Lahftel continues his quest to showcase the very best, this time featuring a selection of titles from the West's back catalog. Here are a few More Video Games You Should Play.
Last time, I was able to write about some more popular Japanese games that are near and dear to my heart. But after I failed to convince our editor David to play any of them, I feel like I have to delve deeper into my backlog. So here is a list of mostly non-Japanese games that I think everyone should at least take a look at.
Because in my never-ending quest to force people out of their comfort zones, I feel that we have to learn to appreciate the non-big budget games or the super competitive esports titles. No, some are just really, really, really good games. So get out there and start increasing some of that gaming literacy of yours. Some of the titles of this list will surprise you!
Earth Defense Force 5 (Or 6 whenever it releases in the West)
The EDF deploys! Honestly, selling someone on the experience that is an Earth Defense Force should be rather easy. See, aliens have invaded earth and are aided by gigantic bugs, frogs and other nonsense. Now it is up to the brave soldiers of the Earth Defense Force to stop them. In gigantic battles that will clutter your screens with enemies, particle effects and blood and tears. What probably turns off a lot of players from the series, is that it looks like a game from two generations ago. The look starts to make sense once you are buried under the various legs of insects.
To dispose of your foes, EDF offers you several classes to pick from, each with its own specialty and options to customize. Be it stomping around in a mech-suit, zipping around with a jetpack, calling in airstrikes and support vehicles, or just being one man with a gun against the rest of the world. Especially in co-op, EDF is one of the most fun third-person shooters you can pick up. The progression system, especially on harder difficulties might seem like a merciless grind but I'm the first to admit that it's also really addicting.
The only downside of Earth Defence Force games is that they take ages to be released on PC for a better framerate and even longer to be localized into the English language. They also rarely go on sale for some asinine reason but you can pick up a key fairly cheap on the more reputable key-sellers. Go get a few friends together and try it, it's one of the best looter shooters out there and you get to shoot gigantic frogs with a Railgun.
Earth Defense Force 5 is available on PlayStation 4 and Steam! EDF 4 is also pretty good but EDF 5 is a straight upgrade with more content. There is also gonna be an EDF 6 that'll release for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 later this month but for now only in Japan with a western release date still to be announced.
Kenshi is a rather unique title which I don't think gets the love it deserves. (I'll probably write a proper on why this game is so special at some point. But let's try to quickly summarize it.)
Kenshi is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi tactical RPG. That, depending on how you play it, could end up being anything from the Sims but with cannibals and robots, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six with Ninjas or Hitman but you have no arms. And all of this was largely developed by one guy. Bless him.
It's really hard to compare it to anything because Kenshi is rather unique. You get to pick a starting scenario and get dropped in a vast open world with nothing but yourself and from here on out.. well. You can do whatever you want. There is no direction or an optimal way of play here and figuring out what is going on is half the fun. The world of Kenshi is a vast and weird trash punk setting, with influences from all over the place.
A world in which it is not uncommon to see ninjas take on a tribe of cannibals who are just about to raid a village on the fringes of a holy empire. It's a world that feels alive and one that doesn't wait for the player to make something interesting happen. Slaves will try and flee or some of the factions will go to war with each other. And then there is you, the only thing holding you back are bad skills and lack of ambition. You can go out and explore this alien world and try to understand it, be swallowed by it, learn to survive and eventually conquer it.
Kenshi is really one of those rare games that encourages you to roleplay. Only then do the depths of its systems reveal themselves to you. Want to build up a trading empire? Become the humble major of your own city? Or do you want to train so you can kill entire armies with just your martial arts skills? Kenshi lets you do all of it. And while it is a little rough around the edges, it is a game that's very easy to love. And better yet, there is a Kenshi 2 in the works, this time with a budget and a development team.
Kenshi is available on Steam and should be an easy purchase for anyone who has any love for open-ended roleplaying games or real-time strategy games. The music is also pretty good because the soundtrack kind of composes itself while you're playing.
Deponia The Complete Journey
Here's a title that is rather near and dear to my heart. The excellent Deponia trilogy comes neatly wrapped up in a package, courtesy of German studio Daedalic entertainment. It's a point-and-click adventure in the vein of Lucas Arts classics like Monkey Island and Grim Fandango, set in the beautiful hand-painted world of Deponia. A planet buried under endless piles of trash — with its inhabitants making due by scavenging what they find in the rubble.
You play Rufus; a self-proclaimed inventor and tinkerer, with the uncanny talent of creating a mess in whatever direction he even breathes in. And he smells opportunity when he meets Goal, a mysterious lady that holds the keys to a better life for him and the end of Deponia for everyone else. It is a certified classic with excellent humor, a gripping story and some beautiful hand-painted animations and background. It is really a shame that Daedalic has mostly stopped developing these kinds of games.
But you can pick up Deponia The Complete Journey for cheap on pretty much every platform and you owe it to yourself to check it out if you have any love for this type of game. And if the prospect of scavenging through trash does not excite you..
Edna and Harvey: The Breakout and Edna and Harvey: Harvey's New Eyes
Two more adventure games that serve as a continuous story, but also can be enjoyed on their own, especially after Edna and Harvey: The Breakout fairly recently received a complete overhaul with its Anniversary edition. Similar to the Deponia trilogy, those games are penned by one Jan Mueller Michaelis. Both games also serve as love letters to the adventure game genre and while both sport a whimsical art style and slightly unhinged characters, tonally both games are a bit more sarcastic.
The Breakout centers around Edna and her sentient and totally not imaginary stuffed blue rabbit Harvey trying to escape an insane asylum. Here she has to dodge the seemingly evil headmaster Doctor Marcel and puzzle her way through for a daring escape while she uncovers the events that send her here in the first place.
Harvey's New Eyes tells the story of Lilly, the most innocent girl in the world who spends her days with other kids in a monastery school. But for some odd reason, whenever she is around and is just trying to help, accidents just kinda happen. So the monastery's headmaster employs Doctor Marcel to use experimental therapy to drive out her unruly habits.
Both are great adventure games in their own right and especially Harvey's New Eyes shines with sarcasm that beautifully clashes with the innocent aesthetics. Both of them are available on Steam and usually go for pretty cheap on sales and or third-party websites. If you're looking for more by Daedalic, The Whispered World and Pillars of the Earth are also pretty good.
Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey
This is the kind of game, I wish was pimped out more on other websites. If you want to just see what the game is about, I highly recommend Super Bunnyhops analysis/interview with the devs. But from the outset, you might see that this game is indeed about monkeys. Well not quite, Ancestors try to gamify what the evolutionary progress from the great ape to human might've looked like. It is a title solely dedicated to getting you into the headspace of several monkeys slowly developing over millions of years.
The game was directed by Patrice Désilets, whose name you might not recognize, but you'll probably recognize his work. He served as the director on Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, plus as creative director for the first three Assassins Creed games. And it's fascinating how he translated his skills in making a game with climbing mechanics in secluded open worlds into a fascinating ‘human evolution simulator. And while the title has a bit of a learning curve, it is awfully relaxing and fascinating to play through.
See, since you're just an ape at the start. You have to slowly develop that brain of yours. And it starts this amazing process of getting you to think about how your own hands and habits have developed from what you'll see on the screen. You have to teach your monkey and all the other monkeys how to wield sticks, what areas are safe to wander around in or how to deal with threats. Then you have to pass on that knowledge to any children around, so they might pass it along as well.
And this kind of game springs of something that I always really loved about the Assassins Creed games. Despite being murder simulators, they always had a historical educational vibe to them. How do you get people interested in in the complicated politics of 1500's Italy? Let them figure out a fictional conspiracy connecting them. And Ancestors pushes that kind of concept to the foreground. By letting you play and experience what evolution might've looked like over the course of millions and millions of years.
You can pick up Ancestors: the Humankind Odyssey on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Steam for a pretty reasonable price. If you're looking to expand your horizons a little and believe video games can be a lot more than just entertainment, this one is probably a good place to start.
Space-Sims are one of video games' greatest genres and while lots of titles lay claim to being the genre standout, amongst all of them Starsector flies right below the radar. Most games in the genre will focus on the experience of actually flying a ship from star system to star system and are very hands-on with their approach. Starsector on the other hand follows the Dwarf Fortress train of through that if you keep your game simple, you make it more mechanically dense.
And Starsector proceeds in simulating an entire galaxy with its simple top-down perspective. It also falls into the category of a game that just dumps you somewhere and leaves you to your own devices with a tutorial to show you the ropes. You are just some captain with no meaningful background trying to make a living in space. But it's the setting that really shines here. Starsector takes place in a galaxy cut off from the rest of humanity. Here the leftover of the establishment and new factions are trying to make do with what they have.
All factions have a very solid background story and finding out how things are related to another in this galaxy is already reason enough to play it. But Starsector goes a little deeper by being a roleplaying sandbox. You can interact with all the factions and even start scheming. If you want to, you can even become your own faction and try your hands at politics. Or you can be a merchant, bounty hunter, explorer or mercenary.
But of course, the ships also play a big part. While you command your fleet in open space and have to manage resources to get from point A to B in battle you have to commandeer that same fleet in order to survive. Here you give orders to attack or retreat while you also take command of your own ship. It is the customization options that really make this system. You come up with all kinds of configurations, from being a railgun battering ram to phasing in and out of a parallel dimension to drop bombs. It is amazing.
Starsector is available on the Fractral Softworks website for the PC. It is one of those beautiful cases when a small team of developers comes together and to make their dream game without any outside interference. And it is one of those titles that with its sheer depth puts even its genre competitors to shame.
Stronghold and Stronghold Crusader
Ah, the medieval times. Better days when we treated each other a little more kindly. Well unless they were the neighbors, fat with resources and loot that could be yours.. mhm. Anyways! Welcome to Stronghold, the only Real Time Strategy game that I still play on a regular basis. No idea why, it is probably lots of childhood nostalgia going on here, but both Stronghold and Stronghold Crusader are just damn good games that still hold up today.
They are a very simple mix of city builder and Real Time Strategy game, you have to manage the whims and needs of your peasants. Build up the industry to produce resources and ways to refine them and slowly build up a castle you can defend. The game usually ends when your lord dies and only then. Stronghold goes for the more traditional aesthetic of the medieval times with lust grass fields and dense woods while Stronghold Crusader banks on its middle eastern setting.
Both games come with two lengthy campaigns that are more like an extensive tutorial while telling a simple story. The real meat is either in the matches against the AI's who all come with their own unique personality and strategies or other players. And personality is something I really want to highlight here because both games brim with it. Every peasant you click on has something to say, the voice acting for all the AI is just amazing and the sprites just have so much charm to them even after almost 20 years since their release.
But both Stronghold games get really good, once you jump into multiplayer. There is a reason why I and a group of friends still play this game on a fairly regular basis after being obsessed with it as kids. Once you really learn the ins and out of the systems, especially with Crusader's added variety in units, you can come up with some amazing strategies. It just never gets old. You can pick up both Stronghold and Stronghold Crusader in their upgraded HD edition on Steam for a fairly low price. Setting up multiplayer requires some tinkering but GameRanger can help!
Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord
Lets head straight into the next episode of sandbox roleplaying games with Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord. If you don't know about the Mount & Blade series, allow me to enlighten you. They are those very complete sandbox simulations that try to emulate life around the medieval time period. Similar to Kenshi and Starsector, you are dropped in a big world and are left on your own. From here on out it is up to you what you want your career to be.
While Mount & Blade 2 is in early access, the game has more than enough features already to count as a full release. It is a straight upgrade to the older games in the series, both visually and mechanically. The only downside is that you don't have access to the extensive catalog of mods that the older Mount & Blade games sport. Like there is a Western mod, a Walking Dead mod and of course several Game of Thrones mods that are either based on the show or the books.
But what do you actually do in these games? You control your character and make up their backstory before you head out into the world. Now you can gather units to bolster your little army and cease the world for yourself. You can take on tasks in villages or cities, start a merchant empire or join one of the many factions as a mercenary and work your way up to the title of lord. The world of Mount & Blade is made up of several factions that all have their own problems with each other. And you get to choose who you help to become the dominant force on the continent or take matters into your own hands.
In combat, Mount & Blade 2 has one of the best melee combat systems you can find in a game like this. Mouse movement influences how you swing your sword and how you block and armor actually matters. But it really shines once you get into one of those large-scale battles. Because not only can you lay siege to castles or have a clash with a big army. You still control your character while you command your units. And to my knowledge, there is no other game series that allows you to lead a carvery charge right into the enemy defenses while being peppered with arrows.
It's a spectacle that never gets old, at least for me. And while one campaign can last you tens of hours, I never grow tired of making up new characters to play a new story. The game allows you to either become the ruthless mercenary who only cares for cash or the merchant that holds the entire economy of a region in their hands. It's expansive and there is still a lot more to come for Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord. And if you are only interested in the mods, the previous titles might look visually a little dated but they are still rich in features and gameplay that you'll get your money's worth.
All the Mount & Blade games are available on Steam, some on GOG and Mount & Blade: Warband is even available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
I like space games, but so far there has always been a critical lack of games that let you build things in space. That's where Space Engineers comes in and it is exactly what it says on the tin. You are an engineer in space and.. that's about it. You can either play in creative mode and build the Starfleet of your dreams, save its blueprint and then hop on an online server and fight someone with it. Or survive in the randomly generated great unknown you spawn in.
Survival mode is especially fun because you go from a small ship with wheels on it to a gigantic space station that could probably run without you. It's doubly fun once you get a couple of friends together and really start messing around with it. Space Engineers is probably the closest we'll ever get to Minecraft in space and I adore it for this. It's an empty galaxy that you can fill with all kinds of stuff. Be it your ships that are now drifting without a captain into the great unknown, or a gigantic space cruiser that can gobble up entire planets.
This game is probably one of those more niche titles because it only appeals to someone who likes space sims and building things. But oh boy will you find your fill here. Space Engineers is one of those titles I personally bought in Early Access years ago and even after a full release, the game still receives regular updates and new content to this day. I heartily recommend it if you have any love for this kind of game.
You can get Space Engineer on Steam and Xbox One.
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