Fifteen Recommended Steam Games

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So as someone that isn’t that keen on modern games, Steam is a platform that I have to pick and choose good games for.  It’s sad that Steam doesn’t really have nearly as many classic games as I wish it did; GOG.com has quite a few more, but there is no way to purchase anything from GOG without a credit card, which I don’t use; meanwhile I can buy cards with cash at retail stores for Steam with no issues.  Advantage: Steam.

But Steam does have some very good old games on its store, and here’s a list of what I recommend (in no particular order).  I realize that I have talked about many of these games in the past on this site, but hey, it’s time to talk about them again.

  • X-Com: UFO Defense
    The precursor to the modern X-Com games that, to me, don’t quite have the complexity and gameplay of this one.  There is even a modern engine port called OpenXCom that addresses some of the small issues of the original game engine and is highly recommended.
  • Wolfenstein 3D
    One of the original first person shooters, Wolfenstein 3D might not have the near-flawless execution of its successor Doom, but it’s a hell of a ride and a fun time.  There are modern sourceports of this game as well, and I highly recommend you take advantage of them.
  • Sonic CD
    A sadly underappreciated classic Sonic game, this one has Sonic running through time itself to once again stop Eggman from doing whatever evilness he does.  While this is a modern engine adaptation of the original game, it is extremely faithful to the original game minus a few odd movement glitches here and there, but definitly worth picking up.  Also, the USA soundtrack is better.  Don’t argue, you know it’s true.  /s
  • Quake
    What can you say about one of the greatest shooters of all time?  Well, besides the fact that id derailed the brilliant first game by making it into a boring techno-shooter with the second game.  At least it had one final great gasp with Arena before 4 ruined it again and id decided to mess with Arena’s perfection.
  • Heretic / HeXen
    Yeah, more first person shooters, but these are special.  Take the minimal yet effective Doom engine and put it in a magical world full of crazy magical weapons and insane enemies mixed with superb level design, and you have two games that nearly rival Doom.  Nearly.
  • Archon Classic
    It’s chess but with a combat motif — but if you’re thinking Battle Chess where you just get pre-determined animations for capturing, you’re way off.  You get to control your piece as it actually goes into combat against the other piece, with the victor gaining the square instead of just the captor as in chess.  It’s a brilliant game I originally played on the Commodore 64, and this version is a very good adaptation.
  • Wizardry 6: Bane of the Cosmic Forge
    If there is one thing Steam needs more of, it’s classic RPGs.  Modern computer RPGs seem to take their cue from Japanese RPGs as they are more story-heavy and linear instead of letting a character or group of characters loose wherever they want to go in a world ready to kill him or them at every turn.  Wizardry 7 and 8 are also on Steam, but honestly, I feel that 6 was the pinnacle of the series, and if you play only one, make this one it.
  • Sid Meier’s Pirates! Gold Plus (Classic)
    Honestly, anything from the Classic series of Sid Meier’s game is worth getting (check out Colonization and Covert Action), but come on — Pirates is absolutely iconic and has very addicting gameplay that will keep you playing longer than you might have wanted.
  • Sid Meier’s Civilization III Complete
    And speaking of Sid Meier, it wouldn’t be proper to list at least one of his Civilization games on its own.  Honestly, any of the Civilization games (including Beyond Earth) are worth getting and playing, but my personal favorite of the ones available on Steam is the third game, which seems to be more straightforward and satisfying than the others, though if Civilization II were an option on Steam, I would have opted for that one…
  • Master of Orion II
    Speaking of games that will have you losing sleep (and mealtimes, and work/school, and your social life…), Master of Orion is one of those “just a little more” games that will suddenly make you wonder how you have been playing for ten hours.  While the first game is great as well, MOO2 perfected the gameplay and is my recommended choice.
  • Commander Keen
    The PC platformer game of choice, Commander Keen from the same company that would go on to unleash Doom on the world is an immensely satisfying and fun experience.
  • Atari Vault
    Seriously, how can you not own this huge collection of Atari 2600 and Atari arcade games?  It will make you respect the Atari 2600 era a bit more, at least.
  • Bionic Commando: Rearmed
    As a near-perfect modern treatment of the NES classic Bionic Commando, there’s no reason to miss this one.  You may think that the limiting movement and controls in this game is a negative, but playing it long enough will hopefully convince you that it is for the best.
  • Unreal Gold
    As the last gasp of the old style of FPS that aren’t painfully story-based and has several exploration-focused levels, Unreal is absolutely brilliant.  You can probably ignore the included Return to Na Pali, though.  And please, for goodness sake, don’t even try Unreal 2.  Just pretend it didn’t exist.
  • And finally: Crysis…
    just kidding.
  • DOOM
    Bet you saw that coming a mile away.  The entire classic Doom collection is an essential part of everyone’s Steam collection, and the new “Doom” and Doom 3 just doesn’t measure up to the near-perfection — oh, who am I kidding, the absolute perfection — of the original games.  Grab a sourceport like zdoom and kill some demons today.

And just so I get this in there: do not purchase Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour.  While I would love to recommend that you get and play Duke Nukem 3d, this terrible cashgrab version by Duke’s new owners pales in comparison to the original version that was on Steam that included several extra episodes, a better overall experience, and was less expensive than this obvious attempt at grabbing as much money for a bare amount of poor extra content over the core game.  Demand that the Megaton Edition be brought back to Steam and purchase that.  (Fortunately, I purchased Megaton Edition when it was available, and still have access to that version because of that, but there is no way to get that version any more, which is terrible and a serious blow to anyone wanting the game that didn’t already own it.)

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Sega Saturn Doom

My word, I haven’t tried this version in a long time.  It’s much less smooth than other versions and takes a lot from the PlayStation version, but man, Doomguy fires quickly.  I mean, it’s almost rapid-fire mode.  Almost cheating, really.

It’s not the best Doom by far, but at least it’s interesting.  And yeah, I played it on a real Saturn.  Yeah, she still works.  Ain’t she a beauty?

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I may not be a fan of most gaming of that era, but at least Sega tried to do true gaming right with the Saturn and Dreamcast.  With tons of arcade-style and straightforward games that sharply contrasted with the direction Nintendo and Sony were going, the Saturn was awesome.

Final Doom (DOS) is the Retro Game of the Day for 15 May, 2016

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So after the massively successful Doom and its insanely popular followup Doom II: Hell on Earth, and main development focus shifted to Quake, what do you do about the fans that want More Doom?  This was the problem id Software had in the mid-1990s, and it was admittedly a very good problem to have.

The solution was to turn to possibly one of the best things about the Doom series — its ability to be customized with new levels and assets.  Many people had the tools and the know-how to create their own Doom levels, and the internet was flooded with tons of them, ranging from simple asset replacement to allow you to shoot Barney the Dinosaur complete with sound effects to new levels to entire episode replacements, and in some cases, a full Doom II-sized megawad of maps.

id Software decided to take two of these megawads and create a standalone expansion to Doom II that would contain not just one, but two full games.  The first, TNT: Evilution, was created by TeamTNT, a group of level creators responsible for a lot of custom Doom maps, and is set on the Jovian moon Io with Doomguy having to deal with an invasion stemming from new dimensional teleporter technology.  The second, The Plutonia Experiment,  by Dario and Milo Casali, deals with secret experimental technology that attempts to close portals to Earth in time to stop another demonic invasion.  Predictably, it fails, and Doomguy gets to clean up the mess yet again.  Pfft, plot.  Let’s shoot some demons.

The hook of both these megawads is the difficulty level, which is much higher than that of both the original game and its sequel.  While not quite as high as some insanely hard user creations that sends unreasonable numbers at you and expects you to survive, the megawads still provide a very good challenge for those who have mastered the original games.

And to me, both these episodes bring back something that Doom II faltered with a bit: consistent level design.  While II had several levels that could have stood a bit of reworking, nearly every single level in both TNT and Plutonia is a solid, well-constructed labyrinth of demons and doorways that are very satisfying to work through.  This is why it is my opinion that Final Doom actually beats Doom II in quality and is probably the better game.  (The original Doom still beats them both, though.)

Kudos to id Software of the mid-90s for having the courage to bring out a two-for-one pack of what was basically fan-made content.  The quality of both were incredibly high and TNT went even farther by giving us new music that is on par with the original games in quality (gotta love that MAP02 driving bassline).

A standalone expansion that is better than its base game and gives you more content?  What’s not to love?  Just make sure you are good at Doom before giving it a try.

[Proper RGotDs will return tomorrow.  This weekend has not been kind to me.]

Doom II: Hell on Earth (DOS) is the Retro Game of the Day for 14 May, 2016

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Since I do not have a lot of energy and am not feeling 100% this weekend, it’s going to be a Classic Doom weekend, and not much will be said about it beyond what I said on 13 May, 2016 about Doom.  Also, no videos.  They will return Monday with a different retro game that isn’t Doom. :)

While Doom (the original) is still (probably) my favorite game of all time, Doom II: Hell on Earth is right up there.  The only real problem with II is this: map design isn’t quite up to par with the original Doom design.  There are levels that just don’t feel like they are put together quite as well, and feel a bit overconstructed, as if they tried to just put a bit too much in there and make it more of a pain to get through — not difficult, but just more tedious, making you feel like “oh no, it’s this level again with that part” (for me, one of those is MAP09, The Pit with the hub chamber with the three-sided switch that opens up three equally tedious parts, and even if you ignore the other two and just go for the one with the key, that part is actually the most tedious one of all).

But the addition of the Super Shotgun and the new enemies really balance that out well.  The Chaingunner is a new zombie with, well, a chaingun, and can really rip through your health fast if you don’t take him down, the Hell Knight is a weaker but still formidable version of the Baron, the Revenant’s homing missiles keep you on your toes, the Mancubus is a bloated mini-tank with a nice shot spread that is tricky to dodge if you’re not careful, the Arachnotron is a plasma-shooting annoyance that is fortunately easy to kill in a few blasts, the Pain Elemental gives those Lost Souls a home and can fill the room with them if not taken care of, and best yet, the Arch-Vile, a terror that can chip off a significant amount of health with a blast of fire if you are in its sights.  Add the Wolfenstein 3D secret level SS troopers, a surprise appearance by some hanging Commander Keens, and the Icon of Sin final boss (who is really just John Romero’s head on a stick, saying “To win the game, you must kill me, John Romero” backwards).

It’s a great sequel slightly marred by some sloppy level design here and there, but still one of the greatest games ever released.  Play it.

 

RIP AND TEAR! DOOM (DOS) is the Retro Game of the Day for 13 May, 2016!

As “NuDoom” (as I call it, the new Doom game released in 2016) racks up accolades based on… well, I don’t even know what, because the internet at large were blasting its horrible multiplayer component not so long ago and its single player gameplay is absolutely NOTHING like what Doom is supposed to be but now, suddenly, it’s 10/10 best game ever.  I really don’t think modern gaming and gamers are even trying any more.  It’s some sort of rampant herd mentality jumping all over the latest game because someone persuaded them to buy it and people don’t want to feel like they’re dumb for buying into the latest pile of garbage, so they “pretend” to like it.  And as things go, I’m sure in a few months no one will even remember NuDoom and many will proclaim that after all is said and done, it was crap.

But it doesn’t even matter, because Bethesda/id/whoever else now has their money, and their sales figures, and poorly done “gaming” will march right along, putting out mediocre title after mediocre title.  AAA gaming has become a laughable mess, convincing fools to buy an endless string of style-over-substance garbage.

Meanwhile, there’s Doom.  No, not NuDoom.  Doom.  The original, the best, and possibly the greatest game of all time.  It is to me, at least.

Doom (and from here on out, when I say Doom, I do mean the 1993 original game — this new abomination isn’t even related to Doom, in my mind) brought a wonderfully crafted gameplay experience to gaming that has yet to be rivaled.  Enemies come to you in hordes, not in carefully released spurts in a certain area.  Enemies have distinct ways of attacking you in a way that shooting them isn’t just mindless — you need to prioritize and think about the way you are going to attack them, taking out the most dangerous ones first, and that doesn’t always mean taking out the strongest one (as an example, in a room with the dangerous Baron of Hell and a bunch of much weaker Shotgun Guys, taking out the weaker Shotgun Guys first is prudent because even though the Baron has a greater potential for damage, his attack his visible and can be dodged, while the Shotgun Guys attacks are instant and can’t be).  You have a varied range of weaponry with limited ammunition that you have to manage and prioritize, making sure to use the heavier and more damaging (and more limited) ammunition against a situation that really needs it.  NuDoom, and seemingly every other modern FPS, doesn’t even come close to this level of simple complexity (an apt oxymoron for what Doom brings in its simple-seeming yet deep gameplay).

And then there is the level design.  Maps that sprawl out in all directions, forcing you to actually explore your environment.  From what I’ve seen of NuDoom, there isn’t a real “sprawl” to the game, just a bunch of connected pieces that do nothing more than hide a fairly simple linearity to the game.  It’s admirable that NuDoom isn’t just a straight linear game like many other modern shooters (including Doom 3, another quasi-Doom game that isn’t really Doom), but I have absolutely not seen anything of the grandness and the well thought-out planning that went into every original Doom level.  In many ways, many Doom levels are almost puzzle-like, making you fit together keys, switches, and discovering areas that come together to open the final area to the exit switch.

You’re also not “rewarded” with a shower of ammo and health at all times just by punching a demon in the face, as NuDoom seems to advocate.  I heard one person gushing about NuDoom saying that the abundance of health in that game was welcome, as it keeps you from having to scrounge around for health.  That isn’t Doom, friend.  In Doom, health is a resource just like your ammunition, and it is your job to keep that resource filled at all times by hunting for it.  The game showering you with health is only one step away from regenerating health, which is a bad, bad thing.  Sure, some enemies in Doom drop ammo, but guess what — it’s for a reason.  See, those enemies were carrying a certain weapon, and killing that enemy gets you ammo for that weapon.  What a simple, awesome concept when put against the dumb stupidity of “punch enemy in face, gain shower of ammo and health for no reason”.

Can you tell I love Doom?

Honestly, it’s one of my favorite games of all time.  Hell, fine, I’ll be honest.  It is my favorite game of all time.  Hands down.  While Doom II might be a bit lacking in the level design aspect compared to the original game, it still absolutely destroys any other game and would absolutely be my favorite if it wasn’t for the original Doom game.

Well, maybe it would have been Final Doom.  

Go play this game, everyone.  Play it and see how Doom is really supposed to be.  And stop falling for these style-over-substance modern games, even if they’re pretending to be something they’re not.

And oh yeah, Doom also has a fantastic multiplayer component.  Even NuDoom’s biggest “fans” can’t say the same about that game.  And you can build real levels in Doom, not just piece together existing parts from existing ones.  Lame.