Some weeks ago, I was staying with a friend and we played a few games on Steam.
Cities: Skylines (2015)
My favourite of this list. It was greenlit following the critical failure of 2013’s SimCity reboot, and is very much a better version of that game. Whereas SimCity was about online cooperation with other, more selfish gamers, Cities: Skylines allows the player to roleplay as a city planning department. It’s a coherent translation of the complicated details and challenges that are involved in running a local authority. Finally, a game (if I can call it that) which takes this sort of thing seriously. It made me think about the structure and organisation of civilisation in a more detailed way, and changed my perception of the world in which I live. Unfortunately, however, being a gamer means that I have the mental age of a child, so I wouldn’t otherwise be interested in something so grown up and boring.
On paper, this is exactly what I’d usually like: building vehicles and using them to destroy different structures in different ways. So why doesn’t it interest me? It’s probably because it can’t be played in a cycle of other games as we were playing it. The mechanics and physics engine requires long-term experimentation because it’s an instantly accessible party game. I want to play it again on its own in order to give it the commitment that it requires. The fun is likely to be found in the various combinations that can be tried.
Chivalry: Medieval Warfare (2012)
Based on the Half-Life 2 mod Age of Chivalry, Chivalry: Medieval Warfare‘s uniqueness is in being a first-person, photo-realistic online combat game in a medieval setting. The controls feel a split second behind and each move is so slow that it essentially becomes turn-based during confrontations. The lack of an offline mode means that the player is thrown into battle with no previous experience, which could be jarring to players who are new to the hack-and-slash genre. If a campaign were to be added, the backstory and mythology could be developed more and there’d be a sense of advancement. Right now, it feels like something that’s playable in short bursts. But its status as the most realistic first-person combat game to be themed on the medieval still means that it stands out as a game, and the exaggerated gore is very much a treat for capable players.
Totally Accurate Battlegrounds (2018)
A Totally Accurate Battle Simulator spinoff, Totally Accurate Battlegrounds parodies games like Fortnite Battle Royale and Player Unknowns Battlegrounds by combining cartoon aesthetics with real, exaggerated weapons. It makes me feel something that I used to only feel when playing in a jungle gym or on my old school field. It’s the ultimate big kids’ game, but that – and the amount of tediousness involved before a battle – means that if you don’t have any friends then you might be a bit bored by it. It’s the newest of these games, so it still has a few, more noticeable bugs here and there.
It’s as if they looked at driving games and thought, “all anyone cares about it smashing them up, so if we develop a realistic physics engine, nothing else will matter”. And… they’re right. This may have overtaken Burnout 3: Takedown (2004) as the best game for vehicular destruction. There’s really no more to say about it than that, but really, that’s it. It’s so simple. Any vehicle can be destroyed in any environment in anyway, with completely realistic physics. Clearly, they made it especially for me.
Garry’s Mod: Prop Hunt (2010)
I have some controversial opinions about Garry’s Mod, mainly that anyone can develop their own games for it and distribute them without the quality assurance that comes with most mainstream titles. Prop Hunt is the definitive example. It’s just hide and seek with the ability to transform into different objects. Which means that, if you’re a hunter, you spend the whole time turning over anything you can see with the random chance that it’s a hider, and if you’re a hider, you do nothing. I understand why some gamers would think it’s a genius idea. I’m wondering why it exists.