There are many features that we think distinguishes Ara from other turn-based grand strategy games, and in this article we discuss two of them: act transition and true simultaneous turns.
Like many great stories, Ara: History Untold is broken into three acts. Each act contains a different set of technological eras that mimics the progression of technology over the course of recorded human history.
Act 1 begins with the Ancient History era and continues through to the Bronze Age and the Iron Age before ending on the Antiquities Era. In Act 2, players will experience the Early Middle Ages, the High Medieval Ages, and the Renaissance until reaching the Enlightenment. This leads to Act 3, which represents some of the most recent technological eras of humankind – the Machine Age, the Atomic Age, and the Information Age – and ends with the unpredictable Future Age.
While advancing to the next act is exciting and oftentimes represents a thriving Nation, it is not guaranteed. During the transition between one act to the next, Nations are sorted into different tiers based on their relative Prestige, and the Nations with the lowest amount of Prestige are removed from the game. Prestige is gained from a number of sources in a variety of categories we’ll get into later including culture, warfare, science, religion, and more. To ensure that they survive to see the next act, players can complete quests, research technologies, create Triumphs and Improvements, and employ a plethora of other strategies available to them.
A screenshot of some notifications presented to this player showing one of their achievements and what tier they landed in at the end of the Act.
Once the Act Transition is complete, players are given more information about their relative standing amongst the world’s nations, which can be a powerful tool in determining if and how they want to pivot their strategy as they head into the next act.
A screenshot of the detailed Act Transition screen showing the Nation’s statistics like population, prestige, and more.
True Simultaneous Turns
Ara builds on the classic turn-based formula, but each nation’s actions and choices resolve simultaneously – after all nations have ended their turn. Like the classic board game Diplomacy this leads to suspense, anticipation, and surprising twists that are not possible in a game with serial turns or real-time with pause.
A screenshot of Ara: History Untold’s user interface showing the queue of commands given before ending a turn.
During your turn, your orders, commands, improvements you commission for your lands, and goods you craft, are added to a queue. At the end of everyone’s turn, all of the Nations’ queues are then simultaneously processed, but of course in an orderly fashion. Otherwise, pure chaos! At the beginning of your next turn, you receive the reports and notifications of the results of your choices – and the visible choices of your opponents.
Where there’s a conflict, (for example, two armies from nations at war attempting to move into the same region) – the faster army (measured by their initiative rating) makes their move first, with the slower army then moving in second.
A screenshot of Ara: History Untold showing an Army unit planning to move from one region to another.
One of the key features we’ve added to support this approach is the timeline, which lets you look ahead to the predicted outcomes of your choices and adjust your plans turn by turn.
Ara isn’t the only game that’s ever taken this approach – but it’s the only one at the scale of true 4X Historical Grand Strategy. Of course, the gameplay possibilities for how this impacts your decisions as the leader of your nation are too numerous to list here, but we’ll be exploring some of them in our upcoming posts. Be sure to stay tuned for more!