Can you build the greatest empire that the world has ever seen? That is basically what 4X games ask of you. eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate that is what 4X actually stands for, which comes pretty close to the gameplay that these games provide. Although the genre has almost become synonymous with Civilization, as it’s competitors died out years ago, recent years have seen a resurgence of the genre and there are some fantastic 4X games available right now.
How could I not start with this celebrated franchise. The Civilization series is the be-all and end-all of 4X genre. The franchise has spawned a total of 6 official games as of today and all of them have been received very well. They are the easiest to get into out of any 4X games as all factions are relatively similar despite some minor difference, which means you will more easily understand what other faction will do throughout your game. The newest game is Civilization 6 so if you’ve never tried a game in the franchise you should probably start with that one, although Civilization fans all have different games as their favorite so don’t be afraid to try older entries in the franchise.
This game is basically Civilization but in a fantasy setting. Due to the various fantasy races that you can play as every race feels vastly different from each other. You wanna swarm the map with insects, you got it. You wanna play a faction that doesn’t rely on food, you got it. Every faction feels unique and fleshed out which makes playing as, and against them all the more interesting. There is also the everlasting threat of the winter, which will ravage your lands and inflict fierce penalties on your cities and units. All the design elements make every game feel completely different and unpredictable.
Europa Universalis IV
Europa Universalis 4 is definitely not for newcomers to the genre. The game has so many different tactics, mechanics, and so much information that it will probably take you a good 20 hours just to understand what’s going on. That said, once you get into it, it’s probably one of the best 4X games that has ever been made. The game takes place on a beautiful recreation of our world map, instead of on randomly generated maps. You can basically lead any nation on the planet in order to create the most dominant empire ever, which you will do through trade, diplomacy, and war.
This 4X game comes from the same developers as Europa Universalis IV but blasts the entire concept to space. Instead of picking any human civilization that has ever lived you are completely free to design your own alien race. You select the avatar for your race as well as various different traits that define how you play with them. It’s a very unique concept and they finetuned it to perfection. All the intricacies of Europa Universalis IV return to this game, so it certainly has a steep learning curve. However, once you master the game you will be treated to one of the best sci-fi games that has ever been created.
Endless Space 2
Like the name suggests, it’s indeed set in space and made by same developers that did Endless Legend. The game is built on the foundations that were laid out by the original Endless Space as well as Endless Legend to provide one of the best 4X experiences that has ever been made. This game is probably the sleekest looking 4X game out there, with beautiful art and stylish UI. Once again they create factions that are completely different from each other to deliver a unique gameplay experience. This time, even the victory conditions for the different races are different. If Stallaris seems too complicated for you then maybe give this game a try.