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The next six months

December 30th, 2005 by Troy Goodfellow · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

Another great year for strategy gaming comes to a close and we can look forward to…well, it’s not quite clear. Where 2005 had some huge sequels (Civ IV, AoE 3, EE 2) that we could rest our hopes on, 2006 has few marquee games on the horizon – certainly none with the oomph that Firaxis and Ensemble bring to the table.

Here’s what we can look forward to between now and July 1. Note that all the estimated release windows are based on guesswork and a very little bit of research. Some of these titles may slip.

Hearts of Iron II: DoomsdayThis is an expansion pack for Paradox’s WW2 strategy colossus. It moves the game forward into the early Cold War, meaning that you don’t just have to beat the Nazis; you also have win the battle of ideas over Communism. Or capitalism. Or crush them both under your iron fascist heel. Estimated release window – April

Heroes of Might and Magic V – I’m one of those few who never appreciated the HoMM series. I never found the games interesting at all, and it’s not the fantasy setting turning me off. I love Dragonshard. Anyway, this is eagerly anticipated by many people, but I’m not in line. Estimated release window – March

Heart of Empire: Rome – This Roman city builder is now being published in North America by Paradox. Deep Silver announced this game a while ago and development has moved forward despite the announcement that the former Impressions designers are taking another crack at the Caesar series. This game will have a more political focus though, limiting what the player is able to do until he gets enough status in the city. Estimated release window – June

Space Empires V – Yep. A space conquest strategy game with real time combat and pretty explosions. It is estimated to come out in March, but will have to distinguish itself from…

Galactic Civilizations II: The Dread Lords GalCiv will beat Space Empires to the release gate by about a month, coming out in February instead of the estimated March for SE5. Stardock’s original GalCiv was what Master of Orion 3 should have been. I’m generally not to interested in sci-fi settings, but this one will be a must-have.

American Conquest: Divided Nation – You can’t keep the Cossacks engine down, despite my efforts to proclaim the general mediocrity of all the games so far. This is a sequel to the exploration and independence battles of American Conquest, centering on American expansion and Civil War. It could be good. It certainly looks pretty. Estimated release window- January.

Joint Task Force The success of Act of War has softened my heart to modern/near-future RTS. With 5 separate campaigns set in the battlefields of the week after next, JTF promises lots of fireworks and “realistic physics”. Like there’s any other kind. Estimated release window – May

Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle Earth II – Orcs, hobbits and wizards. It could be terrible and it would still sell hundreds of thousands of copies. It won’t be terrible. Estimated release window – March

War on Terror – Still a stupid name for a war, but not necessarily a bad name for a game. Another today-ish RTS which has you running around the world killing bad guys in the name of freedom, democracy and safety. I have a bad feeling about this one. Estimated release window – June

Seven Kingdoms: Conquest – A new Seven Kingdoms game and I still haven’t gotten around to the earlier ones. Different human civs, different demon civs and a race for the future from the Age of Pyramids to the Age of Giant Robots. The art design looks…jumbled. At least at this point. There’s some lame backstory about the Akkadians opening Pandora’s box or something and the demons keep coming back to kill humans through seven ages of man. This could be very cool or the dumbest idea since calling a war a War on Terror. Estimated release window – March

Rise of Legends – If I buy any game in the next three months, this is it. Interesting new setting, a not-quite-sequel to the best RTS ever (Rise of Nations) and being developed right here in Maryland by Big Huge Games. Gotta buy local. Estimated release window – April

Cossacks II: Battle for Europe – These guys again? It’s an expansion to 2005’s oh-so-average and frustrating Napoleonic Wars. I’ll probably have to buy just to see if these CDV guys can ever surprise me. Estimated release window – May

Empire Earth II: The Art of Supremacy – Easily the worst subtitle for any expansion pack here. New nations, new weapons, new campaigns. Hopefully some new ideas. Estimated release window – February

Act of War: High Treason – Easily the most Tom Clancy subtitle for any expansion pack here. New campaign and new enemies and now with naval combat. I want it now. Estimated release window – March.

Rush for Berlin – Another Deep Silver game that is being published by Paradox in North America. And another WW2 RTS. Aren’t we tired of these yet? What about the Arab-Israeli Wars? Or some Central American civil conflict? More panzers? Yawn. Estimated release window – May

Faces of War – Except for the publishing information, ditto. WW2 RTS. The big difference here is that the campaign will try to focus on the same soldiers as they fight their way across Europe. Could make a good RPG. Estimated release window – March.

City Life – This is SimCity to the extreme. Beautiful 3D engine, the potential to see the city as your citizens see it. For city builders, this could be the one that gives Maxis a run for its simoleons. Estimated release window – May.

I’ve probably missed a few. Rise and Fall: Civilizations at War was supposed to be an early 2006 release, but I suspect it will slip till summer. There are also lots of indie and smaller wargames that I can’t find information on at this point.

There isn’t a lot of potential for pleasant surprises in this list. City Life could be one. Maybe Joint Task Force. But I don’t see any equivalent to last year’s Act of War or Dragonshard – two games that were so much better than they had any right to be.

Have a good New Year and I’ll be back blogging in 2006.


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