Civilization 6 may be the boss of all 4X games, mixing diplomacy with in-depth city building and intricate tech and development trees. But Frostpunk has the vision, the style, and the unique take on the entire strategy genre. Its bleak, apocalyptic struggle for survival makes every decision feel heavy and heartfelt, and each unit and resource intensely valuable. Now, these two rulers of the strategy sim have a serious rival. Mixing substance and style, detailed strategy with a subjective, distinctive concept, if you want an alternative to Civilization, Frostpunk, and also the other big hitters like Cities Skylines 2 and Crusader Kings, this enormous new 4X game is available to try on Steam for free.
This is Zephon, from Warhammer 40k Gladius developer Proxy. A 4X game in the most thorough sense – explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate – Zephon drops you in the center of an immensely hostile, often terrifying future, where Eldritch horrors roam the landscape and your enemies can obliterate you at any moment with powerful cyberpunk weapons. Between combat, construction, research, and narrative, Zephon has a unique interpretation of all the strategy sim staples.
There are more than 50 unique units for battling, and you can choose and combine different tech and construction paths. Your armies have different abilities depending on which leader you choose, and you can deploy a variety of unique and unusual weapons.
When it comes to building, there are multiple architectural styles, and you can choose where to build based on different resources. With more than 150 different technologies to research and an in-game timeline that extends from the immediate post-apocalypse into the distant, post-human future, there’s a lot you need to manage.
This is Zephon’s key gimmick. At the start of the game, you’re barely holding onto the final vestiges of society, a la Frostpunk. But across multiple generations, you shape the future of the planet through leader-specific quests and spontaneous events.
If you handle crises well, your faction – the Humans, the Machines, or the aforementioned Eldritch horrors – will fulfill their respective prophecies and emerge the winners. But the long journey from bare survival to transcendence is fraught with peril. Economic crashes. War. Poverty. Zephon throws a lot at you, and no two games are the same.
If you want to give it a go, a new Zephon demo is available for free right now on Steam. The full game is expected to launch sometime in 2024, though we don’t have a specific release date.