Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Myriad strategies and sundry spires

I've been playing a lot of videogames lately. Funny how, graphics aside, PC games haven't really gotten any better for a decade. Perhaps I'm prejudiced insofar as I mostly play strategy games; but, honestly, Crysis had nothing to it that Half-Life didn't - except for more buttons to recall. So that's why, these last few weeks, I've been hung up playing Warcraft: Orcs & Humans and Sid Meier's Colonization.

The original Warcraft, it seems to me, supersedes all other examples of Real-Time Strategy games. Mostly this is because every other RTS I've played - whether it be a Westwood, a Blizzard, or a somebody-else - relies on rushing and mobbing, and over time their titles have diversified gameplay by adding a whole buttload of complex stuff I don't feel like figuring out. The Age of Empires series is nice, but, honestly, I just don't care about all those stupid upgrades. Warcraft, by contrast, sets a pace that forces you to worry about tactics: how are you going to draw those orcs into a trap to kill all their Raiders and Warlocks before they can poison/knife the crap out of you?

Colonization is obviously a radically different game, but I'm finding myself enjoying it much more than El Sid Meier's more popular Civilization series. Actually, the latter editions of Civilization added some cool elements - I really enjoyed the addition of religion and the various cultural organization tables. So, in one sense at least, that particular series sort of defies the logic I'm trying to prove/expound upon herein, since, in Civilization, Complexity = Approved whereas elsewhere Complexity =/= Approved. Nonetheless, I find Colonization a much more intriguing game - again, in defiance of my earlier logic - because it has an even higher level of complexity than Civilization. Colonization is more about micromanaging trade goods and keeping up a nice flow of immigration - whereas, in Civilization, it is the heavy hand of Population Explosion that ye must wield. It's sort of like a really old school Dwarf Fortress - or maybe Drawf Fortress is a science-fictional future-precursor to Colonization.

I guess what it is, is that turn-based strategy games can handle complexity; or, rather, within turn-based games, Ben Godby can handle complexity. Far be it from me to tell anyone else what they can or cannot handle (you mutant loser pie-faces). But I still really enjoy RTS games - the tension of the real-time act - and I wish there were more games made like the original Warcraft. Actually, I guess it's a little like Medieval: Total War in its battle-execution - lumbering and deadly - but the fact that you're stockpiling resources and building units in real time augments the tension and the stakes. Conversely, most RTS games - from Warcraft II, on - dialed down that intensity by falling away from actual battle and back onto enormous tech trees, constant upgrades, and ridiculous speeds of play that always end in The Ogre Rush (or some equivalent).

That's my videogame vendetta for the day. I will now very slowly return to my videogames - where the orcs are presently doing a painfully good job of defending Black Rock Spire.


P.S. The other really awesome thing about classic DOS games? The music. (Skip to about 0:50 if you're too much of a wuss to handle the enormous tension of the build-up.)


  1. Colonization is, hands-down, one of my favorite 'classic' games. (Note that they upgraded it as a stand-alone scenario for Civilization IV, which was pretty cool)

    I really liked AoE II: Age of Kings (esp. the campaigns), though, and never got into the Blizzard stuff that much. That was just an oversight of my childhood, I think. Either that, or I like commanding villagers to hunt boar.

    These days, though, give me any of the Total War games (esp. Medieval), and I'll be happy for days.

  2. I played Civ IV but totally overlooked that scenario. My bad. AeE II is a cool game in a lot of respects, but I think I'm basically incapable of handling its scope. It's kind of weak to have to admit that, but... such is life.

    Also, in my opinion, Blizzard and Westwood (who, along with the Command & Conquer franchise, were acquired by EA) basically ended up making joke games. Warcraft III, par exemple, makes me want to barf.

    And you're right: Total War is best. Unfortunately, I have the Gold editions of Medieval and Shogun, and they seem to crash randomly-all-the-time on my Windows 7... forcing me to write about total wars in fictional worlds, instead. (And, for the record, Rome didn't hold my interest because of the inherent imbalance of the armies.)

  3. I liked Rome because I loved playing as Rome (especially the early game right as they make the switch from semi-organized to really freakin' organized). That's just me, though.

    I haven't played the new Shogun: Total War, yet. I really want to.