Best Strategy Games for PlayStation 4 iMore 2021
PlayStation 4 has a vast collection of different strategy games that let you scratch the itch to play some video games while thinking about what you are doing in the process. With options that include fighting off aliens, grid-based combat, city-building and more, there is a game out there for everyone. Out of all of them XCOM 2 manages to be the best of the best with great graphics, excellent mechanics, and a story that keeps you interested in playing.
- Best Overall: XCOM 2 Collection
- Best Value: Banner Saga Trilogy
- Best City Builder: Cities Skyline
- Best Retro: Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark
- Best Sim: Tropico 5
Best Overall: X-COM 2 Collection
Twenty years ago, humanity fought a war against invading aliens. Though they tried desperately, they lost. In the years since, the aliens have taken over the world with little human resistance, except for the remains of XCOM, the force which has continued to toil in the shadows hoping for the day when they could rebel. That day has arrived, and it's time to take the fight back to our invaders.
XCOM pits your group of four to six soldiers against the aliens who have taken over the world. It's a turn-based strategy game that uses cover, movement, and different class skills to let you fight back. You'll control a roster of XCOM operatives who fall into four different classes as they level up and fight back against the alien menace. Along the way, you'll also research new technology, build up your base, and create new weapons, armor, and items to for use in battle.
The mechanics work off of a turn-based system. You'll move each of your units across the level, taking advantage of line of sight and cover to be most effective. These can also work against you as moving too far too fast can leave your units vulnerable to attack. Each mission has its own stats, requirements, and random additions, which means even if you play the campaign a dozen times, no two playthroughs are ever the same.
The XCOM 2 Collection delivers far more than just the base game. You also get access to the best DLC. If you want the best strategy game on PlayStation 4, this is the game to grab. It combines excellent gameplay mechanics, an exciting story, awesome graphics and more into one package that is easy to love.
- Excellent turn-based gameplay
- Awesome graphics
- Great story to follow up on XCOM: Enemy Unknown
- Gameplay can be brutal and unforgiving
Best Value: Banner Saga Trilogy
The Banner Saga drops you into the middle of an apocalypse in a Viking caravan in the bronze age. Your job involves solving the issues in your caravan and fighting against enemies using your army. The game-play splits into two portions. The first is combat. Your caravan will take on enemies on a grid map, getting different weapons, movement, and skills depending on who — and what — they are. Combat requires plenty of sacrifice and some wiles to succeed. You're still going to lose people, and it's going to happen often, whether you try to save them or not.
When you aren't on the field of battle, you'll have other objectives, such as talking to your party members, settling disputes, and managing supplies. With the sun stopped in the sky, it seems like the end of the world is nigh, and things are stressful for everyone left alive.
The graphics lend depth to the story of The Banner Saga. Hand-drawn animations bring the world to life. Instead of drawing you out of a grief choked story where every decision matters, they pull you deeper. The goal to keep your people alive, but that isn't an easy process by any stretch. You'll run into problems with enemies as the end of the world closes in, and depending on the choices you make, both in and out of combat, there are times when treasured allies become hated enemies too.
- 48 different characters to choose from
- Combination of combat and storyline gameplay
- Three excellent games in one package
- Lack of a save feature means you have to live with your choices
- Brutal, unforgiving gameplay
- UI can feel dated
Best City Builder: Cities Skyline
If you've ever dreamed about building a city from scratch and watching it grow from a small hamlet to a major metropolitan center, then Cities Skyline is the game you'll want to check out. You start with an empty plot of land and develop it into something more.
Unlike many other city builders, you're in charge of every aspect of running a city: setting up power lines, water access, sewers, and schools — you even zone residential, commercial, and industrial districts in your town. Initially getting your city up and running is a brutal grind to ensure that the various aspects of your city are all working. However, once you get past the first few thousand residents, things become much easier, and you have access to new buildings and wonders. You'll also increase the size of your plot as you level up.
- Fun graphics
- Easy to understand UI
- Micromanage all financial aspects of your city
- Early game can be brutal
- Lack of access to all DLC
- Framerate issues at night during gameplay
Best Retro: Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark
Final Fantasy Tactics was the first great game to mix strategy and RPG elements into a single game, and now Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark has followed suit. Combining hand-painted pixelated graphics, grid-based combat, and tons of customization options for your characters, this game manages to feel like something you grew up with even though it released in 2019.
You play as Arbiter Kyrie as they lead their troops through difficult battles to preserve stability through their land. As you fight, you'll unlock items, consumables, weapons, and even specific crafted gear. While the combat system can become stagnant and the story itself is a bit lackluster, the customization of character is where Fell Seal shines. You have endless options for the characters you create, allowing you to mix and match their skills to create the perfect weapons for your play style.
- Amazing character customization options
- Tons of unlockable items and classes
- Fun hand-painted graphic style
- Combat can become monotonous
- Story lacks nuance
Best Sim: Tropico 5
Building a city is all well and good, but have you ever tried to run an entire island from its early days through the decades? That's what Tropico allows you to do, and the Tropico 5 Complete Edition delivers a fun city sim that isn't quite like anything else on the market. You play as an entire family of characters who run the island of Tropico through the ages.
When you start, it's all about getting decent housing and finding a way to make a little bit of money. You're able to build plantations for crops or ranches which let you raise goats or cattle. There are also options for mining, logging, and plenty more. As the game progresses through each era, new challenges and new buildings open up to you.
One of the significant differences between Tropico and other similar city sims is the fact that it's a tiny island stuck between superpowers. As you play, you'll deal with both America and the USSR. Depending on your choices, you'll curry favor with one or the other. Or maybe both. It adds an element of strategy to gameplay as you try to cultivate these relationships without getting into trouble along the way.
- Fun gameplay mechanics
- Great graphics
- Challenges in the mid and late-game can be very tricky
- Keeping up with resident demands is a challenge
- Lack of useful overlays
Whether you want a combat-heavy turn-based strategy game or a city builder that requires more forethought to succeed at, PlayStation 4 has a great roster of strategy games. Every game on our list has its perks and deliver a fun time along the way. However, the best of the best is XCOM 2.
Decades after Aliens have won the war against humans and taken over the earth, a rebellion has formed up, and you're the one leading the charge. XCOM 2 blends an excellent story, awesome graphics, and brutally challenging gameplay into one stellar package. If you want the absolute best strategy game available on PlayStation 4, this is the one to pick. And if you snag the XCOM 2 Collection, you'll also get access to all of the best DLC available.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Jen Karner has been an avid gamer for more than twenty years. She's spent hours building cities, fighting off enemies and rebelling against aliens in her favorite strategy games.
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