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Merdeka! The 9 Best Empire-Building Games Out Now
Update [30/8/2022]: We’ve added several new additions to the list for you to satiate your nation (or civilization) building itch.
Selamat Hari Merdeka, Malaysia!
It’s the 31st of August tomorrow, which means that we’re going to take a day off from gaming to pay our respects to our forefathers and historical figures for liberating our land from its colonial oppressors. And then go back to playing games.
In lieu of this, let’s just celebrate this auspicious time in our own way: through the power of video games and listicles! Here are our top picks of games that let you create your own city-state, continent, civilization, and dictatorship that’s totally yours and in no way dominated by the white man. In other words, games that let you create your own independent nation. And unlike in real life, it’s Pinkerton syndrome-free!
Ever thought to yourself “Gee. I bet I know what’s best for my country when it comes to policymaking and balancing the populace’s needs and wants!”. If your answer is yes, then boy do we have a game for you.
In Democracy 4, you play as a freshly-elected head of a country. Thereon, you are tasked with creating policies, ensuring all your key voting demographics are satiated, the economy remains positive all while also staving away assassination attempts. Yes, you can end up being assassinated by extremists who feel you’ve neglected them.
It may seem easy enough but the slider-based games have never been so immersive. Go ahead. Give it a go. Try enacting some controversial policies which are totally against the desires of your biggest pool of voters and watch the voters turn against you.
Deemed the successor (or challenger) to Sid Meier’s Civilization franchise depending on how you see it, Humankind takes a slightly different approach in presentation, direction and the most unpopular of all, win condition. Solely utilizing the ‘Fame’ metric instead of several possible winning conditions in Civilization, Humankind is a much-needed addition to the scene which in our books, have become somewhat stale due to Civ’s iron grip on the genre.
The game is still relatively new so expect big things from developers Amplitude Studios and extended support from publishers Sega.
As famed video game lyricsmeister guy Brentalfloss sung, “Civilization is the s***!” And he’s right; Civ is the hot s*** when it comes to accessible-yet-tough-empire-civilization-nation-shaping games. And nothing comes close to the breadth and girth of Civilization VI, except maybe Civilization IV and arguably V.
This turn-based strategy game lets you own vision of Malaysia, only you get to choose your own faction and your own leader running it. You’ll have to pick Indonesia (which also means getting theÂ Khmer & Indonesia Civ Pack) if you want to keep things authentic with Kampungs.
If you’re not a stickler for historical accuracies, you can opt to use Gandhi or Teddy Roosevelt to run a newÂ create your Malaysia which may be rife with metals or with barbarian attacks. Simply put: there’s so much flexibility in Civ VI when you want to build your own Malaysian empire free from other people’s rule.
Fancy shaping a new Malaysia where regicide is served like dinner? Try out Crusader Kings III, the latest entry in the crowning jewel series of Paradox Interactive.
You play a medieval ruler trying to gain more power, influence, and territory in a historically-authentic medieval Europe. Remember shows like Game of Thrones and The Tudors? Imagine the war and politics of those shows but in that continent. But really, you’ll be managing your people, your dynasty, your vassals, your enemies, and your loved ones, hoping to shape a long-lasting empire even after the first generation bites it.
Instead of real-time or turned-based battles, you figure out your next political move, be it marrying off your sons & daughters to rival factions for the greater good of your nation, and host jousting tournaments to keep the populace happy. Make your own European dynasty play out like the mid-2000s of Malaysia’s Barisan National and UMNO’s reign of benevolence.
If you fancy creating a Malaysia-like empire where you can pull off a Najib, why not go for Tropico 4? Build your own dictator junta state complete with privatized armies and rebel armies that need quelling. Go into the resource trade game to get money, then rule over the island’s populace with an iron fist.
And if you don’t want to do the campaign mode, you can just create your own levels and scenarios to keep the dictatorship dream alive. If you fancy managing an island economy complete with stats-tracking, working on a million projects at once, and don’t mind dealing with a detailed interface, you’ll have a ton of fun shaping your own independent nation with Tropico 4.
The grandaddy of real-time historically-laced strategy games, the Age of Empire series is a war game with a tinge of civilization and empire expansion. What’s really awesome about the sequel, considered the best Age of Empires game ever by fans, is that everything’s bigger and better.
Maps are larger, meaning that flank and pocket positions during fights are crucial in invading. Terrains on maps add more depth to your strategies when combating the other empire.Â The 1v1 competitive element is more pronounced and shorter compared to a turn-based race to see who makes the better empire (so much for that Civ VI esports thing, eh Liquid?).
Army micromanaging is toned down so you can just worry about building towards your tech tree and destroy all oppressors with extreme prejudice. In short, this is the best non-fantasy real-time strategy game using a ton of different kings and armies.
Why stop at Earth? Why not build your own Earth-led nation outside of the Milky Way and explore other galaxies? Colonize empty planets and label them as Malaysian states, and even kick alien ass?
That’s Stellaris in a nutshell: pick a science voyage, visit neighbouring stars, scan for new life, then take it over via diplomacy or conquering. Its first few hours are fun and it gets way, way deeper after the 15th hour. With its many updates and expansions -this IS a Paradox Interactive game after all – you can get immersed in this inner space thinking about which galaxy you want to charter off to so that you can create your own space nation.
What would it be like to take down a corrupt government from within? And how hard will the process be? That’s what Suzerain from Torpor Games is about (thanks the suggestions of our Twitter followers).
You play President Rayne as you lead the nation of Sordland out of an economic recession, all within the mucks of its already-tainted cabinet. Stick to your good values too closely and you may end up being sentenced to prison, impeached and framed by your “allies”. Fund your secret police and military arm well to make sure you’re well-protected from political enemies, at the cost of your morals. There are 20+ endings or so you can unlock to cap off your presidential reign, ranging from you being loved by your country (and getting jailed for it) or being vilified and corrupt (but still ruling the country).
Hits pretty close to home, eh?
Civilization IV’s Soren Johnson went out of his way to form a new studio to make a new strategy game where you make a fortune and carve out a name for your nation. How? By exploiting Mars and its resources.
Much like Age of Empires, it’s an RTS without micromanagement. Instead of destroying your foes with tanks and planes, you ravage them by turning the economic and market table against them. Screw over enemies and rivals by selling, buying, dealing, and closing deals in the otherworldly marketplace.
Great nations are sometimes formed by being the best at manipulating the economy to its favour and having a big workforce. Offworld Trading Company lets you create your own Malaysia with the girth of China and the spending dollar of Singapore in an alternate realm set outside of Earth. Takeovers and trades have never been this exciting since this game came out; do yourself a favour and give this unique RTS a shot.
Got any 4X and turn-based strategy games with nation-building elements you want to share with us? Let us know!