Consoles are no longer the lesser machines in the gaming hardware race. They are no longer the platform games are ported to, but are instead more commonly the ones games are ported from. They are no longer basic and puerile devices for children. They are no longer unchanging, static boxes. What they are is powerful entertainment devices, even more so with the imminent Xbox One X and the current PS4 Pro. What they are is the leading platform for triple A game development. What they are is dynamic, with frequent software upgrades and enhancements. What they are is more ubiquitous than ever before; on proud display in more homes that ever before. This position within the industry means there’s an audience out there for every genre, yet one genre is woefully under represented on consoles: the strategy genre.
Now, more than ever, the excuses for not developing strategy titles on console holds less weight: lack of CPU power; lack of GPU power; lack of audience; lack of keyboard and mouse support. The power differential between PC and console is far less of a concern. While PC has and always will have an advantage, consoles are powerful enough to where smart compromises can ensure a smooth experience with demanding strategy titles. Meanwhile, keyboard and mouse support has been teased on Xbox One as a possible future addition, and is already supported on PS4, albeit for only a few games. Indeed then, mouse and keyboard support is the biggest obstacle right now, but for some titles smart controller mapping can solve that problem.
With that in mind, here are five strategy titles that we would love to see on console:
They’re very few excuses for why turn-based strategy games aren’t ported to console. When clicks per minute aren’t a factor, the lack of precision and speed of a controller doesn’t matter as much. Furthermore, in Sid Meier’s Civilisation VI’s case, with its events side bar taking you to units, cities, sub-menus, and any other activities that need your attention, very little movement is required. Additionally, Civilisation VI can currently be played almost entirely with a mouse, with its two buttons and a scroll wheel, which can easily be transferred to controllers.
However, Civilisation VI is a CPU heavy title, with a huge amount going on behind the scenes and on each turn depending on the amount of players and AI. This may well be the biggest challenge with a console version, and perhaps why Civilisation Revolution was developed instead back on the Xbox 360 with its much smaller scale. However, Civilisation VI is an exceptional game, one that tasks you in building and maintaining an empire over hundreds of years, juggling the victory conditions of domination, cultural leadership, scientific advancement and religious unity. It’s immensely vast, hugely tactical and superb fun, and if it did ever make it to consoles, with its current features and scale intact, it would be the ultimate example of the genre to hit such hardware.
Another turn-based strategy title but one whose scale is focused enough to work seamlessly on console hardware. Auroch Digital’s Ogre is a faithful digital version of the Steve Jackson board game, and as such offers one player a small but powerful battalion of units against the might of a single Ogre unit; a battle tank so bustling with weaponry it can win wars alone. The campaign tweaks this traditional setup with many differing scenarios and Ogre encounters to tell a story and shake up the experience, but the scale remains intimately small.
Where Civilisation VI may tax a CPU harshly, Ogre won’t. Unit count is small and map size is limited, this is an example of a strategy title that delivers some of the best tactical challenge without the overwhelming system resources. It’s about smart choices for which units to deploy and then smart tactics to use them to the best of their ability. Meanwhile, beyond camera control, the mouse remains king for commanding your units, so console conversion to controller could work splendidly.
Age of Empires II HD
The original Age of Empires 2: Age of Kings was successfully ported over to the PS2 in 1999, and beyond some issues with using the controller, was praised for its fully featured port. It was recommended to use a keyboard and mouse with the console to alleviate the controller woes, and indeed keyboard and mouse was supported for the title and this facilitated smoother, easier play.
Age of Empires II HD was released on PC in 2013, and is a smashing remastering of the original title and its expansion, The Conquerors. Moreover, since its release, several more expansions have been released for the title, due to how popular it is and how well the core mechanics have aged. Why on earth hasn’t it hit consoles?
Well, with it being a Microsoft Studios published title, its console audience is limited to Xbox One owners. Meanwhile, with real-time strategy titles, clicks per minute are a real concern when it comes to competitive multiplayer, and even with the utilisation of tricks such as painting units – as in the Halo Wars titles – as well as grouping units to D-pad directions and smart ‘all military units on-screen’ selection buttons, the issues with controller playability would be significant enough to limit the desire to play a console version of this title competitively online. However, Age of Empires II HD is still a terrific candidate for console release. As one of the most celebrated RTS series of all times, as well as a Microsoft exclusive title, it could certainly find a new audience on Xbox.
StarCraft 2 Trilogy
The StarCraft 2 trilogy of titles tells a grand and engrossing story from three unique perspectives. These campaigns are some of the best examples of real-time strategy challenge and storytelling, harking back to the ‘golden age’ of RTS titles such as Command & Conquer, but with precisely the kind of modern day refinements you’d expect. It would be a terrific experience for console players who may have missed out on this seminal series on PC.
However, the big challenge to a console version is, again, going to be the speed and accuracy of controls. Indeed, much like with Age of Empires II HD, competitive play is going to be a difficult sell when clicks per minute are going to be significantly reduced over that of the PC version. The singleplayer aspect however, is ideal for console play, where unit painting will perform just fine. And while the multiplayer is celebrated for its E-sport compatibility on PC, and that would be unlikely on console, being able to experience the stories of all three campaigns in a single package would be a delightful treat on consoles.
Of all the games we’ve mentioned, Stellaris is the least likely title to ever see a console version. It’s a vast space empire building real-time strategy title of tremendous scale, exceptional depth and customisation, and easily the most taxing game when it comes to hardware. Where Civilisation VI is CPU intensive, Stellaris is CPU intensive care. Meanwhile, the precision and speed required with controls to make the experience as smooth and intuitive as possible would likely be lost with a controller.
Why mention it at all then? Well because it’s one of the best real-time strategy titles currently on the market. While it has the complexity of a grand strategy title running through its veins, it’s remarkably intuitive to pick up and play. Meanwhile, because of this underlying complexity, emergent gameplay is abundant. Each time you play you’ll come away with dozens of little stories about your empire; its failures, achievements, run-ins with aliens, politically drama, technological marvels and cultural oddities. It’s excellent, and it’s in this list because wouldn’t it be marvellous to have this on every device available? For everyone to enjoy this masterpiece? Yes it would.
That was our list of some of the strategy titles we’d like to see released on console. However, it’s important to celebrate some of the ones we already have, both strategy and management titles, especially as there are so few of them. Honourable mentions and thanks should go to the following games for blessing current generation consoles with their strategy splendour and management marvels: XCOM 2, Blood Bowl 2, Warhammer Quest, Halo Wars 2, Aven Colony, Battle Worlds: Kronos, Cities: Skylines, Zoo Tycoon. Hats off to you, strategy and management games, we’re very fond of you.