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Best for Fighting off Aliens: XCOM 2: War of the Chosen at Amazon
"XCOM 2: War of the Chosen pits you as the commander of what remains of the XCOM military organization on a planet that's already lost the fight against an invading alien force."
Best for Stunning Graphics and Sound: The Banner Saga 3 at Amazon
"The combat system is grid- and turn-based, and often features waves of enemies that start stacking on top of each other if you don't defeat them in a timely fashion."
Best for Unique Combat: Valkyria Chronicles 4 at Amazon
"The Valkyria Chronicles has a unique combat system, a mix of turn-based strategy and real-time action that does away with the grid-based system of many similar games."
Best for Sneaking Around: Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun at Amazon
"Set in medieval Japan, Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun sees you controlling a diverse group of characters tasked with protecting the Shogun and getting rid of his enemies."
Best for Aspiring City Planners: Cities Skylines at Amazon
"Provide some infrastructure—roads, power, water, and sewer—along with schools, emergency services, and green space, and watch your city thrive."
Best for Cold War Espionage: Phantom Doctrine at PlayStation
"You play a CIA or KGB agent in charge of a network of spies that threatens to be uncovered at any point."
Best for Fun in the Sun: Tropico 5 at Amazon
"This open-world city builder drops you onto a largely-untouched island, and it's up to you to build a functioning economy, keep your citizens safe and happy, and stuff your offshore bank account full of money along the way."
Best for Hardcore Strategy Gamers: Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence at Amazon
"You'll find yourself jumping between the minutiae of things like crop management and prospecting for resources one minute, and engaged in high-level diplomatic talks with other rulers the next."
Courtesy of Amazon
An expansion pack for the already-excellent XCOM 2, War of the Chosen improves on the original in a myriad of ways.
The basic structure remains the same, pitting you as the commander of what remains of the XCOM military organization on a planet that's already lost the fight against an invading alien force. You manage your troops and control research and development at your base, with battles being a tense, turn-based affair.
With extra maps, additional factions, and super-soldiers on both sides of the fight, plus new alien types, weapons, and equipment, the game could almost have been released as XCOM 3 without complaint.
Pricing is similar to the original game, which at first glance might seem a little excessive. With unrivaled depth and dozens of extra hours of gameplay, however, War of the Chosen more than justifies the cost.
The control mechanism is straightforward, and PS4 performance is good, with only a few judders and glitches that don't affect the gameplay. If you enjoy strategy games at all, you owe it to yourself to play XCOM 2: War of the Chosen.
The final chapter in the series, The Banner Saga 3 continues much where the previous version left off. The perfect mix of strategy and role-play, with gorgeous hand-drawn artwork, wonderful soundtrack, and a dramatic storyline of a world inexorably descending into darkness, it's an attractive game to experience and a compelling one to play.
The combat system is grid- and turn-based, and often features waves of enemies that start stacking on top of each other if you don't defeat them in a timely fashion.
Destroy a wave in time, and you'll get the option to flee—but that might have negative plot consequences further down the line. Combined with interwoven campaigns and branching plotlines, it's a tension-building approach that makes every decision seem important.
This final installment may not be the best place to start for The Banner Saga newcomers since the story relies on a fair amount of prior knowledge. If you've played earlier games in the series, however—or you don't mind jumping in at the deep end—you'll likely love every minute of it.
The Valkyria Chronicles series hasn't been afraid to experiment over the years, but this fourth installment is a return to its turn-based roots, and a better game because of it.
Firmly back in the strategic RPG category, Valkyria Chronicles 4 sees you start as a foot soldier in the Federation army, fighting the forces of the Imperial Alliance across European landscapes that come to life through the evocative hand-drawn watercolor visuals.
It takes a few hours to get used to the unique combat system, a mix of turn-based strategy and real-time action that does away with the grid-based system of many similar games. You'll control many different types of solider as you progress, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, and quirks that can easily make the difference between success and failure in a given fight.
With a strong focus on the ethics and value of war, you've no choice about the battles you're thrown into, and just have to try to survive all the way to the bittersweet end.
Set in medieval Japan, Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun sees you controlling a diverse group of characters tasked with protecting the Shogun and getting rid of his enemies.
Although completing each of the dozen sweeping missions can be done in a wide variety of ways, you'll always benefit from strategy and stealth rather than a brute force approach.
Each of your characters has useful and unique skills, but the storyline determines who comes along each mission. You'll need to think carefully about who can do what and deploy them appropriately, rather than relying on the same approach throughout.
That's just one small element of a masterfully-constructed game, with careful consideration given to all of the little things that trip up most other titles. It's easy to save and reload when things go wrong, avoiding frustration during multi-hour missions. The controls generally work well, and you can create choreographed actions for multiple characters that can be deployed with a single tap.
The gorgeous graphics are just the icing on the cake of what is easily one of the best stealth strategy games on the PS4.
City-building games have been around since Sim City burst on the scene in 1989, and Cities Skylines breathes new life into what had become a fairly stale genre.
Starting out small, you designate certain areas for different types of industrial, commercial, and residential activity. Provide some infrastructure—roads, power, water, and sewer—along with schools, emergency services, and green space, and watch your city thrive.
Things get more complex over time, of course, and managing the competing demands of your growing population becomes a delicate balancing act. Raising taxes provides the funds you desperately need to pay for all those services, but just like the real world, nobody likes giving extra cash to the government,
Various options are available for altering the look of your city, including After Dark and Snowfall DLC, and you may well find yourself spending as much time admiring the beauty of your neighborhoods as you do building them.
Cities Skylines transitioned well from the PC original, with only a slight loss of graphical quality and lack of support for mods and editors. It's easily the best city design game available today.
Courtesy of Playstation Store
Fan of Cold War thrillers? Phantom Doctrine will be right up your alley, as you play a CIA or KGB agent in charge of a network of spies that threatens to be uncovered at any point. Every move has potentially huge risks and rewards, as you play a high-stakes strategic game around the globe.
The consequences of your actions need to be considered even before the start of the mission, but it's when you're in the midst of a battle that the stress levels really rise. The turn-based combat system is complex, but rewards the time spent mastering it.
You can take a variety of paths to success and aren't constrained to just sneaking around, or only going in with all guns blazing. Hide the bodies to avoid detection, snipe from a distance, stage a diversion to distract patrolling guards, or just kick down the doors—it's up to you.
Your base has a variety of rooms that can be upgraded over time, giving extra skills, equipment, and knowledge. Information collected by your agents shows up in the intelligence room, but it's up to you to decipher the clues—a rewarding task, at least when you figure it out!
You'll also need to recruit and train your agents to come up with the best mix for given missions, but keep an eye out—some of them may well be double-crossing you.
Phantom Doctrine is an engaging game that will easily deliver dozens of hours of tensely-satisfying entertainment. It's time to go back to 1983.
Ever fancied life as the dictator of a small Carribean island? The long-running Tropico series finally made its way to the PlayStation in this fifth installment, and it was worth the wait.
This open-world city builder drops you onto a largely-untouched island, and it's up to you to build a functioning economy, keep your citizens safe and happy, and stuff your offshore bank account full of money along the way.
Starting off in the colonial era, simple trade is the order of the day, exporting staples like bananas and cocoa to whoever will buy them. More options open up as you progress through the ages, with everything from factories to attracting tourists with luxury hotels and nightclubs giving new ways of bringing in the cash.
Both buildings and policies affect the mood and output of your population, and it's a balancing act to keep them both productive and happy. The last thing you need is an unruly mob descending on your palace, after all.
Highly-enjoyable to play, with plenty of the trademark political humor that's defined the series and an appropriate (if somewhat repetitive) soundtrack, you'll find yourself easily losing many hours to Tropico 5.
There's no doubt that playing Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence is a serious commitment. You could easily spend hundreds of hours playing through its intricate take on Japanese medieval history, and even getting to grips with the basic systems for development, combat, and diplomacy takes quite a while.
Persevere, however, and you'll find yourself immersed in the type of hardcore strategy game that rarely makes its way to PlayStation. Perfectly balanced, you'll find yourself jumping between the minutiae of things like crop management and prospecting for resources one minute, and engaged in high-level diplomatic talks with other rulers the next.
Just when you feel like you've got a minute to relax, you'll be thrown into a battle that can be as hands-on as you like. Want to let the AI handle it? No problem. Prefer to handle troop movement yourself at a high level, or get down and dirty on the battlefield? That's fine too.
Managing everything with the PS4 controller is surprisingly easy, given the large number of menus and dialog boxes involved.
Sphere of Influence isn't for everyone, but if you've been saddened by the lack of serious strategy options on the PS4, grab your copy now.