Last week I shared my epiphany about our busy lives and where gaming has fit into everything for me.
This week, I’ll actually deliver the goods – a list of low impact games!!
Why part 1? Well, I’m semi-famous for my fickleness (fickle-ocity? ficklemindedness?), so the chances of me finding and adopting more of these types of games in the future is as certain as the dinosaur apocalypse if they are successful in cloning that wooly mammoth.
Anyway, here we go!
Civilizations 4 Pitboss: We played this in my group for about a year. I’ve been playing Civ since the first installment and I was quite enamoured with Civ4. It retained that “just one more turn” feeling while adding some great enhancements to the franchise. Plus, it’s in a genre that appeals to a wide audience.
We rounded up a crew (8 to 10 peeps, IIRC) and I erected a pitboss server. The way pitboss works is simple: you have 24 hours to take your turn, and you login to the pitboss server to do so! Very clean and easy, no email involved. While you are logged-in, the game is working in real-time. So, if several people login at once, they will see each other’s troop movements right on the screen. Kind of a strange way to handle a traditionally PBEM (play by email) game, but it worked great!
… or so we thought.
You see, with other games of this type (traditionally played PBEM), everyone submits their turn before the turn ends and the game processes all of those commands at once. There are rules for handling all of this “simultaneous” junk, and everything is resolved fairly.
Not so much in Civ4 Pitboss. A savvy player may quickly realize that they can “double-turn” – that is, wait for everyone else to take their turn and then login to take theirs. Once they are done with their first turn, the pitboss server “rolls” to the next turn. Well, that player is still logged-in, so they can immediately take their second turn. This effectively allowed them a huge advantage, especially in times of war. In the end, this small but important fact killed Civ4 Pitboss for my crew. Perhaps Civ5 will correct this fatal flaw.
Dominions 3 PBEM: Check out these graphics and tell me you’re not drooling:
If I looked at the back of this box on the shelf at a game store, I would have likely moved on. Shit, what am I saying? Stores don’t sell computer games now… or, if they do, the games have been moved to the back corner, on a rickety, cobwebbed shelf. Sigh, console games rule the shelf-space these days. I recall a time when it wasn’t so…
Anyway, I’m glad I didn’t judge this game by it’s screenshots. I’ve played almost every fantasy 4x game (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate). My early days include Master of Magic, Fantasy General, Heroes of Might/Magic and many others (too many to name or recall). Take this on good authority:
Dominions 3 beats the pants off all of them.
Now, I’m not so keen on playing Dom3 in single-player mode (there’s a ton of micromanagement), but the multiplayer is top-notch. With over 20 nations to choose from in each “age” (there are 3 ages you could play in) and endless “Pretender God” designs you could make – the game really lets you sink your teeth into it. Unlike other 4X games that boast different races/faction, Dom3 actually delivers. Each nation (for the most part) plays wildly different than the other nations. Add in all the various Pretender designs for each nation (your pretender is your avatar/leader), and Dom3 provides a level of customization unmatched by any other game out there.
Beyond the nation design, you also have a ton of leeway in designing your armies. You recruit commanders and troops (which are unique to each nation). As you conquer neutral provinces, you can recruit more types of troops/commanders (unique to the neutral faction). You can research magic to construct items to give to your commanders, and/or summon troops to fight alongside your normal troops. After you have all of that together, you place your commanders and troops on the battlefield and script orders for them!
How is this a low impact game? Well, someone was nice enough to stand-up a game server to handle the turns and emails. We set our times to 48 hours (so, 1 turn every 2 days) and we let it ride! Currently, 7 of us are playing a game that has lasted a few months and it is fantastic.
2 black marks against Dom3:
- There is no built-in diplomacy. The game is meant to be played as a war game, so I understand where the devs are coming from. But, in a 4x PBEM game, you kinda need some sort of diplomacy system…
- Like many other games of this type, it is “elimination based”. So, if you are out on month 1, you get to wait for a few months. There are variants that play by a “victory point” system, but our group isn’t that advanced quite yet
Even with these black marks, Dom3 is a winner. If you enjoy Fantasy 4X PBEM, you must give it a try.
Die2Nite: I’ve been playing “browser” games since before the internet. Games like Solar Realms, Arena and Wastelands. Die2Nite is a zombie apocalypse survival game that works a tad differently.
With some other browser games, there are usually both cooperative and competitive elements. I’ve played a bunch of them (including another zombie apoc browser game), and Die2Nite has a great balance.
In this game, you will die. A lot. You join a town with 40 other human players and work to scavenge the wasteland and build up your town to survive the NPC zombie attack each day at 5pm EST. You can be helpful to the town, or you can hoard resources/defenses for yourself. Of course, the town could banish you (or hang you from the gallows). Everything you do is logged on your “soul” and you can track your achievements from town to town in this way.
In my opinion, Die2Nite is going in the right direction and it epitomizes low impact gaming. You spend a few minutes each day scavenging/building/saving other citizens, coordinate with your fellow citizens, and then you login after the attack to see if you survived. Great stuff.
Like Dom3 and Civ4 Pitboss, Die2Nite isn’t without it’s flaws:
- You must use Firefox as your browser, and it’s twitchy Flash… grrr, dump Flash already people!
- It’s EXPENSIVE if you want to “play as a hero”. Way too expensive for a browser game. I play for free…
- Griefers can ruin any town you are in, especially if there are several of them and they are organized. The devs are making strides to curb griefers tho.
Looking for a quick gaming fix with exciting events each day? Die2Nite is yer game!
City of Heroes: What the frig is a MMO doing on this list? I thought you said MMO’s weren’t low impact, Matt? You lie! You’re going to Hell!
Settle down, skippy. There are a choice few MMO’s that can be played with a group in a low impact manner. Lemme explain.
Most MMO’s cannot be played in a casual group because one douchebag will be level 70, some will be level 30 and one slow poke will be level 5. It’s just inevitable in a MMO for people to play at their own pace.
Most MMO’s require a large deal of “travel time” to get to an adventuring spot. Granted, there are plenty of casual MMO’s that have virtually no travel time, but the most popular one (WoW) has significant travel times associated with it. Want to jump in for 15 minutes in WoW and accomplish something? Not likely…
Other MMO’s won’t let you ever see the end game loot unless you are part of an organized guild and you RAID RAID RAID! Raiding takes hours of time, many nights a week. That’s not low impact. Part of the fun of MMO’s is molding your character through gear into the exact killing machine you want to play. If you are gated from the gear, you may lose interest in continuing to build your character.
City of Heroes (CoH) hurdles over each of these obstacles with grace and style.
Is your crew at vastly different levels/points in the game? No worries. CoH seamlessly and invisibly changes your level to match the current mission. We routinely roll with a group of 2 level 50 toons, 1 level 30 toon, and 1 or 2 below level 20 toons. The mission scales to the mission owner and everyone on the team immediately gets raised or lowered to that level. I know of no other MMO that does this – if you do, please feel free to leave a comment!
Travel time? No problem in CoH. Not only is travel time quite fast, but you can make it even quicker with travel powers, day job rewards, and supergroup base teleporters. When we group-up to play, travel time is typically less than 2 minutes (to get everyone together).
LEWT! Gimme the phat lewts! You don’t need to beat Boss X at the end of Raid X to get a certain piece of loot. On any mission, the rarest of loot can drop for you. There is no “bind on pickup” bullshit either (except for incarnate shards, but those can drop from ANY mob in the game).
On any given weeknight, a handful of my crew can login to CoH and be delivering justice within minutes. Our level differences don’t matter, and we’re always building both our individual characters and working on the Supergroup.
Yes, CoH is a low-impact MMO.