The Best Strategy / Tactics Games of 2022

Using your acute tactical thinking is sometimes the best way out of any tight circumstance. This is our pick for the year’s best strategy and tactics games.

The Best Strategy Games

1. Crusader Kings III 

Crusader Kings III - Wikipedia

In her 71 years, Empress Hamam accomplished a lot. She reinstated systematic worship of the ancient Egyptian gods and cemented the rule of a new pharaonic dynasty in the medieval Nile Valley, thus ending centuries of foreign rule.

She was born from a poor clan in what is now Sudan (eastern Africa). Her life’s obsession, on the other hand, was her 12 children, some of whom would go on to rule their own countries. Raising that many kids, on the other hand, is stressful, which led her to develop a drinking habit and a fondness for extravagant feasts, further ingratiating her in the eyes of her more revelous people.

This is just one of the many human stories that have arisen naturally over the course of the more than 100 hours I’ve already spent playing Crusader Kings 3. And the way it marries the personal and the political, the grand and the intimate, is nothing short of spectacular.

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Crusader Kings has always been a series about how individual characters and their interactions impact history, and the third installment finds new and interesting ways to depict that. Crusader Kings 3 follows in the footsteps of its predecessors by incorporating court drama, dynasty feuds, and marriage alliances into the more familiar grand strategy game responsibilities of building castles, researching technology, and fighting wars.

A personal insult between two adjacent monarchs can erupt in bloodshed and chaos fit for a fantastic historical fiction novel, yet a well-planned betrothal can form a powerful alliance and finally unify kingdoms under one crown. It’s a game that’s really more about people than things, and that focus is what makes it genuinely unique and memorable.

Most of the fundamental components that made Crusader Kings 2 work have been deepened and expanded upon by Paradox Development Studio. This is exemplified by the stress system, which led our jovial matriarch Hamam to seek consolation in the bottom of a bottle.

Characters in Crusader Kings 2 have personality traits that affect their stats, although they don’t do anything to influence your actions. In Crusader Kings 3, a vicious character will become stressed if you frequently show mercy to your enemies, whilst an honest character would chafe at shadowy deals.

This encouraged me to roleplay my characters’ attributes rather of merely seeing them as numerical modifiers, or to live with the consequences of defying their natural tendencies, both of which I appreciated. Crusader Kings 3’s system, understandably, lacks the depth of its predecessor’s, which has benefited from seven years and hundreds of dollars in expansions, but it’s well on its way.

Stress, on the other hand, never felt like it forced me into a particular pattern of conduct. When you’ve accumulated too much, you’ll experience a mental breakdown, and you’ll have to choose between a couple of coping techniques to deal with the stress of running a medieval realm.

Whether it’s drinking, fighting, or frequenting brothels, each of these activities adds depth to the characters and opens up new opportunities for drama and conflict. Hamam’s penchant for drinking led her to make new acquaintances with other magnates who shared her passion.

However, losing your cool could result in you hitting a priest and upsetting the Pope, which is not a good idea in this times. You can always say goodbye to a religious doctrine that no longer suits you, thanks to the in-depth, free-form new religion system. You may invent a new Catholic heresy that promotes cannibalism, believes in reincarnation, and only allows women to become priests.

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Everything, from the clergy’s function to opinions on witchcraft and homosexuality, is configurable. The possibilities are nearly endless, allowing you to personalize your experience and leave an indelible stamp on the planet in ways that were never conceivable in earlier games.

Without a little cloak and dagger, medieval dynastic politics would be nothing, and Crusader Kings 3 has gone all out in this area. By uncovering and threatening to expose an extramarital affair, for example, you can gain control over other characters via a new system of secrets and hooks.

Working purely in the shadows feels lucrative and viable, allowing you to build your power base by trading favors, manipulating the careless, and assassinating those who are too inconvenient to your plans. The majority of the same outcomes were achieved in Crusader Kings 2, but the path to them is now much deeper and more interactive.

Beyond the advantage meter, which clearly reveals who is winning a battle at any given time (a significant improvement over Crusader Kings 2’s convoluted and impenetrable number-crunching), Warfare features numerous great new ideas. 

While battle remains relatively easy and hands-off from a tactical fact, the ways in which it might have long-term consequences have been substantially expanded and deepened beyond simple success or failure. Individual, identified fighters now have a stronger role to play in shifting the tide, and there are more opportunities for personal stories to emerge from the noise of clashing steel.

Furthermore, the consequences of bloodshed can now be far more devastating to a monarch than losing an entire army. A lover serving in your personal guard may make the ultimate sacrifice to protect you from a stray arrow.

Even if you win, a close but violent war could end all of your adult children, your most trusted counselor, and your best friend dead or injured. The survivors will face a drastically different political situation and atmosphere at court, potentially throwing your present avatar into a downward spiral filled with angst and debauchery.

Crusader Kings 3 is a fantastic strategy game, a fantastic RPG, and a master class in how to make existing systems by taking the best aspects of them and making them deeper and better. In the previous game, I spent thousands of hours, and I expect to spend at least that many in this third version.

All of the fascinatingly flawed characters and compelling stories of love, conflict, success, and sorrow that have already evolved from my playthroughs feel like the beginning of something legendary. In fact, if I had to choose only one game to play for the rest of my life, I wouldn’t have a hard time deciding. There has been a new king of historical strategy anointed. Long may the king reign.

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2. Othercide 

Othercide Review — The Suffering Other Has Won

Some parents are vested in their children’s academic performance or success in extracurricular activities. Othercide let you to command a small army of warrior Daughters equipped with gigantic swords and elegant revolvers to slice, bash, and blast their way through a zoo of Lovecraftian horrors. But this is more than just a place to vent about bloody parental fantasies.

Othercide is also the year’s best turn-based strategy game thus far. Othercide puts you in command of a darkly ethereal world called the Inner Void, from which you summon Daughters – echoes of whatever the Mother used to be – to stop the arrival of an eldritch entity known as Suffering, with the help of a mystery character known as the Red Mother.

This, like 2018’s Into the Breach, will necessitate failing and going back in time over and over until you get it perfect. Every subsequent “Remembrance” allows you to carry over a currency called Shards from a prior run, so I never felt like I was starting again. Failure is an expected and necessary element of the learning process.

However, once I realized that death was never truly the end, it felt a little too forgiving at times. Shards are utilized to unlock per-run bonuses such as increased health and damage, as well as the ability to skip bosses you’ve already killed.

While there is a pleasant sense of achievement, I frequently won so many shards per run that I didn’t have to make any meaningful choices about how to spend them. I could use all of the benefits I’d unlocked at the same time.

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Fortunately, the other resources at my disposal forced me to make those difficult decisions. Notably, Daughters do not heal between missions, and no healing powers or consumables are available. In addition to taking damage, most of the more potent special strikes have a cost in terms of health. To heal a daughter, you must sacrifice another of equal or higher level.

The Vitae required to call new daughters is abundant, therefore having a supply of sacrifices is rarely an issue. However, the emotional toll of killing one of my children in order to save another could be significant. As a consolation, the benefactor will always have a piece of the sacrificed daughter with them in the shape of a minor mechanical benefit based on her stats when she died.

Resurrection tokens are the ultimate and most valuable resource. Because each failed Remembrance sends your whole current roster to the graveyard, they are a good way to carry some of your best warriors from one run to the next. They’re quite difficult to come by during the course of a run, though purchasing shards can get you a couple right away. They helped me to preserve a sense of continuity and build bonds with Daughters who had been with me since the beginning, which I much valued.

Othercide proves to be a satisfying, demanding, and at times chaotic tactical dreamscape once the turn-based action kicks in. From the tanky Shieldbearer to the heavy-hitting Blademaster to the ranged support specialist, the Soulslinger, each of the four classes has a different duty to play.

From swift and lethal Scavengers to monstrous insectoid abominations that can tie you in place with a sticky discharge, the enemy variety is vast. New adversaries are presented gradually throughout the course of the five chapters, and even seeing familiar ones in new combinations compelled me to pause and stop my options.

A time-based initiative mechanism adds even more intrigue and thought to the mix. Daughters who use more than half of their action points will have to wait a long time to act again, therefore it’s usually best to end your turn with at least half of your action points left so you can react more quickly to changing battlefield conditions.

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And, with three mission types to choose from – anxious Rescue, frantic Survival, and ass-kicking Hunt – I had to figure out what worked best in different scenarios. The map selection was one area where these missions felt a little lacking.

Even though the horde of villains was varied every time, I encountered the same patterns often enough that they became a touch repetitive. At the very least, they’re attractive. Well, “lovely” might not be the best word to use.

Othercide is dismal as hell, and its gothic horror aesthetic, which is primarily black and white, does an excellent job at creating an oppressive and dangerous atmosphere. The splashes of red that the incredibly fashionable Daughters wear add to the impression that they are symbols of hope in this dismal nightmare.

I can’t finish without noting the bosses, which are each expertly-designed puzzles with many potential solutions that will send you back to the beginning if you attack them head-on. I wasn’t able to defeat any of them on my first try, but every enemy you’ve encountered before will be put to the codex, where you can read up on its behavior.

Except for the dice rolls for things like attacking and avoiding, all of the enemies in Othercide behave deterministically. Knowing that a boss or enemy would always go after the nearest Daughter, or the one with the least health, can help you control them and lead them into traps. When I realized the power that knowledge might provide me, I truly hit my stride.

Othercide is a tactical roguelike with a penchant for dramatic, gratifying fighting that rewards smart preparation and knowledge of your opponents, as well as difficult, sometimes heartbreaking resource shepherding.

Since this adventure becomes what the kids would call “bastard hard” by the end, I haven’t made it to the final, semi-secret unlocked boss. Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to wrapping off my business with them and learning the dark dream’s final secrets. Othercide is not to be taken lightly. This is one for the moldy, musty bookshelf.

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3. Desperados III 

Desperados III on GOG.com

While the Western genre is known for lightning-fast duels and run-and-gun shootouts, Desperados 3’s real-time tactical stealth missions are best enjoyed at a slow and deliberate pace. Slow and steady is the name of the game in this often brutally difficult game of covert cowboys, so it’s fortunate that Desperados 3 provides you with a colorful gang of outlaws each with their own set of skills, constantly changing mission parameters that encourage experimentation, and a diverse collection of sand-swept settings to sneak through.

Desperados 3 is a wily and wild Western that should be on the radar of everyone looking for a real stealth challenge. Given that the final installment of the previously PC-only franchise – Desperados 2: Cooper’s Revenge – was released 14 years ago, it’s very conceivable you’re familiar with the Desperados series. It doesn’t matter, though, because Desperados 3 is a prequel to the previous game, thus no prior knowledge of the plot or characters is required for newbies.

The campaign in Desperados 3 acts as an origin narrative for the game’s main character, John Cooper, who stars in yet another tale of cruel revenge that begins on the cliffs of Colorado and continues all the way down to the dustiest depths of New Mexico. It’s a bloody journey through a series of vivid and exquisitely portrayed frontier landscapes.

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The plot may be more stock standard than an unaltered Winchester, but the companionship shared by Desperados 3’s five playable characters is what makes the 30-hour journey so engrossing. Their in-game conversation as you progress through each homicidal mission serves to define their individual characters, resulting in an outlaw gang that I was consistently thrilled to be in command of.

Two characters make on who can claim the most scalps in an early mission, and with each subsequent murder, you can hear them call out their running totals like Gimli and Legolas in Lord of the Rings, which is just one of many charming little touches.

Although it does seem a little strange when these back-and-forths continue even when the characters are separated by enormous lengths of the map, almost as if a time-traveling Doc Brown has outfitted them with walkie talkies.

Each member of your murderous posse has their own set of skills and equipment, and most of Desperados 3 is spent hiding in bushes for several minutes at a time, figuring out which combination of them is required to systematically suffocate each area full of enemies.

Cooper can toss money to scare horses into kicking guards unconscious, Doc McCoy’s rifle can snipe enemies from afar, Hector’s shotgun blast can take out a large order of troops at once, and Kate can put on an attractive disguise to draw an enemy’s attention away from her.

Individual skills are often best employed in tandem, such as having Hector set up a bear trap behind some bushes and then luring them into its gaping maw with the coquettish Kate.

Each character is continuously useful, but Isabelle is by far the most important slayer in Desperados 3. This voodoo priestess adds a mystical twist to the otherwise fairly typical stealth tactics, owing to her ability to fire a blow dart into two enemies, linking them together as a pair of walking voodoo dolls, inflicting whatever tragedy befalls one on the other.

Tethering enemies together in this fashion leads to some very brilliant methods for reducing enemy numbers, and I felt Desperados 3 was at its most adaptable whenever Isabelle was assigned to my stealth squad of one to five characters by the story.

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It’s a shame she doesn’t join Cooper’s group until around halfway through the campaign, but once she does, she reinvigorates the possibilities for the rest of the game. All of the action takes place in real time (this isn’t an XCOM-style game), but it includes the ability to pause the action and plot out a sequence of moves for your squad before executing them all at once, similar to developer Mimimi Games’ previous stealth-’em-up, Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun, to make for complex simultaneous action.

Desperados 3 expands on this premise with some nice additions, such as the ability to chain together a series of moves, such as killing an enemy and then carrying and concealing their body in one action. It is continuously satisfying to plot and execute a synchronized attack from all directions so that several enemies are taken out and disposed of in one falling swoop to clear an area of threats without raising an alarm.

Desperados 3 is a no-holds-barred tactical stealth game that will test your patience while rewarding your desire to try new things.

It takes a lot of trial and error to play with a cute team of toy soldier-sized assassins in a series of lethal and complex dioramas, but success is more exhilarating than a whiskey chaser. After a 14-year series, Desperados 3 is the most spectacular return to the Western genre since Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven.

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4. Gears Tactics 

Coming in April to PC: Gears Tactics | Windows Experience Blog

Given the Gears (of War) games’ life-or-death reliance on cover, I can’t think of another long-running series that would be better suited to taking the transition from third-person shooter to XCOM-style turn-based tactics than this one.

Gears Tactics is a spin-off that takes a more focused approach to the genre, foregoing the XCOM formula’s greater strategic layer in favor of pitched tactical fight after pitched tactical combat. This comes at the expense of some replayability, but the majority of the bouts are engaging puzzles with a brilliantly polished graphics payoff.

Gears Tactics takes place 12 years before the first Gears of War, but it’s business as usual when it comes to joyfully ripping alligator-looking men in pieces with chainsaw guns. We get to fill in some blanks in the pre-Outsiders Diaz family history through some brilliantly animated sequences, yet Kait’s father, Gabriel, never really comes into his own as a distinctive primary character.

He has a tumultuous background, having fallen from grace after conducting a botched operation and going into self-imposed exile in the COG motorpool, but being called back for one more task doesn’t change his decision — he was fed up with the COG’s corrupt leadership before we met him.

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Even the fierce rivalry between grizzled old Gear Sid and sassy engineer/sniper Mikayla is never enough. And, despite some suggestions that he could do it, the malevolent Ukkon remains a one-dimensional villain. Even yet, the language is well-written and performed, and it accomplishes its goal of creating the Gears flavor and providing us with a monster to pursue without getting in the way.

Gabe leads a team of up to four Gears into battle against a large number of recognized Locust enemies, ranging from simple grunts and exploding Tickers to buffing Kantuses and challenging Theron Guards (introduced at a constant rate throughout with a gory close-up and a couple of tactical pointers).

They all have unique and fascinating abilities to counter, such as some that attack automatically if you approach too close (countering the insta-kill Lancer chainsaws) and others that erupt in a cloud of debilitating poison gas when killed to deter executions.

The melee units – including those Ticker jerks – were the only ones who ever got on my nerves because I couldn’t tell if they were in range of striking my troops or not.

It’s fantastic that the principles of battle are about boosting your lethality via flanking, using melee charges, throwing grenades, and other abilities. When you start chaining together abilities from the five various classes that grant you more action points, either for one character or for your entire squad, things start to become pretty interesting.

This has the number to turn them from average warriors into magnificent killing machines capable of dispatching two or three times their enemies.

Having a Vanguard soldier like Sid use one of his three action points to charge into the middle of a group of Locust Hammerburst drones and skewer one with his Retro Lancer’s bayonet, only to reclaim that action point thanks to his passive Free Bayonet skill .

Then blast another one with his Rage Shot ability for extra damage to put them in the Gears-signature down-but-not-out state that allows him to perform an execution kill, which grants Even if you just have four troops at a time, they might feel like an army.

The directional Overwatch skill is also incredibly valuable – if not necessary – for stopping opponent advances throughout their turn. If you can cleverly forecast opposing movements, you may be extremely strong. One of my favorite sound effects in Gears Tactics is the satisfying “clink!” that occurs when an adversary enters your killzone and sets your plan in motion.

The Locusts agree: rather than taking a shot on their turn, they’ll nearly always employ Overwatch to pin you in place. Countering a web of overlapping Overwatch cones without taking damage is a difficult task, and you have a number of abilities that are meant to help you do just that.

For example, every solider’s sidearm comes with Disabling Shot, which has high accuracy and a strong probability of knocking a grub off his guard. Grenades are also useful for this, and there are class-specific abilities that are much more so.

However, turning downed enemies into powerups is one of Gears Tactics’ best ideas. Executing a downed enemy gives every other squadmate an action point, making it a tempting reward for compromising the safety of one Gear to grant the others one more move.

There’s a good probability that dropping an enemy’s health bar to zero will cause them to get downed, which is an excellent reason to put using instant/overkill options like chainsaws, bayonets, and grenades at all costs. You’ll earn new items every mission, and you’ll get even more if you fulfill extra goals or gather crates while on missions.

Managing that mound of items becomes difficult after a while, in part because you must (or should) change weapons and armor on a regular basis, and in part because the UI requires you to dig down several steps to see what someone has equipped and what the options are.

Each soldier has four distinct gun parts, a sidearm, three armor pieces, and a grenade slot to check on if you haven’t used them in a while and may have snatched their gear for someone else.

On the battlefield, there is almost no resource management at all. Outside of ammo for power weapons dropped in the field, ammo is unlimited, however it costs an action point to replenish when your magazine is empty (XCOM’s system), and grenades are also unlimited but have a cooldown timer.

Because there are no permanent wounds that stay between missions, you can use your tank-like troops to absorb as much damage as you like as long as you don’t get them down too many times.

Permadeath is a factor, but the existence of so many hero characters who must complete every mission renders it largely irrelevant. You can lose a disposable soldier, but if Gabe, Sid, or Mikayla’s head is caved in by a Locust thug, the mission is over and you must restart again (or at least your last checkpoint).

If you’re playing in Iron Man mode, they’ll act like kings on your chessboard who must be safeguarded at all costs, but unless you leave your heroes at home on a side mission where they aren’t needed, it’s quite rare to truly fail a mission and be forced to accept some fatalities and move on.

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5. Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes

METAL GEAR SOLID V: GROUND ZEROES on Steam

Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes is a stripped-down Metal Gear experience. In favor of smart, tactical gameplay, it eliminates lengthy cutscenes, climactic boss fights, and the usual strained and knotted plot strands.

While the main campaign is actually as short as you may have heard, clocking in at roughly two hours, the game’s numerous options create for a fascinating and suspenseful experience that encourages hours of replayability.

With the exception of a badly presented ending, this is Metal Gear for the modern era: lean, mean, and wickedly entertaining. Ground Zeroes, the prologue to the impending full-fledged Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain (due in 2015), borrows structural and tonal influences from Peace Walker, a mostly ignored yet amazing PSP game released in 2010.

The major plot of Ground Zeroes is centered on Metal Gear’s customary worries of high-concept political machinations and conflicted triple agents, yet there is very little of it.

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The plot in this episode is darker than we’ve come to expect. The game’s uncompromising cut scenes and audio tapes strongly suggest that Creative Director Hideo Kojima wants to move Metal Gear into a grittier and more confrontational direction.

While I admire these goals – especially because the series has a history of veering into cartoonish area – I found the series’ ending, which involves notably provocative cruelty, to be poorly handled. I’m sure Kojima was going for ‘heartbreaking,’ but the last blow (which I had no problem with up until that point) felt undeserved; a “look what we dared to do!” statement found there for shock effect and little else.

However, the story comes to an end shortly. I finished it in less than an hour when I sped through it, but it took me three hours when I took my time to smell the roses.

Those expecting a full-fledged Metal Gear game may be put off by the game’s length, but it proves to be more than a rehashed Phantom Pain tutorial, with five large side missions and a number of accessible and inventive ways to complete them. All you have to do is be willing to look for it.

Boss’ quest is non-linear for the first time in a Metal Gear game, taking place at the US Naval Prison Facility known as Omega Base. It’s a small sandbox, with the typical halls and rooms dotted with conveniently placed containers replaced by a large, functional ecosystem full of impressively open industrial regions and densely crowded camps surrounded by a raging sea.

Ground Zeroes is at its most graphically stunning on the PlayStation 4, but Omega Base is beautifully portrayed regardless of which console you play on. It’s a well-thought-out, well-presented world, and the fact that it feels like a completely different change depending on the weather is a credit to its character. Many side-ops cast Omega Base in harsh sunlight, highlighting incredible detail on the flora and fauna but threatening to expose your every move.

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The central campaign’s Omega Base is a rain-soaked John Carpenter-esque isolated prison full of hidden secrets and threats, while many side-ops cast it in harsh sunlight, highlighting incredible detail on the flora and fauna but threatening to expose your every move.

Ground Zeroes is so good at building suspense that it felt like I was playing a survival horror game at times. While Boss has never been more smart, with the ability to roll, jump, and fire in the same way as today’s best third-person action-adventure games, enemies are cunning and plentiful.

They have merciless 20/20 eyesight in the glaring glare of day – particularly when played on Hard level – and react to every slightest movement or moving shadow by becoming more efficacious in their patrols. To combat this, you’re handed a set of binoculars that allow you to ‘tag’ enemies and track their movements in the style of Far Cry, as well as Boss’ iDroid (it’s 1975, and Apple is evidently still prevalent), which aggregates your map and mission information.

The binoculars are especially useful for avoiding unexpected confrontations, but it’s mostly – and thrillingly – up to you to use your terrain in whichever way you want to navigate through the region safely.

However, if you follow this technique, you should expect to be punished. Ground Zeroes grades you after each mission, marking you down for every fatality and rewards you with unlockable items and high scores for a no-kill, no-detection run, in keeping with the Metal Gear tradition.

While you can fumble your way through from start to finish with relative ease, the harsh sting of a D grade serves as a reminder that you’re nothing more than a second-rate soldier.

Such punishment may irritate in a lesser game, but Ground Zeroes provides so many infiltration opportunities. The stealth approach was by far the most enjoyable way to play. For example, in one brilliant side story, Boss is challenged to converse with an undercover agent hiding among the rabble.

Do you use a tranq gun to put everyone else to sleep? Do you follow him in a car from afar, then leap out and grab him by the neck while his back is turned? Do you put him to sleep first, then pull him into the shadows and wake him up? When Boss is darting in and out of hiding, the neck lock, tranq dart, and silent takedown become a gloriously perverse ballet to both perform and watch.

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