Zephon is a new turn-based strategy game that developer Proxy Studios hopes will bring about a new era for 4X games. Set to arrive next year, the upcoming PC game draws from the studios’ previous experience creating Pandora: First Contact and Warhammer 40,000: Gladius – Relics of War.
Looking at screens from the strategy game’s Steam page reminds me of Proxy Studios’ last effort with the genre. If it weren’t for the fact that there isn’t a Space Marine or a Necron in sight, you might think it was taken from the same game. The Steam page even uses the term ‘grimdark’, prompting me to ask Proxy whether it has taken any specific inspiration from Gladius for Zephon.
“While we are big fans of the Warhammer universe,” the studio says, “it is definitely refreshing and complementing to work on something in parallel where we have full creative freedom. A new IP allows us to express all the ideas that we’ve been accumulating over the last six years.” And Proxy has a lot of ideas on how to make 4X games better, with the first order of business to fix the “boring [and] shallow” combat of other games.
“4X games often give combat the back seat,” the studio says. “It’s a question of focus. We feel that these games, after the economic infrastructure is created end up being decided by combat anyway. We can do the whole experience more justice by going beyond simplistic combat. We’ve been inspired to bring RTS and MOBA elements into 4X combat and believe it works excellently.”
There are plenty of other areas Proxy wants to improve as well, such as the role-playing aspects of diplomacy, even the economics. “We’re doing an involved economic model where resources combine to create more powerful resources (think Settlers or a simpler Factorio),” the studio explains, “but also where you pay for production ahead of time instead of your resources ticking down each turn.”
Proxy even wants to make the visuals distinct from other rivals. “We’ve recently been seeing an influx of 4X games that try to appeal to a large mass with casual graphics. We want to go in the other direction, be more realistic and show the gritty and the dark.”
At the moment this is all talk, although Proxy’s past games have shown it’s certainly capable of making mature, innovative experiences within the 4X strategy genre. Zephon well get some limited alpha tests around Q2 next year, with broader testing in late 2022.
We’ll have to wait a while at least to see if Proxy’s vision can be made manifest. If nothing else, the studio will always keep its core goal in mind: “The relentless pursuit of creating a great combat experience.”
Related: The best Warhammer games on PC
You can sign up to the studio’s newsletter for a chance to try out the initial alpha test, and the studio is doing leader reveals on the Steam page.