Thursday, August 8, 2013

Value for Money: Games that just keep delivering

When tightening the monthly budget, entertainment is often one of the first things to be cut. After all, how can you have fun when they can’t afford to eat? In the lean months, gamers are at an advantage because, I contend, a lot more entertainment can be squeezed from a game than most other mediums. Certainly, when one considers a straight cost per entertainment hour, games blow other popular mediums (like movies) out of the water. Further, like a good book, some games just don’t grow old and can be replayed time and time again. Below I consider some of the games I have managed to milk an absurd amount of playing time out of and some thoughts on why I think I keep coming back to them.

Game: Team Fortress (QuakeFortress, TF Classic, TF2)
What is it: A team and class based multiplayer first person shooter

Estimated time spent playing: 2500+ hours (conservative estimate)

Why: The Team Fortress mod for Quake was one of the first online multiplayer games I ever played and, up to the modern Team Fortress 2, I have steadily kept some version of the game installed on my PC. Most gamers seem to have a FPS of choice (Call of Duty, Counterstrike, Quake…) and Team Fortress is most certainly mine. I think what initially drew me to the game was that, unlike the FPS template to that point, your play style was determined by your starting class choice as opposed to the best weapon you happened to pick up; playing as a speedy scout or a powerful heavy feels completely different and you can always swap classes to keep things interesting.

Favourite Moments:
  • QuakeFortress: Scoring a headshot with the sniper rifle and realizing how game-changing location specific damage would be to the FPS in general (now you actually had to aim!).
  • TFC: Making surprise kills through walls and floors with the engineers EMP grenade.
  • TF2: Watching a timely critical rocket fly into a cluster of enemies and racking up a solid multi-kill

Game: Street Fighter 4
What is it: The latest iteration in the venerable fighting game series

Estimated time spent playing: 500+ hours

Why: While I am a big fan of the previous incarnations of Street Fighter, it wasn’t until Street Fighter 4 that I was able to consistently play against other players and develop an appreciation for just how nuanced the game is. Street Fighter feels a lot like chess in that understanding how the pieces move is only the beginning to understanding how to play the game. While I am objectively pretty terrible at the game, it is the drive to improve against real players that keeps me playing.

Favourite Moment:
  • The first time I reacted to an opponent jumping in with a dragon punch without consciously thinking about the joystick input made me feel like a Zen master.

Game: Civilization 5
What is it: The latest iteration in the 4x strategy genre

Estimated time spent playing: 200+ hours

Why: While, by most accounts, Civilization 4 is the pinnacle of the series, I generally prefer to hex-based system of Civ5. Yes, I know the combat is broken in parts, the AI is utterly insane, and some leaders are totally unbalanced, but I don’t care. I love building my perfect little empire and weeding out those who settle too close to me or refuse to play nice. I think Civilization 5 also represents the first Civ game where I have fully understood the systems and have actually taken to micromanaging every part of my empire, you sort of feel like god.

Favourite Moment:
  • I always get a kick out of offering up ridiculous long term trades for upfront gold and then declaring war immediately. I get all the gold to fund an army to crush my new enemy and they get nothing but the joy of knowing they paid for my awesome destructive force.

 Game: Diablo 2
What is it: The action RPG/loot fest/mouse-destroyer

Estimated time spent playing: 1000+ hours

Why: Diablo is a simple concept. You click on something and eventually it explodes into a pile of loot. Better loot makes exploding things faster thus getting even better loot to explode things even faster. Sure you pick a character and ostensibly they kill things in different flashy and satisfying manners but, for me, the true draw was finding that new rare weapon or piece of armour that just makes your character feel powerful. While the latest Diablo 3 looks better, it is missing that ‘x factor’ that makes its predecessor a classic.

Favourite Moments:
  • Firing a perfectly placed frozen orb so that it explodes in the middle of a group of monsters in a glorious shower of sweet sweet loot.
  • Beating a fellow player to picking up a valuable piece of loot knowing that you have been beaten out so many times before.

Honourable mention: MMOs in general (World of Warcraft etc.)
I haven’t included any MMOs on the list because, although I have sunk my fair share of time into them, the monthly fees make them less ridiculous value for money.

So there you have it, a list of some of the games that have eaten up most of my time. I am sure that everyone’s personal list will vary substantially from mine but that is part of the joy of gaming. I am also certain that I could have made this list much longer.