At a time of the year when games are released left, right and centre we figured it was a good time to cast our minds back to the games we might have missed when they were released. In an industry where indie developers are slowly gaining ground and triple-A publishers are firing off sequel after sequel, there are so many places to check for new games that it’s near impossible to catch them all. Let’s take five games and see if we can give you something different to waste a few hours of your life on!
Those who haven’t heard of Botanicula may know its parent game, Machinarium. Botanicula is the follow-up game and what a follow-up game it is. Developed and published by Amanita Design, Botanicula comes with an irresistible stylisation that makes trying to dislike the game futile. The artwork is insane (pictured) and the audio is truly unique thanks to DVA, a Czech band comprised of insanity and imagination.
The plot revolves around evil dark spiders who are stealing the life of all the vast and squeaky creatures that live on a tree, and the five creatures trying to stop them. There are at least a hundred different types of creature and every single one is an original design, looking nothing like anything you’ve seen in nature. You, the player, control the five little chaps who all have different abilities when it comes to solving problems in the game. How do you solve the problems, you ask? Why, point and click of course! Just like Machinarium there is no ‘speech’ as such but sim-esque gibberish and visual storytelling do the trick.
Here’s the kicker, the whole damn game was made in Adobe Flash. Play the demo on the website to get a taste. Those who have used Adobe Flash can appreciate the work that went into creating this game. The game is available DRM-free for the inarguable price of $10, buying it on the website above will forward you to a unique download which gives you a copy of the game.
Did you play Diablo 3? Ok, did you like it? I thought so. Diablo 3 has struggled to win gamers over for various reasons and a series of patches and game tweaks aren’t doing much to help. “How did this happen after the success of Diablo 2?” I hear you ask. The answer is simple: The guys who made Diablo 2 were busy making Torchlight 2. Runic Games (who are better at making games than websites) was part-founded by the Schaefer brothers, who developed Diablo 2.
Diablo 3 has a few advantages. It was released six months earlier with a bigger budget and larger development team. Unfortunately, it let itself down in the tone and repetition. The game took itself very seriously whilst asking you to deal with some bullshit monsters in the same environment over and over again. Even the levelling path involved playing the same campaign four times over! Torchlight 2 takes a lighter tone and has a much more exploration-based feel to it.
For those who have no idea what a Diablo or Torchlight is, both are action RPG games in which you control a single characters and move through the game world, killing monsters, completing quests and levelling up improve your stats (strength, health etc) and skills. You can play with three other people at the same time as well, which adds more variety into the game. You can get Torchlight 2 here for $20.
Tribes is a first person shooter developed by Hi-Rez Studios. There are two important things to mention: the game is free and it features skiing. The game is played over wide, open maps and includes a levelling system which allows players to purchase different gear such as weapons and classes. Despite this, jumping into a game at level one doesn’t mean you’ll get killed a lot, as the game has a ranking system which places you with player at a similar level to you.
What makes this FPS amazing? The fact that you can pick the game up easily and play and yet still feel that you are playing a competitive game. You can’t blindly shoot as your opponents can move faster and most exchanges take place over long distances. You have to aim and preempt where your opponent will go. It’s pretty cool and you can pick it up here.
It is now widely accepted that Minecraft is both successful and well-known. So how would a 2D game fare that shared some of the same mechanics? Terraria from Re-Logic is such a game with a light sprinkling of Metroid to go with it. The is set in the 2D side-scroller style with the players controlling a single character who must mine, craft (see what I did there?) and fight their way through the game, encountering new challenges as they progress.
The game can be played in single-player mode but the real experience lies in multiplayer. Dozens of players can connect to a single server and work together to construct mighty castles or simply knock crap out of each other. As the players progress through the game they encounter various dungeons and boss monsters. Defeating the boss monsters unlocks new aspects of the game for the players to explore. There are a wide variety of items to be crafted, allowing players to individualise their characters and environments as well as NPC’s who act as shops and guides.
Terraria is available on Steam for £5.99 and for a game featuring the wizard Tim, it’s worth every penny. Get a few friends on for a good laugh. You can play in softcore mode where dying has no consequences.
Sid Meier’s Civilization V
With XCOM: Enemy Unknown hitting the ground running this week, it seems turn-based strategy may slowly be gaining momentum once more. If you like map conquests such as the Total War series but want to dabble in turn-based strategy as well, Civilization V is the game to get. In Civ V you select a nation and a leader to rule that nation (for example, Julius Caesar of the Roman Empire), if you are starting a brand new game you will find yourself on a tiny map with just a handful of settlers looking to start a village. After you build this village and start sending your first scouts out, the map starts to expand and you will find resources, villages, wild animals and other leaders who may ally with you or decide to wipe you off the face of the planet!
The real magic in the game is the development. The more knowledge of the land you gain, the wider the map become and the further you can zoom out. When you reach the age of technology, you can see the entire planet. When you can see the entire planet, why not start a space program which wins the game for you? Or you could unite the world in one giant election. No wait, kill everyone else. Oh that’s right, there’s a ton of ways you can win the game. A dedicated player could win a game without ever fighting a battle (except maybe the odd barbarian early on.)
Civilization V is available on Steam for £20– if this is a bit steep then you can always pick up Civilization IV for £10. A bargain considering you can grow your mighty village of Farting-Upon-Trent into the greatest empire the world has ever seen. If you’re interested in how much the game can develop, read this.