Most rewarding games with a high learning curve

I’ve searched and not found this particular subject before, so if it’s been discussed, my apologies.

I just recently started playing Gothic 2 (with NOTR) for the first time, and after about 60 hours of play, hundreds of savegames and reloads, I’m really having a ton of fun with it. I’ve owned this game for years now, but put off playing it because some have said that it had a very high learning curve (HLC), and I guess I never felt I had the time to devote to it.

Similarly, I’ve got a handful of other games in my backlog that I’ve heard great things about, but I’ve put off playing for far too long because I’ve heard about their HLC. I definitely want to play them, but want to devote a great deal of time to them in order to get over the curve and start really enjoying them as I’m now doing with G2.

This got me wondering if there are any other games I’m maybe not aware of that have a high learning curve, but are very much worth the effort of taking the time to learn.

Also, I wonder if some HLC games are “more worth the effort” than others. For example, I’ve read that Battlecruiser Millenium (which I own but haven’t played yet) is a game with a very HLC, but is NOT worth the effort of learning because once learned, does not provide much fun. Conversely, I’ve heard that once you read the lengthy manual and learn how to play Dominions 3, it is one of best TBS games ever made.

So, is anyone aware of games that are very difficult to learn at first, but are so fun once you learn them, that it makes the time and effort spent very much worth it? Are any “more worth it” than others?

Thanks for any input.

Dwarf Fortress beyond anything else I’ve ever played.

Victoria: Revolutions. Probably familiar to most QT3ers, it was the most difficult of the Europa engine Paradox Interactive games. It introduced the game concept of POPS - population units - which attempted to model the ideology and economic status of every single person in your country. It was difficult to get your head around how it all worked, but when you did, it was very satisfying to manipulate your country how you wanted it - either into a communist worker’s paradise or a bourgeois powerhouse.

The idea was kept in Victoria 2, but a lot of the manipulation (which admittedly could be tedious) was pushed behind a curtain so you could only affect it indirectly. Unfortunately, that left the player with little to do.

Eve-Online, has a huge learning curve and is VERY rewarding once you get past that. You do need to really get involved in a social group of some sort to really make the most out of it.

And it’s an MMO, that’s not everyone’s cup of tea.


This. So much so that I have a hard time playing similar games because none of them come close to the same depth, while Dwarf Fortress gets deeper and deeper.


I’d throw in competitive and sim games in this category too.

Starcraft, Dota 2, iRacing, whatever.

Yes, Dwarf Fortress and Victoria 2 have been on my radar for quite a while, thanks for the confirmation!

I’m very much NOT into MMO, so Eve is out, but thank you.

Competative and any MP sim games are definitely not for me, but thanks, Quaro!

Distant Worlds
Star Trek: Klingon Academy
Rules of Engagement
AI War (so I’ve been told)
Falcon 4.0
Jane’s Longbow/Longbow 2
F/A-18 Hornet

Are some that come to mind.

I’ll pop a mention of the newer ANNO games, 1701, 1404 , 2070, once you learn to play the basics are very similar, but that initial learning curve was a challenge as I recall.

All are very enjoyable trade and economy management city builders.

I learned on 1701 with the help of forums and wiki’s, and when 1404 came out i easily lost 200+ hours of my life to it. 2070 I am pushing near 90 hours so far, can’t wait for the underwater expansion.

I’ve been working on 2070 recently - it’s my first of this type of game, and yeah, the learning curve seems pretty high. I’m still trudging through the introductory missions and having trouble. Not with winning them, but figuring out what the hell to do to get the next objective going. If only I weren’t too lazy to open that manual.pdf file…

Gothic I - one of my favorite games of all time (maybe not a huge learning curve per se, but very challenging with a real sense of skill progression throughout)

Richard Burns Rally - another fave

Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls

Well, the two ones that jump to mind for me are Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls (which will be coming to the PC soon).

Eschalon Book 2 (I never played the first) fits this bill pretty well. It’s an indie turn-based RPG. It’s exceptionally easy to build a broken, unplayable character. There’s lots of traps in character building and thinking about combat that take a while to get used to. But once I got my mind around how to think about it, I found myself enjoying it a lot.

While I realize this isn’t what the OP wants, I’ll reiterate Dota and MOBAs in general. For my mind they are the shining of example of how pleasurable it is to be able to understand and work in a complicated and convoluted system. Very difficult to learn without a friend, but so satisfying and enjoyable once I understood it.

Supreme Commander w/ Forged Alliance expansion.

When I first started playing it, I really didn’t like it much. But once you get past the learning curve it is deeply, deeply satisfying. I learned with a group of 4 other friends, which helps a lot.

None of us really got into the sequel though. It seemed fairly bland by comparison, and it was also actually harder to learn in depth because the replays for SupCom2 don’t show the underlying technology tree, so you never get the whole picture of what’s being done during a game.

Dwarf fortress is awesome! It is often the epitome of a hard learning curve… You don’t really “see” any action, the interface (which I happen to like) is weird, and there is no tuturial. But the stories that come out of this game are amazing. It is a great sim, and extremely deep.

Virtua Fighter series

Kohan: Ahriman’s Gift

How about a nice game of chess?

Starcraft 2 multiplayer.

Stalker - Ive tried to get into the series a ton of times, and when suddenly it dawned on me how to play the games, they were a blast.

X Games - very very high learning curve, but also very very fun once you understand how to play.

Would you like to play a game?