Best Game Ever

I’ve been working on little side projects lately, keeping myself busy and also getting back into Warhammer Fantasy Battles (spoiler: probably best game ever) so I kinda neglected writing a super long post for this week. I have noticed that my posts are getting longer as of late, and because of this the post frequency keeps on dropping. I might need to train myself to break up long articles into parts, or at the very least exercise some brevity.

I was trying to put together something mildly interesting on short notice, but I figured I could probably get away with another reader participation thread.

So…

What is the best game you have ever played and why? This does not have to be about video games. We already had that discussion back in 2009, though it would be interesting to see if and how everyone’s favorite games have changed.

This time however, lets include games from the analog realm as well: things like board games, card games (both collectible and not), tabletop battle/skirmish games, pen and paper RPG’s and anything else you can think of. If it’s considered a game, it belongs in this thread.

For me, not much has changed since 2009. Morrowind remains one of my all time favorite games more or less precisely because of how broken but at the same un-breakable it is. There is something to be said about systems that can cope with excessive min-maxing and emergent player behavior. Morrowind does it very gracefully. You can easily beat it in under five minutes by abusing the Alchemy and magic systems and I love it for that. I adore the fact that the developers realized players may decide to kill the most important end-game quest giver in the game and just rolled with it. If you murder the living-god Vivec, he drops crucial McGuffin needed to defeat the end boss, allowing you to skip almost entire main quest chain. Not that you should, because it is actually really good (at least compared to the later Elder Scroll games) but you can.

In Morrowind you never feel constrained by the game mechanics. If you see a door, you can pick it’s lock and see what is behind it. If you see a wall, you can jump or levitate over it. If you see an impossibly tall structure, you can climb it. Bethesda’s later games like Oblivion and Skyrim are full of plot driven doors, “essential” NPC’s and invisible walls that exist to railroad the player and prevent him from breaking major quest lines. Morrowind on the other never says “no” to you. It will happily break it’s own main quest chain if it means it does not have to break your immersion.

I don’t usually replay my single-player games. Once I beat them, I uninstall them to make space for new games and almost never revisit them again. Single player titles scarcely ever provide enough fresh content on subsequent playthroughs to warrant sitting through the rest. Even titles with “moral choice” systems and multiple endings typically provide only a singular plot thread and some optional quests, all of which can be completed on your first playthrough. Your behavior, conduct and choices typically have have very little meaning and the ending you get depends on a button press or dialog menu choice at the very end of playable content. Morrowind on the other hand has factions whose quest lines directly interfere with each other. For example, you can’t complete Warriors Guild quest line without killing important quest givers from the Thieves Guild and vice versa. It is designed so that it is impossible to see all of the content on a single play through. As a result it is extremely repayable. I still have not seen the content for all the different factions. Despite having beaten the game many times, it keeps drawing me back. Every now and again I install it from scratch and start a brand new character… And almost invariably I stumble upon new content I have never seen before within an hour or so. It’s quite amazing really… This sort of repliability in a single player game something quickly fading from mainstream gaming. With production budgets being blown out of proportion, and real actors being hired to do voice acting and mocap work, developers are growing increasingly more terrified at the thought a player could skip even the tiniest bit of the content.

When it comes to board games, I think Talisman would be way up there. I think I mentioned it before, but it might have been my gateway drug into pen and paper role playing. At the very surface it is a fairly simple board game that is only a tad bit more complex than say Monopoly. It’s rules can be explained to a new player with no RPG experience in just a few minutes. But while it is systemically trivial to grasp it does have very strong role-playing components. Each player picks a character who gains experience, items, gold and companions throughout the game. All the standard RPG and Fatnasy tropes are there, just scaled down to make them accessible to complete nebies. For seasoned role players it offers a fun diversion – a mechanical, simple and fun system that requires almost no thinking. For non-role players it offers a little preview of all that pen and paper RPG’s can offer. It makes people care about their characters and it is not uncommon to see emergent role-playing from non-role-players. For example, I’ve seen a player refuse to double-cross an ally because he was playing a good aligned priest and it did not seem like something his character would do.

You probably read my Hearthstone review where I mentioned Middle Earth: The Wizards CCG. That was honestly my all time favorite card game. It was wonderfully complex and unconventional. It offered the players about three different win conditions and various possible ways to build a good deck. But first and foremost it felt more like an RPG than a card duel. The object of the game was to lead a group of adventures on a quest to recruit new heroes, gather magical artifacts and persuade different Middle Earth factions to join their cause. It was smart, engaging and very rewarding. And it was using Tolkien lore long before Peter Jackson made them popular via his movies. It’s a pity it got discontinued years ago and cards for it are now rather hard to come by.

I of course mentioned Warhammer at the beginning of this post. For me Warhammer Fantasy Battles is still one of the most fun tabletop games you can play. I dabbled in Warhammer 40k, Battletech and even the Games Workshop LOTR game, but nothing beats the massed rank and file combat of WFB. As far as I’m concerned the 8th edition of the game is damn near perfect. The new hard cover Army Books are absolutely lovely and I really like their new all-plastic miniature range. I miss the the metal minis, but I’m glad they got rid of the “failcast” range because the quality was absolutely terrible.

There are rumors that the 9th edition of the game is due to be released later this year, and that it will introduce a lot of major changes. Supposedly the game is not selling as well as 40k and that makes me a bit concerned. Warhammer Fantasy has been a constant in my life for many years now. I’ve been in and out of the hobby many times, but it was always there in the background, and I always kept up with the news, and releases. The fact they might be looking to turn the game inside out in a last ditch effort to make it profitable is kinda scary. My gaming group is bracing for the impact, and we vowed that if the 9th edition sucks, we’ll just keep playing the 8th forever. Then again, the 9th edition changes are supposed to re-vitalize the game and make it more accessible and affordable for the newbies. So perhaps it won’t be so bad.

What about you? What are some of your favorite games and distractions? Let me know in the comments?

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11 Responses to Best Game Ever

  1. I really liked Pirates of the Burning Sea, it’s pretty much dead now (or is dead now) but it was an amazing game and captured exactly what a pirate game should capture:

    * As you leveled up you could get bigger ships and sail them, but with a small ship you had advantages like speed and if you and a couple of your small shipped friends took on a big gallion you could still win.
    * The markets were dynamic so if you had a port that you grew tobacco in, you couldn’t just keep brining it to the single place that paid the highest for tobacco that was always changing. Also..
    * The different world factions could take over ports, and when they did they got the best trade deals and if you entered that area it would be an automatic PVP zone for any non-faction
    * Wind and Currents was beautifully done
    * You could board ships and fight hand to hand combat which was a little clunky but still entertaining.

    It had everything I would want in a game.

    I also really like starmade.

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  2. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Google Chrome Linux Terminalist says:

    @ Travis McCrea:

    Never played pirates, but it’s always nice to see an MMO that is not just reskinned version of WoW with voice acted / mo-cap cut-scenes. Was there any specific reason why it died, or did the player interest just dwindle after a while?

    I think the big issue with MMO’s is that people usually only ever play one at a time. This seems to be true for both fee based and F2P games: it’s not really the money (though that plays a role) but the amount of time and effort you are expected to invest in the game both grinding for levels, and socially interacting with other players. The network effect always kicks in and people just loop back to WoW or Eve…

    Also, Starmade looks amazing. I’m definitely checking it out. I’ve been waiting for a space sim in which you can actually land/explore procedurally generated planets and this seems exactly that, with some minecraft thrown in.

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  3. IceBrain PORTUGAL Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I don’t think mine have changed; Oddworld: Abe’s Oddyssey is still the first to come to mind, regarding video games. As for board games, I’m afraid I never had much of a company to play with, so I only know the more common ones.

    For something completely different, one of the games I most fondly remember playing is what we called “Coin Game” (Jogo da Moeda, in Portuguese) and apparently the English call Spoof. I think it’s like Poker distilled to its simplest possible form – there’s no weird rules or combinations to remember, it’s purely based on trying to read the other person’s playing habits, and lots of luck!

    It also helped that I was a kid and we played for money (the winner got the loser’s coins), so it also funded my arcade gaming :D

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  4. Wesley UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Linux says:

    I can’t pick a “best game ever,” BUT the best game that I’ve played recently is Dungeons: the Dragoning.

    Link.

    DnD + Space + Awesome.

    Best computer game for me right now is tied between Minecraft and Nethack.

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  5. I would say those games i still play all the time:
    #1 Chrono Trigger
    #2 Fallout 2 (and 1)
    #3 UT2K4
    #4 other RPGs (any Elder Scrolls since Morrowind, Neverwinter Nights, Fallout 3)

    In fact… i don’t even play current games any more. It’s not like i stopped playing. It’s not even like i would hate all current games. I just don’t care about them any more. (maybe that’s even worse)
    I have tons of SNES-Games, i can play them on emulators on ALL my devices (PC/”Tablet” Asus T100, Smartphone, Wii, Archos Gamepad) this makes up for most of my gaming-needs. On my Desktop i tend to use other things more (ran around in Red Eclipse and Urban Terror for quite some time last year) and sometimes i just want to play a full-blown RPG and do so for some weeks.
    What i currently still miss is some way to make DOSbox-Games or old Windows-Games work better with touch-input on my T100. To play more round-based RPG or Strategy-Games.
    But since i now own a new BT-Mouse, it’s not that important anymore.

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  6. i forgot about this whole non-electronic area…
    there i’d have to say: Munchkin!

    A really funny card-based RPG without numbers (well… mostly, one number per player is left). The Humor is great. The only Problem is that you have to have at least 4 Players. Because of that i can play it only 4-5 times a year.

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  7. alphast GREECE Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Best video game ever for me is still Morrowind as well. Although, I have to say, I also enjoyed thoroughly the replayability of XCOMM Enemy Within.
    For analog games, my favorite is still the AEG’s Legends of the Five Rings universe (RPG mostly, but even the arguably less than perfect CCG). They recently also edited “Love Letters” and adapted it to the L5R universe, which, I have to say, is a brilliant game.

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  8. Liudvikas LITHUANIA Google Chrome Windows Terminalist says:

    Best video game for me is EVE online, it’s the only game that gives me the shakes even when intellectually I know that I am relatively safe. Just something about risking your assets that could take days or even months to gain, that could be lost in a moment.

    Talking about different gaming options, I’ve been having fun playing http://www.storium.com , it is sort of interactive storytelling game, sort of like Dungeons and Dragons, just without all the tedious dice rolling, you use your characters strengths and weaknesses cards to complete challenges the narrator gives you. It’s loads of fun.

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  9. MrPete GERMANY Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Damn, that took a long time until Fallout appeared in the list!

    In electronics the game I had the most fun in was X-Com, TFTD and even Apocalypse.
    Closely followed by the Fallout Series but that saw dwindling interest/fun gained with every new title until I stopped (still have an uninstalled New Vegas here…).

    Boardgames: Crimson Skies without a doubt.
    Though there are many that I tried and Battletech is far more often on the table I absolutely love the effort and consideration that went into creating the world in detail.
    Well, and I made an absolute bargain getting the boardgame for $3.80 and paying far more for postage :)

    Other games: Shadowrun pen&paper.
    Definitely the game I spent the most time on (that’s not on PC) and I nagged the folks at the german retailer so long and often with the appearance of SR3 that they later knew my phone number and name leading to statements like: Sorry, Pete. Next book is still not in, we’re having trouble with shipping from the printer. You’ll be among the first 50 to get a copy!
    With the advent of the 4th edition I (we) reluctantly changed and then had even more fun with it, up to a point where we “modified” the dice system to make tests faster and battles that much slicker. 21 folks battling it out, took about 1.5h while more or less testing the new rules and adapting them :)

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  10. @ Luke Maciak:
    Let me go back and say apparently they are still active, I just don’t have a PC so I haven’t played recently. I know that Sony dropped them, but I also see that they just released an expansion and have been keeping updated. http://portalusgames.com/

    I figured they were dead when Sony dropped them, but I hope they are doing good still. The game is so beautiful because in other games it always feels like you have to grind to a high level so you can enjoy the game. In PotBS you are always just enjoying yourself playing, when you upgrade a level — it’s exciting and you get access to new ships (in beta, it was cool because if you stole a ship you could sail it — doesn’t matter what level you are), but that only expands your ability to enjoy the game. It is so perfectly balanced that honestly you can just enjoy it.

    I think it’s FTP, I would suggest giving it a day… just so you can see what I am talking about because it is so beautifully done that it’s hard to describe.

    As for StarMade, I would say just be careful – Starmade will suck you in and 5 hours later after you have built a ship that can literally destroy planets (or better, absorb planets). You will have thought you have been playing for 30 minutes. If I can give you a tip though – while you are starting out, use build blocks and attach them to planets or better space stations, hold control and adjust the size and you can quickly “mine” tons of blocks at once.

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