It just feels different enough to be fun, for me. 2017s problem was that there were too many 4X games. It’s not on a level of Distant Worlds, IG2 or MoO2, but for games that came out in 2017, it’s a bit better than the others.
I see, thanks. It’s on sale for $15, so I’ll consider it…
FWIW, I disliked Civ 5, never bothered getting Civ 6, and dislike Endless Legend.
I am still enjoying the 4x genre though, and am still enjoying Age of Wonders 3, with occasional forays into TW:Warhammer 2.
So I don’t think it’s you, or the genre, but just those games. :P
I find myself wanting to play computer games a bit less and explore my collection of boardgames a bit more.
There’s just something great about screwing over someone infront of you, or having it done to you. So much fun :).
I bought the original Endless Space and gave up about an hour in. The UX is terrible.
I’m so glad Tom has been championing Agents of Mayhem. It looked like a game I would really enjoy, but so many of the other reviewers I respect were disappointed that I probably would have dropped it to the bottom of my list. I haven’t tried it yet because backlog, but Tom’s given me hope that it’s worth trying sooner rather than never.
I was enjoying reading this piece so much. And then…
The personal impact and timing of games is something that isn’t addressed enough, well done. Everyone is in a different place, at a different time, with different appreciations and motivations that resonate with them, it’s something that’s easy to forget.
That being said, I found your inclusion of “2” games, immediately after your speech about not including some games because they were iterations to be fairly funny.
The only two PC games I bought during the holiday sales were Injustice 2 and Agents of Mayhem, and Tom’s had an influence on both. Injustice 2 has been a lot of fun so far.
Many people eventually realize they enjoy 4X games as a story-building engine.
Paradox games like Crusader Kings or even Stellaris are better at that. Those games are usually unbalanced, bugged, repetitive - but they don’t pretend to be just and balanced sports-like games. And Endless Space 2 does, even with all those asynchronous gimmicks. It says that the world is a zero-sum game and there’s a win screen in the end. Everything you do is to be at the top, otherwise you’re playing suboptimally. If you try to make lives of your citizens as best as it could be than you’re doing it wrong, you have to keep them just happy enough to be productive and don’t waste resources to keep them happier. If you don’t expand by war when you can then you’re doing it wrong even if you’re a hippie tree.
In CK2 and EU4 and Stellaris you can just roleplay.
The other problem is that 4X games are incredibly complex and never work properly. Even the best ones have false choices. You’ll never get elegant and complete gameplay from them, it’s mostly about learning the rules and realizing you’re the only one who knows how to play the game. Again, aimless grand strategy games don’t have this problem as AI is usually an open book and is there to roleplay, not to “win”. If you want to conquer the world in Europa Universalis then you’ll have hard time managing all those systems, you’ll perceive AI as one of the obstacles instead of a disappointing contender for world domination. And if you want to create Jewish Byzantium empire colony in America then you’ll have to manipulate systems to get an interesting result - and you won’t care about that play being suboptimal because you are not playing to win.
My personal choices would be Divinity Original Sin 2 and maaaybe West of Loathing (which is good but is hard to take seriously). It seems Tom didn’t play those. Sad!
I also quite liked Mass Effect Andromeda even though I was late to the party and played glitchless version of a game. It’s a first ME game with some actual gameplay.
I was disappointed by lack of choice in strategy games. Nowadays they’re all about being a hobby. No good campaign or tutorial or hand-crafted scenarios - you buy a game that requires commitment. Steel Division or Dawn of War are like that: if I want to play those games I have to persuade a couple of my friends to play it because they’re not really for single player. And all those space 4X games take dozens of hours to play just a single game realizing you’ve screwed up. Endless Space 2 is relatively short and forgiving but it shows another bane of strategy gaming: it’s always an early access. You know that features are gonna be patched in and when you talk about current glaring problems fans say it’s gonna be patched for free. Even though Endless Legend never was.
Same with Stellaris. It gets its big update soon… Around 2nd anniversary of the game. And I bet you’ll need another patch after that for the game to work properly.
You should buy it twice and gift the second one to someone to play with.
Perhaps I should. I have a friend who has it on his Wishlist. Thanks for the suggestion.
Distant Worlds Universe is still my greatest story teller 4X Space Porn.
I currently have Bruce Willis governing my home planet, Einstein as a first scientist and Angelina Jolie as the chief spymaster and it all works !!!
Those comments above are why I’m done with the 4X genre. I just can’t enjoy it anymore.
My favorite games I played this year were Hollow Knight, Nier: Automata, and (2016’s) INSIDE. With them noted together, I see what Tom wrote for himself. They crafted a relationship to me with unexpected commonality in their stories, their portrayals of hope in dark places. Great mechanics anchored those games, but atmosphere and characters made them personally meaningful.
I was happy to see Sniper Elite 4 on the list. I’ve liked all of the Sniper Elite games, but this one struck more of a chord with me than usual, and I’m 132 hours in on it so far, and wasn’t really sure why. Tom’s analysis of how his life circumstances affected his choice in games really struck home on this one for me. I’m basically the only healthy person in my family. The idea that my wife or one of the kids could die at any moment haunts us all, and is frustratingly completely outside of my control. But in SE4, I am in control. I decide who dies, and when, or at all. I am the ghostly hand of Death that floats around the game spaces, sparing or snatching lives as I see fit. The polar opposite of my real life, and I didn’t realize that until reading the column. Really fantastic work, Tom.
Beautiful writing Tom. I almost never agree with you on movies or games, but I love reading about why you like the entertainment that you do. It also makes me wish I was a little more sophisticated about some things.
I hope your wife and kids improve from whatever condition is ailing them. That would be a tough thing to have to handle. Best wishes to you and your family.