There is an inherent difference between MMORPG’s and true online strategy games. While online games such as World of Warcraft and others claim to be strategy games in essence they have very little aside from click, kill, loot, and repeat.
True strategy games, such as the board game classic of Risk, have been reborn online in inferior multiplayer environments, but online strategy games with real gravitas are few and far between. Finding free online strategy games with true replayability is an even greater task. This article digs through the Flash based strategy game back-catalog and pulls two lesser known gems from the genre.
Fall Of Rome
Fall of Rome is a turn based online strategy game that in some ways reminds one of a cross between Risk and Civilization. Players compete in a turn-based fashion, with the ultimate goal of dominating and/or completing the goal for a specific game session.
Each game can last as much as two months, ending when a player has met the criteria for victory. Each game is further broken down into segments lasting around three days each where players have an opportunity to submit orders to their computerized minions.
After each segment of play the server calculates, updates, and randomizes the game environment to account for how the various strategies might play out – and then the next round begins. While there is a monthly subscription cost to the game beginners can try it out at a discounted rate.
If futuristic science fiction environments are more interesting, Eve Online is an excellent, totally immersive outer space strategy game. Eve has been around for many years but recently has begun a major PR push to get the word out about recent improvements and the role out of a massive shift in the storyline to plunge the known universe into a multi-sided war.
While Eve is in some ways similar to other strategy based MMORPG’s, it is different in that the users truly guide the course of the story based on the combined actions of the players. The scope and requirements of the game are truly monumental, requiring a download of over 600 megabytes in size.
Still, with a 14-day free trial, it is a refreshing take on the old rape and pillage mentality of most games of this kind. The scope of the Eve universe is incredible and the graphics in the game are truly impressive.
These are two prime examples of the many lesser-known online strategy games available on the Internet. The best online strategy games are those that have depth as well as a strong emotional hook. Both Fall of Rome and Eve Online fill that order nicely.
The Best 4x Games
When it comes to games, there are very few things that hardcore and casual gamers can agree on. The two rarely find much pleasure in the same games. However, 4x games are often enjoyed by both sides. 4x games are few, making it a relatively small genre, but within it are what many consider some of the best games of all time.
The Definition of a 4x Game
Many gamers are already familiar with the difference between turn-based strategy and real-time strategy. The former occurs in turns, much like most board games or card games do. Real-time strategy, as its name suggests, does not happen in turns, but with all players acting simultaneously, making this latter genre a much faster-paced type of gameplay.
4x games can be of either style of play, but the key difference between an RTS or TBS and a 4x game is the scale of gameplay. While the standard RTS may take place on a flat plane and take the player through certain aspects of time, such as the famous Age of Empires series, many 4x games will take players through all human history, spanning a globe-sized or even galaxy-sized map.
4x games also boast depth in technology trees, unit choices, diplomacy, and overall strategy. The result is an engrossing game which can be run as simply or as deeply as the player chooses, resulting in a large number of strategies. This offers nearly limitless replay value, as no player will make the same choices twice throughout the entire game.
The Best 4x Games
While there are not as many games in this genre as there are in the first person shooter genre, for example, there are some games that stand out for their excellence. Many of these have already been out for several years, but still widely played, and still have vibrant online communities for playing multiplayer games. The following are in no particular order:
Sins of a Solar Empire
Sins of a Solar Empire was released by Stardock in February 2008 to great critical praise. The game boasted an enormous game map with epic battles. SoaSE has three playable factions. Unlike the other games listed here, SoaSE is played in real-time, albeit at a much slower pace than most RTS games, sometimes running well over five hours.
Considered by some to be the best game series ever made, Sid Meier has long been known for creating epic strategy games. Civilization IV is not as cinematic as Sins of a Solar Empire, but its gameplay has gained it a devoted following. Starting from the beginning of human civilization, the player takes one of dozens of playable cultures and brings them to dominate the globe through a combination of war, peace, and technology.
The game was released in 2005 by Sid Meier’s Firaxis Games. Since then, it has been given two expansion packs, and continued success. Despite its old age in terms of the gaming industry, it still enjoys a large online community and continues being purchased. It is by far the most renowned game of the genre, as well as the most widely-played.
Galactic Civilizations II
The game, fully titled Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords was released in 2007 by the aforementioned Stardock. The game, a turn-based space empire builder, also received praise upon its release. The games depth of technology and customization stands unparalleled by many games in its genre. Specifically, the ability to custom make ships for battle offers players a wide array of strategies to pursue.
The game may be the least graphically nuanced game of the three, but the build engines alone offer hours of entertainment. The game offers a story line campaign, but most players will likely prefer the much more open-ended single session games. Replay value is high, and with multiple choices for which race to play, it keeps player’s interested.
These three games offer a great deal for casual and hardcore gamers to sink their teeth into. All offer high time commitments, but most can be played periodically, so long as the player can step away from the screen. All three games offer different experiences, but fans of the genre will agree that all three offer a fun experience for those willing to take some time to play them.