I’ve been a gamer for as long as I can remember, starting back with Crash Bandicoot and Spyro on the PlayStation in the late 90’s. In the early 2000’s I started to dabble more in PC gaming, and I have now shifted the majority of my gaming to PC instead of consoles. Nevertheless, I have owned (and still do own) consoles, recently picking up an Xbox One on Black Friday. My console gaming is generally limited to exclusive titles (namely the Forza franchise) and on-the-couch co-op play in a range of games from Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare to Dirt 3. In fact, in general, I play multiplayer games, as I find single-player games quite boring. I also tend to prefer indie games over AAA titles – with some exceptions of course. Quite why I’m not really sure, but I feel that a lot of AAA titles focus on marketing and selling a nice looking game – neglecting replayability and expandability. This list, whilst being in no way comprehensive, represents a handful of titles that I really want to play (or play more) this year.
Minecraft sits in the category of “wanting to play more” instead of being a new game I’m looking forward to playing. I’ve been playing Minecraft for a long time now – since the initial alpha release way back when. But still, Minecraft related YouTube series by the likes of the YogsCast still sit in my weekly YouTube schedule, and Minecraft still presents a wealth of fun and enjoyment for me and my internet-friends. I guess the main reason for it’s longevity is the endless expansion beyond the base game that many other games simply can’t offer.
An active community means that new mods, and new modpacks combining those mods, come out on a weekly or monthly basis, continually expanding the game into new avenues. That and the ease of getting a server online – simply run a launcher and you can have a server and client online running identical modpacks in only a few minutes. Generally there is no required configuration, and everything just works. The game is laughably simple, even with complex mods, making it approachable to audiences young and old, but strangely the simplicity doesn’t detract from the game at all. The GUI is simple, clean, and generally universal. Once you include mods like Not Enough Items (like every modpack does) you can easily figure out the uses and recipe for any item in game which is simply brilliant.
But simplicity doesn’t mean the game becomes boring, nor is ti short. I must have put over a thousand hours into various servers with friends (it’s a shame Minecraft isn’t on Steam so I could see!) and yet the game continues to deliver. It is this level of content that AAA titles are missing, and is the reason why I generally don’t play those titles more than a few dozen times before getting bored.
Cities Skylines: Snowfall
City builders like Cities Skylines: Snowfall are actually one of the only game genres I enjoy playing alone, where there is a particular goal. I really like being creative (if you hadn’t already guessed) but I also like logic puzzles and challenges – and managing a city of 50,000 people ensuring there are no traffic jams is definitely a challenge! I like the interaction between residents, and how a poor design decision can affect your whole city – like a one way road splitting your city in half forcing people to head right out onto the highway to get home, causing huge amounts of traffic!
I’m especially looking forward to playing more with the Snowfall update, and watching the effects of poor weather conditions and low temperatures change my play style. As with Minecraft, one thing I think sets Cities Skylines apart from other city builders is the amount of content available. The inclusion of modding support and the Steam Workshop means there are literally thousands of assets, mods, and other related content to put in your cities, from unique buildings to whole city or district themes, from adding trees to whole new types of roads. After installing a few of the most popular mods you can easily design incredibly efficient cities. Without those mods though, the game can be a little annoying – making it more difficult to prevent large traffic jams building up as your city grows – but that could just be me doing it wrong!
Life Is Feudal: Your Own
Life is Feudal: Your own, also known as LIF:YO, is a mixture of Minecraft and a medieval simulator, all rolled into an MMORPG-like setting only without the MMO aspect – confusing at first perhaps, but I’ll explain. The game is set in a medieval-ish era, where you start as an almost-naked tool-less man (or woman) from one of three races. The first thing that sticks out is the level of detail on characters – the character creation screen looks gorgeous. There is a distinct lack of hairstyles though, but this game is in alpha, so I’ll let it off. Once you get into your world you have to work your way from nothing all the way up to a castle, clad in armor. Some people may be disappointing at the lack of procedural generation, but the map is pretty huge – so much so that finding your friends after spawning on a new server can take anywhere from 5 to 25 minutes of straight line jogging. Although right now there is no modding support right now (that I know of) the game is one you’ll sink many many hours into.
At some times this is actually detrimental to the game – generally I wouldn’t bother playing with less that 3 people or everything takes forever! This is in part due to the slowness of early game resource gathering such as chopping trees and mining – where each block contains 1000 stone that takes about 250 hits to break and iron or copper can be a number of blocks underground – but also due to the skills and leveling of the game, where you become more proficient in certain skills as you perform certain actions. This, combined with the requirement for the levelling of a previous skill to level 30 (like wood cutting) before you can even begin on a new skill (in this case carpentry) means you spend a lot of time leveling skills just to get to something you need. Along with this is a skill cap, meaning you can’t actually become a jack-of-all-trades – hence why you need to play with a number of players. However, it does force you to think about what you need, and also allocate jobs correctly. There’s no point in having your miner also be in charge of chopping wood because you’ll get to a point where your smelter and carpenter are the same person, where they have to level a number of skills – which can take a very long time. In my first (and only session) myself and three friends played for 12 solid hours before deciding to sleep!
But, that being said, the game is a lot of fun. When you get a decent group of people together, or you get a few teams you can really get into the combat aspect of the game, as well as requiring those fortifications.
Factorio is a game I picked up a while ago back when it was in early alpha, and focuses on the creation of a fully automated factory producing all manner of awesome gadgets and their respective raw materials. From a humble conveyor belt you can create giant installations that are self sufficient and self-defending. And you’ll need that defense, the native inhabitants of the planet really dislike the pollution you create! The art style is a mixture of top-down GTA and Minecraft-esque with all the machines, inserters, and conveyors fitting together like a giant jigsaw puzzle.
The game, whilst supporting mods, is long and ample enough to keep you satisfied for a long time. Each new technology requires research, and more automated fabrication – and when you need iron plates in a whole other section of your factory you’ll spend an hour rearranging the factory to get the resources you need in the right place! The best thing about Factorio is that everything can be automated, from resource gathering to defense, you don’t need to manually dig up ores, or stand on the perimeter guarding your factory, there are machines to do it all for you. Later, you get access to vehicles like cars and trains, allowing you to transport items (or yourself) over large distances.
Out of this list Scrap Mechanic is the only game I haven’t played yet but it looks pretty decent. Like many of the games here it’s a sandbox, but adds an extra layer of logic and mechanism on top with the various controllers and motors – awesome! Right now the game is pretty bare though, and has no modding support that I’m aware of but it represents a great platform for the future. I think it particularly stands out as a potential casual game for my friends and I when we can’t be bothered with games like Minecraft.
Titanfall is a pretty old title now (Minecraft is older, but AAA’s tend to die quickly) but it’s still a game I love to play. At first glance it appears like an average AAA shooter: there are guns, you shoot stuff, you get XP and rank up to unlock new guns to shoot more stuff.
But whilst it may not be as realistic as games like Battlefield or as popular as Call Of Duty, it brings to the table a dynamic battlefield environment. Perhaps the maps aren’t as large as Battlefield’s, but unlike the aforementioned games, Titanfall brings one thing they simply don’t: dimensions. Now I’m not talking about alternate universes, more spatial dimensions. Your ability to run and jump in games like Battlefield and Call of Duty are great but you’re generally limited to a single level. Yes, Battlefield has hills, and both have occasional 2 or 3 storey buildings, but the battlefield feels very static. In Titanfall, you can easily wall-run up the side of a building, pop through an open window and then shoot an unsuspecting opponent in the face – which really changes the way people play the game.
I also love the way the game mixes “pilots” (real world players) with “grunts” (AI controlled players). The grunts are easier to kill and are generally pretty stupid – letting you shoot them without offering much resistance – but they allow you to quickly get a feel for a weapon, and also force you to take out players to defend your minions.
Then there are the Titans, large mech suits that really change up your play. At the start of the game everyone is waiting to unlock their Titans, at around 2 minutes into the game. This gives players who enjoy sniping a distinct advantage – exposed pilots are easy pickings and a lot of the automatic or semi-automatic guns put snipers on high structures out of reach. But as the Titans begin to drop into play, being a foot soldier goes from level pegging to a distinct disadvantage, forcing you to switch your play style mid-game. This adds a whole extra layer to the game, where the hunters become the hunted. At any point you might walk around a corner to face two players facing it off with giant mechs!
So that’s just a quick round up of some games I’m looking for ward to playing, or looking forward to playing more this year! I’ll probably do another one of these in a few months time, maybe review some of them in blog posts depending on how much time I have. Watch this space!