Thanks to illness (not Covid) and lockdowns (yes, Covid) I have had some time to game over the last few weeks. So…
Elite: Dangerous: I have probably played the original Elite from the 80’s more than any other game. I was hopelessly addicted to it in my early teenage years. When the most recent iteration was given away free on the Epic store, I had to give it a try. After a few hours of play it became clear this was a very large game that I didn’t have the time to master. Especially considering that my tastes have moved away from the flight combat simulator. I could focus on the trading part of the game, but I’ve done that before with Eve Online and I didn’t want to go back there. On the positive side, this game is incredibly pretty.
NeoCab: Pleasant cyberpunk visual novel. You play as a taxi driver, and decide who to pick-up and then talk to them (standard multiple choice). Along the way you discover secrets about how the city works. There is also an interesting little game mechanic where the dialog choices both modify and may depend on your emotional state (as displayed on your bracelet). Short and entertaining.
Offworld Trading Company: A realtime strategy game with far more emphasis on the economic side of things (in the form of building, trading and conflict) than direct fighting. There is also a simple supply and demand system - it feels like a good start, but under-developed to me. A nice cartoonish art style, set on early Mars colonies, with a very mild sense of humor. Full of good ideas, but the realtime aspect turned me off. I don’t want to rush, and this game encourages at least feeling rushed. I suspect if it was turn-based I would have played a great deal longer.
Duskers: Control drones exploring abandoned, but still dangerous, procedurally generated space ships in an empty universe. It has a roguelike feel. It uses a stylised top-down view with realtime controls. There is the impression of a story, but despite several hours of play it doesn’t seem to go anywhere - I suspect it might just be scenery. This is a game that rewards planning and caution. My sort of game and I would probably still be playing it if not for the grind of getting a game going after wiping out most my of drones with too slow reactions.
Islanders: A casual city-builder where the player builds towns on small, procedurally generated islands and gains (or loses) points based on network effects. I couldn’t see any aspect of simulation, so this is the extreme puzzle end of the genre. My attention waned after a few hours once it became clear I had a choice between studing the puzzle to attempt mastery, or quit. I chose to quit. Fun for a little while.
King Of Dragon Pass: Very interesting procedural story / economic simulator game where the player runs a bronze age tribe in a low magic fantasy world. The hook seems to be that you have to think like a bronze age leader to survive (and then need some luck to thrive). So its all about status and respecting the completely implicit rules (you just have to work them out). I liked this a lot despite the very old style UI and static graphics (it was originally released in 1999 and it shows). It is still on my desktop and have hopes to return to it and finally win a game!
Slay The Spire: I can’t believe I haven’t written about this game before. A couple of years ago I played about 80 hours of this hugely addictive card battler with deckbuilder mechanics, where the player navigates through a series of procedurally generated rooms (usually containing an enemy to fight) to the top of the “spire” (and the final boss). The artwork is simple and cartoony, but inventive and interesting. The game is definitely strategic and rewards thought and planning. There are a huge number of cards, powerups and other unlockable rewards. Luck plays a small role, but the player has many ways to reduce reliance on luck. Most times you know why you have failed, and just want to try again. Recently, I was sucked back in for another 50 hours after the addition of a new main character. I wanted to try it out, then I needed to finish the game with them. Highly recommended, but comes with an addiction warning!