The Start of My Epic Video Game Journey

There have been a lot video games made over the years. There have been a lot of very good video games made over the years. I have played some of those very good games, but I’m not sure which ones I’ve played and which ones I have left to play. That’s where my Video Game Journey comes in.

I’ve started compiling a list of games to play that include the best, the underrated, the obscure and anything that can be considered “worth playing”. I don’t want to play every single game that was ever made, but there are definetely gaps in what I have played and what I remember playing. The motivation for this little exploration was caused by my recent replay of Tie Fighter, quite possibly one of the best games ever.

For example, I played Giants: Citizen Kabuto 6 or 7 years ago and really don’t remember much about it. Looking at old reviews you can see that it was highly regarded by most, but the specifics of the game escape me. The spreadsheet I’m developing will let me track my own rating and thoughts about the game. I’ll add it to the list now and mark it as “Needs Replay”.

Other games I’ve played might not need another play through like Final Fantasy Tactics. Incredible game, but I played and beat it in the past year. There are plenty of other tactical RPGs that I never had the chance to play like Tactics Ogre.

I’ll take suggestions on pretty much any system or genre, if there’s a game that stands out to you I want to hear about it. One I just thought of, Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine for Genesis.

Civilization IV: Colonization review

The Civilization series has a long history and they are generally highly regarded turn-based strategy games. The newest game in the series, Colonization, is essentially a remake of Sid Meier’s 1994 game of the same name. Gameplay differs from the rest of the Civilization games in that you ship colonists from Europe to the New World, establish a foothold, declare independence from the motherland and fend off an expeditionary force. You decide where to place your cities, what to produce, who to trade with, which professions to train, what Founding Fathers to recruit, how to raise an army and when to finally declare Independence.

All that leads to an enormous amount of micromanagement. That’s not necessarily bad because it gives you control over your economy so you can build up your cities and pump out goods. That part of the game is actually pretty fun, but problems arise when you actually want to beat the game. I played 4 or 5 games and lost every single time when hundreds of Royal troops showed up at my doorstep and wiped me off the map after I declared independence.

Turns out the King will add troops to the expeditionary force depending on how much rebel sentiment you have generated and higher levels also increase the frequency. So the problem I ran into is I built my rebellion rating slowly over time as I built up my cities which led to gigantic enemy fleets and armies. I found some forum posts where people had figured out how to actually beat the game and once you figure that out the game becomes absolutely boring.

The flow of the game pretty much goes like this: build 2-3 cities, make lots of money trading, stockpile weapons and horses for Dragoons, destroy all but one inland city, get 50% rebel rating as quickly as possible, declare independence and then just wait while the expeditionary force throws themselves against the fortified walls of your city.

So while you can build out a vast network of cities and have fun doing that you’ll never win the game. You can beat the game with only one city, but build more than 3 and you’ll have a tough time winning. You can play on enormous continent sized maps, but what’s the point if you only build 1 or 2 cities right next to each other.

Initially the game provides the illusion that you are free to decide how to play the game, but really you have to follow specific steps or you might as well just start a new game. The big problem I have with the game is that there is procedurally only one way to win, but it doesn’t tell you that. I ran into a similar problem with Oblivion; as soon as I found out how many of the stupid gates I would have to close to continue along the story arc I just gave up (I went through the side quests, but never actually finished the game). Finding out how to beat a game shouldn’t make you want to stop playing, if it does that means it isn’t fun.

So if you are interested in a good turn-based strategy game look to the original Civilization IV and it’s two expansions and avoid Colonization.

Company of Heroes PC game review

Company of Heroes is a WW2 real time strategy game that was released in September 2006 and its standalone expansion Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts was released in September 2007. I won’t go into a lot of detail, but if you are a gamer then you must play this game before you pick anything else up. I bought the original after it was released and just finished playing the expansion. The fact that I finished it is a big plus considering I’ve been struggling through Half-Life 2 which is suppose to be totally awesome.

What’s so great about it? The level of detail. Bombs and artillery leave craters infantry can use for cover. Buildings take damage and realistically collapse. Armored vehicles have weak rear armor that make flanking a required strategy. Infantry get pinned down by raking machine gun fire. Units attack in their line of sight making unit placement key. All these little details calculate into the strategy used to accomplish each mission.

The single player campaigns are well worth a play through on Normal difficulty which puts up a pretty good challenge without being frustrating. At higher difficulties you’ve got too be really good to keep up with the computer.

Highly recommended if you are a PC gamer of any sort.

Retro Games: Nox

I’m using the term retro pretty loosely to include just about any game over 5 years old. Nox is an action RPG developed by Westwood Studios and released by EA in 2000 for Windows. It plays like most Diablo clones and was fun playing through as the Warrior class (Conjurer and Wizard also available with very minor plot changes), but there were flaws that kept it from becoming anything more than average.

In terms of user interface, the biggest departure from Diablo though is the use of the right-mouse button to move forward rather than just clicking on the ground. The level of environmental interaction is actually quite good and I’d say ahead of it’s time. Tables and chairs are separate from each other, you can kick rocks as you run or knock down walls to discover hidden areas. The problem is you can run into and get hung up on those little objects. If you get caught between a chair and table you can keep running into either one to eventually push it out of the way or you can swing your mouse behind your character to backtrack and find a better path.

Diablo II came out the same year and it seems they tried to copy a bit from Blizzard’s masterpiece without actually thinking it through. All weapons and armor have durability like Diablo II, but the rate of wear and the cost of repair is ridiculous. On top of that there is no handy way to get back to town to repair or replenish health potions; they should have copied town portals too. The best part about RPGs is the loot. Problem was all my best gear was constantly broken (or disappearing because I forgot to remove it before its durability ran out) and I was just using whatever I could pick up.

Nox won’t be getting a repeat play through with the other classes, but it does give some insight into how things have changed in the aftermath of Diablo II. If you’re an action RPG fan then it might be worth playing (let me know if you want a copy). Considering its age I’ll give it a solid 7.