2019 it’s been a great year for video games and for turn-based strategy/RPGs too. While we prepare to receive great games in 2020, this morning i decided to stop and look back to last year’s top score reviews made by us.
In this list, you’ll find only PC games or DLCs released in 2019 and only the ones played and reviewed by us until now with a score of at least 7, ordered by the lowest one. For every game, you’ll find the score & links to our full review and store pages links (for some of them we earn a little commission that helps us with blog’s costs). Whenever we cover a 2019 game we will add it to the list. I can’t wait to read your comments and opinions.
Let’s start with our list of top pc turn-based strategy & RPGs of 2019.
21. Fort Sumter – (7)
GMT Games is a company that manufactures and sell wargames and boardgames. The former is its specialty: if you are so inclined (a ‘grognard’, that’s how a hardcore wargamer is called) you can basically play dozens of conflicts in pretty much all the eras of human life, from antique history to the contemporary era with their games.
Now GMT Games is beginning to port their games to the digital format with the help of Playdeck; Twilight Struggle was the first one (for obvious reasons) and it is now the turn of Fort Sumter. Read the review
20. Blood will be Spilled – (7.5)
Blood will be Spilled, by Slovakia-based Doublequote Studio, is a part puzzle-platformer, part turn-based shootout strategy, and entirely a reimagination of Steamworld Heist. But here, instead of steam-based robot pirates raiding ships for loot, you play as a mosquito bounty hunter looking for revenge in a spaghetti western setting inhabited by insects. Read the review
19. Overland – (7.5)
Overland is a turn-based survival roguelite that sends you on a fleeing coast-to-coast roadtrip set in post-apocalyptic America. The cause and scope of this apocalypse is unknown, upon first load of the game. Nor why it is you need to embark on this roadtrip at all, or what is at the end. All that matters is that you need to make it to the next tick on the map, the details may fill themselves in as you go – true survivalist mentality.
Armed with a map and a general sense of which way is West, the player makes his way from stop to stop based on the sparse information on the map and what supplies are needed to continue on… Read the review
18. Sin Slayers – (7.5)
While Sin Slayers, developed by Goonswarm and published by Black Tower Entertainment might initially look like little more than your standard retro-inspired turn-based RPG, beneath the surface there are some really interesting design choices at play here and plenty of content for any seasoned RPG veteran to sink their teeth into.
Following an opening menu where we get a first glimpse at the game’s unique art style – which features crisp, vibrant medieval-inspired foregrounds and dynamic, colorful moving backgrounds, we’re plunged straight into the storyline. A dreary tale of war and woe told in the form of scripture style storybook imagery, and complete with a dramatic voiceover reading that wouldn’t sound out of place in any of the Lord of the Rings movies… Read the review
17. Six Ages: Ride Like the Wind – (7.5)
To get the most out of a game like Six Ages: Ride Like The Wind one must unlearn contemporary ways of thinking and turn a blind eye to the weird, noisy hyper-world we now inhabit. The world of Six Ages is founded by the mythological conflicts between deities and the tribes and families of humans who now worship them.
We as players come along at a time when conflicts of both the physical and supernal realms herald a coming paradigm shift. Through heavy-handed diplomacy, strict resource management, appeasement of the deities, and hundreds of in-game events, Six Ages aims to have the player create his tribe’s own story… Read the review
16. Operencia: The Stolen sun – (8)
Operencia: The Stolen Sun is a dungeon crawler. The heyday of this genre was in early 90-s when graphics became elaborate enough to create captivating visuals, but CPU struggled drawing something in full 3D. With many technical restrictions, moving player along the grid and allowing only 90-degrees turns was a viable trick to make an illusion of a rich world with just a set of backgrounds and a few animated details.
Interestingly enough, there is a number of successful dungeon crawlers made in recent years. Instead of static backgrounds they use gorgeously rendered 3D world (and in Operencia you can actually rotate the camera freely), but apparently grid movement is still a viable shortcut to make level visually stunning, and at the same time easy to navigate. And thus to make you feel as an adventurer from a fantasy story. Read the review
15. Druidstone: The Secret of the Menhir Forest – (8)
The RPG genre is a very popular one nowadays and looking at all the titles that come out every year one cannot avoid noticing a certain issue called ‘being formulaic’. The staples of the genres are so well known and established that the basic formula seems to be written in stone and actively forcing a lot of developers to stick to it, almost in a religious way.
14. Slay the Spire – (8)
Slay the Spire is the first and so far only game created by studio Megacrit. The game was in early access until released in January 2019. First, the game is a rogue-lite because each run is randomized. You can take different routes, fight different enemies and bosses, find different cards, and find different rewards.
Also when you die the run ends and you have to start over from the beginning. Slay the Spire is a somewhat shorter game. Most runs take less than an hour. Read the review
13. Field of Glory: Empires – (8)
Grand strategy is a peculiar genre. It’s not really 4X as its scope is usually wider, not geographically speaking, but mechanics-wise. While 4X is usually restricted to the usual four basic mechanics (explore, expand, exploit and exterminate), grand strategy games is a wider (and more lax) category that encompasses a lot of different sub-genres and themes. Paradox is some sort of perfect example as its line of strategic games has always strayed from the 4X path to venture in the uncharted territories of peculiar eras and mechanics (Crusader Kings 2 being the perfect case in point here).
Ancient Rome has long been the perfect breeding ground for strategic games and, again, Paradox just released its latest take on the era with Imperator: Rome, a game that had a very mixed reception, good from critics, abysmal from players. The game is now being furiously patched to address the issues players were most vocal about.
Now enters Slitherine with its latest offer in the grand strategy genre, Field of Glory: Empires, a very interesting take on the period that has a lot to like (and some to dislike)… Read the review
12. To Battle!: Hell’s Crusade – (8)
To Battle! Hell’s Crusade is defined by the developers as “a classic, old-school, turn-based battle in a satirical medieval world.” and they are not kidding around! This game really is as old school as it gets! Imagine chess (yes, I meant, really old school!) but hexagons instead of grids. And you can train and level up your “soldiers”. And terrain matters. The rest is pure strategy with very minimal luck factor.
The game bows to table top games on the visual side too. The battlefields look like a wooden board. Your army looks like war-gaming miniatures, beautifully created by the developer Alex Javor, and very much looking like historical Crusaders… Read the review
11. Queen’s Wish: The Conqueror – (8)
Queen’s Wish: The Conqueror has most of the old school turn-based RPG elements in it, but with a few tweaks that I will explain below. It gives you everything you can expect from a story-driven game. The path, in general, is very story-rich, the NPCs that play a role in this story are all well thought of, the places you visit are intriguingly described, there are lots of side quests, exploration, and unlocking of new areas to do… Read the review
10. Age of Wonders: Planetfall – (8)
Different from other 4x games, Age of Wonders Planetfall presents an interesting story mode that presents the excuse to learn how to play with the six different factions available. The essence is the same for all of them sure but with subtle differences that in one way or another make you adopt different combat tactics. The Kir’ko, for example, are insects that charge straight to their rivals spitting acid, while the humans of the Vanguard faction rely on cover and fire weapons to exterminate any enemy that gets in their way. There are armies that can take control of enemies using incredible technology, and there are those that charge even through cover leaving no one safe.
Combat in Age of Wonders Planetfall is fun and exciting because it allows you to be creative when it comes to fighting your enemies, numbers matter sure, but you can end up victorious even in disadvantageous situations if you play your cards right. You can customize your troops by choosing what kind of ammo they use, their defensive equipment, attack range, accuracy; you can even equip them with jetpacks so that they can move through the battlefield faster… Read the review
9. Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones – (8)
Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones takes you exactly where it promises in the title: A VERY dark land literally torn apart from New England it once was part of, thrown into a plane of madness and despair, as it is now ruled by the Old Ones. I assure you, I am not being particularly dramatic.
The game is a turn-based tactical RPG with very strong survival and horror adventure elements. In fact, you spend most of your time wandering Arkham solving mysteries, not knowing what to do next, unless you find a clue that points you in the right direction, that is, inescapably, more madness and despair. You are not trying to save the world: “That battle is already lost”, to quote the game’s Steam page directly. You are merely trying to find your way out of this plane, save your own self, which in itself is a very sad thing…Read the review
8. Indivisible – (8)
Indivisible – developed by Lab Zero and published by 505 games feels, and plays, in many ways like an interactive anime cartoon. With hand drawn graphics, and crisp attention to detail, there’s no denying this is a beautiful game. From as early as the opening cinematic, I found myself charmed and enamoured by the exceptional 2D visuals, captivating soundtrack, and clean, polished look of it all. But is this merely a case of style over substance? What of the story, and just how well does the gameplay hold up?
You’d be hard pressed to pin Indivisible down into any one genre. To call it an RPG, much less a turn based one, would be doing it a great disservice – as with elements of action, beat ‘em up, and platforming all at play, there’s a lot more going on here than initially meets the eye… Read the review
7. SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech – (8)
Steamworld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech is a turn-based deck building role-playing game where you control a group of up to three heroes in a series of adventures through a fantasy world inhabited by robots who look like animals and act like teenagers.
If a deep story and serious worldbuilding is your thing, you can skip past this one. But if you like inventive combat, card collecting, and tongue-in-cheek humor, then you’re in for a treat… Read the review
6. Wargroove – (8.5)
The story is quite simple: a poor and beloved king is killed by a vampire (or some sort of) named Valder. So now his daughter, Mercia, has to defend the land from the invaders. It is a light-hearted war story, as we can find in many others fantasy games, but it is cute, funny and well told.
During our campaign, other than Mercia, we will meet a lot of interesting characters that will transform a simple story in a…no, nothing more than that, just a simple story! But, let’s admit it, the most well-known strategy games usually don’t even try to tell a story, Wargroove at least makes an attempt to tell something.
The gameplay of Wargroove reminded me very closely another gloriously game from past: Battle for Wesnoth.
We have to play many scenario, of different size, in which we – as well as our opponent – usually begin with a barrack to produce our soldiers, and we have to conquer gradually the whole map until the defeat of our enemies. Each side takes its turn individually on a square grid-based map. Obviously, during the single stages, we can produce new units with the gold we obtained from our conquered villages. Nothing too complicated, just a mini-economy aspect of the game to manage… Read the review
5. Pillars of Eternity 2 with turn-based combat – (8.5)
Game creators had put a lot of effort in their lore, I grant them that. Familiar fantasy races and conventions are mixed here with the political landscape of “Age of Pirates” (I mean history period, not the game). Around Deadfire archipelago you meet elves, dwarfs and a bunch of other races, roaming the seas in search of riches and adventures. Islands themselves fall into spheres of influence of half-a-dozen factions.
In case you were wondering, what does this review doing on “Turn-based lovers” site, there is indeed turn-based combat in Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire. And despite a large focus on a story and conversations, you can’t avoid combat encounters. Some boss fights are a part of the main quest and mobs guard a lot of precious loot… Read the review
4. Battletech: Season Pass – (8.7)
These days players too often treat additional downloadable content with suspicion. Though not without reasons – too many publishers abuse DLCs, asking too much money for too little experience. Sometimes the question arises if it was even necessary to cut some things due to lack of time for polish or everything was made purely to sell some things twice. With Season Passes there is additional distrust, as you don’t even know what exactly is going to be included.
Well, now for the BattleTech Season Pass you know. Three DLCs: Flashpoint, Urban Warfare, and Heavy Metal. Each adding not only new mechs and equipment but also various missions and even mini-campaigns… Read the review
3. Total War: Three Kingdoms – (9)
Total War: Three Kingdoms is the first Total War game I have played in almost a decade if you ignore my seventeen hours in Napoleon and fourteen in Shogun 2. And you should, because much like good whiskey, anything under 20 shouldn’t even be considered when talking about Total War.
It felt good to rule, to conquer, and to command troops in battle. And it still feels good doing it here, in Three Kingdoms, even though so much has changed… Read the review
2. Fantasy General II: Invasion – (9)
My forces on the battlefield are divided in half… They have been since we arrived at this cursed swamp. Some of the troops are grumbling about my past decisions as their general. Just by my mere presence, their performance is negatively affected. You can’t please everybody, I guess…
One army group is to the east, mucking through the sludge trying to chase off lizardmen. The other group, my group, is more north-northwest and were trying to skirt around a spider-infested part of the area only to come face to face with a mob of undead Legion troops. So, there’s that…
I’ve got a single group of recon infantry hidden in a line of trees heading for a site of ancient ruins, with the hope of finding sweet loot for our coffers. That loot will be needed to replenish my troll boulder throwers so they can make a last-ditch, long distant effort in knocking down the morale of a pack of lizardmen skirmishers which, in theory, will chase them off the backs of my surrounded thane and his younglings. All of this, of course, depends on exactly what the recon troops find in the ruins. If it’s anything other than gold… Well, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there…
My troops are exhausted. I’m down to a single unit of berserkers. My mounted lancer units are completely ineffective here. The pressure to appeal to my peoples’ ethos is mounting. I occasionally hear a menacing roar coming from the general direction we aim to go. Lizardmen are fighting with Empire troops. Empire troops are fighting with each other. This swamp smells terrible. So do my charging trolls. And I am positive I’ve caught glimpse of ghosts breezing through the trees to the west… Advertisement
…And this whole time I’m thinking to myself: Would it have been a better decision to head through the mountains instead of the swamps to get to the rival lands of the Legion?
This is but a single glimpse into the quagmire that Fantasy General II: Invasion will put you. A glimpse into the turn-based, tactical and narrative land of Keldonia, where leadership is the only force that enables change… and disaster… Read the review
1. Disco Elysium – (10)
Did you hear about Disco Elysium? If you are even remotely following game industry news, then yes, you did. Everyone has been raving about it. Some critiques already named it as Game of the Year. Official or otherwise acclaimed nominations include “best narrative”, “best music”, “best art”, “best voice acting”, “best RPG in the last decade”, “best RPG since Planescape: Torment”, or even “best cRPG ever”.
Let’s hold the word “best” for a while but this game really is something.
Part of the raving is the element of surprise that it came out of a studio never heard of before. Disco Elysium is the very first release of Estonian studio ZA/UM. Apparently, they broadcasted an online radio before, and published novels by Robert Kurvitz, Disco Elysium’s lead designer and writer, but no game that might precede something this ambitious… Read the review
Lots of 2019 turn-based games still left to play and 2020 has already a huge list of upcoming games, so, If you are a fan of this genre and would like to play games and talk about them, just contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach me on twitter.