Top Three Developers Making Real-Time Strategy Games in 2017

If you're a keen real-time strategy player, you'll want to keep an eye on these game studios who are releasing the genre's big titles.

Real-time strategy took something of a back seat in 2016, with only a few major releases outside the realm of expansion packs. Both Offworld Trading Company and Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak were fairly well received, but RTS games as a whole didn't seem to get the love of other genres. That looks set to change this year, as there are a number of potentially excellent releases on the horizon.

The developers involved range from veterans of the industry to studios working on their first project. Experience doesn't necessarily translate to success though, and similarly we shouldn't write off the first offering of a potentially exciting new team.

Either way, there will be some top-tier RTS goodness hitting the market this year -- here are a few of the gaming houses we've got our eye on.

Relic Entertainment (Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III)

This Canadian outfit have produced arguably one of the most successful RTS franchises of recent years, by skillfully translating the complex Warhammer tabletop mechanics into a deep, yet accessible strategy game. Dawn of War complements its mechanics with crisp, colourful visuals and immersive sound, and the third title in the series looks to be no exception.

The biggest challenge Relic will have is in convincing its fan base to invest again. The switch up from the first to the second game was jarring, not least because the focus moved from traditional RTS tropes to squad-based management. Much grumbling ensued, and to this day you'll find players divided over their favorite entry in the series.

More upset is on the cards for the third entry, since Relic have dialled the gameplay back after their experimentation in Dawn of War II. We're once again in familiar RTS territory, albeit with a lot more happening on the battlefield. There are three factions to control (Eldar, Orks and Space Marines), and while the title graphically excels, our hands-on at EGX 2016 felt a little bewildering. It offered little in the way of tutorials and even hardened Dawn of War players were struggling to work out their objectives, let alone accurately control their units.

That said, this vertical slice was likely a proving ground for the gameplay, focusing on areas for improvement. The final product could go either way with fans, but we're cautiously optimistic that Relic know what they're doing.

Grimlore Games (Spellforce 3)

A studio opened by THQ Nordic back in 2013, Grimlore Games have been handed the reigns of the RTS/RPG hybrid Spellforce. With their first major release, the developer will no doubt want to prove itself in the field and the third iteration of the quirky franchise could be the perfect opportunity.

The Spellforce series has been around for well over a decade, and has established something of a cult following. Bridging two genres is never an easy task though, and the story elements of the previous games will take even more of a focus this time around, since this third chapter is a prequel.

Elves, Humans and Orcs may not make the most compelling units to play, but the RPG element of Spellforce places Heroes front and centre, allowing you to customise them with different skills. We're curious to see what Grimlore do with this series, but the nature of the prequel means they have free reign to carve their own backstory. A less restrictive environment will hopefully translate to a more creative end product. We'll find out if that's the case later this year.

Creative Assembly (Halo Wars 2)

The Horsham, UK-based crew are taking over the development duties of the sequel to the lauded Halo Wars from Ensemble Studios, and the franchise looks to be in safe hands. Not only does the studio have over 16 years' experience in the strategy arena, but the Total War series has also been consistently well-received by gamers and critics alike.

From what we've seen, the rock-paper-scissors system from the first installment of the space-based strategy will remain. These will be buffed by the addition of Commanders which are picked before each battle, and who have their own abilities to potentially swing victory your way. The addition of Blitz, a new RTS/card game mash-up mode for the sequel, shows that Creative Assembly aren't afraid of trying out something new either. A beta for the new game is coming on January 20th, which will give more people the chance to try this interesting spin-off. Promising signs, indeed.

Halo Wars 2 will be hitting both PC and Xbox One markets this year, and if the developer can retain the fluidity and accessibility -- especially on console -- which made the original game such a delight to play, there's every chance that this could be a tremendous success.

Are there any developers making RTS games that you're looking forward to in 2017? Let us know in the comments!

Published Jan. 12th 2017

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