Does this game genre even have a name?
November 2, 2009 1:18 PM   Subscribe

What are some great computer games for people who enjoy non-linear privateering, combat, and risky missions?

I've loved the Escape Velocity games for years. I recently got into Frontier (previously) and enjoyed it a lot, but it was way too short and easy. I'd like to try Transcendence (previously) but I'm on a Mac, and I'd like to try SAIS (previously) but I can't get it to run under Snow Leopard. Finally, I just discovered Skyrates (previously) and it's fun but so very slow.

All that build-up is to ask: What other Macintosh or Flash games are like these? Specifically I'm looking for games that feature trading, fighting, upgrades and customization, and a big world to explore. I especially love games that let you choose to be good or evil (or neutral) and to become a hero, villain, or impossibly wealthy merchant. Even better if there are a bunch of different factions to choose from besides "good" and "evil," with shades of moral ambiguity. If the game is free that's also a big plus. Any suggestions?
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Since you didn't specify single player only, how about Eve Online? They have a mac client, there's lots of trading and fighting, a huge world to explore, and an awful lot of faction shenanigans and grey areas of morality and ethics, like any other MMO. I'm not a player myself, but I know of it through friends that do play.
posted by Joh at 1:38 PM on November 2, 2009

Sid Meier's Pirates! just came out on the Mac after years of being PC/Xbox only (and C-64 years before that). It is EXACTLY what you want (plus dancing).
posted by rikschell at 1:39 PM on November 2, 2009

Freelancer comes to mind, but is an older windows game. I'm not sure if it can be coerced to work under emulation or not. Privateer came before that, in the DOS years; It should work under DOSbox.

This Wikipedia category page may be a good starting point.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 1:54 PM on November 2, 2009

Response by poster: Oh, rikschell, you just reminded me of another game from yesteryear that I loved: Pirates! Gold. Yes, the game you linked is a modern remake of that classic. I've been meaning to check it out but didn't know there was a Mac version. Cool!

Joh, I've heard good things about Eve Online but I'm hesitant to join an MMO so many years after it began: I'm afraid it's lifespan is nearing its end! Plus that recurring monthly charge is one annoyance that's kept me from playing any MMOs before. Then again, I'm just a cheapskate in general and would strongly prefer to stick with free games for now. ;-)

ArgentCorvid, ah, that Wikipedia list looks good. I'll peruse the titles in there. It's probably worth mentioning that I'm only interested in "space" games. The setting doesn't matter to me if the gameplay's fun.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 1:59 PM on November 2, 2009

EVE Online is going strong, because it doesn't have a strong narrative component. The back story is great, but there's no "end game" where guilds beat a final boss or raid a final dungeon or whatever. The "end game" works out to be large-scale PVP in a mostly rules-free zone, but not everyone ends up there or is interested in doing so. My character, for example, is a "ninja salvager" who uses cheap, fast ships to probe down the locations of more conventional players, then swoops in to steal their loot. The other thing that keeps EVE Online going is it's got a very steep learning curve (though it's easier to get into now than ever before), and tends to draw a different crowd than games like World of Warcraft. Stuff like piracy and player-killing and suicide attacks that would get you banned from other MMORPGs is not only accepted but tacitly encouraged, and a lot of the fun comes from working around that kind of stuff (I don't do a lot of combat against other players, but I love being at war and evading them).
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:14 PM on November 2, 2009

Response by poster: Oops, I just reread my comment and that one part should say "I'm not only interested in 'space' games."
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 2:24 PM on November 2, 2009

Best answer: Ur Quan Masters, maybe?
posted by juv3nal at 3:06 PM on November 2, 2009

I found Pirates! amusing for a few hours and then rather boring, but I'd definitely give the demo a spin.

If you don't mind playing old games and have access to a Windows computer or can run Windows through VMWare/Parallels you should give Freelancer a try.
posted by wolfr at 3:08 PM on November 2, 2009

posted by low affect at 3:12 PM on November 2, 2009

You will definitely like Ur-Quan Masters. I loved it, and I have previously loved Escape Velocity and Pirates! Gold. As for Sid Meier's Pirates!, I think it's fun for awhile and meets most of your criteria but the minigames can really get old (Dancing in particular. gah!)
posted by goingonit at 3:14 PM on November 2, 2009

X3: Reunion is a space based game in that genre (it's on the wiki list posted above). Massive world, has a storyline, very easy to lose track of the story line for long periods of pirate killing, trading, or basebuilding.

I have been really enjoying Mount and Blade. It is a Windows game, but people on the game's forums report successfully running it with boot camp (not sure if that is an option for you or not, but just putting it out there).
posted by Feantari at 3:16 PM on November 2, 2009

Best answer: It sounds like you're pretty low key about this, so (in case you don't know about it) why not give Eve's 14 day free trial a go? In the end Eve really does deliver the experience you're looking for, and as infinitywaltz says, it is still going strong. Definitely not dying out any time soon. It's true you won't be able to do everything until 3-6 months after you start playing, but in the meantime there's plenty of fun to be had. The very first hour you can start exploring, if not pirating--and exploring extremely dangerous space, if you like. Something worth knowing about Eve is that you really wouldn't be hopelessly behind. In contrast with a lot of other MMOs, in Eve you can start doing useful stuff from the endgame perspective after only a couple months. That includes killing helpless miners, stealing people's crap, and other piratey activities, to be sure.
posted by flavor at 4:14 PM on November 2, 2009

Best answer: I just burned a solid week playing caraveer discovered here on metafilter.
posted by mearls at 4:40 PM on November 2, 2009

Best answer: Slightly different, but the old Fallout 1 and 2 games from the 90's are open-ended adventurish games that require zero fast-twitch, because they're turn-based strategy all the way. They have many many ways to solve each problem, and you can take your character and the story in many wildly different directions. There's no building a city or base, it's all character-building RPG, but it definitely addresses the "optimize, explore, develop" part of the brain.

That open-ended customizability is something that is missing (or at least greatly impaired) in the more recent Fallout 3. While also a great game, F3 is completely different: a first-person shooter style rather than a top-down game board, and is crippled by an inferior story in which good/evil decisions don't matter near as much.

I have been playing F2 on a tiny netbook lately. It's great on that little screen.
posted by rokusan at 4:42 PM on November 2, 2009

Not sure if this is of any use to you, but SAIS does work for me under Snow Leopard (maybe you have to install the Rosetta thing--which it should offer to do for you?)
posted by dixie flatline at 7:36 PM on November 2, 2009

Response by poster: I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong, but I have Rosetta installed and other apps can use it just fine. When I try to launch SAIS, the icon bounces in the dock about twenty times and then the app crashes. Nothing else comes onscreen, and no error message. It makes me sad. :-( I'm on a 2.2GHz MacBook, if that makes any difference…

Thanks for all the great suggestions! They're all awesome but I've marked my particular favorites. If anyone's got any other ideas, please, keep posting them! :-)
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 9:01 PM on November 2, 2009

New-ish flash game Black Market. Not free, as flash games tend to be, but aside from the relatively simplistic combat model seems pretty good. There's a fair amount you can mess around with without having to pay.
posted by juv3nal at 12:44 PM on October 12, 2010

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