My Steam purchases during the sale

Steam is wrapping up a big sale and had daily deals for the past 2 weeks or so. I picked up some of the cheaper and older titles:

  • Overlord Complete – $4.50
  • Trine – $4
  • Max Payne Bundle – $3.74
  • Civilization IV: Complete Edition – $9.99
  • Osmos – $2.49
  • Defense Grid with all DLC – $9.99
  • Shatter – $2.49
  • Thief: Deadly Shadows – $2.99
  • The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom – $2.49
  • Day of Defeat: Source – $2.49

Now just need time to play everything.

Star Wars: Tie Fighter review

The Star Wars franchise has collected a vast library of video games over the past 30 years. Every genre from real time strategy to MMORPG has been covered. How about Star Wars Chess? A lot of these games are just terrible (Rebel Assault anyone?), but there are a number of excellent titles. The space combat simulation games in the X-Wing and Tie Fighter series are the cream of the Star Wars crop.

I just finished playing through Tie Fighter for the first time in at least 8 years. I wore out several joysticks playing X-Wing and Tie Fighter as a kid and I always favored Tie Fighter for the simple reason that you were playing to serve the Emporer. 90% of Star Wars games are presented from the Rebel and Jedi perspective so this changes things up like playing as the Germans in [insert any WWII shooter here]. Also, you actually fly some ships without shields which adds a level of difficulty missing in X-Wing.

The Video Game Journey isn’t about long meandering reviews and I’ll get to the point quickly on each post. Star Wars: Tie Fighter is one of the best games ever. Considering it’s 1994 release, the game is still extremely playable and addicting. The X-Wing Collector Series release is playable right out of the box in Windows XP so if you want to play this classic let me know, I’ll let you borrow my copy and a USB joystick.

Tie Fighter = 9.5

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.