Stardock proved that it still had its collective finger on the pulse of the PC strategy game community in 2006 with Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords, an amazing game that managed to usurp the 4X strategy crown from Master of Orion to become the genre's defining title. The studio did it again in early 2007 with the game's expansion, Dark Avatar, this time adding a much-welcome graphic makeover alongside a healthy collection of other improvements, such a improved AI and deepened customization options. Dark Avatar is the definitive 4X strategy game for the PC, and the most satisfying strategy game released in 2007.
In a surprising twist, we saw the PSP finally become a viable gaming platform thanks to a considerable compliment of entertaining exclusives, including Sony Computer Entertainment Studios Japan's RPG, Brave Story. A traditional role-playing excursion to be sure, Brave Story nonetheless proved to be one of the few titles for the handheld that we would see ourselves play through for multiple PSP charges before moving on to something else. It may lack many of the bells and whistles found in similar titles, but what it lacks in polish, Brave Story more than makes up for in charm.
As a Tactics-style RPG, Jeanne D'Arc deviates little from conventions, instead offering players familiar turn-based gameplay wrapped up in a compelling tale of heroes, villains, demonic forces, and anthropomorphic beasts. Drawing inspiration from history books, as well as such iconic titles as Final Fantasy Tactics and Ogre Battle, Jeanne D'Arc serves as a kind of window into the genre both past and present. It's not the only strategy RPG for the PSP, but Jeanne D'Arc is the best you'll find in the library. Even more so, it is one of the most satisfying RPGs to come along this year, PSP or otherwise.
We can always count on the fine folks at NIS America to deliver the absolute latest fashion in games just left of normal, and this year was no different, with one of two titles from developer Vanillaware that brought real-time strategy to the home console in way wholly removed from anything resembling PC-centric design. It's not so surprising that GrimGrimorie is one of the most unique games released this year, but rather that it is also one of the best.
Odin Sphere (PS2)
The second offering from Vanillaware, this time from Atlus, kept with the developer's unique sense of style with a game seemingly lifted from an older age of gaming married with vibrant visuals that are simply unparalleled in the PS2's library. Odin Sphere is tough as nails, but is simply too cool not to give a second look.
New Year's Resolutions:
I promise to make it through my backlog and finish every game I start in 2008. What? Resolutions are meant to be broken.