Updated on January 4th, 2019
Believe it or not, there are a bunch of 4X games that are in development right now, and most of the current batch are still receiving expansions. It makes me incredibly happy to see the genre in full swing like this. I hope that we start to see a bit more innovation, but I’m nearly certain we’ll see some serious refinement of the systems we’ve come to know and love.
For starters, let’s just list the games that I currently know about that are in development:
- Age of Wonders: PlanetFall
- Jon Shafer’s At the Gates
- Lord of Rigel
- 10 Crowns
- Pax Nova
- Thea 2: The Shattering
- Distant Worlds 2
- Dominus Galaxia
- Alliance of the Sacred Suns
- Remnants of the Precursors
- Interstellar Space: Genesis
There’s probably a lot more that are out there, but I believe this represents the list of the 4X games most likely to actually see a release date. Hell, some of them are already out in some form (Thea 2, At the Gates, AotSS), so they’re even more likely to be finished.
Which of these games has the most potential? Which of these games keeps me up at night, waiting impatiently to play the most?
At the very top of my list is Age of Wonders: Planetfall. There’s so much to be excited about, I’m not exactly sure where to begin.
First, it’s being developed by Triumph Studios, and if the name of the game didn’t give it away, they’re responsible for the great – almost spectacular – Age of Wonders 3. They decided to take a break from fantasy and moved into science fiction, with some fantasy bits thrown in, added elements of Alpha Centauri and Endless Legend, and kept their amazing battle system. You couldn’t possibly do anything more to immediately grab my attention.
What’s more is that they’ve clearly taken the feedback they received from Age of Wonders 3 and have developed a game that not only features their well-developed combat system but have also introduced new diplomatic and empire management mechanics that easily propel my hype to previously-unknown levels.
They’ve only shown off bits of three of the six factions that will come with the base game, but everything they’ve shown lives up to the hype I’ve had, which only fuels my hype further. Check out these two videos of the Kir’Ko (insect aliens) and the Dvar (dwarf militarists):
Lastly, take an in-depth look at gameplay here. If you have a single 4X bone in your body, you’ll likely be very excited by what you see here:
There’s a lot more I could say about Planetfall, but I’d be writing a Planetfall article and not a “Most Anticipated 4X Games” article at that point. Needless to say, Planetfall is at the top of my list for a host of reasons, the main of which are a great combat system, an intelligent use of Endless Legend’s region system, deeper diplomacy than any of their previous Age of Wonders games, asymmetric factions, and much more.
Let’s just hope that it plays half as good as it looks when it comes out in 2019.
Next on my list would be Thea 2: The Shattering. Admittedly, I didn’t play the original that much as a few games stole my attention during the time period that it released, but that’s not an indicator of its quality. A lot of people, including my former compadres at eXplorminate, thought incredibly highly of Thea 1, so much so that eXplorminate named it their game of the year in 2015.
However, every time I played it, I saw an insane amount of potential for the idea behind Thea, that I was pretty sure would need another iteration to finally fulfill. It’s great to see that MuHa games have really taken the feedback that they received from Thea 1 to heart and are shaping The Shattering into exactly the game Thea 1 had the potential to be.
Granted, it’s still very early in Thea 2’s early access period, but nearly everything has been improved from Thea 1: better graphics, a deeper crafting system, expansion options, deeper combat, and much more. And that’s just the beginning. It already plays more smoothly than Thea 1 did when it hit Early Access, so now MuHa just needs to flesh out the mechanics, flood the game with content, and polish the experience, and Thea 2 will be a game that I think a lot of 4X gamers will enjoy. Especially those looking for a new and different experience!
Next up, Pax Nova looks like a game I could really enjoy. Now, it’s important to point out that Pax Nova, published by Iceberg Interactive, is a new game from Grey Wolf Studios, the developers behind Dawn of Andromeda. That’s important to mention because I didn’t really like Dawn of Andromeda when it was all said and done (and I explain why in my review), but it was littered with potential.
But potential is an ugly word in game development and just because a game has/had potential doesn’t really mean a damn thing. I could see that Grey Wolf wanted to make a streamlined, accessible 4X that featured new and different mechanics for the genre, but the execution ended up being quite drab.
Pax Nova, on the other hand, appears to be incorporating lessons learned from DoA (yikes, what an awful acronym; it’s almost as if the game was doomed from the start), and beyond that, it also looks to incorporate some truly unique gameplay ideas. Not only will you be spreading your empire out in the traditional space 4X way by settling other planets, but you’ll also be conquering those planets a la Alpha Centauri or Beyond Earth. Take a look to see what I mean:
Granted, I’m mostly speculating here, but it really looks to have an Emperor of the Fading Suns vibe going, which is a good thing. They’ve announced special victory conditions for each faction, a random tech tree, and unit and ship customization, which are all huge pluses in my book. It’s expected to drop this month (December), but nothing has been said about an exact date yet.
Dominus Galaxia (DG) is basically the modernization of the original Master of Orion mechanics and considering I enjoyed the first one more than the somehow-more-popular sequel, I’m pretty damn excited for the eventual final product.
DG is being developed by only a couple people right now, so development is painfully slow, but when it will be finished, it promises to have all the right elements from MoO 1, including streamlined colony management, tactical combat, and deep diplomacy. For a quick taste, check out this Let’s Play:
Considering that Master of Orion is firmly near the very top of my “4X Game Leaderboard”, you can imagine that my excitement for a new 4X in the same vein is pretty high. I do worry about the game ever finding a full release, because as I mentioned, development is very slow due to the amount of manpower currently working on it. However, I know the two main devs well enough to have hope that they’ll see this one through. Fingers crossed.
While every potential new 4X on the list above is exciting, the last of my “most anticipated” 4X games is a game I know very little about: Distant Worlds 2. We know it’s being worked on. We know it’s likely coming in 2019. And that’s it.
If Code Force/Matrix Games can just take the original, make it look modern, and add some decent diplomacy, that’d be enough for me to lose my damn mind. The original Distant Worlds is a fan favorite for good reason, so there shouldn’t be too much “fixing what ain’t broke” when it comes to the sequel. Let’s hope that they know that much and let’s also hope we learn something – ANYTHING – about the game sometime soon.
Anyway, those are my most anticipated 4X games of 2019. Jon Shafer’s At the Gates would probably have made my list, but I’m still not convinced it’s a game I enjoy as it stands now (I bought in to its Kickstarter and play the development builds), and I don’t imagine it will change that much between now and it’s likely 2019 release. I think I’ll be firing it up soon to see the progress its made and perhaps write some feedback about it here.
Hell, I might even do a short Let’s Play. Edit: Okay, I did and here it is:
I’ve spent another 20 hours with Jon Shafer’s At the Gates and I’m now genuinely excited by it and its potential. There’s a lot to like here with its Colonization meets Thea: The Awakening gameplay and those of you that enjoy a “Player vs Environment” type strategy game are going to want to watch it.
It definitely takes some cues from the rogue-like genre, as Jon has made mention of in the past. Truthfully, it’s more so than I had anticipated. I’ve had to restart a few times after I’ve realized that bad choices have led my tribe to their untimely end.
Now, I’m not normally someone who really enjoys starting all over, but there’s something truly exciting about beginning anew to explore your new map and develop a new and different strategy. My current game is still difficult, but I’m doing much better and I’m excited by my progress.
I’m going to add it to my “Most Anticipated List”, but with a soft warning, as it is a bit buggy and there are some technical issues as I get further along into the game (like a nasty out of memory error). Lastly, there’s only barebones diplomacy in a game that feels like it needs a fun and interesting system, but Jon has already said that he plans on fleshing it out much more in the future.
However, I think it’ll end up being quite a surprise for a lot of people, as some/most people have probably written it off by now.
Stay tuned! I’ll have a full write up some time close its full release on January 23rd.
I’m curious to know what you might be anticipating the most. Any of the games that I listed sound as exciting to you? Did I overlook a game that should be on my radar? Let me know in the comments below!