OCC E3 2013 AwardsClayMeow -
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Best Strategy Game
Winner: Total War: Rome II (PC)
There are few strategy games as well known and well loved as any entry in the Total War series, and it's small wonder why Total War: Rome II is my winner. Building on the impressive yet nearly decade old Rome: Total War, the sequel is centered on the Roman Republic with the opportunity to turn it into the mighty Roman Empire. Along the way you'll have to conquer various tribes, regions, and provinces, while fighting off any uprisings or rebellions; oh, and let's not forget ruling an empire. Everything in Total War: Rome II is being expanded, with a multitude of new battles (including naval ones) added, decisions to make (like turning Rome into an empire), traits to assign to legions instead of just generals, and even customizable weapon loadouts for the legions. There's also a few dozen factions to encounter in the game, with eight playable when TW:R2 arrives.
Developer The Creative Assembly has expressed a desire to bring out a more human side to war, which means facial animations allowing for soldiers to react to their comrades falling next to them or their general giving a rousing speech before a siege tower arrives. The game's new engine looks simply awesome, with immense battles captured like never before. Thousands of soldiers can be seen at once, with cameras that can zoom in to a personal level in order to capture that human side of war. All I know is that Total War: Rome II is shaping up to be the best entry in the series yet, and I just hope there's enough time in the day to see it all.
Runner-Up: Company of Heroes 2 (PC)
Company of Heroes 2 is a strategy game I've been looking forward to for a while, yet just like last year, it has to reside in the runner-up category. That's not to say anything bad about CoH 2, it just means there are too many tough choices in one of my favorite genres. The game is shaping up rather nicely, and visually it looks to be on the same kind of level as Total War: Rome II. Just, you know, with nearly two millennia of warfare technology improvements. CoH 2 focuses on the Eastern Front of World War II, where the Russians and Germans battled and lost millions of men. The Eastern Front may not be as well known, but its importance in the war was no less significant. The snow and absolutely brutal conditions of the Russian winter look to be captured perfectly, with weather playing a major part in battles. It's one thing to lose soldiers to a tank, but something else to lose them to frostbite. Snow can impede movement as well, and while that frozen lake may seem to offer sancutary, it could just as easily break and swallow a tank division.
It sounds like a whole new level of strategy is going to be required in Company of Heroes 2, and it's certainly a welcomed one.
Winner: Company of Heroes 2 (PC)
Company of Heroes 2 was my Best Strategy Game of E3 2012, so I really wanted to avoid selecting it again. But even a year later, it still happens to be the most impressive strategy game at E3. I talked about the realistic snow and "true sight" mechanic last year, both of which are still major reasons to be excited for CoH 2. Based on the gameplay demo shown at E3, I was equally impressed with the smoke, lighting, and extreme detail of the units. While its often best to play a real-time strategy game as zoomed out as possible, CoH 2 begs you to zoom in – and indeed you can get right up close and personal with each unit. As far as gameplay goes, while the game has your typical single-player campaign, skirmish, and multi-player modes, it's the Theater or War mode that's most intriguing – 18 co-op missions divided equally between the Soviet Red Army and German factions. The original game is the highest rated RTS to date, so the sequel has some big shoes to fill.
Runners-Up: Total War: Rome II (PC), Transistor (PC, PS4), Merc Elite (PC)
I could never get into the Total War series, but I'm certainly not blind to its greatness. Total War: Rome II is impressive to say the least. While Rome: Total War was released back in 2004, there have been five other Total War games since and they keep getting more massive. Rome II is indeed massive, but also allows you to zoom into the unit level to get an up-close look at the bloodshed. Still, it's all about vast armies battling equally vast armies in a spectacle unmatched by any other game.
Transistor may seem like an action-RPG on the surface, but it hides a turn-based strategy game on the inside. At any time, you can enter "Turn", which stops time and allows you to plan out your movement and attacks, with each action consuming a certain portion of an action bar. It's an interesting twist on the typical hack-and-slash combat seen in most action-RPGs. Oh, and it's also being developed by Supergiant Games, the indie studio behind the critically acclaimed Bastion. So yeah, there's that too.
I wouldn't be surprised if you never heard of Merc Elite, but you should certainly keep your eye on this "free modern warfare MOBA military game." While it's being called a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena), like Dota 2 and League of Legends, it plays very differently – it plays like a top-down shooter. It's much more like a top-down Counter-Strike than it is a militaristic Dota, and indeed it does feature free-aiming like a shooter rather than the click-to-attack found in your more typical MOBAs. So even if you're not a MOBA fan, if you're looking for a free-to-play co-op shooter, Merc Elite may do just the trick.