I’ve been on Steam for 6 years, though I never really paid much attention to the big sales, or Steam as a whole until recently. The Steam Summer Sale seemed like a huge trap for those gamers with hoarding tendencies – the ones who would purchase 50 games and maybe play 3 of them. Recent statistical sampling has shown that this is a valid concern. 37% of games registered on Steam have never been played. Hot tip: even if it only costs $1.99, if you never play it, it’s not really a bargain. I’ll never understand the mentality of just wanting to buy/own things but never use them. But I digress.
I’ve purchased 8 games so far on sale, and overall I’ve been happy with my purchases. Here’s a brief rundown on a few of the games I’ve had a chance to play.
Don’t Starve, as indicated by its title, is a survival game. You play a character lost in the wilderness and you need to survive. Don’t starve. Don’t get killed by evil frog monsters. That’s about it. The environment is filled with things that can help you survive – seeds you can eat or plant (if you find the place to plant them); trees you can chop down to build fires or weapons; cute little bunnies you can trap, murder, cook, and eat. As you progress through the game you can learn to build new things – new weapons, clothing, items to keep your sanity level up. If you starve (or get killed by frogs) you are permanently dead and need to start over from the beginning.
The first time I played this I found it thoroughly charming. The art style and music is great, the exploration was fun, and the whole game has an enjoyable tongue-in-cheek quality. I think I lived for 6 days before I went through a wormhole and made the mistake of attacking some pig creatures which immediately killed me. A big part of the fun was learning how to build new things. At the start you can only build a few simple things – an axe, a torch, a small trap – but after finding the right materials, you can build a science machine and create prototypes of new items and equipment. Doing this really opened up the in-game possibilities, but I died not long after I built it.
On my second play I survived longer – 7 or 8 days I think. However, in all this time, I never found a gold nugget required to build the science machine. This greatly impacted my enjoyment of the game, as it stifled any sense of forward progress and became all about wandering around searching for boulders to mine, while still having to collect mats to build fires and feed myself. I got bored and frustrated rather quickly and threw myself into a beehive.
I’m hoping my second play through was an anomaly (the maps are randomly generated, after all) and the materials for the science machine are generally easier to find. I’d like to find out what I can build, discover, and what kinds of creatures I can take on if I procure some more powerful weapons and armor. I’ll be giving it another shot soon. After a quick scan of a Don’t Starve wiki, it seems like there’s still a lot to discover, and even an adventure mode to open up, which I’d like to try out.
I run very hot and cold on simulation games. SimCity or The Sims? I’ve tried them and got bored real fast. I’ve never had the urge to play any of the Tycoon or Themepark games. But, Afterlife – a game where you build heaven and hell – is a game I’ve sunk many hours into and really enjoyed. Playboy: The Mansion – basically The Sims with a business component of having to publish a magazine – is a game I loved play-testing back in my video game QA days. Theme Hospital – a game released in 1997 – is something I still go back to and play every once in a while.
I like my sims a little on the odd side, so Prison Architect seemed right up my alley. This game is still in alpha – it’s an Early Access sale – but is quite playable. The introduction has you building an execution chamber for an existing jail. The game walks you through step-by-step, from placing the foundations and choosing flooring materials, to building enough capacitors so your power generator isn’t overloaded when the switch is flipped, all the way to walking your inmate to his holding cell. As you play, you also get a bit of the story of the prisoner, shown with comic book images and decent voice acting. I really liked the tutorial scenario.
The next phase of the game stops holding your hand and tasks you with building a whole prison. You are given some basic instructions (like you need a warden and a kitchen before your prisoners arrive), but overall everything is very open. The planning and construction aspects are surprisingly deep. You don’t just drag and drop objects into rooms, you need to build the walls, the floor, designate what the space will be used for, build the plumbing, the generators, the wiring. It was actually a bit overwhelming.
My problem with the game is that it starts with a rich, objective-based, story-laden intro, and then it dumps you into a giant sandbox without a whole lot of context or storytelling. Apparently a story mode of the game is planned, but it hasn’t been developed yet. If you like a more pure sim experience and just want to build things, I’d recommend the game. However, if you’re like me and want some goals and narrative in your games, I’d wait until further into the development cycle.
Talisman: Digital Edition
I love big, complex board games. Until I don’t. I’ve played a lot of board games where I start out with a big group of friends and a lot of excitement to play. Four hours later, I wonder – will this game ever end? Talisman: Digital Edition is a very faithful port of the classic board game and allows you to play either online with friends or against AI opponents.
I’ve played a lot of this since I bought it, partially because it doesn’t require that much attention. It’s turn-based so I can play while watching an episode of some tv show (I finished season 6 of Glee while play, don’t judge me), or I can tab out of WoW to take my turn. I really like when board games are digitized. Not having to keep track of a tabletop full of life tokens and counters and spells, or put them away at the end, is a big plus for me.
If you like the Talisman boardgame, you’ll probably like this. The Talisman expansions are also available to add on, I think I might get these, as the original Crown of Command win scenario is not very well thought out.
I haven’t had a chance to play Monaco, Spelunky, or To the Moon yet, and I’ve only briefly played Warlock – Master of the Arcane. So far my favourite game I’ve picked up is The Swapper, a puzzle-platformer that takes place on a huge spaceship. I really love it so far, but I want to finish it before I write about it.
Have you picked up anything that you’d recommend?