Would you like to play a (PC) game?
August 18, 2016 12:41 PM   Subscribe

I'm not a gamer, I don't have a console, I do have a laptop, I've been stress eating because of the US election, and I need something to do for a couple hours at a time here and there to get my mind off of this dumpster fire that isn't "eating my weight in ice cream while weeping." But I know nothing about current games out there. The absolute snowflakiest game recommendation request within.

I have a 15-inch Dell XPS laptop that a couple years ago was top-of-the-line. Still has plenty of memory but it's not optimized for super high-end gaming. I'd be willing to go down to GameStop and purchase whatever controller I might need if a mouse isn't enough. I'm not going to buy a whole new computer.

My ideal game would be a mashup of real-time strategy, simulation and rpg. I like games where there's an element of low-stakes exploration and/or where there's a sandbox element but that's not all it is. I also like games that are unpredictable (but not jump-scare unpredictable).

What I hate more than anything is skill grinding. I have very limited time for gameplay, I do not want to be forced to spend it all getting enough XP/mining enough unobtanium/shooting enough womprats so that I can finally do something interesting.

I'm finding that I'm kind of allergic to the current trend in games that are going for a Nintendo nostalgia kind of look. (I never had a Nintendo, I have no nostalgia for blocky graphics.)

I'm not looking for a game to cause me anxiety, so FPS where something is going to jump out at me and shoot me? Pass. I also am not interested in side-scrollers or platformers. I'm a little bit too old for the side-scroller area of my brain to have been activated as a child and I suck at them tremendously.

I definitely do not want to interact with other players. I don't mind if it's a situation where the universe of the game is multiplayer and I might bump into someone else, but I don't want to, like, talk to anyone or be required to team up with 10 other people in order to progress.

I am agnostic on genre. Sci Fi, fantasy, historical whatever. Would prefer it not to be a simulation of things-that-happen-in-real-life because I already have a kid and a job and a garden and if I want to raise a baby and help plants grow, well, I've got my real life for that.

Very Early Aughts Games That I Played and Enjoyed include: Age of Empires, SimCity, and The Sims (1 and 2). But I'm kind of hoping that the world of game development has progressed enough that the good things that I liked about those games are now part of games that are also way more fun and interesting than those were.

I believe in you, Green! Tell me what to play!
posted by soren_lorensen to Computers & Internet (28 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
I have been having fun with concrete jungle (a card based city building game)

Endless Legend was great fun, too. Fantasy tactics / city building.
posted by poe at 12:47 PM on August 18, 2016

Civilization V
posted by Catseye at 12:47 PM on August 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

OK, I know the graphical thing might be a hangup but Stardew Valley is a truly lovely game, top to bottom. It is easy to fire it up, farm some crops, talk to some village people, do some fishing, and sign out. There's low stakes exploration, RPG elements in terms of getting better at the skills you use, and just generally mellow.

It's incredibly relaxing: you can play however you like as there's really no penalty for just pursuing the things you like to do and ignoring everything else.

Otherwise Civ V which, for my money, is the best 4X video game every made.
posted by Tevin at 12:52 PM on August 18, 2016 [8 favorites]

Kingdom Rush and Kingdom Rush Frontiers are on Steam. The series is a tower defense game, where you're given plots to build four types of towers (soldiers, mages, archers, and cannons) to stop an onslaught of enemies with different types of armor, resistances, and skills. Towers can be upgraded to improve their damage/defense and provide additional benefits.

It also has a cheeky sense of humor.
posted by INFJ at 12:58 PM on August 18, 2016

I hear good things about Rimworld, though technically it's "pre-release."
posted by praemunire at 1:14 PM on August 18, 2016

SimCity 3000 or SimCity 4. Turn off disasters.

SimCity 4 has lots of "extras" like following specific families to get an idea how your city is doing. It allows for a lot of different exploratory stuff that might grab you. It is also more Ooh, Shiny on the graphics.
posted by Michele in California at 1:14 PM on August 18, 2016

Alpha Centauri and Alien Crossfire are the predecessors of Civ IV and V. I liked both of them better than Civ IV. I haven't tried Civ V (after buying Civ IV, I basically gave up on the series).
IMHO, these are the best games in the series. I have been playing them for years and they are still interesting.
Both games are available at GOG for about $6.00. Nope, on sale right now for $2.39.
posted by H21 at 1:16 PM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sounds like you might become hopelessly addicted to FACTORIO.

10/10 players can't recommend Factorio because they're unable to stop playing Factorio long enough to type coherent sentences.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:20 PM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

You sound a lot like me, and I'm very interested to hear the replies you get. I have tried civ V but simply can't understand what people see in it, must be just me. I still play AoE 2 now that it has been rereleased at higher resolution.

But I'm surprised no one has mentioned Minecraft yet. I very often play this for a little while here and there to destress. You can pick it up and leave it when you like. There is sandbox, of course, but I far prefer the standard Survival mode where you have your challenges and a completely open route to explore and progress through the game. Works well on quite low powered computers. I also set up local servers and play with my kids, either cooperatively or separately but in the same world. Many many hours wasted! :-)
posted by tillsbury at 1:28 PM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Civ V scratches this itch for me. But I don't recommend it to people because it's, um, life consuming. And you have very limited time.

I liked Rebuild 1 and Rebuild 2 available online at Armor Games (or I think another version of Rebuild is also available through Steam). It's a zombie apocalypse scenario without gore or shooting--it's turn based strategy. You manage characters who explore, scavenge, reclaim, and fight off zombies in your post-apocalyptic city. Despite the subject matter, it's very lighthearted and not anxiety-inducing at all. You can play a full game through in about an hour, definitely under 2 hours. Plus there are several ways to win so it's got decent replayability.

I also still play Age of Mythology and a rebooted version of it is available on Steam.
posted by Hypatia at 1:33 PM on August 18, 2016

What I hate more than anything is skill grinding

Then Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup might be the game for you! It is freely available on most any platform, and you can play right now in your browser.

Unlike many games, it comes with a philosophy statement. It explains:

"Another basic design principle is avoidance of grinding (also known as scumming). These are activities that have low risk, take a lot of time, and bring some reward. This is bad for a game's design because it encourages players to bore themselves. Even worse, it may be optimal to do so. We try to avoid this!"

It has a bit of a learning curve to start, but the in-game help is great. There is a friendly community to chat with for help, and the game can be enjoyed in 5 minute bursts, or multi-hour sessions.
posted by SaltySalticid at 1:34 PM on August 18, 2016

posted by iamfantastikate at 1:43 PM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

a mashup of real-time strategy, simulation and rpg

This made me think of Mount and Blade (Warband is the most recent version of the game). You lead a band of mercenaries across a medieval world, trying to keep them paid and alive. It has light strategy and light RPG elements. It's a little rough around the edges but it has a fun combat system and is strangely involving.
posted by selfnoise at 1:43 PM on August 18, 2016

Try Banished. Super cool historical simulation game made by one guy. Essentially you start out with a handful of families, some food and other supplies, and... you have to survive. And thrive! Lots of mods for it too, so the replay value is amazing if you click into its wavelength. I've sunk over 100 hours into it.
posted by Automocar at 2:19 PM on August 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

Banished is soooo relaxing. Highly recommend.
posted by agregoli at 2:27 PM on August 18, 2016

See if this review of Crusader Kings 2 sparks some interest.
posted by naju at 2:58 PM on August 18, 2016

Planetbase! You may get really really mad at suicide planet and rage quit for months at a time until you finally complete all objectives. (But you have four levels of planet difficulty and you don't have to play that one.) Many many hours spent. I finished the game but still find it fun to start up a new planet and just play for a while.
posted by Glinn at 3:49 PM on August 18, 2016

(I do wish Planetbase had more building options.)
posted by Glinn at 3:49 PM on August 18, 2016

Chiming in to second both Cities: Skylines (more flexible, relaxing, and creative than more recent SimCity games) and Mount & Blade Warband. Particularly the latter: I'm no fan of grinding or overly complex skill tree management, and you don't have to worry about that stuff much, at all. Graphics are acceptable, if a bit dated, and won't bog down a slightly aged, non-gaming computer. You might also consider that game's expansion, With Fire and Sword, which uses the same mechanics but is set in a semi-fictional Eastern Europe circa the 1600s).

Turns out that riding around, bobbing people on the head is a great no-strings, no-hassle stress reliever.
posted by credible hulk at 4:05 PM on August 18, 2016

Oh right, forgot to give a fresh recommendation.

Check out The Long Dark, a handsome, moody player-vs-nature survival game. Stuff has to be collected to stay alive, but there aren't a lot of variants to keep track of or obsess about. It's hard to stay safe and warm, so games can go really, really fast.

Something else I've enjoyed for jump-in-jump out play is Naval Action, a 1700s -- 1800s sailing combat sim. There is a grinding component and a social angle, but both can be ignored if you just want a quick sail. The way the game handles the water physics is really enjoyable; you can almost smell the salt. (Might need to check your specs for this one, though.)
posted by credible hulk at 4:27 PM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Slightly older game that you can find cheap on GOG: Heroes of Might and Magic 3 (NOT 4)
posted by jbickers at 6:50 PM on August 18, 2016

I enjoy Banished, but have been meaning to try Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna).
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 7:11 PM on August 18, 2016

Hardboiled Studios Shadowrun games, Dragonfall and Hong Kong. Both excellent. Dead man's switch is ok, but considerably blander.
posted by Sebmojo at 7:15 PM on August 18, 2016

Incremental Games is a fun subreddit to explore. :)
posted by oceanjesse at 7:16 PM on August 18, 2016

like jbickers said, HoMM 3 is an utterly fantastic game
posted by Jacen at 10:31 PM on August 18, 2016

My ideal game would be a mashup of real-time strategy, simulation and rpg. I like games where there's an element of low-stakes exploration and/or where there's a sandbox element but that's not all it is. I also like games that are unpredictable (but not jump-scare unpredictable).

This made me immediately think of Mount & Blade as well. It's a surprisingly engaging hybrid of the genres you mention. There is plenty of action (the battles) but you don't have to participate yourself -- it's entirely plausible to just hang back and order your troops around. It's pretty sandboxy though; there's no explicit goal in the game.
posted by neckro23 at 9:21 AM on August 19, 2016

"Civilization 5", and "Civilization 3" (which will run on slower hardware) are both good. They are "Turn Based Strategy."

"Europa Universalis IV" has a steeper learning curve, but is a "Real Time Strategy," with the ability to speed up or slow down time, and make changes while paused. It's also supposed to be historically accurate (ancient Europe). The ability to pause and change time makes it easier to pick up and put down than the Civ series, imho. The only issue here might be your time constraints. It really takes a few hours of play just to get the hang of it.

"Anno 2070" is a Real Time Strategy/Sim game set on a planet in the future. It's beautiful to look at, but check the hardware requirements against your laptop first.

I haven't played "The Witness," but I've heard good things about it. You explore an island and solve puzzles. It's been compared to "Myst," if you're old enough to remember that.

I was never a fan of FPS style games at all until I played "Portal." I hesitate to suggest it because it doesn't fit your request, but there's very little in the way of "twitch shooting" or jump scares. It's a puzzle based game where you escape rooms using portals. It's often on sale (and occasionally free) on Steam.
posted by ethical_caligula at 9:07 PM on August 19, 2016

Response by poster: In case anyone comes in here for games suggestions in the future, it turns out that the correct answer was Subnautica. I apparently wasn't so much interested in strategy or simulation so much as exploration and survival (though I like to keep the survival aspect dialed down to a bear minimum, which you can in this game).

So, future tag-searchers of AskMe, please take this as a recommendation. Subnautica is great.
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:09 AM on September 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

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