Did You Know?
The plot of the game Best News Mag Deus Ex, released in the year 2000, is centered in the year 2052. The skyline of New York City depicted in this game did not feature the twin towers on the game’s release. The developers reasoned that they had been destroyed in a terrorist attack previously in the game. This was over a year before the 9/11 attacks.
In a Space strategy game, the decisions that gamer(s) make during the game makes a difference in the outcome. When playing these games, players need to be aware of the developments in the game. What seems like a minor happening can have a meaningful impact on the game’s outcome. These games demand the players’ ability to think ahead of the current scenario and have a second plan ready if the desired result is not achieved.
Many are fascinated by space. They are hardcore Star Wars, Star Trek fans, and the like. Add some strategy-building abilities to this fascination, and be ready to be entertained for hours together by some of the best space strategy games available.
Space-based Strategy Games for PC
Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri
Firaxis Games have developed this turn-based game. It belongs to the 4X genre. In this genre, players need to expand, explore, exploit, and exterminate an empire. The plot is futuristic and set in the 22nd century. The gameplay is from a third-person perspective, and Sid Meier directed it. The strategies in the game revolve around the idea of the colonization of space. Players can choose to be the leader of any of the seven available factions. This game is a spin-off of the Civilization series. It was released in 1999 and is compatible with Linux, MAC OS, and Windows platforms.
Alpha Centauri is built around the framework of Civilization, and as such, it looks like a sci-fi re-skin. Wonders are replaced with secret projects and workers with terraformers. Cities are colonies, while chariots are scout buggies. But make no mistake; Alpha Centauri is its own game. Each unit combines various components to rearrange to your heart’s content. It’s not as frustratingly complex as many 4X games, but it gives you enough tactical flexibility to tweak units to fit your style. You can stick with the presets or make heavily armored colony pods mounted on speeders. It’s only as weird as you make it.
Early in the game, you encounter the native Mind Worms, rolling monsters that attack with psionic powers and make the heads of lesser men explode. They spawn from nasty tiles of Xenofungus, which hinder movement, strangle resources, and, more importantly, produce more Mind Worms. They might look like re-skinned barbarians, but unlike their primitive Civ brethren, the Mind Worms are with you the entire game. How you deal with them is one of the most compelling reasons to play the game today.
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You see, each faction is divided along ideology. You have the warriors, peacekeepers, industrial capitalists, and hive-mind communists. Those ideologies not only give each section various inherent bonuses (not unlike the governments in Civ IV) but can also influence the story. That’s right; Alpha Centauri has something of a real storyline revolving around the native life on the planet. You’ll receive text-based interludes describing your leader and his struggles with the Mind Worms at various points. The planet treats the colonists as an invasive species, one that is utterly alien to its integrated, psionic environment. As a world leader, you can eradicate the natives, merge with or ignore them; it’s up to you. It’s a clever design choice that makes you think about the game as more than just a fancy spreadsheet.
I had a really easy time getting back into SMAC, but it might not be as smooth to the palate for those weaned on later Civ titles. The interface is large and bulky by modern standards, and many important features are hidden away behind menus. For example, common actions like automating a scout or terraformer can’t be found under the right-click menu but require you to click the main menu button and dive a few levels deep. It’s only an initial annoyance until you learn the hotkeys, but it does remind you how far games have come, interface-wise.
Alpha Centauri sold poorly in its day, as with many time-honored games. While plenty of mods seek to recapture the magic inside the modern confines of newer engines, nothing ever quite matches up. And that’s ok because Alpha Centauri is still playable. It still has a unique flavor that is unlike anything else. If you’ve ever lost an evening (or morning) to Civilization, Alpha Centauri is well worth the $5.99
Sins of a Solar Empire
Ironclad Games have developed this game. It is a real-time game and belongs to the 4X strategy genre. Here, players can choose to be the leader of any of the three races – Trader Emergency Coalition (TEC), Advent, and Vasari. Leaders have control of their space empires. The goal here is to conquer different star systems. There are four packages of the game that have been released so far. The first was Entrenchment, followed by Diplomacy. The third package was Trinity. The Rebellion was the fourth stand-alone package of this game. This game was released in 2008 and is compatible with the Windows platform.
The DLC embiggens pirates and adds militias to the game that “will grow, raid nearby systems, and repopulate over time”. As with pirates, you can pay militias to do your bidding, using them “to help defend your worlds, or coordinate your attacks with their strikes for maximum impact”. Why can’t everyone get along?
Outlaw Sectors will set you back $4.99/£3.99 and promises to add plenty of new options, along with 11 new maps. Here are the main bullet points from the Steam page:
- Smuggling Specialization: Choose this planetary development to grab a cut of everyone’s trade income – but at a cost. The increased corruption from this black market activity will reduce that planet’s tax income.
- Rampant Militias: Autonomous planetary militias will grow, raid nearby systems, and repopulate over time. Use them to help defend your worlds or coordinate your attacks with their strikes for maximum impact.
- Pirate Turf: Vicious when in their home sector, pirates can now raid multiple players simultaneously, drastically changing the art of the bidding war. And, to make sure they are fully motivated to do what they do best, all credits spent on bounties will receive an automatic bonus.
Star Wars: Empire at War
Petroglyph Games have developed this game. The showdown in this game is mainly between Empire and the Rebels. Players can choose from three available game modes. These are Campaign, Galactic Conquest, and Skirmish. In this game, at times, there are land battles along with space battles. It is a real-time strategy game that was released in 2006. Later the same year, an expansion pack was released for the game. This was titled Star Wars: Empire at War: Forces of Corruption. This game is compatible with Windows and MAC OS platforms.
This is another turn-based strategy game that Stardock has developed. The plot of this game is based in the 23rd century. Players are only assigned the human race. The player becomes the leader of the human race, and the goal to be achieved in this game is galactic domination through the colonization of space. This game does not support multiplayer gameplay. The player has to play against AI (Artificial Intelligence) opponents. He can choose from various civilizations: the Terran Alliance, Drengin Empire, Altarian Resistance, Arcean Empire, Yor Collective, Torian Confederation, Dominion of the Korx, and Drath Legion. This game was released in 2003 and is compatible with the Windows platform.
Lords of the Black Sun
This game was previously titled Star Lords. It is a turn-based game of the 4X strategy genre. You can play this game with multiple players, along with AI. Players have eight races to choose from, and they are assigned the leader of their chosen race. These leaders rule their empires, aiming to achieve space colonization. Arkavi Studios have developed the game. It was released in 2014 and is compatible with the Windows platform.
Master of Orion
This, again, is a turn-based game and belongs to the 4X genre of mystery games. Simtex has developed it. Like most other games on this list, the goal is establishing space colonies. This game has its focus on the colonization of the star systems. There are ten races available for the player to choose from. This is not one of the multiplayer space strategy games for PC. It is a single-player game, and players are pitted against AI. This game was first released in 1993 and is compatible with MS-DOS, Apple Macintosh, and Commodore Amiga.
Sword of the Star This game is also from the 4X strategy genre. Kerberos Productions have developed it. Players can choose to play from the various races, and the goal is to colonize the star systems. Besides providing an option to pit a single player against AI, this is also a multiplayer game. Its sequel was released in 2011, while the game was originally released in 2006. It is compatible with the Windows platform.
Relic Entertainment has developed this game. It is the first 3D game in the real-time strategy (RTS) category. There are two races to choose from – Kushan and Taiidan. Players are provided with the option of playing individually against AI or in a group. The game was released in 1999 and is compatible with the Windows platform.
One more game in the 4X strategy genre category is a turn-based game that Amplitude Studios have developed. This game has options for multiple players to play the same game and for a single player to take on AI. The plot takes place in 3000 A.D., where players are the leaders of their interstellar empires. Here, they can create their civilizations, and one of the ways to achieve victory is by universal colonization. The battle scenes in this game take place in long-range combat, medium-range combat, and combat at close quarters. The game was released in 2012 and is compatible with the MAC OS and Windows platforms.
This is a real-time strategy (RTS) game and has been developed by Uber Entertainment. Players are provided with a map consisting of various planets and asteroids. They have to capture these planets, which other planets can also annihilate. A player loses on losing the last commander of the fleet. This game draws a heavy resemblance to Total Annihilation. It was released in 2014 and is compatible with the MAC OS, Windows, and Linux platforms. These were some of the top space strategy games for PCs that provide a balanced mix of the best of both worlds or, should I say, many other worlds.