Greetings and Salutations eXplorminators, here is part two of the series. Enjoy
Why talk about the games I’m not playing? I guess it says as much about the state of gaming today as those that I do put time into. It’s been a heck of a year for our favorite hobby, but that also means it’s been hard to enjoy everything I’d like to.
Stars in Shadow
We gave this a great review. I love the look, especially the fact that the devs chose to create something so distinct. The game seems to have some interesting innovations as well. But in a world where I have Stellaris and Endless Space 2 (not to mention Galactic Civilizations III and Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars, both of which could easily have been the headliners here instead of SiS) it’s really hard for me to also make time to take over yet another universe.
Hey developers, here’s an idea. Instead of making yet another MoO clone – or another MoM clone for that matter – go out there and try something different! There are other settings than space or wizard-y world, and I’m really desperate to start eXploiting them.
Such a clever idea: giving you the chance to be the bad guy. With people like President Underwood and Jamie Lannister getting the spotlight in other media, it only seems right that gaming goes that way, as well. In practice? I’m not playing.
Maybe it’s time for us to rethink RPGs. It’s 2017 and we’re still basically playing Baldur’s Gate. And Skyrim isn’t so different from what we had 15 years ago, either. Just bigger. Finally, the whole MMORPG scene seems totally played out and designed only to milk you of every last dollar while you toil away crafting gear. That’s the other problem too, these games are just massive time sinks. With work and family it’s hard to clear the space for these kinds of undertakings.
We’ve gotten a lot of these Baldur-likes the last few years and more are coming. But for now I’m putting my purchases on hold until I can actually sit down and play one.
Total War: Warhammer
Total War and I have a rough relationship. I’ve just never been able to enjoy these games. I’m not a tactics master, I feel acutely stupid (yes, even moreso than usual!) trying to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing. I want to love you, Total War. Why won’t you let me love you?!
In any case, I was out of this whole genre until I saw the videos for this gorgeous, atmospheric game. Then I watched our Let’s Play series. Suddenly I had to have it. And so I do, sitting on my (virtual) shelf gathering (virtual) dust. Maybe when Warhammer 2 arrives it’ll be my big excuse to start getting engaged.
This is not a critique of the title or the direction of gaming or anything. Rather it’s a judgement of myself as a writer and player of games. My own willingness to dive headfirst into something unfamiliar, enticing, and just a little bit overwhelming.
The games I want to play – but don’t – fall primarily into three main categories:
Category 1: This game is too fabulous and learning its systems and secrets will need to be the only gaming thing I do for a month.
Prime example: Age of Wonders III. The combat systems in AoW3 are renowned in 4X gaming. The different race-class combinations produce numerous means of projecting power, with concomitant, captivating strengths and weaknesses. Jumping into AoW3 would be a delight in learning on the fly how to deal with whatever my little empire faces. If only I didn’t have a job. And a family. And other games that I can just jump into and know what to do from the moment I start up. AoW3 is just too good.
Category 2: This game is at its best in multiplayer and finding the right people who like this game and are available at this time is difficult.
Prime example: Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion. The rare 4X-RTS makes itself known. It’s beautiful. Its factions are well-differentiated. Its games can be completed in an evening or a solid week, depending on setup. But Gavin is really feeling an RPG tonight. Steven’s out of town. Kearon plays Tuesdays, and I have that thing on Tuesdays. Everyone else is on the east coast. And who wants to play with strangers? Looks like it’s CK2 time again.
Category 3: This game is right up my alley – but it demands strict monogamy.
Prime example: Elite Dangerous. A part of me actually likes the idea of grinding in my little ship through a gorgeous simulated galaxy. The slowly-developing extraterrestrial threat has me voyeuristically wondering if I can get in on some of that action. But ED – part space sim, part quasi-MMO – seems a jealous mistress. Sure, you can flirt with trade and exploration for a night, but by morning you’ll be pledging your evenings and weekends to her alien pleasures, never to emerge again. I’ve met her kind before, and I’m too old and set in my ways for what she’s offering.
Looking over this list and reading the words of my colleagues causes me to notice something odd for the first time: all three of the titles I list are more than two years old. Perhaps this means nothing good has come out lately (at least, that I haven’t been playing), but I think it has more to do with my expectation that a game won’t be done and fully playable in this genre for a couple of years. Perhaps three years from now, a similar list will include Endless Space 2 and Eador: Imperium.
Another year come and gone, and I still find myself playing many games, just fewer 4X titles. While Troy has claimed the title of “crusty ol’ man” I’ll go with the disillusioned youngin’.
Outside of a fling with Endless Space 2 and revisiting Stellaris a few times I really am not finding much enjoyment out of true 4X games. We are in a lull; we will come out of it but for now I am left wanting when compared to the yesteryears of Endless Legend and the glory days of the Civilization series. Even though pure 4X games may be in a slump, the strategy genre has so much to offer.
Still haven’t beaten this game somehow. Following at least three voluntary restarts after stepping away from the game for months I still am no closer to beating it. The upcoming expansion seems awesome (zombies?!?!) but in the era of Steam sales, I need to make myself beat the first game before I can move on. The gameplay is always satisfying and puts me on the edge of my seat unlike any other strategy game. I guess I’m just easily distracted. Hopefully this will be the year I finally give this game the time it deserves and finally defeat this slugfest.
Total War: Warhammer
I know this isn’t actually the name of the game but we all know that it should be. I can’t say enough good about this game. It has been my go to game for months and it just keeps giving. Bretonnia, Norsca, Isabella von Carstein, and freaking Krell!!!! Their Free-LC has been such high caliber the game continues to provide fresh experiences.
On a sidenote – check out the the community maps first and foremost as well as the Steel Faith mod if you haven’t. This has been my first 300+ hour game in a few years and with the upcoming expansion the body count will continue to grow. Both Creative Assembly’s adjustments to future DLC race structure, continued support, the give and take between devs and the community, as well as a rather entertaining Skaven marketing signal a healthy game with many hours of enjoyment yet to come.
Probably the last game you expected to read about on a 4X site but since my brother convinced me to buy it I have spent most my combined gaming time with him in this explosively popular shooter. Besides, the fact that I am enjoying a FPS unlike any other for the past two years the game proves the age old lesson developers seem to forget far too often. Build a game with a focus core experience and don’t take yourself too seriously, as it is a game after all. I feel like 4X game in genre in the effort to embody everything are a mile wide and an inch deep. I want to see more 4X games play by their own rules just as PUBG does so we can have a more enticing 2018.
Oliver’s Lightly and Un-played Smorgasbord
What am I NOT playing, but wish I was? I considered a few ways of answering this question. Perhaps it’s best to share them all (briefly).
Category #1: You haven’t seen Evil Dead 2 “yet”
First are the games I want to be playing but just “haven’t got around to it, yet.” The “yet” is ambiguous. Maybe I will. I certainly want to. But maybe there won’t be enough time?
- Halcyon: Light Speed – I really enjoyed the base game and sunk 30 hours into it without batting an eye. But I stopped playing because the pacing slowed to a crawl late in the game. With fresh promises to quicken the pace, I’d love to revisit this game
- Total War: Warhammer 2 – This might be obvious, but the game isn’t out yet. But I really want to make time for this one when it lands. TW:WH was my favorite “big strategy” game of the past 1-2 years (which I want to play even more!
Subnautica – Looks sweet, have friends raving about it. All good things
- Chaos Reborn – Seems to have the makings for an excellent game
- Pyre – I’ve been digging Transistor, so Pyre seems to be the next logical step
Category #2: Just a toe into the water
These are games that I’ve just played a teeny, tiny bit. But I aspire to play them more. Maybe even a lot more if the game turns out to be really fantastic. In no particular order:
- Stars in Shadow – A failure to engage me, despite liking its mechanics
- Master of Orion: CTS: A total failure to engage…
- Dawn of Andromeda – Really cool ideas … but a failure to engage
- Hardland – Curiously cartoony RPG adventure thing
- Yonder – Looks just like Hardland but no combat and more… crafting?
- For the King – looks just like Yonder, except it’s a tactical RPG/strategy thing
- Highlands – Another tactical RPG thing
- Dungeon of the Endless – why not?
- Curious Expedition – curiously unengaging despite its curious appeal
- Offworld Trading Company – I hear it’s good and different.
- Space Tyrant – I played during the beta, and need to jump back into the EA release.
- Armello – such a cool concept, need to play more.
I really want to revisit these as time permits. But of course, there are so many games, and so little time. What’s a gamer to do?
Category #3: Games I am no-longer playing but wish I was, if only…
I put serious time into Stellaris and Endless Space 2, not just to help with eXplorminate’s coverage of these juggernauts, but because I felt they had the potential to shake up the Space 4X genre and become my new “go to” space games. Both disappointed me. I currently find myself waiting, and then waiting some more, for the “big patches” that will let these games reach their potential.
Sadly, I think it might be years (and possibly never based on the design direction) before Stellaris gets there. For Endless Space 2, I’m not sure Amplitude has the inclination or aptitude to tighten up their (otherwise fantastic) design. ES1 and EL flopped with me for similar reasons. And so Stellaris and ES2 have been shelved for the time being – which is a depressing referendum on the state of 4X games, especially considering the genre’s recent boom.
What do you think eXplorminators? Was this an interesting look behind the scenes of our gaming habits and shame? Let us know in the comments below.