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Looking to the Steam Summer Sale for the Next Game June 25, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Other PC Games, polls, Strategy Group.
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Our game of Civilization V goes on.  I just posted the Week 8 update yesterday.  Things are going well enough and we remain interested, amazed, and enthusiastic to complete the epic journey to victory that this has become.  I am going to guess that we have a good four more weeks of play left in the game (not counting July 4th, which will probably be an off week for all of us) before somebody gets a corner on a peaceful victory condition and either wins or unleashes a nuclear holocaust that eventually ushers in a domination victory over a radioactive landscape.

Chuck Hestonia nuked and open

Remember Chuck Hestonia!

But, as Potshot noted the other night, as cool as this experiment with a multi-month game of Civ V has been, when we get to the eventual end point of the game, our immediate reaction is likely not going to be, “Let’s do this again!”  A certain amount of pig-headed stubbornness is carrying us along at this point, making us determined to see this through.  But when we are done, we will likely be ready for something new.

We have started the discussion about the next thing at what seems quite the opportune time, as we are in the midst of the Steam Summer Sale.  While some are down on the whole thing this year… and I admit that once you have been through one or two, the excitement of things being on sale does wear a bit thin… there is certainly no reason not to take advantage of period of favorable pricing.  So a list of possible candidates has started to coalesce, which I am going to trot out here.  Comments on the games so listed are welcome, especially any insight on how the game might play in a four person multiplayer situation.  And, of course, you can offer up alternatives as well.

But, before you comment to promote your favorite game of the moment, I want to bring up some parameters that will likely apply to the choice.

First, this is not the MMO group.  MMORPGs are probably not going to fly here, so piping in with WildStar isn’t going to make for a useful comment. (Given that I haven’t even used the 7 day key that Liore gave me a couple weeks back, “WildStar” probably isn’t a useful comment on any post here at the moment.)

The game should also be substantially playable in a single evening.  Clearly the Civ V experiment shows that we can play a game over several weeks, I am just not sure we want to jump back into that right away.

And I am going to come out generally against turn based games, as some of us become quite absorbed in the decision making process with others are not very patient.  Turn based isn’t a deal breaker in the right situation, but any scenario where three of us end up waiting on the fourth to make his move will either need to be a game that is generally fast in pace or a game that includes a turn clock.  So while Eador: Masters of the Broken World sounds interesting when SynCaine writes about it, I am not sure we can handle its depth and keep a game running.

With that in mind, here is what has been proposed so far. (Mostly by me.)

Total War: Rome II

SGRome

Loghound put out Total War: Rome II as an option.  I know people who like the game.  Gaff has played through it.  I have played a couple of the past games in the series.  If this is like its predecessors, the tactical game is very much in the detailed RTS vein, so no turns or anything.  I am just not sure how multiplayer works or if it is suitable for a group of four.  Also, there are some minor concerns about how much processing power the game might take.  But after Civ V, we ought to be okay if we stick to machines from this decade.

Possible alternatives: Any of the Total War series, I think I bought them all in a past Steam sale

Company of Heroes 2

SGCompanyOfHeroes2

I tossed Company of Heroes 2 on the list as a more modern alternative to Total War: Rome II.  I actually own this via a past Steam sale and have played through the tutorial, but not much else.  As with Rome II, I am not sure how suitable it is to four player for a multiplayer match.  Also struck me as a bit “arcade-ish” in the tutorial, though that might just be the tutorial, and if it isn’t, it still might not necessarily be a bad thing.  And Gaff likes it.

Possible alternatives: The original Company of Heroes, the second Combat Mission series.

Driver: San Francisco

SGDriver

Driver: San Francisco was my suggestion in order to shake things up and try something that did not involve us throwing armies at each other.  Instead, we could throw moving vehicles at each other.  The game got good reviews, is pretty reasonably priced for the summer sale, the multiplayer options sound interesting, and it involves driving around San Francisco, an area we all know well enough to at least know when we’re lost or not.  Against all of that, I do not know anybody who has actually played it.

Possible alternatives: Need for Speed: World, a billion other driving games

Boarderlands 2

SGBorderlands2

Borderlands 2 is well reviewed, very popular, and has a four player co-op mode that I understand works very well.  Another game I already own thanks to a sale at Amazon for a Steam key.  And another game I haven’t played very much of as I stink.  But are we ready for a shooter?  And, more importantly, are we ready for a shooter where we don’t get to shoot each other?

Possible alternatives: Call of Duty series, or any other co-op shooter, some of which even include zombies.

Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator

SGArtemis

No, not the card game… though that might be an idea… Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator is basically the game vehicle for playing out your Star Trek bridge fantasies.  This is a long shot, but I bring it up because a friend (and occasional reader BlueLineBasher) gave me a copy and I haven’t done anything with it.  This might be good for a single Friday lark, but we would have to pick somebody to be captain who would take it at least semi-seriously.  Alcohol might be required.

Possible alternatives: Urmm… are there any?

Ticket to Ride

SGTicketToRide

I didn’t even know Ticket to Ride was available on the PC until I saw it on the Steam Summer Sale list.  This is one of those awesome board game conversions that keeps all the great bits of the original game while removing the bad bits… like placing all those little train counters and then picking them up again when the cat attacks the game board.  It is one of my favorite games on the iPad.  But the game is easy enough that my past experience doesn’t give me any real advantage.  While it it turn based, it does tend to be fast paced, and against real people it can be a rage-inducing cut-throat experience.  So it has that going for it.  But are we up for board games?

Possible alternatives: Other digital version of board games such as Settlers of Catan or some Carcassonne variant.

StarCraft II

SGStarCraft2

As an alternative, we could just forget Steam and go for the update to the original perfectly balanced rock, paper, scissors RTS, StarCraft II.  While it did not make as big a splash as the original, that was in part because Blizzard tried very hard not to mess it up, so it ended up being mostly StarCraft brought forward to the current decade… which is a good thing.  It isn’t on sale, but Blizzard is in its own summer doldrums right now, so it is possible they might cut us a break before our Civ V game wraps up.

Possible alternatives: The original StarCraft, something from the Command & Conquer series

Total Annihilation

Total Annihilation

Potshot actually brought up Total Annihilation, my all-time favorite RTS, and I am using that as an excuse to list it.  The physic in it is great, the variety of units almost boggles the mind, it still looks damn good for a game from 1997, it is available for cheap (and DRM free) over at GoG.com, and because of its age it now runs great on just about anything… which probably includes Mattman’s antique coal fired Ye Olde ThinkePayde portable difference engine.  And, of course, it has simple victory conditions (kill the commander) and nuclear weapons.  The Achilles’ heel is that I love the game and my knowledge of it will give me an unfair advantage.

Possible alternatives: Speak not to me about Supreme Commander, it is but a pale shadow of Total Annihilation… but maybe Planetary Annihilation when it ships.

Summing Up

So those are the choices that come to my mind.  I would certainly be interested in hearing about multiplayer experiences with any of these games, especially involving four players.

And, because I haven’t had a poll in a while, I will put one up so you can indicate your favorite pick without having to much around with the whole comment thing.

 

 

Comments»

1. Wilhelm Arcturus - June 25, 2014

“Other” votes, for those interested:

Terraria (2D Minecraft)
Left4Dead (co-op shooter)
Endless Space (turn based)
Crusader Kings (turn based)
Warhammer 40k Dark Crusade (RTS)
Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion (RTS)
Shogun: Total War (RTS)
Europa Universalis 4 (pseudo-strategic RTS-ish)
Master of Orion II (turn based)
Kerbal Space Program (single player)

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2. mbp - June 25, 2014

I was sorely tempted to vote for the Star Trek simulator but I cannot imagine you would be able to get everyone to take it seriously. Company of Heroes 2 it is.

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3. Ming - June 25, 2014

I haven’t played most of those games, but as someone who often plays in a co-op group, I’m not sure I can recommend BL2. Sure, it’s a good shooty co-op game, but because you’re playing through a storyline, you really should all be playing together all the time, which I understand might be difficult due to real-life issues. This is not to say that you can’t play together if one of you falls behind in levels or story, just that it might be non-ideal for a group that can’t play together all the time.

In any case, I have two suggestions: My first is Risk of Rain, which is a fun little shooty platformer that you can play with variable amounts of people. The problems are that it’s not drop-in drop-out, that play sessions are meant to be done in one sitdown, and that the game’s item distribution doesn’t scale well with more players.

The second is Terraria, which is kinda like 2-D Minecraft. It is drop-in drop-out and has a persistent world you guys can keep coming back to week after week. Big problem is that one of you needs to set up and host a world, presumably the most reliable of you, though I suppose you could pass the world file around if you wanted.

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4. Liore - June 25, 2014

WildSt– dammit! In all seriousness, I vote for BL2. I had a ton of fun playing it with friends, even though it mostly devolved to just trying to run each other over with space jeeps.

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5. Mazer - June 25, 2014

Company of Heroes 2 is $10 for the next 44 hours as of this comment. : )

I really enjoyed the singleplayer, it didn’t feel arcade-y to me but I will admit to a fair amount of Relic fanboy-ism.

Starcraft 2 does have the spawning mechanic now that 1 used to have, so only the host needs to own the game.

My experience trying BL2 with friends was it’s great right up until somebody misses a week and falls behind in levels… plus as Ming mentions you get out of sync in the missions. You can bring people forward if I remember correctly but if they’re more than a level or two behind it’s rough.

Voted for CoH:2, but I would love to read a post about you guys playing Artemis.

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6. Adam D. - June 25, 2014

Dare I suggest… D3?

It can easily do 4 player Co-Op, with in/out seamless transition, and if someone has to step out, when they come back in they should be able to catch up quickly enough.

If this is only for the summer, a few game sessions shouldn’t be too hard to keep people together for.

Drawback – it’s not part of the Steam Sale, and $40.00 may be a bit steep for a summer experiment… but if a few of you have the game already, then maybe that makes it more palatable?

As another alternative, what about Dungeon Defenders? Also easily doable by 4 people, it’s 1/2 price ($7.50) for the pack that has essentially everything, and people can play whatever class they want, and it traditionally still works out. it’s fast paced in that people need to figure out what obstacles to set, but I’ve found it to be a lot of fun.

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7. TheRemedy - June 26, 2014

Adam D makes good suggestions. If you want something more akin to Diablo 2 that’s also free I’d recommend Path of Exile. It meets your criteria and the only microtransactions are cosmetic.

I also want to say Artemis is probably a terrible idea. It’s a game that’s really designed for a group of 5 people in a lan setting all wearing their own Trek gear and being super nerds. It’s not really a good game in it’s own right.

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8. wizardling - June 26, 2014

Multiplayer games I still enjoy a great deal:

Master of Orion II (easily played in DOSBox)
Diablo II (suggest playing single player TCP/IP game with Runeword mod to enable Bnet and ladder only content)
Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri
Civ2 – still the greatest, IMO, and simplicity itself to setup and play.

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9. Dahakha - June 26, 2014

A possibly unknown suggestion: AI War looks pretty damn fun for co-op, it’s fairly cheap even with all the DLC, and although I don’t know if the multiplayer has the same kind of drop-in-drop-out ability of Civ 5 it is worth checking out imo.

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10. Jenks - June 26, 2014

I’m having a blast in Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare right now. It has both a 4 player co-op mode and competitive modes.

It just came out so it’s not on sale, but the price is only $30.
It’s also on Origin instead of Steam, which is a bummer.

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11. Circumstances - June 28, 2014

If you go for Total Annihilation (always fun), I strongly recommend consulting http://www.tauniverse.com/ and downloading their fan patches. The fanbase has essentially cracked open the game in its entirety by now, and have done amazing things. The patches are extremely stable, and greatly improve basically everything. Including, as I recall, mass loading and unloading transports, as well as improved UI scaling for ultra-high resolutions (even though Total Annihilation deals with custom resolutions with grace [ultra-comedic considering that more modern games don't], it does get even better). The megamap, though it is a feature cribbed entirely from Supreme Commander, is hilariously useful and a good addition.

The Escalation mod (basically the flagship mod) is also worth checking out. It’s quite well balanced, and adds a T3/T4 and game-ender units. Yes, some of the units and buildings take inspiration from Supreme Commander, but they also fit in and are balanced in their own right. Total Mayhem is fun too, but Escalation is my favorite and quite well-balanced for multiplayer.

The Final Frontier mod is another must-look-at; it’s a total conversion that creates Arm and Core spaceships. The maps don’t work all that well, but otherwise it runs great and is hilarious fun in multiplayer. Protip: Low tier Core fighters are useless for air-to-air, use the “experimental” one that has missiles.

Oh, and Dahaka has a good point RE: AI War. It might be right up your alley – RTS, scalable difficulty, loads of variety even without the awesome DLC, games that can last a few hours or a day or two, etc.

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