It’s the middle of July, the month in which people frequently complain about the cold and then turn around and question the guy upstairs as to why it’s so damn hot in the middle of winter (in my case the guy upstairs is called Tony and he has the rather disturbing habit of answering his door in this underwear). It’s also the start of the dead time for game releases, that disappointing period in which releases slow to merely a trickle in the lead up to the year’s end and the flood of AAA titles that come out in the months before and after Christmas.
Luckily this time of year is also when Steam steps up to the plate and offers some insane savings on games for a few weeks. Due to the daily and flash sales the prices of games are a little unpredictable but even so there are a host of treasures you can find for cheap throughout the sale and beyond. These are just some of the games that have chewed their way into my credit limit.
Mount & Blade
Medieval sandbox RPG’ing with a realistic bent. Mount & Blade isn’t the easiest game to get into thanks to some rather arcane controls but it’s a fascinating attempt to create a genuine sandbox environment that is entirely player driven. There are no story elements to Mount & Blade, simply five different factions, the option to remain neutral or turn outlaw, castles to sack or buy and towns to pillage or protect. A small but dedicated modding community keeps things interesting.
Two Worlds 2
The original Two Worlds had a fascinating but ultimately flawed item stacking mechanic that meant you could upgrade any item by combining it with another item of the same type and a rather cruddy plot. Two Worlds II takes a much more Elder Scrolls approach to the story and free form character development. It’s not the best RPG by any stretch of the term but it’s solidly enjoyable and will fill in 50 or so hours whilst you wait for something better to come along. Be warned – the final fight is one of the very worst ever to disgrace a game.
The Binding of Isaac
From the makers of Super Meat Boy comes The Binding of Isaac, a Rogue-like, Robotron-esque procedurally generated bullet-hell action RPG thing with seriously disturbing biblical overtones. Little more needs to be said.
One of the finest and most expansive post-Diablo action RPGs, Divine Divinity has finally made its way to Steam. Even with a facelift to support higher resolutions, Divine Divinity isn’t the most attractive game but it is huge. There’s around 100 hours of isometric questing to be had over the four massive maps (totalling around 20,000 screens in all) and the character creation system makes for dozens of unique character builds. It also has a really stupid name.
Divinity II – The Dragon Knight Saga
The Dragon Knight Saga is actually an expanded remake of Ego Draconis the direct sequel to Divine Divinity, featuring a wealth of extra content and the Flames of Vengeance expansion. A very different game to Divine Divinity, Divinity II moves the action to full 3D third-person. The combat is fast paced and fun and, as an added bonus your character can transform into a dragon for fast travel and engage in Panzer Dragoon-ish combat.
E.Y.E.: Divine Cybermancy
Despite the word divine showing up in the title, E.Y..E.: Divine Cybermancy has nothing to do with the previous two games but is instead an action/RPG/FPS based on A.V.A., a Cyberpunk RPG. There is some rather shoddy English translation to be found, some of the mechanics are rather clunky and the interface is too convoluted but even so it’s hard not to be immersed in the atmosphere, intrigued by the idea of psionic Cyberpunk and impressed with how much freedom players have to tackle quest objectives in their own fashion.
Serious Sam: The Random Encounter
Before the release of Serious Sam 3, Croteam had the rather brilliant idea to farm the IP out to a bunch of small developers to see what kind of creativity they could bring to the table in the form of some small downloadable Sam titles. Serious Sam: The Random Encounter is far and away my favourite, transforming the circle-strafing, old-school FPS into a turn-based Japanese-style RPG. Players control Sam and other party members as they run backwards shooting at all manner of monsters. Players control weapon selection, attack angle, all the time moving up and down the screen to dodge a torrent of bullets.
Are there any finds that I’ve missed so far? Let me know in the comments.