There are many games out there that are punishingly difficult, and gamer’s will admit bowing down to without shame. But for every “Dark Souls,” “Ninja Gaiden,” and “Ghosts and Goblins” out there, there is another type of game that is equally challenging, but one that fewer people will admit to being beaten by.
They are games that beat us not with waves of impossible enemies, or random death traps, but instead with complex rules, hours of learning, and serious brainpower requirements. They aren’t games that challenge our reactions, but rather our intellect. Regardless, they provide equally grueling experiences that only the most elite of gamers will ever see the end of (if there even is one).
These are some of the most complicated games of all time.
There are a lot of simulation games out there that cover every topic from Earth to ant colonies. However, as difficult as some of those can be, few are as challenging as “Tropico,” which places you in the role of a dictator over a small island.
What separates “Tropico” from other sim titles is the sheer number of things you have to oversee. There’s a surprising amount of aspects required to rule over a helpless populous, and almost every action in one field can cause horrific and unfixable problems in another, making it almost impossible to keep all the political, social, and economical needs in balance
To be fair, on the easier difficulties, “Tropico” is not much more grating than “SimCity.” Bump that difficulty up to one of the more realistic modes though, and you get a game that’ll have your virtual dictator reaching for his emergency revolver when the peasants come rioting, around the same time you do.
Of all the 4X strategy games that require you to build a world (or universe) expanding empire from virtually nothing, few, if any, have ever dared to be as daunting as “Pax Imperia.”
Latin for imperial peace, “Pax Imperia” charges the player with building the largest empire the universe has ever known. While there may be similar games out there, “Pax” gets the nod due to it coming out at a time (1992) when this concept was foreign to games, and as such “Pax” throws an infinite amount of options at the player, without giving them much of a frame of reference as to how to use even the most crucial elements.
“Pax Imperia” is one of those games you can spend years perfecting your craft at before mastering it. Like many punishing games though, the amount of effort you put into it, is equal to the enjoyment you get out of it.
Rainbow Six: Rouge Spear
You may not associate action games with complexity and, if you’ve only been playing them for the last few years, it’s probably not the word that springs to mind when describing the “Rainbow Six” series either.
However, 1999’s “Rouge Spear” shatters both of those perceptions with its punishing form of strategic team based special operations. Every mission requires you to craft the perfect plan, which can then fall apart in an instant if you don’t flawlessly execute it (and even then, you’ve got little hope). Oh, and the few moments of action are often one shot for a kill (which applies to you and the enemies…but mostly you.)
As frustrating as “Rouge Spear” can be, I actually miss the wait and see approach it took to the shooter genre. If you’ve never played the series’ original games before, give this one a shot if you want to experience a thinking man’s action game.
It’s easy to forget that before “World of Warcraft,” MMO games were among the most daunting and complex of all gaming genres. Of those games, the crown jewel may be “EVE Online.”
“EVE” would be complicated enough on its own as most of the gameplay revolves around navigating a series of really detailed menus and performing hundreds of hours of mundane tasks, but the game’s hardcore players have turned the title into a whole different animal. Trying to jump into “EVE” as a newbie will thrust you into a universe of politics, economics, and caste systems that are as challenging to learn and overcome as any in the real world
“EVE” is not for everyone, and anybody sane will most likely give up on it before even the 20 hour mark. Press on though, and you may find every other game to be to suddenly be too simple.
A theme with the other games on this list is that they eventually reward you for all of your efforts with a one of a kind experience. This is not the case with “Dwarf Fortress.”
Oh sure, somewhere beneath its text based graphics, 90% based on menus gameplay, and learning curve so steep that a publisher of technical manuals created a 238 page illustrated guide that just shows how to get started, is probably a game that provides moments unlike any other, but good luck ever sticking with it long enough to even find the surface to scratch.
“Dwarf Fortress” may be a game about constructing the ultimate stronghold for your gang of dwarves, but its real purpose is to crush souls and make Mensa members feel inadequate. The real kicker? It’s main mode is essentially unwinnable.
If you haven’t been following it, “Among the Sleep” is a unique upcoming indie project that looks to take horror away from its recent “action game with some jump moments” state, and back to the realm of true terror by placing you in the shoes of the most unlikely horror hero of all.
That’s right. In “Among the Sleep” you play through the eyes of a baby as he is awoken during a dark and stormy night and sets off in search of his parents, with nothing but his teddy bear as company. Without giving too much away, it turns out this is no normal night, and in fact some serious terror is lurking all throughout the house.
So how is it? Pants wettingly terrifying, since you ask.
Even in its clearly rough early state, the game does a great job of making you feel truly helpless, and of showing the world through a baby’s eyes (for example, writing is just scribble and jumbled letters). Scares can come in the form of normal things like lightning strikes, bizarre noises, and darkened hallways, but as the demo progresses, you’ll start seeing some truly freaky stuff that would horrify anyone.
There’s almost sure to be a moment during this demo when you’ll find yourself ducking under a table out of fright until everything is okay, just like a baby would. It’s an effect accomplished through some truly incredible atmospheric design, and while it remains to be seen if “Among the Sleep” has the gameplay legs to be worth an entire adventure, the demo is a must play for anyone with the courage, and is sure to put “Among the Sleep” on a lot more gamer’s radars.
To view the extent of this problem, try typing “best Superman game” into Google. Soon you’ll be met with the equivalent of a shrug, as the only results are people asking if there ever has been a good Superman game. Specify that search to read “top 10 best Superman games,” and the most relevant result is the “top 10 worst Superman games.”
That’s right. The Superman problem is so great that it even breaks Google.
While it’s impossible to attribute the problem to any single issue, the biggest one has to be Superman himself. Simply put, Superman is too powerful, and doesn’t make an effective video game character because there are only so many things that can cause him harm, or scenarios where he is in actual danger. So unless you’re going to equip every thug with kryptonite gloves (which you shouldn’t because it’s a terrible idea), there is a very limited rouge gallery that can even contain the god-man. On the other hand, the entire reason you want to play Superman is to use those very powers that makes him an issue in the first place.
That last part got me thinking. Maybe the solution to the Superman problem lies somewhere in the fact that so many Superman games have been 3D action titles. While that would seem the most likely home for the man of steel, it’s beginning to look like a truly great Superman game will not emerge until a developer is willing to chart some unconventional territory.
Specifically, that territory may be an adventure game, and that developer Telltale Games.
Ok, so it’s not the first thing you think of when you think Superman, but that’s the point. It’s something outside of the Superman comfort zone, that has turned into the rut the character’s games are in. For instance it would be interesting to see “Walking Dead’s” choice system make a return, and force gamers to actually grapple with the decisions that come with essentially being God on Earth, rather than just wail on baddies level after level. Hell, Clark Kent could even be made useable, courtesy of some journalistic investigation sequences
Best of all, they wouldn’t even have to trim down on the few highlights that do exist in Superman games. You could still have flying, you’d still have the epic feel of playing as Superman, and the powers issue is addressed as you would still be able to use all of Superman’s abilities, but with the emphasis now on plot and progression, there would be no need to trim them down, as the developers could instead have greater control over the action sequences where you get to use them.
It’s not the only Superman idea out there, and it’s certainly not one that is guaranteed to work, however it is an example of how the Superman problem doesn’t have to be one without resolution, and that there are still ideas for the series that haven’t been explored which could potentially turn the games from running joke, into a franchise that is as anticipated as the next “Batman” game.
As a rule I try not to get excited about movies based on video games for reasons that should be painfully (very painfully) obvious.
But for those of you that may not know, John Carpenter is one of the greatest horror film directors of all time, and during a streak in the late 70′s and into the 80′s directed some truly immortal movies, including the greatest sci-fi horror flick ever made, “The Thing.”
So when that man says he’s interested in making a video game into a movie, you pay attention. When that move is an adaptation of “Dead Space,” you have permission to shed your cynicism towards the whole idea.
Even in that spirit though, it’s hard to not start imagining that Carpenter would in fact knock this out of the park. “Dead Space” the game is an elaborate haunted house type horror story, with some psychologically intense elements and an incredibly interesting plot that doesn’t interrupt the scares. Carpenter made his name directing films like that, and, when you consider the fact this is a case of a big name director who is genuinely excited about adapting a video game, it’s easy to forget that Carpenter hasn’t done a truly noteworthy film in about 20 years, and to start considering the possibility that this could just work in a big way.
Plus, are you going to tell me you’re not going to give the man who directed “The Thing” the benefit of the doubt when it comes to making one more truly great film?
Like the rest of you I’ve been following every morsel of information that has come from the many previews of that “GTA:V” demo, and like many of you, I’ve started to form my own impressions based on what has been shown so far.
While my overall impression is that I really need to start scheduling some serious free time come September, more specifically I’ve noticed at least five things from all of those previews that really excite me…and at least one that does not.
Five things I’m Excited For…
The Fun is Back
“GTA:IV” had a lot of things going for it, but one aspect that irked me the longer I played is how much Rockstar veered from the wild, anything goes, comically deranged world of previous “Grand Theft Auto” games and instead aimed for something more grounded, and serious.
“GTA:V” looks to be a glorious return to those old ways, but also has clearly retained an aspect or two from its immediate predecessor. So while the trailers show things like deranged rednecks highjacking helicopters in flannel, cars chasing planes while pulling off insane maneuvers, and the glorious return of miniguns, it also takes a moment to reflect on the serious motivations that drive each of the three main characters, and to show that Rockstar is crafting a world every bit as jaw dropping as “GTA: IV’s” Liberty City.
In other words, it’s looks the way “GTA” should. A wildly fun game that’s not afraid to get serious.
“GTA’s” combat has been steadily improving over the years, but it still feels clunky for a game where there is a lot of it. It’s good to know that Rockstar looks to be making a concentrated effort to provide full coverage to the series Achilles heel, especially in a game that is already adding ambition to the system thanks to the three man system.
Which actually segues nicely to…
The Three Man Band
The subject of who will be the next main character in “Grand Theft Auto” is always a hot one, as it usually sets the tone for the rest of the game.
When Rockstar first announced that there would be three main characters who can all be controlled at any time, it was hard not to think of it as gimmicky, and a bit of a reach. The more that’s revealed about it though, the easier it is to see that this is indeed the most exciting change to come to the series, possibly ever.
From unique but intersecting plot lines, to the ability for characters to “do their own thing” while not being under control, to the amazing way that combat and heist scenarios make use of every character individually, this sounds like the first “Grand Theft Auto” in a while that is going to have people re-thinking how they play the series.
In a misstep so big I still question if it was an error by the designers, money in “GTA:IV” was more or less useless. It didn’t take long to acquire enough dough to keep you rolling in suits and guns for the rest of your days, and even though money was always brought up as a plot point (more on that later) you always ended up with too much of it, and nothing to do about it.
Rockstar must have been aware of this, as they have confirmed that “GTA:V” will require you to have a constant cash flow in order to purchase all of the clothing, vehicles, and (most importantly) properties the title has to offer.
That means that no longer will you be able to buy a $3000 suit you already own just because the store is closer than your closet, and I for one am excited to start earning with purpose again.
A Driven Story
If I sound like I’m hating on “GTA:IV” here, it’s because I am. While by no means a bad game, it is by far the most overrated game of this console generation, and a big part of that is due to a meandering story that dragged on and on without any real focus, or compelling reasons to keep pushing ahead besides the satisfaction of beating it.
“GTA: V” seems to be resolving this by focusing the majority of its story on a series of high profile heists. The mission highlight of “GTA:IV” is, of course, the brilliant bank job in three leaf clover, and it’s clear that Rockstar thought so too, as this time many missions will revolve around prepping for, or executing, heists as part of your three man crew.
It’s not a guarantee for a greater plot, but it sounds a lot more promising than working for a series of cardboard cutout thugs with vague notions of revenge and some superfluous cash being your only driving force.
…And the One I’m Not
You Can’t Shoot the Paparazzi
See during the IGN rundown of the demo it was brought up that there is a side mission where you escort a spoiled starlet and try to escape the paparazzi. When the questions was brought up if you could just kill them instead of escaping them, the answer was a surprising “no” as that causes you to fail.
I understand that Rockstar is aiming for a much more cinematic experience than before, but I’m really bummed out that in something so minor as a simple side mission, the game will limit your options for the benefits of that goal.
Games like “The Walking Dead” show that choice can be a huge benefit to storytelling, while titles like “Saint’s Row The Third” exemplify how creating a truly open world lends so much more to sandbox games. I just hope that in a game that promises to be the series biggest and boldest yet, there aren’t a series of similar limits that keep it from reaching that lofty height.
Chris Rock once said on monogamy that a man is “basically as faithful as his options.” In other words, if they have the ability to cheat, they are much more likely.
The same can easily be said when it comes to videogames and piracy. Everyone knows how much of a problem piracy is, yet many still succumb to the allure. After all, it’s easy, it’s free, and you don’t even have to see the victims if you don’t look hard.
However, the victims are very real, and the numbers to support it are staggering. Take for instance the recently released indie game “Game Dev Tycoon,” where you are tasked with running a video game development studio. It’s been announced by the game’s developer that figures seem to show that of the roughly 3300 copies of the game being played so far, a whopping 93.6% are pirated copies. Naturally for a small studio like Greenheart Games, or anyone really, those are crippling.
While cases like this are all too common, this one does have a silver, and very humorous, lining.
The problem becomes so great, that sooner or later you eventually will lose your studio as you usually can’t profit enough to get ahead, making those copies of “Game Dev Tycoon” essentially unwinnable.
While that’s humorous enough as is, the best part of this story has to be the befuddled reactions from the users of these pirated copies, as they just can’t understand why this is happening in their game, and are pleading with other players for a way to resolve the issue. One even remarks that the whole thing is “not fair,” while another asks is DRM can fix the problem.
While the irony there is seemingly only lost on the people affected, the real irony is that the people who pirated the game about running a video game development studio seem to have gotten the most realistic version of that process. Gaming needs an indie scene to challenge the perceptions of the industry and test the waters of what works and what is accepted at large. Piracy kills that creative market, and unfortunately a viable solution on a massive scale has not been presented yet, and quite possibly never will.
Still though, it’s nice to know that pending financial and creative doom hasn’t deterred the better spirits of at least one developer, and it’s hard to not applaud them in their efforts to make a small, but very clear, stand against the matter the best way they know how.
I used to love getting a video game magazine in the mail, whether it be Nintendo Power, Expert Gamer, Electronic Gaming Monthly, or Game Informer. It was a once a month mind blow where I got pages of information, galleries of photos, and sweet, sweet reviews regarding my favorite pastime in every issue.
That was once a month. Once a year though, there was an event that was like getting a year’s worth of magazines at one time. They called it E3, and to any gamer who grew up in the 90’s, it was this mythical ceremony beyond comprehension.
However, it’s no exaggeration to say that over the last 10 years or so, the event has been slowly dying. What was a mark your calendar and anticipate sleepless nights in anticipation extravaganza, now resembles more of a begrudging necessity where companies do their best to budget as much flash as possible to blind people to the fact they are mostly seeing the exact titles that they’ve known would be there for months due to leaks, or worse retreads of previously released information to fill time.
The writing is on the wall for the event, and has been for some time. Instead of just bleeding the spectacle though, it is time for E3 to die.
Understand that E3, much like the gaming magazine, was only as big as it once was because video games were not. There was no video game channel, there was no segment on the news concerning them (with few exceptions), and there certainly was no internet in the way there is today. Having a singular large event like E3 that didn’t just acknowledge video games, but glorified them, was not only justified in a different time, it was required.
That of course isn’t the case anymore. Instead E3 is an unfortunate lingering relic of a different time that is being unnecessarily worshiped due to the misguided value placed in nostalgia, and is dragging down the potential growth of the entire industry. The larger companies don’t need it, yet they still feel obligated to put on a big spectacle, and completely drown out the noise that smaller companies could use the time for in the process. Meanwhile the growing numbers of embarrassing presentations have their ridicule magnified much larger than necessary by the inherit spectacle E3 still carries, and the rare previously unannounced great game that can emerge (say like “Watch Dogs”) then spends the next few weeks making rounds on every facet of the internet watering down the initial moment until it might as well have not existed at all.
It’s time for gaming companies to take the cue from Nintendo and 2K and move on. Whether that means companies hold their own shows, or provide more services like Nintendo Direct that allow them a forum for their own exclusive major announcements, it doesn’t matter so long as they are no longer dependent on a few days in Los Angeles to define the course of their next year.
It was as long ago as 2008 when representatives from EA, Ubisoft, and others, were quoted lamenting that E3 wasn’t the profitable gala spectacle it once was, and were contemplating ways to bring it back to prominence. The truth is that if the day ever did exist when that resurgence was still possible, it has now passed. If the gaming industry is still truly fiscally dependent on E3, then it has only itself to blame for not making use of the considerable resources available to forge a new path to greener pastures.
Nintendo has been criticized for living in the past, and being behind the times, but in this move they are truly ahead of the game. It’s hard to say goodbye to something that still manages to entertain, but there has never been a case where relying on the glory days was a benefit to anyone, and it certainly isn’t the case with E3.
If you haven’t been following, the oculus rift is an amazing new virtual reality device that will allow the gamer to achieve a sort of free look effect while playing a game. It’s not quite the vision of virtual reality that we pictured from sci-fi, but it does represent the most realistic step towards that vision that video gaming has ever seen.
Now that early units have begun shipping to early kickstarter backers, we’re starting to get some pretty interesting footage of the device showing everyone exactly why that is.
The first comes to us from a gamer playing the free running “Mirror’s Edge.”
“Mirror’s Edge” is the exact type of game that people dreamed about when they heard of the oculus rift, and also the type they worried if the device was capable of handling. From that video, I’m going to say that concern has been addressed triumphantly
In fact, I pretty much just have to say “wow.” While we don’t know how much time was invested in learning to play the game, it doesn’t appear that the user in that video misses much of a step with the rift, and instead the only times he seems disoriented are when he’s in a particularly narrow movement space, admiring the rift’s ability to put a new perspective on the game, or when participating in an awe inspiring free fall which serves as the definitive climax to the video.
While it’s difficult to gain the same sensation that the rift supposedly inspires just by watching a video, it doesn’t take much imagination when viewing that video to see that it has potential to lend a truly unprecedented interactive experience to select titles. Of course when you’re talking creative and imaginative experiences, nothing tops the next video.
In what has to be the most incredible demonstration of interactive gaming ever filmed, the person in that video is using an omni-directional treadmill, which can read and feed your movements to a video game character, and pairs it with the oculus rift to play “Team Fortress 2″ in a manner more in line with the virtual reality experience we’ve all dreamed of, albeit in a much more exhausting manner than previously considered.
The other thing that video shows is that there is a possible future for VR gaming, which is an idea that has never really been given an honest attempt or chance. Whether or not the oculus rift is the device we all look back to when identifying the true turning point of the concept, even the earliest and roughest footage shows a VR device that does something no other has truly managed to do yet.
Between the hype, and controversy, around “Bioshock: Infinite”, big upcoming titles like “Grand Theft Auto V” and “The Last of Us,” and Sony and Microsoft’s next gen consoles drawing their initial buzz, there hasn’t been much press from Nintendo, especially considering the somewhat disappointing sales for the Wii U, and how badly they could use some good publicity right now.
However recently Nintendo has unleashed a plethora of news via their Nintendo direct service, that reveals that things have in fact been very busy at the mushroom kingdom.
Among quite a few announcements are a new “Yoshi’s Island,” a re-released “Donkey Kong Country,” a new “Mario Party,” a new “Mario and Luigi” RPG title, a new “Mario Golf,” a sequel to “A Link to the Past,” and, by far the biggest news at all, the long, long, long awaited US and European re-release of the cult classic “Earthbound,” which is now automatically the best game on the Wii U.
I’d say that’s quite a lot of new titles in a short span, but that’s not exactly true is it? Most of the big announcements are sequels, remakes, or re-releases, with nary a strictly new property in sight. For most companies this would be seen as lazy at the least, but Nintendo isn’t exactly most companies are they?
Instead this is not only a satisfying announcement for fans, but a smart one for Nintendo as well. It’s not a stretch to say that the Wii U and 3DS aren’t exactly setting the world on fire, so Nintendo is doing what they always do in times past when they need to spark a system sale or two, and that’s go to the franchise well. Sure they’re drawing deeper from the well than usual (an “Earthbound” re-release pretty much scrapes the bottom), but they’ve proven before that they have the ability to use these franchises to not only boost figures, but show other developers new and exciting ways to creatively explore their hardware (though the Wii U could still use some more Nintendo love).
Whether or not that ends up being case here, if you’re a Nintendo loyalist, you’re about to get a wave of highly anticipated titles that, if history stands true, will be of equally high quality. For everyone else, it’s a reminder that even at this point in the game, Nintendo’s big guns change the focus of any war.
In a perfect world, there would be no need to tout the virtues of a game like “Guacamelee!” because you would already be hopelessly obsessed with it, and relaying your experience to others with conversations no more elaborate than “Dude!” and “I know.”
Instead there’s probably a pretty good chance you haven’t heard of “Guacamelee!,” and don’t know that you should be playing it, and not reading this, right now. Since you’re already here though (thanks by the way), let me skip the traditional review and just give you five quick reasons to experience the brilliance of a game where you play a dead peasant turned Mexican professional wrestler super hero, on a quest for revenge and love (actually…make that six reasons).
Style…Now In Color!
It takes all of a glance at “Guacamelee!” to notice that this game is a looker. Its Mexican culture and folklore motif is rarely used in major games (the great “Grim Fandango” is the only other that jumps to mind), and here is gloriously captured in every single aspect of the title, right down to the font. It makes every frame instantly recognizable, and turns the game into something truly great. If you cut “Gucamelee!,” it would bleed style and charm.
More importantly it would bleed it in vibrant colors. We’re still in the black, brown, and gray age of video game color palates, so when a title like “Guacamelee!” comes along and presents an already creative style in full Technicolor, it’s worth considering a purchase just to experience the brilliance that transpires when 16 bit art philosophy meets the hardware power of the modern age.
It’s Actually Really, Really Funny
It’s not all classic day of the dead style though, as the world of “Guacamelee!” also sports nods to cartoons like “Samurai Jack,” video games like “Mega Man,” internet programs like “Homestar Runner” and much, much, more. Nearly all of these references are well hidden in the game’s art style, and recognizing them is sure to lead to uncontrollable grins for anyone in the know.
Yet the game’s best jokes come from its own devices. Whether it’s your ability to morph into a chicken to get into small spaces, or the lamentations of a gun toting villain who realizes he’s wasted all of his bullets shooting the floor for emphasis, at its best, “Guacamelee!” feels like a lost golden age Disney movie when it comes to accessible, yet genuinely funny, humor.
Challenging, Yet Rewarding
As much as I love a game like “Dark Souls,” it’s hard to ignore that at a certain point the risk/reward factor becomes painfully uneven. However, even though “Guacamelee!” pays tribute to many classically challenging games like “Dark Souls” does, you never feel like you are being cruelly punished.
Even though it’s not exactly the most difficult game ever created, “Guacamelee!” does sport sections that require above average skill and patience. However, as long as you are willing to develop your skills and creatively explore the extent of those abilities, you won’t get hung up on too many sections due to unfair play. Even if you do though, the payoff always equals the effort. It’s difficult to find a game that can hit the mark when it comes to a balanced, yet progressive challenge, but that’s exactly what “Guacamelee!” offers.
Fresh Combat, Classic Adventure
“Guacamelee!’s” biggest gameplay feature would have to be its Metroidvania 2D adventure style, where a large map becomes more and more open to you as new abilities are earned. Yet that classic 2D trope isn’t the only familiar concept, as the better part of the gameplay is largely just a creative tribute to a video game age gone by.
The one aspect that feels like much more than an homage though is the combat. It’s a combination of Mexican lucha-libre and old fashioned brawling, all based around a fighting game combo system, and at its best produces moments previously unseen. Most enemies require you to use a variety of maneuvers to best them, and exploring the destructive potential the system is capable of is just as fun as exploring the levels themselves.
It’s Basically this Year’s “Journey”
Alright, so it probably won’t be nominated for a Grammy, and it’s potential to make grow men weep at its beauty is slightly less than “Journey,” but when playing “Guacamelee!” you get the same distinct impression that you’re playing something that exists well outside of the norm, and is artistically significant for the medium.
Though to be honest, “Guacamelee!” also resembles “Journey” in that it is very short. It’s not quite as short as last year’s indie sensation, but even if you are going for 100%, you’ll maybe get 10 hours out of it. While that is a little heartbreaking, considering the game’s bargain $14.99 price, it shouldn’t prevent you from playing “Guacamelee!”, and this year be the one who recommends that great indie game to everybody, and not the one who hears about it from everybody else.