Friday, November 16, 2012

Games for the holidays

(Silent Storm screenshot, from GameSpot)

Are you looking for some cheap games to play over the holidays,... so you don't have to talk to your relatives, maybe? :)

No, seriously, there are some great sales going on right now which include some games I've been meaning to blog about. The sales won't last long, and I'm not ready to make a full blog post on these games, but I thought I'd at least mention them.

For example, has S2: Silent Storm Gold Edition on sale for $3.99 - or 60% off - just two days after I already bought it! Heh, heh. Wouldn't you know? But I've been playing it for those two days, and it's been lots of fun.

I don't know how I missed S2: Silent Storm, or the expansion S3: Silent Storm - Sentinels (both are included in the Gold Edition) when they were first released, because their turn-based squad-level combat is reminiscent of X-COM: UFO Defense, one of my favorite games of all-time (also similar to the Jagged Alliance games, if you're familiar with those).

But Silent Storm isn't an imitation of anything. Indeed, it's quite imaginative. I've been playing the Sentinels add-on, and it's been challenging, but fun. The camera controls seemed backwards to me, but that was easily fixed in the options. Likewise, I changed the movement mode in real-time (i.e. when you're outside of combat) to require a double-click, because I kept accidentally ordering my guys to do stupid things. But these were minor issues, easily - very easily - fixed.

If you're interested, you might check out this video series by Jef Major. If you plan to play the game yourself, I wouldn't watch too many of them, because you'll be fighting the same battles (even the random encounters are played on the same maps).

However, I would still watch the first few, because you can learn things that aren't clear in the manual. (Otherwise, I would never have figured out how to chop through a locked door with an axe, probably because I just didn't expect a door to be so hard to hit. Apparently, the door keeps dodging out of the way, I guess.)

Note that mostly sells old games, but they're all ready to play on modern computers. In fact, since they're so cheap, I often buy games from that I already own - especially when they're on sale - just so I don't have to figure out how to get them to run. As an example, apparently Silent Storm originally had problems with Windows 7, but their version installs and runs like a dream.

They have other games on sale, as they always do (every week, I think). And even when they're not on sale, their games are often pretty darn cheap. - "Great Old Games" - is one of my favorite game retailers.

(Crusader Kings II screenshot from GameSpot)

GamersGate is also having a sale this weekend (again, as usual), and I especially wanted to point out that Crusader Kings II - and almost all of the DLCs for the game - are currently 75% off!

This is another game I bought not long ago (on sale, yes, but it was only 40% off then) that I've wanted to blog about, but I just haven't played it enough. I was just getting started when my old computer started having problems (unrelated to the game, I assure you).

By the time I got it fixed, I learned that I needed to get a new computer, and with a brand new computer, I really wanted to play Skyrim on it, and then X-COM: Enemy Unknown was released, and then Fallen Enchantress,...  Well, you get the picture. I'm currently playing five different games, and I've bought a sixth that I haven't even installed yet! (Clearly, I have a problem.)

However, I still want to get back to Crusader Kings II (and I'll probably be buying some of those DLCs that are so cheap right now). It's rather a unique game, as a historical strategy game, in being primarily about people.

When you start the game, you play a character - one of many, many characters all across Medieval Europe, it's your choice - who is historically accurate. His family is historically accurate, his holdings, even his personal characteristics. (The game even links to Wikipedia, if you want to know more about those people.)

But you make the decisions from then on. If your character isn't married, you choose who to marry - assuming you can convince her family - and when. Your children will tend to share the characteristics of you and your spouse. When they get old enough for an education, they'll also pick up characteristics from whomever you choose to teach them. (If you teach your heir yourself, he'll tend to pick up your personality traits, too - for good or bad - but you'll have some limited ability to guide him in a good direction.)

When your character dies - and the Middle Ages was a dangerous place, so this can happen at any time from any number of different causes - his heir becomes your new character. If there were multiple children, their father's holdings will likely be split among them (depending on the actual customs of the time, which you can influence, but not easily and not quickly). And thus, your siblings tend to be rivals, more than staunch supporters.

You might start out as the Holy Roman Emperor, but quickly become an infant, no longer heir to anything but a few counties, and unable to even feed yourself. (That actually happened in my initial play of the game.) But the game becomes a matter of building your dynasty over many generations - and not just your holdings, but actually creating a family with the kind of personal characteristics you want (generally, the kind that other people admire, so your influence will grow).

It really is quite unique, even from other Paradox games like the Europa Universalis, Hearts of Iron, and Victoria games (of course, all of those have a little different focus, too). As I say, I haven't played it much, mostly because circumstances just got in the way, but you might want to check out this video playlist (if not actually all 80 of the videos!). That's where I discovered the game.

And note that you don't have to worry about spoilers, because every play of Crusader Kings II is different. OK, if you start with the same character he did, your starting situation will be identical, and you'll be faced with the same issues, at least at first. But even then, you'll likely see your experiences branch off from his rather quickly. And his videos are a very good way to learn the game.

Note that, if the gameplay appeals to you, 75% off is one heck of a buy! And there are plenty of other games on sale at GamersGate, too (admittedly, they have sales every week, but not always with the same games or the same savings).

Still, if cheap doesn't appeal to you, maybe free will? I thought I'd just mention The Battle for Wesnoth here, because I haven't talked about it before (haven't even thought about it for years). This is an open-source game that I played years and years ago - not on my old computer, but on the one before that.

I didn't realize that this game was still going strong, still supported by an enthusiastic fan-base, until I stumbled across this video playthrough. Note that he's playing random campaigns there (thus, no spoilers), and his initial video is very useful in explaining the options and add-ons. I would definitely watch that one, at least, although he doesn't start playing the game until the second video.

There's also this video series, which plays one of the campaigns. This guy is more skilled at the game - which can be better or worse, for entertainment purposes - but it might be something of a spoiler for that particular scenario. Of course, there are lots and lots more to choose from.

As I say, I haven't played this game in years. (I remember it being fun, though quite tough.) I thought I'd just mention it here, because I was recently reminded of it again. So if cheap isn't enough for you, this free game might be a good option. Seriously, it's lots of fun. If I didn't have so many other games to play right now...

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