It is the very last day of the (epic, mystical, wondrous, and evil) Holiday Steam Sale in which the marketing department over at Valve runs wild over the temptations of impressionable adults such as myself. This is the day to buy. If you’ve been holding out for daily deals on your most wanted games, well today you have either already bought them or cried quietly to yourself in the bathroom because they never came up. But for the folks who haven’t made final purchasing decisions, I thought I would quickly go over what I myself purchased on the sale, their price at the time of purchase, and my initial impressions of those games. And at the bottom of this post, check out my recommendations for what to buy today before the sale ends, as well as a bonus of other sales taking place today. I’m going to give the prices of the games as follows: Price I paid / Price today (the final sale day) / Normal Price.
The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom $0.49 / $0.49 / $4.99 - Unbelievably charming game for a paltry sum. The only reason why you wouldn’t buy this game is because you have no joy at all in your heart and you are a terrible person, and we both know that isn’t the case. Mr. Winterbottom though, is a terrible person. He loves pies and will do anything to get them. And you will help him collect them with the help of some otherworldly time and clone manipulation. This is a puzzle game disguised a bit as a platformer, and you should go buy it right this moment. I promise to be here when you come back. The game is well produced and very creative.
Civilization IV: The Complete Edition $6.24 / $6.24 / $24.99 – So I already had Civ 4 for my PC, but none of the expansions. What I really wanted was Colonization, but it was actually cheaper to buy the whole shebang than Colonization alone, so the whole shebang it was. I got back into vanilla Civ briefly which of course is a great game, but then booted up Colonization which turns everything you know about Civ on its head. From the few hours I got to spend with the game, I can say it’s a very good stand-alone simulation that does some amazingly creative things with the Civ engine. I don’t know how it holds up next to its legendary predecessor, but this game stands alone as a fun and unique experience. You build colonial towns and lure over new colonists to help fill certain positions. Perhaps you need farmers, or people to gather specific natural resources, or maybe well trained people to turn those resources into finished goods that you can then sell back to the homeland. Maybe you want firebrand preachers to lure over more and more colonists. Or maybe you want revolutionaries that will help you break away from your ever more tax-happy King or Queen so you can be autonomous. And there are also other colonial powers setting up camps all around you competing for land and resources. And, of course, the Native Americans. What a friendly lot they are. Shame what I keep doing to them.
The Witcher: Enhanced Edition $6.00 / $20.00 / $20.00 – This is a big game. Like really big. And I only have a limited amount of space on the Windows side of my hard drive, so I installed the game for a few hours, tried it out, and then deleted it. I’ll play it more when I finish with these other games. The Witcher is a highly recommended RPG that was initially released with some rough edges and cheap production values, but was loved by the community regardless. The studio responded to this love with a heckuva lot of post-release support for the game, updating the graphics, voices, graphics and eventually The Witcher became an entirely different and better experience. The combat is a bit iffy with simple time based combos, but the rest of the package seems great. The opening cut scenes have a lot of personality and drama. And in this game, every time you have sex with a woman for the first time, you get her collectible card. If that doesn’t sell you on this game, nothing will.
Defense Grid: The Awakening $2.00 / $4.99 / $9.99 – I’ve only played this Tower Defense game for about an hour, and while the voice-over guy is great and the game itself is good looking, overall it’s a bit sterile lacking the personality of Field Runners for example. But I need to sink some more time in it before deciding if I can recommend it.
Evil Genius $1.49 / $1.49 / $9.99 – After an hour of playing this little indie gem from 2004, I’m ready to say it might have the most promise of any of the games I’ve bought in this sale. You are an Evil Genius. You must build a lair, stock it, hire minions and sidekicks, train them, design traps to keep out the heroes, send your minions out to do espionage and make you money, build a cover organization (like a hotel) to cover your tracks. The little details are so great. To build a room, you first design the blueprint, then you give the build order. Your minions will then go collect the money, run to the depot, buy the materials, come back, and do the work. When you kill an enemy agent, the body will just lie there until you order someone to move it. Luckily you can build a storage area with a freezer to hang it on the rack so no one discovers it. You can set security and guards on doors to sensitive areas. You can lay traps and sensors and alarms wherever you like. You need to even have fire extinguishers in dangerous areas in case the overtaxed generator catches fire, or a saboteur gets in and starts some mischief. There are so many great little details, and watching your minions running around doing their jobs is very satisfying. I don’t know how the micromanagement will be after several hours of play, and perhaps things will get too chaotic or repetitive, but for now, this game is great. I highly recommend it. The graphics seem a bit shoddy in screenshots, but the game has style and good animation, so don’t let that throw you off.
Lara Croft: Guardian of Light $5.10 / $7.49 / $14.99 – Just put a moment of time into this game to get a feel for it. I’m holding off playing it until one of my buddies can run through it with me, as it’s designed to be played co-op. This looks like a stellar local two-player game and I’m very much looking forward to playing through it. I’ve done a bit of research, and local co-op games are very hard to come by on the PC. This is probably the best one. This or Trine.
Just Cause 2 $7.50 / $14.99 / $29.99 – I simply don’t have the disk space to install this one yet. So I can’t offer an opinion. But it seems to be thought of as a competent and fun game that only came out within the last year or so. So I feel quite good about the price. Imagine Grand Theft Auto’s open world with the ability to shoot yourself into the air, hijack a plane, fly it into a bunker, jump out at the last minute and blow what’s left up with your rocket launcher. Why would you do something like that? Just cause! (Thanks for that, Yahtzee.)
Torchlight $4.99 / $4.99 / $29.99 – I never played Diablo. I know. This pretty much disqualifies me from reviewing any PC game. But I just wasn’t much into games like that back in the day. Endless clicking and loot collection wasn’t really my style. But I wanted to try this game (partly because it was released on the Mac) to see what all the fuss was about. And I’ve got to say, I’ve dropped rather a lot of hours into it already. It’s a very well designed, polished game that will keep you saying, “five more minutes,” over and over again until morning.
Tropico 3 Gold $6.00 / $9.99 / $19.99 – I was a bit put off by what I saw in the brief time I spent with Tropico. A game that should be dripping with personality and atmosphere seemed quite sterile. The first thing I noticed were three cloned boys wearing yellow shirts walking on the street paying no attention to what was going on around them. Then I noticed that everyone was a clone. The same people copied over and over again. My tropical paradise was overrun with clones. And the buildings. One farm was the exact copy of another farm. It was uncanny. Now, this game presumably didn’t have a big budget. I can understand that they didn’t have the money to give each child a different colored shirt as difficult as that may be, but it certainly takes away from the immersion of the game. Also, in the tutorial I was told about different things I could say in my speech to the nation. Each choice would apparently give me a 10% boost with a certain political faction. Somehow having this laid out for me in such a blunt fashion reduced what should have been a cool event (giving a speech to my people) to a mere math equation. If the spreadsheet underneath the game is so apparent, I’m afraid the game itself will disappear into a number crunching scenario. But, I haven’t given the game enough of a chance yet, so we’ll see how it goes.
Swords and Soldiers HD $2.50 / $4.99 / $9.99 – I’m sure it’s not the only one of its kind, but I’ve never seen a 2D RTS game before. Like Command & Conquer or Warcraft, you build a base and produce units to attack your enemy. You also have to mine gold. The only difference here is that you are doing so on a 2D plane. Also you have spells to cause a bit of chaos. And the little characters are mostly concerned about being able to get their meat and grog. They are Vikings after all. There are two other playable groups as well. It seems to be a simple but challenging game with a pretty cute sense of humor. You can quickly play through a level when you have a spare 15 minutes. But I think $2.50 is probably the upper limit of what I could recommend spending for this.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent $6.80 / $9.99 / $19.99 – Ran out of time to give this one a go. Supposedly it’s the scariest thing since sliced bread that was made out of naughty children and slightly damp wheat.
Greed Corp $2.50 / $4.99 / $9.99 – This is a board game with some RTS base-building type mechanics added to it. The twist is that as you mine the land for resources to build units, you destroy the land around you. Eventually, after a few turns, it crumbles away into nothing. You have finite resources to defeat the other player. Each game lasts between 10-20 minutes. Nice concept, nice execution. I don’t know how often I’ll return to it, as this kind of game makes me feel mentally inadequate, but I’ll give it a go.
Left 4 Dead 2 $5.10 / $9.99 / $19.99 – This first person zombie shooting game only excels multi-player. I have a hack that will allow me to play split-screen, but I’ve yet to try it out. It’s steeped in personality, and as a Georgia boy I should feel right at home in the Savannah setting. I’m hoping to recruit a few friends to play regular games with online. We’ll see how that goes. I’m waiting for friends to try it out.
Borderlands (Game of the Year Edition) $18.80 / $49.99 / $49.99 – I’ve put quite a lot of time into this game as well. And thanks to a new friend, I was able to give multiplayer a shot as well. It isn’t so fun if you aren’t at the same level. With me at level 10 and him at 40, I was completely ineffective at anything on his level, and he would just dominate at anything on mine. I remember “City of Heroes” had a system of artificially bringing the levels of a group together so they could enjoy raids etc without having to worry about who was what level, but this doesn’t seem to have been brought over to games like Borderlands. If you play through the game cooperatively from the beginning with a friend or two or three, I’m sure it’s a blast. Now I’ll just have to find some friends who want to do that with me. As for the rest of the game, it’s well done, but it’s not engaging as a single player experience like Mass Effect or Fallout were. This game must be played with friends. But if you do have companions, you’ll really enjoy it I bet.
Trine Gift / $4.99 / $19.99 – A kind user over on the gaming community at Reddit.com gifted this to me for no discernible reason, but it is perhaps my favorite of the ones that I’ve played so far. Trine is a one, two, or three player physics-based cooperative platforming game that oozes charm out of every single orifice. I sat down to try it out with a friend, and we ended up playing the entire day and nearly finishing the game. The final level will make a monk want to kick kittens. But I’m sure we’ll be euphoric when we finally reach the end.
Battlefield Bad Company 2 $6.80 / $14.99 / $19.99 – This is a WW2 era first-person-shooter presumably in the vein of Call of Duty and the pevious Battlefield games, but this is the first of the ilk that I’ve played. I’m only doing the single player at the moment. My first impressions are that it’s quite pretty to look at, but very linear. A ton of cut scenes so far. Quite challenging. When you find yourself running for cover into a nearby building, only to find it crumbling around you as grenades go off and bullets wizz by your head, you get an adrenaline rush like nothing else. I do hope the game isn’t tremendously long, because I’m hoping to play my way through the whole campaign. Whether I decide to play multi-player eventually is a whole other matter. But supposedly it’s wonderful.
Hitman: Blood Money $2.49 / $4.99 / $9.99 Very nearly didn’t buy this game, as I imagine it to be a dated, less satisfying version of Batman or Splinter Cell: Conviction, but I hear the assassination scenarios are quite interesting, so I gave it shot. But at the moment, again, not enough hard drive space to try it.
Team Fortress 2 $5.oo / $9.99 / $19.99 – I felt like the internet was going to lynch me if I didn’t play this game, even though I’m loath to go online and play a game multi-player with strangers. But, it’s probably time I man up and see what I’ve got. I’ve played so far only off-line against the bots, and wow, I even suck against them. I definitely need to take the time to learn the classes and the maps before going into the full game. It’s quite frustrating to die over and over again. But I do see the appeal. And I see ads for micro-transactions as well. Those make me nervous.
My total damage was $82.31.
Now, as for what’s on sale today. It’s 3AM here as I write this, so forgive me if I seem a bit out-to-sea, but these are my recommendations if your tastes are anything like mine. And this is only what I would get today, as I think these are the lowest prices you’ll get for these games in the foreseeable future:
Today the sales for Plants Vs. Zombies (an amazing game at $4) and Left 4 Dead 2 ($6.80) are back on super-sale. Also Amnesia, which I can’t recommend on personal experience, but on the good buzz around it. Other excellent titles to get now are Trine, Torchlight, Winterbottom, Evil Genius, and Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. The Civilization 4 collection is also still at it’s Daily Deal price of under $7. This is probably the best gaming value you’ll find today. All are very good games at great prices. These are just the ones I’ve played.
Personally, I’m going to take the opportunity to get Back to the Future at a measly 10% off, because I can’t wait to play it.
And as a little bonus, don’t forget to look over at Amazon direct download where you can get Bioshock 2 for $5, Splinter Cell: Conviction for $12.70, and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat for $2.49 if you have the original S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game on your computer already.
I hope this has been some help. Happy gaming!