It’s been just over a year since Ara: History Untold was revealed to the world at 2022’s Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase. That time has been used productively — player feedback from an extensive Insider Program has helped shaped the game — including what the team from Oxide Games showed off this week at gamescom.
As a refresher, Ara: History Untold is an innovative turn-based historical grand strategy game where players build a nation and lead your people throughout history as you explore new lands, develop arts and culture, and go head-to-head with rival leaders to prove you are the greatest ruler ever known; some of you may refer to this as a “4X” game.
As I sat down to play for the first time here at gamescom, Design Director Michelle Menard of developer Oxide shared how “there are shortcuts that come with experience,” that benefit the creation of a new grand strategy game. By way of experience, several of developer Oxide’s team spent time at Civilization developer Firaxis, which has informed which strategy elements to emphasize, which to deemphasize, and how to modernize the genre with Ara.
Rather than one unit action at a time, players tee up all their moves, end their turn, and then the actions for all are initiated simultaneously.
To that point: rather than start off with a vulnerable settler on a random patch of land, players begin new runs on a nascent, prebuilt nation. This head start allows players to skip having to do things you’d have done anyways – establish a capital, build a farm, etc. – and get a jump on making more interesting decisions about where you want to take your nation.
Ara even tinkers with something as ubiquitous as the concept of turns – rather than one unit action at a time, players tee up all their moves, end their turn, and then the actions for all are initiated simultaneously.
This advance is evolving due to player feedback: to avoid there being a single “right way” to research your way through the tech tree, Oxide has moved the myriad research options to a deck of cards; 3 options are offered at a time. This randomized element ensures that each run unfolds differently, as well as making what could be an overwhelming mechanic easier for new players to come to grips with – including those playing their first strategy game due to Ara’s inclusion in PC Game Pass.
That Ara brings these advances in the genre comes as no surprise – many of the team worked on Civilization V, generally regarded as one of the all-time strategy greats. After a conversation between Oxide founder Dan Baker and Xbox Publishing’s Brian Stone at GDC 2016, the seeds for Ara were planted.
That Ara brings these advances in the genre comes as no surprise – many of the team worked on Civilization V, generally regarded as one of the all-time strategy greats.
Prior to developing Ara, Oxide were creating the Nitrous Engine, a next-generation game engine designed to handle enormous amounts of visual and gameplay complexity – as it turns out, perfect for a grand strategy game.
As my session drew to a close, my eyes zeroed in on something moving on the map. Zooming in – and you can zoom way in – I found the world teeming with life. Dozens of camels galloped through the tree-dotted savannah, some being chased by hyenas – both of which are resources which players can make use of. This is the Nitrous Engine at work – creating a living world, no more moving toy soldiers around a board.
That living world is made further immersive by the game’s music, which Oxide has clearly taken great care creating. As I played across the map I heard unique audio queues and different musical elements that drew me further into the experience. To learn more about the music, today we debuted a behind the scenes debuted on the Xbox broadcast today at gamescom (in addition to a sample of the score today on Spotify; search for “Ara: History Untold”
We’re looking forward to sharing more about Ara: History Untold as we get closer to release. In the meantime, to learn more about the game and find out how you can play before launch, visit arahistoryuntold.com and sign up for the Ara Insider Program.
Ara: History Untold is set for release in 2024 on Windows PC. The game will be available in PC Game Pass, the Microsoft Store, and Steam, where you can Wishlist the game now and keep up to date with the latest news.