It's the final day of the Steam Autumn Sale so if you're looking for cheap gaming this may be your last chance till the Christmas sale next month. There's plenty to pick from today, such as the beautiful Sword & Sworcery, the brain tickling Crusader Kings 2, to RSI-inducing Counter-Strike Global Offensive.
Have a read of our rundown.
The mainstream games
Crusader Kings 2 Collection -75%
UK Price: £11.24
Paul: I think this is Paradox Development Studios’ best game. It’s still very much an acquired taste for a certain kind of strategy gamer and, much like the similar Hearts of Iron and Europa Universalis series, it remains a big, slow and often very complex thing to wrestle with, but it’s also the studio’s most accessible game yet. While Europa Universalis is about economies and Hearts of Iron is about baffling chains of command, Crusader Kings 2 is about personalities and people, and is much easier to relate to. That said, you’ll still tie yourself up in knots trying to work out who’s in line to inherit what, but that’s the fundamental flaw of the feudal system. Futile system, more like.
Tropico 4 -80%
UK Price: £4.99
Rob: I actually quite like Tropico 4, even though I’m not sure it challenges players consistently enough. Back when I reviewed it for RPS, I became a little frustrated at how much being a tinpot dictator in a banana republic is a lot like being a talented and conscientious mayor in just about any other city manager. I still wish Tropico 4 were a little more Bananas and a little less West Wing.
Still, it’s a good city builder that rewards the senses. Tropic 4 is a beautiful game and you will create beautiful settlements full of expansive white beaches lined with cabanas and hotels, and even your slums will be teeming with life amidst the palm groves. The salsa score gives Tropico 4 a loose, breezy feel that nicely complements its fairly forgiving approach.
Grand Theft Auto 4 -75%
UK Price: £6.24
Paul: I’ve always felt the GTA games became too repetitive too quickly, not just within themselves, but as the series developed. Another escort mission? Another trip from point A to point B? Another “find and kill the red dots” job? If you’ve played GTA 3, Vice City or San Andreas, you’ve already experienced quite a lot of what GTA 4 has to offer and all this sequel really adds is an extra layer of gloss. That said, PC gamers get to enjoy some of the sillier mods out there, which makes the PC the platform to own this game on.
Castle Crashers -66%
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 -50%
Jules: I’ve not played Modern Warfare 3 on the PC but a lot of the problems carry from the console over, the maps released for the game simply aren’t as good as those in previous titles, nor those in Black Ops 2. While, no doubt, a polished game and fun online (do not get this game for singleplayer, it’s exploding pants) I wouldn’t say it’s worth it for this price.
Legend of Grimrock -75%
Paul: I don’t know anyone who hasn’t raved about this modern take on old-school dungeon-crawling and it’s now available for the price of a cup of coffee. Or a big sandwich. Now, I’m not saying you should forego your daily coffee or skip that whole sandwich thing you’ve got going on, but let’s put these prices in context, eh?
Counter Strike: Global Offensive -67%
Jules: This is the cheapest I’ve seen Global Offensive since release, and, considering that was a month ago, this is silly cheap. It’s the most accessible version of Counter-Strike on the market and does a damn good job of making it fun for the old-timers too.
My advice if you to pick it up is to play the gun game modes, they introduce you to each of the weapons by having each kill move you up a hierarchy. It’s like a taste test for all the different variants on offer. After an afternoon of gun game you’ll know what weapons you like and how to best use them.
Rob: I heartily endorse CS:GO. It’s a fun throwback, with a fast pace and crisp controls that have become increasingly rare in shooters. It might be unforgiving, but it’s also intense. There are no second chances here. Also, it’s fantastic to have both teams run into each other in someone parlor, then backpedal out and have an entire gunbattle take place blind, with everyone emptying clips through the walls.
Alan Wake Franchise -75%
Jules: I’ve only played a short while on Alan Wake, the first three chapters of what feels like a much larger game, but I’ve really enjoyed a lot of it and been bored by some of it. Starting with the positive, it’s a brilliantly realised Twin Peaks style North American small town - right out of pulp horror books - once an industrial focus, the closing of mines has marked the start of a slow decline, buildings are old and rundown, bars are frequented, population dwindling. Remedy’s use of light, too, is much stronger than in a lot of games. Night time, dusk, full daylight, they all frame the landscape memorably.
Its main fault is that the combat is dry and repeating. Your enemies are ghostly figures cloaked in dark, before you can harm them you must break through their shell with a flashlight, then shoot them with whatever gun you have in hand. It doesn’t get more interesting than that, from what I’ve played.
If you’re a gaming sightseer, buy it; if you’re expecting another Max Payne then give it a miss.
Rob: I agree with many of Jules’ criticisms and yet: Alan Wake is one of those games that has stayed with me in the two years since I played it. In the end, I think it is a fascinating meditation (spoilery link) of the creative process and game development, and an intensely personal, self-referential game. That creates a lot of problems, of course, but it also makes it memorable and engaging. I’ll happily take a game with somewhat repetitive combat and pacing issues, if it has so much to say.
Sniper Elite -75%
UK Price: £7.49
Paul: I’m sorry, but I still can’t take Sniper Elite serious. It’s a game where you can shoot people in the balls.
Jules: And it’s not even very good at that. You’ll tire of the gore-cam pretty quickly and when you do you realise you have a game that’s not a very good sniper simulator, not a very good action game, and flat out not that good. If you do buy it then make sure you turn off the in-game music (it’s annoying as hell and repeats on a short loop - plus it gives away when enemies are near).
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings -75%
Paul: Yes. I don’t know who is left out there who doesn’t know that both Witcher games are some of the best and most mature RPGs that the PC has to offer, but it never hurts to state that. The Witcher 2 mixes action and exploration with some genuinely difficult decision-making, frequently throwing you head-first into situations where you’re compelled to choose the lesser of two evils that are, often, just as bad as each other. The combat leans towards the ARPG side of things with its pleasingly deadly swordplay, while the whole feel of the game is so grim, dirty and unpleasant that you’ll want to wash your hands after playing. And that’s a good thing.
UK Price: £3.74
Jules: I’ve had people try and sell this to me as an alternative Left 4 Dead but really the games are hugely different, they just happen to feature zombies and co-operative multiplayer. You and some friends/strangers must survive waves of attacking zombies, buying new weapons and equipment between rounds from a plucky merchant. Then as you hit the final round you must take down a boss creature, there’s a selection of types but they’re all hard as nails and horrible to look at - gun implants, torn up flesh, mouldering tissue, long strangle-y fingers.
It’s a laugh with friends but I never found the guns to have enough kick.
UK Price: £14.49
The indie games
Zeno Clash -90%
Jules: It looks bizarre and, well, it plays bizarre, but Zeno Clash is one of the few first-person games out there that doesn melee combat right. Shifting perspective to inside a character’s face makes for a novel fighting experience and this alteration is further jarred by an art style different from all others. It’s 69p so you should buy it and try out this weirdness for yourself.
Sword & Sworcery -60%
Jules: An ethereal journey through a pixel art realm, Sword & Sworcery is an oddity, there’s very little that you actually do, yet every new screen in this sidescrolling world is brought to life with interactive objects, dialog, and a passionate score by Jim Guthrie. It’s difficult to talk too much about this short game without spoiling it. suffice to say, for £2 it’s worth it. My one complaint about this utterly beautiful game is it was originally a game of the iOS devices and there are some remaining touchscreen hangups: mechanics that don’t translate so well to the PC like sword slashing by dragging the mouse cursor diagonally across the screen (it’s just not as satisfyingly tactile).
Jules: One of the most compelling platformers in years. It goes hand in hand with Super Meat Boy, both push the bounds of difficulty by slowly building you up to ridiculously difficult screens, covered in spike pits and wandering enemies. You’ve only three controls at your disposal - left, right, and world flip - but developer Terry Cavanagh never lets that get in the way of creative new ways of play.
The soundtrack, too, is fantastic.
Ys: Origin -50%
Rob: Osmos is a beautiful game, and quite a lot of fun at first, but it’s also savagely difficult, to its detriment. It doesn’t take long to start hitting levels that seem near-impossible, and it’s so demanding that minor misjudgments or mistakes in execution can leave you in an impossible position. I come away from Osmos wanting to like it, but reluctantly admitting that it just frustrates me too much.
Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams -40%
Jules: Originally released as a Mario clone back in the NES-era, Giana Sisters sat in the bottom of a draw for 20 years before being resuscitated via both Kickstarter and Greenlight. It’s one of the best looking platformers on the PC, sitting strongly in the same territory as Trine, and it plays with the rarely-used world switching mechanic, allowing you to switch between the two sisters’ perspectives (one cuddly, one spiky) at any time, opening up passageways blocked in one realm, or nullifying enemies in another.