WHAT seems like months ago – probably because it was – I asked tame gamer and online pal Rachel Noy (aka AbKi on Twitter) to help me out by coming up with the definitive top ten list for science fiction computer games.
While it may have been quicker for me to research and develop my own game (joke, Rach!) here is the first half of her blog post – from 10-6.What’s more, if you’ve missed any of these, just click on the titles to buy your chosen gaming experience.
Take it away Rachel …..
It’s all well and good, kicking back in front of the telly and observing other worlds, other places in time, and science far beyond our current means, but what if you want to become a part of the story yourself and interact with these places? Well, my nerdy friend, that’s where video games come in.
‘Gamers’ tend to have an even worse stereotype than sci-fi nerds, at least Comic Book Guy had some concept of humour, most ‘gamers’ that come to mind are mindless dorks with a tribble for a brain because all of the nutrients they consume through Pot Noodles seep straight into their multi-limbed thumbs.
This is a shame, as the gaming industry has been around for decades, and some seminal works have already been produced.
As Andy Serkis (also known as Gollum, King Kong, and various game characters) said to the Guardian recently, “Every age has its storytelling form, and video gaming is a huge part of our culture, you can ignore or embrace video games and imbue them with the best artistic quality. People are enthralled with video games in the same way as other people love the cinema or theatre. Over time, I think perceptions will change.”
Best get ahead then eh? Here are my top ten compelling sci-fi games that you can get stuck into right now.
Games that can make you laugh, cry and feel in awe.
Games that will make you throw your controller across the room.
Games that you’ll miss when they’ve ended.
No elitist, obscure games here, just culturally-relevant games on recent consoles that anyone can get into right now and feel totally immersed in.
Genre: Single Player Real Time Strategy/Tower Defense
Platform: PC/Xbox 360 Live Arcade
In Defense Grid: The Awakening it’s just you and a raspberry-obsessed AI with the comforting voice of a really good Father Christmas, you know, one without a fake beard and a paedo-smile, defending a derelict planet from an alien invasion in the distant future with lasers and time-slowing towers. Sound sci-fi enough for you?
You’re launched straight into the future into control of a derelict defense grid on a distant planet that hasn’t been used in a long time, and it’s your job to get it up and running again by placing different types of towers in the aliens’ path to kill them before they can steal your power cores. The aliens have a set path, and you have set bases on which you can build towers. Some towers have lasers, some have long-range missiles, some have tesla coils, and more. The aliens also vary in terms of how fast they move and how tough they are to destroy. This means that you genuinely have to use your brain, which makes it terribly satisfying when your AI friend pats you on the back for obliterating every last piece of alien scum with him.
The graphics are sleek, the story development is a joy, and the game play is tight. It’s also very cheap, so you’ll have enough cash leftover for a punnet of raspberries. Bonus.
9 – EVE Online
Genre: Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG), pay monthly.
If having the freedom to roam around space in your own ship is your idea of nerd heaven, and if you have enough time to put into a game that you pay monthly for, then EVE Online might be for you. You can be a space pirate if you please, roaming around just to cause trouble and loot people’s resources, or you could be a docile businessman who mines asteroids for a living to sell them on.
I know a few people that play EVE. They say they’ve never had a gaming experience that even comes close to it, for some it has been the only game they have played for years. For me, I picked it up, played it for a week, and then put it back on the shelf, feeling guilt that I didn’t ‘get’ it.
This is not a game for a trigger-happy, impatient, instant reward seeking people like myself, but if you have patience and a dollop of intelligence, this might be the deep, engaging, community driven game you’ve been looking for.
EVE Online is a game that has been complex enough to nurture the most incredible community, full of truly clever people. I have heard far too many awesome stories about space heists and large-scale embezzlements that have caused uproars, I just wish I personally hadn’t found it so slow-paced.
This is a game where you have the freedom to do what you want in the constraints of space and its sparse resources, but when it comes to it, space is a pretty empty place for someone who needs constant explosions in order to not fall asleep. However, as long as you have the patience, time and the brains to figure out how to optimise your ship and not lose everything you’ve built with one bad decision, this game will be a very immersive experience indeed.
8 – Halo: Reach
Genre: Action First Person Shooter
Bungie completes the circle of life in its last Halo installment by going back to its roots in prequel Halo: Reach. You’ve probably heard of this series, and there’s a good reason for that, it’s the role-model for console games that strive to have game-play that feels as natural as riding a bike.
Spartans, the stars of the show in this game, are elite human beings. Infuriatingly perfect in every way. Just for good measure they’re covered in heavy armour AND a shield; spoilt much?
You may have heard of Master Chief, the main Spartan protagonist in the Halo series, but he’s not here. Sorry.
We don’t need him though, this game does surprisingly well without his legacy. You are one of Noble Six, an elite squad of Spartans who are paving the way for the not-yet-amazing Master Chief by tackling the Covenant, a hostile alien threat and the main foe in Halo, in a way that no one else can. By having tremendous fun, while blowing them up with rocket launchers and their own explosive needle guns.
Fancy some intellectual nourishment? Yeah, this isn’t your game. The only way I can describe Halo is that it’s the cheeseburger of games, it looks good, it’s quick, satisfying, but there’s not a lot of substance in the background. Somehow it all comes together to become a firm favourite, but the plot is the lettuce, it doesn’t have that strong of a presence, it just has to be there because you feel it should be there. The characters are a bit flat too, being the macho types they are, but the whole sense of importance that oozes from Noble Six makes them fun to play regardless.
The meaty centre is the design and the pure fun of the game. So what if you’re basically just shooting different aliens with different guns all the way through while the story hangs on by a thread, I feel genuinely envious of any new player that gets to experience the innovative plasma weapons, weird alien vehicles, and soaring movie-like soundtrack that no one has really beat yet in terms of grandness for the first time in Halo: Reach.
Halo’s soundtrack is to games music what the Star Wars soundtrack is to movies.
It may not be surpassing every other game on the market in terms of graphics, but the gorgeous sci-fi art still immerses you into Reach. Just look at the skies in the distance and observe what battles are unfolding around you, without you, and you’ll see what I mean. You don’t feel like you’re playing Halo, you feel like you’re in Halo.
The campaign’s a memorable gaming experience, there are not many games that are better to co-op in, and the multiplayer is just about as close to perfect as a game has ever been.
7 – Borderlands
Genre: Action Role-playing Game
Platform: PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Borderlands is a very pretty first person, space-cowboy-esque, shooter, role playing game. The game’s art is probably the first thing you’ll notice, it’s like stepping into a graphic novel that moves. There are a lot of vibrant colours contrasting with dingy greys, glowing LEDs against jutting metal, and all within a comic cell-shaded style, even though everything is 3d. It is a beautiful, beautiful game.
Anyway, the plot. You are on the planet Pandora, a planet that lured in many big colonies and corporations because of its rich mineral deposits, which were depleted very quickly by the sheer amount of corporations and settlers that turned up.
To make matters worse, the native alien fauna are beginning to come out of hibernation, and they’re not friendly at all. Deciding that the planet is of no use anymore, the big corporations and fat-cats decide to cut all ties to the planet, and everyone that has enough money to leave, does.
To make things worse, any criminals being detained were released by their captors fleeing, so a culture of gangs, scavenging, and simply surviving prevails. Somehow too, everyone ends up being hilariously redneck, if you’ll excuse the term.
However, a glimmer of hope on Pandora is the persistent myth of ‘The Vault’, a stash of alien technology and artifacts that would provide riches beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Yee-fricking-haw. The only catch is that it opens once every 200 years, which is about now, but something protects it and eradicates anything that gets too close. Naturally, you try to take it on.
You, being one of four characters, each with its own quirks. There’s Brick the Berserker, he’s basically a massive dude with more mass in his massive fists than in between his ears. He can enter massive rages where he doesn’t use guns, he can bulldoze anything in his way with his arms, simply because he’s pissed off.
There’s Lilith, one of six known sirens in the galaxy; she’s pretty special as she can Phasewalk between different dimensions when she gets in trouble.
Mordecai is a hunter who has a falcon that basically goes collecting anything shiny and aids you from afar, and Roland is a soldier who doesn’t faff around with nature and mystical shit, and takes a quiet pleasure in deploying turrets on people. Each has their own gorgeous character design, and a different way of playing.
The world and bosses are what make Borderlands, the insane convict ‘midget shotgunners’, the incestuous quest-givers, the ‘pis off’ graffiti, and the bosses being introduced with a “P.S.: He’s not your friend “ are all small touches that make this game a joy to play. There’s also the insuppressible Claptrap, a small robots on wheels that guides you around the world with his chipper voice and incredibly bad luck.
This joy is increased immensely though when you play with friends. The different classes work together so well, it’s almost a shame to play alone. Solo Borderlands is amazing, but reviving your mates in a boss fight when you’re the last one standing gives the kind of thrill that you never quite find when playing alone. There’s also enough downloadable content to keep you amused for months.
Genre: Role-Playing Game (RPG)
Platform: PC, Xbox
Ever heard of a little franchise called Star Wars? No, me neither. ONLY JOKING.
The problem with Star Wars games, let’s be honest, is that you have a fifty-fifty chance that you will either get a crap game that will sit dusty on your shelf, taunting you for buying into soulless shovel-ware, or you’ll get a real gem that’ll remind you why Star Wars is one of the most respected franchises of all-time.
Bioware certainly honoured the Star Wars name with SWTOR, and paved the way for the ridiculously detailed decision-based RPGs that we have today.
The game is set thousands of years before the films, and honours the Star Wars lore in that back in those days, there really were Sith everywhere. There is no need to feel dirty about playing a Jedi here, Star Wars nerds. *Cough* Star Wars Galaxies *cough*. It also gave the game the freedom to explore what only the books had covered in-depth before-hand, giving the whole franchise something fresh.
The best thing about playing this game is that it’s Star Wars with choices. Bioware know how to do a story. You start off as being mediocre, but can mould your character into something really special.
SWTOR gives you the chance to be evil. Really evil.
The relationships you form and destroy shape your game, so much so that every gamer has their own story to tell from their time with the game. Sure it’s old now, it’s not particularly polished, but this is a game that any self-respecting Star Wars fan needs to play before it gets relegated to the dark untouched nostalgia pit of ‘retro’ games.
The story and dialogue are the core of the game, so I won’t spoil anymore. If you enjoy the thought of a grittier Star Wars, go and play this game.
It’s also worth playing for the twist. What a twist.
Coming soon – counting down five to number one