How Strategy Games Could be Better if They Had More Weather

Rain, sun, snow or storm -- there's ample opportunity to make weather a huge part of any strategy game.

Strategy gamers may be used to throwing up structures, ordering troops to their certain death, or flinging balls of fire at winged contraptions. There is no shortage of weird and wonderful ways to conquer your opponent.

But whilst many games are focused on creating new and inventive units for players to utilize in order to gain superiority on the battlefield, development studios are overlooking nature’s greatest weapon: the weather.

Bizarrely, it’s ignored more often than not -- but where it’s implemented, it often becomes a game-changing force. As strategy games become more and more concerned with iterative releases (Civilization 6, Dawn of War 3, etc.), is it time to ask for something a little different?

Here are some suggestions.  

Winter is Coming

It’s not as though there isn’t a precedent for the weather altering the course of a battle, or even a war. History has shown us that the cold can have a huge impact -- look at how the Russian Winter devastated German troops in World War II.

But when it comes to games, it seems that most armies are more than happy to march nonchalantly through the snow with nary a care for frostbite. One exception to this is Endless Legend, whose seasonal arctic blast can help you turn a game around.

Not only does it affect food production (meaning if your opponent hasn’t stocked up, they’re screwed), but it hampers movement across the map. You know, like winter should do. Instead of ignoring the ice and snow, why not make it part of the game?

Do You See What I See?

Strategists are no stranger to the fog of war, but what about actual fog? If you had the option of generating fog on a battlefield to disorient your enemy, while granting your troops a way to bypass the negative effects (thermal cameras, anyone?), then you could harness nature’s cloud blanket in ingenious ways.

Warhammer: Dawn of War 2 touched on weather effects by battering you with mist and rain, but it more served an aesthetic end than any actual purpose. Not only is fog impenetrable, but it’s cold and wet. Why not investigate how that might affect mechanical units who have to march through it? There’s a good chance the water would blow a few circuits...

I’ll Huff and Puff

Some of a player's most memorable moments in gaming come from weather effects. Remember how you built up your glorious metropolis in Sim City? Remember how proud you were when everything was running as efficiently as the Singaporean MRT? Then do you recall how you felt when a hurricane came along and ripped half of your city to shreds?

Yeah, that happens in real life. So why not embrace it in gaming? The possibilities for creating a wind machine and flinging half your opponent’s army across the map are both exciting and potentially hilarious.

Brick by Brick We Shall Build This Cathedral

Why stop with using the weather solely as an offensive weapon? There are plenty of smart ways in which weather effects can be implemented to create strategic advantages. Consider buildings as an example -- the literal foundation of any 4X game, your plants, facilities, and manufacturing bases churn out units by the bucketload.

But what if they could produce different units entirely dependent on the current weather? Perhaps those solar spacecraft won’t get built if the sun has been blotted out by your opponent unleashing a thunderstorm over your base. However, maybe you can counter that by utilizing the electrical power via lightning rods and create something far superior which they weren’t expecting? 

***

There is scope for endless back-and-forth in strategy games, but too many studios seem content with tossing out yet another iteration of a tank, or armored platoon, or overpowered dreadnought. Why not look around the world we’re inhabiting for different inspiration?

Weather can be far more devastating than anything man-made. And, as we’re likely to find out over the next century, climate change is going to be our greatest enemy. Maybe gaming should reflect that. 

What kind of weather effects would you like to see in strategy games? Let us know in the comments!

Published Jan. 25th 2017

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