5 Strategy Games You Should Play

By Jared Scott on January 21, 2014, 3:12PM EDT

Strategy games sit in an interesting position within the gaming world. They require the player to both think ahead and react to events quickly enough to keep the odds in his or her favor, sometimes in real time and sometimes over the course of some slow-moving turns.

There are many of these games out there, but we feel five in particular deserve your attention more than the rest "“ each for specific reasons. Here before you, we lay out the Top five strategy games that every gamer should play.

Having different races or nationalities is nothing new in an RTS, but StarCraft refined its three races to near perfection when the PC game first release.

The Terrans are humans with the largest, most diverse set of unit types. These range from bipedal mechs, transforming tanks, and ghost snipers that can launch a nuclear strike. Their resource gathering units also have the unique ability to repair damaged buildings. Due to the easy-to-learn build order and simple (but powerful) units, players will likely want to start their StarCraft experience here before they go on to other races.

Should they wish to progress, the Zerg offer an apt level of expansion. With this race, each building and unit is grown from a single worm-like creature that is spawned around the main base. Because multiple worms appear around a single base, multiple units and buildings can be created at once. This also means that a flying unit could spawn next to a simple worker, unlike the Terran and Protoss whose units appear at a designated building. Certain spawned units also appear in groups from a single worm instead of a single unit at a time. This led to the Zerg exclusive tactic of flooding an enemy with many weak units at once in order to achieve a quick victory.

The Protoss complete the trilogy and come across as a resource demanding race. Though equipped with shields and stronger firepower, this religious race requires time to grow. To help even the odds, their gathering units are able to start many projects in a matter of seconds. Instead of creating a building, a worker drone opens a teleportation portal that slowly expands to fit the building in the area. Since the portal expands itself, the worker can open many portals in seconds without staying for the final push.

There are other differences between these races, of course, but this is just a taste of how StarCraft was able to make a different class and race so much more than a swap of colors and sound effects.

Due to its fine attention to detail and potential for strategy, StarCraft became a phenomenon in the professional gaming circuit, especially in Korea.

Worms is a very deceptive game. At first it seems simple: your team of worms are pitted against another on a destructible environment using ridiculous weapons such as sheep and dynamite. However, each weapon requires mastery due to its physics.

One weapon may fire straight if aimed to the left, but tilting it by the slightest degree can mean it loses velocity and accuracy quickly. Even moving each worm can be challenging. If timed incorrectly, your worm may bounce off a ledge into a river instead of over it.

To top it all off, the AI rarely makes mistakes. Each launched rocket and destroyed piece of environment is part of a plan in this destructive game of chess. Until you master the game, you will lose often and rarely win.

Strangely enough, it is the difficulty of the game that makes it so enjoyable. The feeling of winning because of your cleverness becomes such a great reward that you will be willing to go through the frustration of constantly losing just for that occasional victory. When playing against friends, there's something very satisfying about watching the carnage ensue.

Valkyria Chronicles
One of the first notable aspects of Valkyria Chronicles is its historical inspiration. The game is loosely based on World War II, but that looseness doesn't hamper it from dealing with the struggles of war.

Also worth mentioning are the graphics. The entire game was made with water-color graphics which highlighted the anime style of the game that the typical cell-shaded look could not, something that really helps Valkyria Chronicles stand out stylistically from most other titles.

Yes, none of this has anything to do with strategy, but it's worth noting that Valkyria Chronicles is a game that succeeds on multiple levels "“ the gameplay is just the tip of the iceberg.

When getting into combat, gameplay involves taking turns guiding units across a 3D battlefield in order to capture the enemy's territory or defeat all opposition forces. Terrain can benefit a specific class of soldier such as a rooftop for snipers or wall for tanks to mow down.

There is also a rock-paper-scissors mechanic that leaves not even the tanks impenetrable. Some classes excel one-on-one with soldiers while some act as scouts, which means a limit to their firepower.

Valkyria Chronicles features a "Potential System", which was different for each character leading the charge. The system could be used in many ways such as calling for medical supplies or even ordering an air-strike. It meant you also had to know your team "“ not utilising this knowledge as the group's leader could end in defeat.

In short, Valkyria Chronicles offered up considerable depth compared to other Japanese RPGs on the market and with the aid of an engaging story, it helped to make for a thoroughly engrossing experience.

Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions
Battles in War of the Lions take place on a map divided on a grid, although from a top down perspective. Here, the high and low elevations, as well as the terrain types, have great effect on each battle. For instance, someone using bows or guns would be able to increase their attack range by standing on a cliff though at a cost to their accuracy. For geomancers, each new tile they stood on meant a different attack that could cause status ailments.

With over twenty classes, players will find familiar faces from the Final Fantasy series such as the Knight, Dragoon, Mime, and Time Mage. Classes increase their power with Job Points which are earned like experience points. However, JPs are used to unlock a class's abilities that were not once available. This meant that to master a class, time needs to be invested.

Some of these abilities are useful when you change your class. Using a layering effect, players can be a White Mage and equip bows thanks to the skills they unlocked as an Archer. Or perhaps they would rather give their Chemist the ability to use the magic of a Black Mage. By layering skills, no member of someone's five team party is truly what they seem.

Other than extra classes, War of the Lions also included extra characters. Playing their cards right, players could recruit heroes from past Final Fantasy titles such as Cloud, Luso, and Balthier.

War of the Lions also brought an intriguing story of politics, war, class warfare, and the questioning of the true nature of the heretic and hero of Ivalice. Combine this with beautiful, hand-drawn cutscenes, and Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions will lead to hours of enjoyment.

Fire Emblem: Awakening
Fire Emblem: Awakening stands with the big dogs of strategy games by taking its already amazing combat and characterization through an incredible evolution.

The combat has always placed each unit on a flat map divided by a grid against an invading army. Each unit is of a different, growable class and uses weapons to create a rock-paper-scissors type of combat. Since many units are strong against others, but can use multiple weapons, combat is not always straightforward. However, Awakening introduced pairing.

Through pairing, standing side-by-side or selecting the pairing option causes two units will fight or defend as a single entity with boosted stats. The effects of this depend on their relationship with one another. Pairing also speeds up the growth of the two characters which leads to more post battle conversations and stronger bonds in battle.

Relationships were taken to a whole new level as well, encouraging characters to not only fight alongside one another but offering bonuses conversations to further develop bonds. After speaking three or so times, additional conversations could be unlocked that further develop characters including a potential marriage proposal between the two. The results lead to stronger battle bonds and a child who would fight in your army. Suffice to say, the conversation between parents and children were some of the most touching moments in the game.

Whether it is a SRPG or an RTS, these five strategy games should not be missed. Though they share similarities, each game offers a unique, genre-defining experience. Whether you're a veteran of strategy games or a newcomer, you can't make a mistake with these five games.

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