Games where the "Learning Curve" is not worth the effort

Yeah, I’m a bit ticked at myself and others. Myself for having been “duped” into struggling through the “learning curve” of what now has become a fairly substantial list of games that require what I consider to be “too much” time simply to learn how to play a game. Yes, Paradox, I am most definitely giving you the most stinkiest of stink-eye possible! I’m also ticked at others for “hyping” so many games that have said “learning curves”. I have now tried FAR too many games that required a serious time investment simply to LEARN how to play the game, only to find afterwards that the game is not fun at all, and I’d just wasted my precious, precious time learning it when I could have been doing many other, fun, productive, fun, rewarding, fun, satisfying, fun, stimulating and FUN FUN FUN things!

So, this has me wondering if there are any other gamers out there like me who don’t want to waste another second of their precious, precious time on games that require TONS and TONS of precious, precious time just to “learn” how to play when, once learned, the end resulting satisfaction with said game is …debatable. Obviously, this is EXTREMELY subjective, but, just in case it might be interesting or useful for anyone else, here is my list of games that I struggled through the “learning curve”, but was disappointed with afterwards, that is, the time spent learning was not worth the overall satisfaction:

AI War
Europa Universalis 4
Crusader Kings 2
Superpower 2
Supreme Ruler: Cold War
Victoria 2

There are many other less-known games I’ve played, but these are, I think, the most popular.

Please feel free to add to this list.

The Paradox games on your list are not bad games. In fact, they’re excellent. They may just not be for you. That doesn’t make them “bad”. I’ve made a similar decision on Matrix titles, particularly those in the $80 price range. War in the Pacific may sit unplayed in my backlog, but that doesn’t make it bad. Just not my cup of meat.

I have no idea if it would be worth the effort or not, but I’ll admit that I started Endless Space the other day and couldn’t figure out how to make one single thing happen at my direction. Nothing worked, no matter how I clicked on it. Ashamed, I quit and played something else.

You use that word. I am not sure you know what it means.

Please feel free to add to this list.

You present it as an absolute “this list”, as if what is true for you will be true for everyone.

Because experience, aptitude, environment, and interest varies so widely across this forum, a “this list” of games that fall into this category feels like a fool’s errand to me.

Yes, I definitely don’t consider any on my list as “bad” games, just not (in my opinion) worth the time investment to learn. I did get “some” enjoyment from all of them, just not enough to justify the time spent learning. Again, just my opinion, and my time may be over-rated. :)

Edited original post because I’m stupid, and thank you for reminding me how stupid I am. [repeatedly smacking self for all eternity]

Just having you on a bit, sorry if it seemed slappish.

However, it still seems like you’re going to get such wide divergence of opinion that I’m not sure you’ll get too useful a list. For instance, sci-fi bounces off me personally pretty hard, to the point that fairly simple games without a learning curve to speak of still miss with me. I could add all sorts of sci fi games here, and it would horrify poor Brian Rubin, who’d then spend far too many pixels telling me how wonderful those games I listed are. And we’d both be in the right, fairly much.

Maybe not. Maybe you’ll get a fairly solid list from this. Just seems like it’d be something that would vary a lot in my opinion.

The secret with Paradox grand strategy is that the process of gradually going up the learning curve IS the game.

For me it was Dark Souls. It did not seem worth the effort and grind.

As for Paradox games the one I bounced off hardest was HOI3. I just could not overcome the cumbersome interface and the extreme micromanagement.

Same here on HOI3, which is weird because I love HOI2 and poured over a hundred or so hours into it.

I don’t think this has ever happened to me. If I don’t have fun during the learning phase, I’ll typically stop playing long before point where could judge if learning it would have been worth it. For example, I did bounce off NetHack, ADOM and Europa Universalis II in that way, but did greatly enjoy learning and playing Crusader Kings II and Europa Universalis IV from your list and will continue to recommend them.

What would be some games with long learning curves that you did enjoy?

I nominate Blackguards. Complicated ruleset, bland game.

Distant Worlds is one for me. An OCD nightmare.

This. Or maybe I can’t judge, if I haven’t overcome the learning curve. Just seemed incredibly tedious.

Nogwart is now on my shitlist because most of the games he lists are some of my favorites (the Paradox games specifically). CLEARLY YOU’RE WRONG, NOGWART!

I can understand some of the complaints above (i.e., it’s of course very subjective), but I still think this is a fertile topic for good discussion.

I was glad to see AI War on nogwart’s list.

I first bought AI War on the cheap after it was repeatedly discussed(praised?) on the Three Moves Ahead podcast, and I loved the major selling points in theory:

  1. It’s built entirely for co-op
  2. It’s a giant-scale RTS, with comparisons to SupCom, SoaSE, and other games we enjoy
  3. It has this super whiz-bang AI, solving the perennial complaint about AI skirmish in RTS games.

In reality, my wife and I bounced off the game repeatedly (and I kept going back and buying more expansions for us, hoping they’d ignite the magic). We did finish one or two campaigns, but I ultimately felt like the game under-delivered on the RTS and amazing AI fronts because most of its strategy came from the massive (and seemingly arbitrary) complexity of its hundreds of unit types and stations.

I was always lukewarm about rock-paper-scissors balancing in RTS, but it’s manageable in lots of great RTS games (AoM, RoN, Starcraft, SoaSE, DoW) because there’s a smaller number of unit-types to memorize and the visuals (and UI) make it easy to identify each class.

With AI War, my epiphany came when I started a new game after months off, and found myself reading for hours in game not just about unit counters, but about the 20 different types of stations in enemy sectors. I realized the difficulty wasn’t in the strategy, it was in methodically reviewing each sector’s stations and ship types so I could avoid the myriad land mines as I planned my attack (e.g., because some stations make AI more mad when you kill them, some make the AI less mad, and they have all sorts of little contingencies in tedious multitudes).

Perhaps a more charitable interpretation was to view AI War like an RPG where you often have to pause and learn about new characters as you explore the environment (answering the eternal question: Do I need a special gem in my sword to defeat the yellow kobolds, or are they basically the same as the green kobolds from last chapter?)

I know some Qt3ers loved AI War, but it’s the best example I’ve ever seen for complexity solely for complexity’s sake (or difficulty’s sake perhaps). I still imagine that I might come back to it someday, but I’d rather spend those hours studying a Paradox game I think, if only for the history lesson.

To answer some: Blackguards is one exception for me. I truly loved the game after spending considerable time learning it. Gonna’ say the obvious Civ 4 and 5, because they were awesome. Stronghold also comes to mind, as well as Rainbow Six (all versions, especially 3) and SWAT 4.

Thief would be another example. I tried and gave up on it before re-trying, and learning to love it.

There are many FPS and 3rdPS games I didn’t list because I think they’re a more individualistic taste kind of thing, as apposed to the TBS or RTS that really I’m talking about.

EDIT: Probably should have stated initially that all games listed are those that I feel I’ve “won”, not just tried for an hour or two, meaning that I truly feel I’ve overcome the “learning curve” and know what the hell I’m doing, have played for quite a while and feel like I’ve discovered all the key elements enough to call it “done”.

I wonder how this thread would have gone way, way back when there were not so many games available. Many times you stuck with a game even if it was hard to decipher because there wasn’t anything else new to play. There are probably many games that many people would have felt this way about but ended up loving when you played it a long time.

I think my patience has diminished with the increase in the number of games and as I get older (with life/family responsibilities we gather with age playing a big part). Another factor today is the internet itself. I can be excited for a game but reading through forums can be a downer sometimes because most people write about negative aspects more than positive. I remember going onto BBS systems to learn strategies about games and I suppose that anyone going onto a BSS were probably enthusiastic about a game in contrast to Steam forums (as an example) tearing games apart. I used to like learning the ins and out of games and it is funny because with Youtube I would have thought it would be easier to get around the learning curves but I have a hard time sitting through a lot the presentations.

Dwarf Fortress.

DF is totally worth the effort :)

For me it’s probably Gunvalkyrie for the original Xbox. I heard such great things about it and when I finally got a copy it was virtually unplayable for me. Required pushing in on the thumb sticks to hover, then push a direction to dash that way. You would constantly lose altitude though there was apparently a way to regain height that I never figured out. Don’t think I finished the first level.