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I’m moving back to playing PC games, given the present state of this game. Thought I’d make a few recommendations before going and hopefully receive a few in return.
One warning – I don’t have a huge hangup for graphics. If the game play is good and challenging, I don’t mind an outdated look. But let’s be honest, you can throw as many skins on it as you want, but DDO does have a fairly outdated look to it as well, so I think most of us prefer game play over cosmetics anyways, otherwise we’d be playing WoW.
Strategy games –
Dungeon Keeper (I, gold, II) – really old game created by Bullfrog (later to become the Lionhead team). The tag line was ‘it’s good to be bad’ and the game lives up to that description. It’s a dungeon crawl on the other side of the fence. You don’t raid the dungeon, you create the dungeon and protect it from meddling heros. You start out with nothing but one room in a mountain and build your dungeon, recruit monsters, and set traps to protect your evil lair. Levels come in both offensive where you attack other dungeon keepers and defensive where you get raided by knights, wizards, dwarves and elves.
I – The graphics are awful by today’s standards and it starts really slow, teaching you only one or two aspects of the game each level. By level 7 or 8, its easy to be addicted. Each level is more difficult than the last (as they tend to be) and by the end you’re both protecting your dungeon from an onslaught of attackers while building an army of creatures to storm the trap filled lairs of your enemies.
Gold /the deeper dungeons– Not a sequeal but a continuation of the same game. It picks up right up on the difficulty level that the first Dungeon Keeper left off on and adds 15 new maddening levels of advanced game play. If you like a challenge, I highly recommend it.
II – a reboot of the game. Better graphics (for the time, still poor by today’s standards) and worked out many of the kinks of the original. Not as challenging but in many ways more fun. Bullfrog was a british company and their games are full of british humor. Worth it just to see the casino dancing scene.
Stronghold – the medieval castle building sim. Set in the middle ages, Stronghold is one of many of the gather/build/defend/attack games (like the Age Of series). Its by far my favorite though, due to the unique sim aspect included in the game play. Not only do you have to gather resources to build and advance, you have to create a working castle to protect your subjects while building an army. It’s almost a mix of a medieval Sim City and the Age Of games. You have to build walls, create a working town within that's convenient for your works, while raising funds with taxes and keeping your subjects happy. The whole time fighting off wave after wave of attacks until you can build an army of knights, footmen, crossbow men, archers, and macemen. Once your army is built, you then go on the offense and storm the enemies castles.
The voice acting is beyond terrible but one you get used to it, its funny in a cheesy sort of way. There’s a wide variety of campaigns, both offensive and defensive. Terrain and it’s pros and cons play heavily in the game and each campaign has a unique set of challenges. If you can handle the old graphics and bad dialog, I strongly suggest this one.
Stronghold crusader – An expansion of the original. Set during the crusades, in adds arabic forces to the game play. Much more challenging than the first. I recommend both but if I had to pick, I’d go for Crusader. The only thing you miss is the backstory from some of the dialog they recycled from the first game.
Fable the lost chapters – Seems to be a love or hate type of game. Your basic knight running around killing things to save the kingdom type game. Main difference is the ever present, tongue in cheek british humor. It’s about as challenging as breaking out of a wet paper bag, but it was the first (relatively) free play game I had ever played. Not sure if it was the graphics, the humor, or the music, but I felt completely immersed in the world and have replayed it countless times.
One thing I love about the game is choice in your actions. 99% of the NPC’s in the game are flagged as killable. If you want to go through the game killing bad guys, that’s your choice. If you want to slaughter a whole town, that’s also an option (or even slaughter the town over and over again since the townspeople respawn after a time). While there is a main story line, there’s a decent amount of areas to explore and many side quest you can accept or ignore.
Great selection of weapons, outfits, hairstyles, and magic so you can customize just about any type of character you want. Downside is, even getting the expanded version, it’s only about 15 hours of game play. Maybe 20 tops the first run through. If you can find it cheap or used, pick it up.
Overlord I & II – if you’re already a fan of the fable series, I can’t recommend this one strongly enough. Even if you’re not, I’d still recommend it. The game itself has a very similar feel to Fable both in graphics and british humor. It’s surprising they’re not done by the same team.
You play an evil Overlord despot, reclaiming his kingdom. Normal big guy in an armored suit running around, hitting people over the head and leveling up to increase hit points and mana while upgrading his weapons type of game. EXCEPT one huge difference. You have a hoard of minions to do your dirty work for you. If you’ve seen the film Gremlins, imagine having up to 50 of them to send out to destroy and wreck havoc at your command. Your minions are what makes the game unique. What more, as they destroy and kill things, they pick up objects to equip as weapons, helmets, and armor – giving each one of them an individual look. Highly recommended if you like humor as well as game play. Also much more challenging than Fable.
II – A vast improvement over the original as far as game play and interactions go. A better evil tower to lord over, and a system to resurrect your minions when they fall as well as look at their stats. I wasn’t as impressed with the plot but if I had to recommend only one of the two, I’d say go for Overlord II.
Gothic III – Another love or hate type of game. I personally think its a flawed (very flawed) masterpiece. The developers really bit off more than they could chew when designing it. The basic game is the normal fantasy setting – sword and sorcerer type of world. A kingdom that’s been invaded by Orcs. You have the option of freeing towns from the Orcs, joining the Orcs and crushing the rebellion, or joining a Arabic/desert people to help them take control of the kingdom.
The good – its a huge, fully fleshed out world that takes weeks to explore every nook and cranny. Tons of quest and side quest. Towns and cities full of people who move about and have different activities at different parts of the day (which does make it harder to find them for quest since they’re not always stationary in the same location) which gives the world a very real feel.
If you like to explore, Gothic III is a great game if you’re the type who wants to see just how far you can go. If you like jumping and trying to scale digital mountains to see how far up you can go, you’ll love this game. The less built in safety rails in a game, the more I find it real and spent hours scaling and jumping around to answer the question ‘can i get up there?’
It has three different areas, all very well designed. You start in a normal fantasy forest area, progress to the desert and end up in an arctic tundra covered with mountains and passes that,s maddening to learn. Tons of valleys that are easy to fall into, but very difficult to find your way out and back to where you want to be.
It’s a challenging game – which is both good and bad. You don’t level up quickly and have to gain both XP and money to be trained. The world is completely open from the beginning – but the further away from the start you get, the more challenging the fights get. Wander too far and you’ll find yourself torn to bits until you get a higher level. It’s not like DDO where it tells you what level you need to be – you find out by fighting before deciding not to explore too far right away.
The character is completely customizable to your playing style. Want to be a ranger type? Train on the bow, hunting and sneaking. Want a thief? Learn sneaking and lockpicking. Study spells to be a caster or get trained in blacksmithing and weapons for a fighter. Or create your own multiclass by studying all of the above (though it’s going to take alot of gold and XP).
The fights are intense – if you free a town, you’re immediately assaulted by everyone in the town. It really takes a lot of strategy and skill to handle the larger fights. On the plus side, unlike DDO, there are certain places that you can reach that NPC’s can’t, which can give you an advantage. In certain cases, there should be places that you can reach for safety that monsters can’t. Utilizing that gives you an advantage in a game where you’re drastically out numbered and under powered. Plus they use a rag doll type engine when creatures die, giving a more realistic look to corpses.
The bad – it’s a beautiful world but an insane resource hog. Dozens of towns and somewhere around a thousand NPC’s are active at all times. There are no loading areas – it’s all live. Every one of the hundreds of houses, dozens of caves, and all the castles all load at the same time. When it was released, if you had a good computer, you’d be lucky to run it on the minimum settings. You had to have a hardcore gaming computer to get the most out of it. Luckily, today's computers can easily handle it.
But since the developers tried to create one giant, seemless world, its buggy. Really buggy. There’s a large fan patch out there somewhere that will take care of most of the bugs. But out of the box without the fan patch, it makes DDO look stable.
The combat system – is so advanced it kind of sucks. It was meant to be a complex system where you have to dodge, block, sidestep, parry like in a real fight. But it comes out more of a click fest that who ever gets the first swing wins. If you’re fighting and the enemy lands the first blow, you’re thrown off balance and take are fairly helpless falling to an onslaught of blows.
The story – is built a bit too much on the previous two instalments. If you’re not familiar with all the NPC’s carried over from the last game, its almost like watching the last 30 minutes of a movie. You might enjoy it but not as much as if you had watched it from the beginning. Plus the ending is kind of blah.
It’s a scavenger game. This is what keeps me from replaying it. You clear the caves of the monsters and now you can collect the loot..one piece at a time...slowly. There might be 500 gold pieces on the floor that you desperately need, but only a few stacks collected together. The other 200 pieces are going to be picked up one at a time...with 200 mouse clicks. Since you need so much gold to advance, you spend a good part of the game picking up plants to sell, weapons and armor off of dead enemies, random **** laying around cave floors...all one click at a time. It becomes very tedious.
Flawed, but if you like a challenge, you might find it worth the time.
Fallout 3 – Post apocalyptic open world game. Going to stay brief on this one. I personally think its as good as everyone says it is. Every thread I’ve read about open world games puts this one at the top of the list and I have to agree. Huge, insanely detailed, well lived in open world. A good story line to follow, or just hours and hours of sandbox free play.
I only have two real complaints. One is the lack of built in customizable music. There’s a built in radio and they did a great job picking songs to match and add to the feel of the game. All 20 songs. 20 songs. Yes. Just 20 songs. They created a world that you can play up to a hundred plus hours in, and gave it a 40 minute soundtrack with no way of adding new music. If I hear those songs again, I swear I’ll puke.
Like the Gothic series – its a scavenger gaming. Call me lazy but I’d prefer to run over dead bodies to pick up the loot or have a quick ‘loot all’ option without screens I have to open and close. You spend a lot of time in the game picking up or sorting through needed supplies and ammo. Personally I’d rather spend that time killing something.
Bully Scholarship Edition – In many ways it’s Grand Theft Auto light. I can’t really get into GTA because I like my killing to be an unrealistic fantasy – not something so reality based. Set in a board school, Bully doesn’t have the morality issues because you’re not killing anyone, you’re just lightly maiming them ;)
Kidding aside, I love this game. It’s beautifully crafted and works on many levels. I love the general feel of the school, the town, and the people. It covers nearly every aspect of being a teenager. The story line goes through seasons, having the quest progress through fall, Halloween, Christmas, and into spring. There’s even a well crafted carnival to visit. Besides normal game play and fighting, a wide variety of ‘weapons,’ Rockstar also adds very enjoyable means of transportation. You can run, skate, ride a bike, a moped, or a go-cart. Each one has a unique feel and challenge.
Riding a bike through the streets in the fall, getting into trouble and running from the cops took me right back to my teenage years when I used to do the exact same thing.
It’s not a huge world but it is well fleshed out. Outside of story line, there’s plenty to explore and plenty of opportunities to find the best place to pull pranks, cause mayhem and not get caught. So if you like throwing firecrackers at people then being chased by the police, this is the game for you.