I'm continuing our Windows store game round-ups with a look at the strategy genre.
As I mentioned in my shooter round-up, the Windows 10 game store is comprised mainly of content from the Windows 8.1 store. As more and more people pick up Windows 10 and engage with the app store, we can only hope more quality developers step in to bolster the offering. That said, the Windows 10 store has quite a robust array of strategic game offerings. It's possibly due in part to touch screen devices, which lend themselves well to strategy game controls.
Without further ado, here's some of the top-rated strategy games in the Windows 10 store! Be sure to leave a comment and let us know what your favourite strategy games are as well.
Age of Empires: Castle Siege
Age of Empires is one of Microsoft's oldest and most beloved game franchises. AoE leapt to Windows Phone and Windows 8 in the form of Age of Empires: Castle Siege a couple of years back, and it's rather awesome.
AoE: CS takes cues from other freemium strategy games like Clash of Clans. In the game, you'll build a civilisation using units and interfaces familiar to classic Age of Empires titles.
AoE: CS does have a rudimentary history-themed single player campaign, but the beef of the game is in its strategic player vs. player battles. Once you've built up your civilization, you can make armies using the resources and research you've accrued to attack other players. You don't fight against other players in real-time like mainline Age of Empires PC games. Instead, you command your units with swipes or mouse clicks to circumvent enemy player's defences.
Your base exists in the cloud, allowing your civilization to persist even when you're outside of the game. Other players will attack your base when you're offline, and you'll receive a notification for when this occurs. You can defend your base with various buildings and units, such as watchtowers and walls, in typical AoE fashion. Your victories and losses can be viewed in an instant replay mode, allowing you to examine where you need to improve your strategies.
As previously noted, AoE: CS is entirely cloud-based, meaning your progress carries across devices using your Xbox Live Gamertag as the login credentials. As a freemium title, the game is gated in particular ways. Build times and resource accrual can be very slow. Progressing through the later ages of civilization can require weeks of grinding without coughing up in-app purchases. However, building armies and attacking other players is rapid and seamless, so there's plenty of fun without paying a dime.
Plague Inc. is a success story for mobile strategy games. Ndemic Productions brought the popular game to Windows 8 and Windows Phone earlier this year to much rejoicing.
In Plague Inc., you're tasked with the eradication of humanity - pretty dark huh? To achieve this goal, you play as one of the games several types of plague. Each micro-organism has a different set of strengths and weaknesses, and you control their evolution and development. Viruses mutate more rapidly than other diseases; parasites withstand environmental conditions, and bacteria come as a balanced option.
The game takes place with an overview of the world map. You can see the spread of your plague over time, and make adjustments to its development to meet resistances. News bulletins keep you up to date on the weather and other potentially hindering developments. Civilization reacts to your plague as well, so developing symptoms carefully is paramount to spreading undetected by world health organizations. Eventually, you'll be identified, and it becomes a race against time to ramp up your lethality before a cure is developed.
Plague Inc. is another free to play title. Different plagues get unlocked over time simply by playing, but you can go all-in to buy access straight away with in-app purchases.
Skulls of the Shogun
Skulls of the Shogun is a Xbox Live enabled turn-based strategy game featuring undead samurai. The game was developed by 17-BIT and hit Xbox 360, Windows Phone and Windows 8.1 as a Microsoft published title a few years back.
Skulls of the Shogun puts you in control of small squads of samurais, locked in an eternal war for control of Japan. The game has cartoony graphics and features a crude, but also charmingly humorous plot. Skulls' even has a cartoon series in development featuring Gears of War's John DiMaggio.
The game centers on strategic, turn-based combat, emphasizing map control, unit countering and positioning as important factors. Your undead samurai can 'haunt' fields and shrines, giving them access to resources and thus new units. Vanquished foes can be devoured, allowing your units to rank up and eventually transform, gaining new abilities. The game may appear simplistic at first glance, but it's surprisingly deep and single matches can take extended periods of time.
As a Xbox Live title, Skulls of the Shogun synchronizes your campaign progression across all devices and enjoys online and local versus modes. Matches progress even when you're not inside the app, and deliver a notification when it's your turn. The game carries a premium price tag, but there are no in-app purchases or pay-to-win mechanics.
Call of Duty: Heroes
Call of Duty: Heroes is very similar to Age of Empires: Castle Siege but with some cool differentiators. CoD: Heroes is based on the popular first-person shooter series. As such, combat scenarios introduce manual chopper gunners and other abilities that mimic Call of Duty's killstreaks.
Like AoE: CS, you build up a military base complete with resource management, troop deployment, research and so on. You can build a squad and attack enemy player's bases. You have less control over individual groups of soldiers when compared with AoE: CS, but the "hero" abilities add interactivity and flair in a different way. As Call of Duty: Heroes' name suggests, the game features characters from across the franchise - each upgradeable and with unique abilities. Hero characters can be directed as well with swipes and taps while regular troops deploy and then attack the nearest threats automatically.
Unlike the isometric 2D Castle Siege, Call of Duty: Heroes is 3D, which (literally) adds another dimension to how it plays. You can utilize Price's chopper gunner ability to take command of a helicopter mini-gun, raining down bullets on your enemies base in the process.
For some reason, Activision didn't use the same UI and sound effects as the main games, which makes it feel like it's 'Call of Duty' in name only. Regardless, it's very fun and very well made. In-app purchases lean towards skipping build queues, in what seems to be a staple of the genre. I find it to be a tad more generous than AoE: CS on the freemium front, but that might only be because I haven't progressed as far in it. Give it a try!
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