Find me a sandbox to dig in
September 13, 2009 5:51 PM   Subscribe

I love Sid Meier's Pirates! I loved the original back in the '80s, and I love the remake even more. What other games might I love?

I like sandbox games in general, but this one has a lot of action and adventure, and the historical setting is very atmospheric. The violence is minimized/stylized (I'm not interested in GTA-type gangbanging), but there are plenty of choices on how to play and what to do.

I find myself wishing there was a game where I could be an explorer (a remake of Seven Cities of Gold!) or a knight or something. No RTS or God games.

I haven't been up on gaming in about 20 years, though I've played various Dooms and Quakes and stuff. I spent a long time having only Macs, which didn't help. Now I have a netbook, which means I can run older PC games pretty well. New, not so much. I don't care about vintage. Story is not what I'm looking for (I started Deus Ex once, but didn't feel like I could give it its due). Free play, like the classic games I've already mentioned, plus maybe Elite (but faster paced) and Wasteland (though that gets a little too RPG-y). I've tried just playing the old games emulated, but they don't always work too well, and after seeing how great the Pirates! remake came out, I want more like this...
posted by rikschell to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (18 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
If you're interested in playing a really old school game Sword of the Samurai might fit the bill. It's from 1989, so you may need to use DosBox. It's really quite similar to Pirates! (though in my opinion, much better), and also from MicroProse.
posted by matkline at 6:10 PM on September 13, 2009

Wow. I can really relate to all of those old games you mentioned, since I spent much of my childhood playing these.

I really liked Sid Meier's has a free play mode but is primarily competitive.

The Rollercoaster Tycoon series are really great sandbox games, but aren't really open ended in the exploration sense. The Simcity series is also really good

Fallout 3 is exactly what I think Wasteland would be if it was remade today, but it definitely won't work on a netbook.
posted by kenliu at 6:38 PM on September 13, 2009

Google "netbook gaming" for a lot of resources on old games that will work on netbooks.
posted by kenliu at 6:39 PM on September 13, 2009

posted by thisperon at 6:57 PM on September 13, 2009

Since you probably can't run Fallout 3 or Oblivion, I'd suggest Freelancer and Privateer Remake as rather similar to Pirates! gameplay, and runnable on your netbook. Also look at Sid Meier's Colonization (or its remake).
posted by unmake at 6:57 PM on September 13, 2009

Oh, and if your netbook can't run Psychonauts: two older sandbox games that have a lot of action:

Dungeon Keeper 2 (atmospheric, funny, and the most awesome voice guy ever)
Theme Hospital (fun and effin hilarious)
posted by thisperon at 7:00 PM on September 13, 2009

You might like Star Control 2/The Ur-Quan Masters, an older PC game that is now freeware and has a modern port. It's very open-ended, with a great story, great music, and lots of humor.
posted by Herschel at 7:15 PM on September 13, 2009

I second Star Control 2/The Ur-Quan Masters. Waaaaaaaaaaayyy ahead of its time. Very open ended gameplay. You can pretty much go anywhere in the galaxy from the beginning (though you probably wouldn't survive attacks from the stronger races). But where you go and how you go about doing it is really up to you.
posted by NeoLeo at 8:20 PM on September 13, 2009

Try Spelunky and Transcendence. Both action/exploration. Both freeware!
posted by CrunchyFrog at 8:23 PM on September 13, 2009

I really love these sorts of games and I really loved Patrician II (link goes to sequel but gives you the gist).

The Tropico games are also heaps of fun.

Seconding Dungeon Keeper and Theme Hospital. Master of Orion is another good'un.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:59 PM on September 13, 2009

Ooh, yeah, Ur-Quan Masters is an excellent choice. Totally free, too.

I'm having a hard time thinking of any other games that are even vaguely recent that have that sense of exploration and lighthearted adventure. Pirates and Seven Cities Of Gold are fairly unique in that regard.

Oh, man. I just remembered one you'd love, but I don't think it will run on a netbook. Mount and Blade is almost exactly what you're asking for, but it needs a reasonably powerful PC. :(

Ooh, I know! Heroes of Might and Magic 3, one of the great classics of strategy/adventure gaming. You're playing one of several hero-type classes (a knight is one option), and you're typically trying to take over the world by raising armies of magical creatures out of your controlled cities. The combat is completely stylized, no blood at all, and extremely strategic. This is a very, very deep game, with lovely 2D graphics, and should run splendidly on your netbook.

It's not exactly an adventure, in the sense that geographic exploration is fairly limited, just one map at a time. It's more of a combination of medium-scale strategy and individual battle tactics. But there are a lot of sides, each with their own unique units, and a ton of heroes, each with their own unique powers. If there's exploration, it's more in the sense of playing with different units and different hero types to learn what they're good at.

It's $10 at, which is what I linked above. They're a good outfit to deal with, too. They have a good-sized library of older games that will probably run well on your netbook.
posted by Malor at 9:08 PM on September 13, 2009

The updated classic, Ports of Call!
posted by Kirklander at 9:45 PM on September 13, 2009

With a netbook it may be just on the edge of playability, but Galactic Civilizations may be a good fit. And I've seen it big box stores like target discounted down to like 5 dollars, so it's worth a shot.
posted by aspo at 10:58 PM on September 13, 2009

Now that I think about it, Space Rangers 2 has a lot of the same qualities that make Pirates! fun. It's very open-ended and has a lot of exploration and trading, except it is in space. There is some combat, but it's no more complicated what is in Pirates!

It also has a fun story line and there are lots of really fun little mini-games and "quests."

It does have bit of RTS in it, but you can play through most of the game without having to mess with the RTS at all (which is the weakest part of the game, IMO).

Highly recommended.
posted by kenliu at 11:50 PM on September 13, 2009

Another great open-ended game you might like is Escape Velocity. There are a bunch of them, but they have a similar vibe to Pirates! (albeit in space).
posted by Ljubljana at 3:43 AM on September 14, 2009

Strongly seconding Escape Velocity.
posted by xbonesgt at 9:03 AM on September 14, 2009

If you don't mind older games, I have a few:

Firstly, Fallout and Fallout 2 are awesome and you will love them. I cannot recommend them enough.

Also, Diablo and Diablo 2. The first has a single main quest and then a bunch of optional side quests that are randomly selected from a pool. Diablo 2 is more linear than that but you always have the option of going to different parts of the map and mugging monsters for their loot at pretty much any time. That was really handy when I just wanted to play for ten minutes without getting sucked into a long quest.

Finally, you could always try Nethack. It's pretty free-form as well, albeit as a hack-and-slash sort of game. Still, it costs nothing to try it (and the other games tend to be pretty cheap as well).
posted by suetanvil at 10:46 AM on September 18, 2009

Try Sid Meier's old Colonization (not the new update). You'll have to play it in DosBox (unless you still are running Win9x) but it's worth it. Essentially it generates a New World. You, representing a European power, have to find, explore, and develop this place. Eventually, you split with the mother country and found your own nation. That second part is not as interesting as the first, but once you win the game a few times, you can play just the first part with great enjoyment. There is exploration, historic detail, and other stuff. If you get deep into it, you may become critical of certain misunderstandings about resources, game-play cop-outs when dealing with the natives, and so forth but you will still find it a great game to play.
posted by CCBC at 2:03 PM on September 30, 2009

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