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Ara: History Untold

Ara: History Untold Hands-On: Throw out your textbooks

Xbox is taking 4x strategy by storm with its new foray into the genre.

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When you look at most 4x strategy games, you know what you're getting into. A grid-based map, hexagons, resources to gather and a city to maintain. It's basic stuff really, but it works well. Xbox's new strategy game Ara: History Untold, looks to flip this map structure on its head. Well, sort of. You're still managing your own empire, in a generated map, but instead of dealing with your typical hexagonal grid, you instead have large areas in which you can place your units, gather resources and more.

Ara: History Untold is brought to us by a lot of the team who worked on Civilisation V (my personal favourite 4x strategy of all-time) so I was quite excited to sit down and play it at Gamescom. When you've picked your leader and loaded in, you'll notice the similarities with Civ immediately. Actually, jumping back a bit, there's even a similar array of leaders to pick from, as you'll choose from great historical figures from all over the world to lead your nation to glory. Each focuses on different pursuits, but seem to have adaptable playstyles so you're not locked into going after one victory choice depending on who you pick, for example.

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As mentioned, though, you'll notice a lot of similarities if you've played Civilisation V when you launch Ara: History Untold, but there are also some major differences. You spawn with a lot more things to do in Ara: History Untold, and can send out a scout straight away to look for more players, resources, and whatever else you can find without having to have your city build one. This streamlines the gameplay, letting you get started much earlier. Also, instead of roaming barbarians to worry about, each segment of the map is inhabited by an animal or a few. Some of these are useful, such as cows, camels, deer, etc. But then there are the more dangerous beasts, which you'll have to wipe out if you want to make an area safe for your people to live in. Crocodiles, bears, rhinos, and more would prove quite the annoying pests, and so they've got to be dealt with in one way or another. Luckily, unlike barbarians, they won't actively pursue you, so you're free to deal with them when you please.

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Just as a side note, everything on the map in Ara: History Untold feels like it's truly alive. You can see lions chasing after their prey, spot a wandering member of your nation stumbling far away from the borders. It brings another level to the immersion, making you feel less like you're just playing a digital board game.

One more note on the map. The segments are so large that for a moment I was worried that only one unit would be able to occupy them, which would mean exploration would be a nightmare. However, as I was informed by the developers, you can have two units from different nations in one segment, so long as you're not at war. This isn't seen as a transgression so long as you're not waltzing through someone's territory, and it means that you won't get frustrated with one unit from someone else blocking your route out to the rest of the world.

Ara: History Untold

Ara: History Untold is stepping into a crowded room, but its visual style and refreshing mechanics could help it shine. With it coming to Game Pass as well, people are bound to at least dip their toe into this new 4x strategy game. With the gorgeous maps, players might just want to stick around long enough to explore the rest of this deep and satisfying strategy experience, too.

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