Today was supposed to be a day of getting a whole bunch of painting done but that didn’t happen. So instead I thought I would write a short tribute to the cause of my unproductiveness.... Video Games. So a little background on me I have an older laptop and an XBOX 360 so the games dealt with will only be for those two devices. Rather than ranking games I am going to go in order of time starting with the oldest games and working up to the newest (still old, can’t run the latest games on my PC).
1. Steel Panthers Trilogy.
Steel Panthers is basically a hex based war game on the computer. You purchase your units from a set number of points or are given an Order of Battle based on a scenario. You then take turns with your opponent moving and shooting with some opportunity fire. It is much more like a tabletop game than more modern real time strategy games. There is also a system of command points which being a kid I turned off but for the mature gamer I’m sure they add an extra dimension of command and control to the game. What makes Steel Panthers awesome is that it includes pretty much everything. I have not yet found a vehicle or unit that existed that does not have its own individual stats in the game. There are also a number of excellent campaigns and you can even do a generic campaign where you lead your forces over the course of the whole war. The campaigns are excellent, not fully linear and you keep, repair and upgrade your same force throughout them. Steel Panthers One and Two have the squad or individual vehicle as the lowest level, One being WW2 and Two being 50’s to the 90’s. Steel Panthers 3 goes from 30’s to the 90’s with the platoon of infantry or vehicles as the lowest level. They are currently all available for free download on line and the number of historical scenarios and campaigns has been increased dramatically by fans. If you are looking to play a tabletop game on your computer then check out Steel Panthers.
I love this game. While I find Steel Panthers now feels a bit outdated this game does not. Sure the graphics are pretty dismal and you can’t micromanage but I like that. Also the morale system is quite excellent and it is often a hard choice whether to send your general back from the fighting to rally troops that might turn the balance or leave him with your men to keep them in the fight. This game gets top marks for being extremely historically accurate and really giving the feel of the battles. Unfortunately with only Gettysburg and Antietam as the battles you can fight there is not nearly as much variety as some games.
“What’s that?” You say. Well unlike the other games you may have heard of I imagine very few people have played ORB it is a RTS space battles game and it is great. Yes it does have some issues and it has the dubious but proud distinction of having a campaign that I could not finish. My friend in High school (who is now actually a rocket scientist) put me on to ORB since he felt it really gave the feel of space battles. It’s a fairly straight forward game in which you mine asteroids and build ships. But there is a very finite amount of resources and sometimes your fleet comes with you to the next scenario so it leads to a careful husbanding of resources and units. It is also a very 3D game played on huge maps where ships take quite a while to get where they are going. It offers a good mix of capital ships and fighters and some unit types are unique to this game. The campaign provides some interesting twists, although as I said I never actually beat it, it just got too hard.
4. Total War
This is my favourite game franchise. I have played Medieval, Rome and its expansions, Medieval 2 and expansions and Empire Total War. Some are better than other but overall I love the mix of turn based campaign maps and real time battles. Rome and Medieval 2 are both great in my opinion. Empire was a bit of a let down. I really like the inclusion of naval battles but they seem to have much less need for good tactics and just become boring slug fests. I have heard that Napoleon Total War is an improvement and am considering buying a new computer primarily so I can play Shogun Total War 2. The reliance on Steam with Empire is extremely frustrating for me and I despair that the games I love so much puts me through such anguish. I’m not sure if the system has been improved in later games.
5. Company of Heroes
Oh my old friend, one of the few games I have spent any time playing online. Online is fun but the campaign is where it is at. I only have the original and Opposing Fronts and haven’t played the third expansion. I love the cover and suppression in this game, armour facings, the fact that it is World War 2, and the fact that units miss (Nice to see that all tanks aren’t firing laser guided missiles). COH is such a great game that I can’t imagine anyone having not played it. If you haven’t then it is time to fix that immediately.
6. World in Conflict
I’m not sure if World in Conflict Soviet Assault deserves to be in such illustrious company but it is the game I have been playing most recently. I initially didn’t like it but it has grown on me to the point where I would recommend it. I like the Red Dawnesque story line and my man crush on Alec Baldwin means the voice acting in my opinion is top notch. Unfortunately the game play can be a bit repetitive with the focusing being on micromanaging units and calling in fire support rather than manoeuvring. The funnest missions I have found are when you are given a small group of helicopters or other units and get to zip around all over the map and actually take the time to micro manage. In larger battles it seems like I spend most of my time calling in fire missions and sending my repair vehicles to keep my units alive. Play it for the story not the tactics.
Dawn of War, a Warhammer 40k adaptation of Company of Heroes, play it if you like the 40k universe otherwise COH is better.