What casual, pretty strategy game is a good gift for my brother?
November 15, 2012 8:58 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a visually appealing strategy computer game as a gift for my mid-twenties brother, preferably casual, hard sci fi and without DRM.

He is a casual gamer and works in design. He likes reading non-fiction books about economy, energy and future scenarios.
We both talk a lot about what the earth might look like in 50, 100 or 200 years.
He also likes hard-ish science fiction books, especially military. (Old Man's War and Forever War are two examples.)
I'm yearning myself for a realistic and beautiful hard scifi strategy game, but haven't found anything like that.
He has a mild fascination for the W40k universe, but doesn't play the tabletop game.

For a long time, he played hardly any games at all, but bought Anno 2070 for himself a month ago, partly due to my recommendation.
This didn't work out so well, he liked the graphics but was annoyed by the cumbersome DRM. The game itself put too much emphasis on trade and number-crunching for his taste and didn't run properly on his computer.

Games he liked:
- Casar 2
- Shogun: Total War
- Settlers 2: 10th Anniversary
- Stronghold 1
Games I like and he doesn't:
- Civilization (any version): The units are too big and destroying the suspension of disbelief.
- Fate of the World: He tried it and very much liked the idea, but the learning curve was too steep.
He owns a laptop, maybe 2-3 years old. Anno 2070 didn't run properly, anything with comparable or higher hardware demands is out of the question. He also owns an Ipad, of I think the 3rd generation.

In old mefi questions, I've found some games interesting to me (AI wars, for example), but not quite right for him.
Games I considered:
- Sins of a Solar Empire
- Crusader Kings (similar problems as in Civilization, the units are too big)
- Tropico 3
- Stronghold Crusader
- Caesar IV
- Star Ruler (interesting, but not pretty enough)
So far, none of the games in my list satisfy the science fiction and the aesthetics angle, but I guess that's very difficult to do.
Does anyone have an idea what games could fit or where I could look? If someone knows a movie fitting perfectly, I'd like to hear about that as well.
posted by Triton to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
FTL. (Mefi discussion here.)
posted by fings at 9:07 AM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

posted by Jairus at 9:15 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Maybe XCOM: Enemy Uknown. It's available on lots of platforms including PC. Not sure that it fulfills the "casual" aspect. Prettiness levels vary widely depending on what makes your gears spin. But all my nerd buddies are going crazy about it, so it is worth a look.
posted by Mizu at 9:15 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Anno 2070 didn't run properly

Go back one version: I still have Dawn of Discovery (i.e. Anno 1404) installed on my computer. While all of the Anno games have high resolution capabilities, you can definitely turn down all the features and get it to run on older hardware.

Holy cripes are they addicting to a strategy fan.
posted by thanotopsis at 9:32 AM on November 15, 2012

Unity of command is fun, hard strategy game.
posted by H. Roark at 9:43 AM on November 15, 2012


Sins of a Solar Empire is pretty and solidly done, but can get sort of easy/predictable after awhile if you aren't playing multiplayer.

X3 is very pretty, but also has non-strategy elements. If you just wanted to play it as an economy simulator you could though. (suffers lack of intro/documentation without going to the forums though)
posted by Feantari at 9:44 AM on November 15, 2012

Another vote for XCOM. FTL is a great game too, but I think it falls short of your "visually appealing" criterion.
posted by Zonker at 10:04 AM on November 15, 2012

Xcom is great in a lot of ways, although it may not play on his laptop (it wouldn't work on mine, which is also about 3 years old). It works well on the Xbox too.

The original Xcom UFO Defense is not very pretty (it's 20 years old or so), but that is a strategy game to rule them all. It's definitely worth trying, and fairly cheap on Steam.
posted by markblasco at 10:10 AM on November 15, 2012

If he hasn't played it, the original X-COM: UFO DEFENSE is a fantastic game. Sure, the graphics are dated beyond belief, but it combined terrific base-building, turn-based tactical, and management elements into a brilliant game. The newer one lacks the depth of the original, though it does have some incredible visual and gameplay compensations. I have only played the demo of the new one, but payday is today, so I'll be into that before long. But the original is a true classic-- a groundbreaking tactical game and, for me, one of my very few good games in the turn-based realm.

How about "Frozen Synapse?" It's a turn-based tactical game as well, and you can take as long as you want to plan and simulate your turn. The visuals are simplified beyond belief, but that just means you're more focused on the action.

Also, you mentioned Warhammer universe- my own interest in it pretty much ends where games end, but the Dawn of War RTS series was fun as heck. Has he played any of that, and if not, would he be interested? The levels tended to be mission-based mostly not just repeated base-building, tech-tree-climbing stuff. Well, good mix of the two.
posted by Sunburnt at 10:24 AM on November 15, 2012

Thanks for the answers so far!

Originally, I was thinking of strategy bordering on economy simulation, like the Anno or Caesar series. (Is there a better genre term for that?)

Xcom is more strategy bordering on RPG or shooter, but it fits the military sf angle so very, very perfectly, I'll download a demo and check whether the hardware is up to it. Currently on top of the list.

Defcon, Frozen Synapse and FTL are maybe a bit too nerdy, but I'll check them out for myself, thanks for the suggestions!

He played the first Dawn of War game, but not the second. I'll think about it, thanks!

Anno 1404 is an interesting idea. I'll try to ask him inconspicuously whether he liked the game mechanics of Anno 2070 enough that it would be interesting without being set in the future.
posted by Triton at 10:44 AM on November 15, 2012

Some Ideas:
Children of the Nile (kind of settlers-ish)
XCOM, as long as XCOM runs OK on his system, it really is a well done new strategy game, not shootery at all but it does have unit leveling up
Mount & Blade: Warband (not traditional strategy, but puts you first person in total war like battles)
Jagged Alliance (military XCOMish, new remake might pass his 'decent graphics' test)
Company of Heroes (same folks that did dawn of war, WW2 tactical RTS)
Men At War (squad based tactical game, a little more hardcore than Company of Heroes)
Defense Grid (great looking 3d tower defense-ish)
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 7:36 AM on November 16, 2012

Sol Survivor is excellent.

I've played it since it came out and I still have yet to finish everything. It's similiar to Defense Grid but the grid where you can place turrets is much more open.

I discovered in the last few months the joys of multiplayer on it after I bought my brother a copy and we played online.

It's fast paced and an incredibly rewarding game play experience. During the Steam Christmas sale I imagine you'll be able to buy i for $2.50.
posted by dgeiser13 at 10:54 AM on November 16, 2012

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