steam page. It has the most detailed farming system ever, it has villagers that lead active and fully simulated lives in your settlement (they can even get diseases), dozens of buildings, items to craft, crops to grow, and even combat, but with a pacifist mode for those who prefer peace and prosperity. With more content on the way it is on its track to become Banished 3.0
NEBULOUS: Fleet Command
NEBULOUS: Fleet Command developers continue to improve and expand an incredibly advanced and complex tactical 3D simulation space game that is a joy to play but not easy to master in the least. You outfit and arm a fleet of warships and set out with friendly players to hunt down and destroy enemy players using a fantastic and customizable system of missiles and electronic warfare along with magnetic cannons and lasers. It is a sci-fi space combat experience very similar to The Expanse, but it doesn’t have its own campaign… yet.
Ultimate Epic Battle Simulator 2
Ultimate Epic Battle Simulator 2 is just as ridiculous as it sounds and is only limited by your creativity and its own unit types because it almost has no limit on the numbers which can go into the millions. Its sandbox mode is where every player’s dream comes true, as it gives you total freedom to set up battles between real and fantastical creatures as well as humans from every era. It’s exactly this feature that most players enjoy but there are others like the 1st and 3rd person modes. It just needs faster content updates.
Prehistoric Kingdom is a zoo builder and manager but for previously extinct animals brought back for your visitors’ entertainment and education. Its beautiful habitats and easy to use creative tools have made it an enjoyable game for fans of the subgenre. Besides animals like the Woolly Mammoth or dinosaurs like the T-rex, you can create more by finding their DNA all around the globe. This game comes close to a true Jurassic park game without breaking copyright rules, and it still has a lot of content updates ahead of it.
The Iron Oath
The Iron Oath didn’t make the splash I had hoped it would, maybe due to low diversity in the game world. But it certainly wasn’t due to any lack of fun gameplay and great art style. In this turn-based tactical RPG you lead and manage an entire band of mercenaries. In combat you take 4 out of dozens of different characters and use their skills and abilities in all sorts of encounters. The other side of gameplay is the one where you follow the story, talk to characters and balance the scale of income and expenditure to maintain profits.
The Wandering Village
The Wandering Village on the other hand did as good as I expected and the developers keep updating it with feedback from more and more players. Being a very original settlement builder with a giant creature as the foundation for the settlement, certainly helped to make it stand out. Symbiosis of the creature and the villagers who live on its back, feed it, and heal it coupled with the dangerous, post-apocalyptic world through which they both move makes it one of my favorites. Building space may be small but tech, adventures, and encounters are many.
Captain of Industry
Captain of Industry doesn’t wow with art, graphics or a deep story but it delivers on the bottom line, gameplay. In this industry simulation and management gem you get your own island like in Tropico, but there is nothing hilarious in its hard line economics or pirate infested waters. While your armed ship can fight off pirates, only your analytical mind and savvy business senses can keep your settlement and industry afloat. From mining, to product manufacturing and research. You’ll grow, trade and expand. Even launching into space.
Clanfolk might be another medieval colony simulation which are a dime a dozen these days, but it’s one of those rare good ones which bring some awesome new elements. Because of its Scottish Highlands setting, it puts a higher emphasis on settler lineage and multi-generational family gameplay. And it isn’t afraid to put children characters into the survival gameplay as they learn to fend for themselves. Mechanics of home ventilation and light along with unique fire systems complicate things further which requires extra considerations from the player.
Diplomacy Is Not An Option
Diplomacy Is Not An Option was love at first sight. A mix of RTS, castle and settlement building on procedurally generated maps with resource collection and production, army training and massive battles. Topped off with fantastic magic spells and zombie infestations to make things even more interesting. Huge stone walls coupled with realistic physics for siege weapons make the battles even more fun and the developers have worked relentlessly to add more gameplay modes, scenarios, units and enemies besides lots of changes and improvements the community has requested.
Stardeus is one more example of a new spin on an already packed stack of similar games. This colony simulation starts you off as the AI in a broken starship full of automated drones and human survivors. You are to repair and redesign your starship while exploring the procedurally generated universe with the choice of helping the humans or exploiting them which provides extra replayability. Research, production, building, food, oxygen, heat and power generation are all basic concepts while events and encounters with aliens, traders and pirates add extra challenges.
At first, Sapiens looked liked a game with no potential but I must admit, the game takes more shape and received great reviews. It is a prehistoric settlement builder with management elements which lets you follow the whole technological advancement of a civilization on massive maps. You won’t find settler personalization here but you’ll practice your skills at careful allocation of resources, planning, and building. It’s kind of like a real time version of Civilization but it needs a lot more polish and elements to earn that comparison.
TFC: The Fertile Crescent
TFC: The Fertile Crescent is a brave attempt by its developers to turn the audience of Age of Empires back to the more classical look and feel of the base-building RTS we grew up on. This is seen as much in the art style as it is felt in the gameplay. They have managed to make and add many game modes while trying out new ways of tech research and population management to spice up the gameplay. It may have not received a lot of attention from players but it certainly has potential and I hope it gains a bigger following soon.
Astro Colony doesn’t look like a fresh concept but it is definitely a fresh execution of one. Mixing space colony management and simulation with automated production in an infinite procedurally generated universe with destructible planets. It is massive sandbox where you can have space stations, connect them together, and construct transport systems for resources using conveyor belts and pipes. There is also a cooperative mode to play with friends. Recruit astronauts, help them survive, and research new tech to build even bigger things.
I am the first person to call out bad early access games, but I also love to celebrate success like these with you. Thank you for reading and happy gaming.
Peter is a YouTube content creator and game Guide writer with a love of strategy games spanning decades.