Old and clueless about games and no game computer. What should I play?
June 14, 2020 9:12 PM   Subscribe

I have a Macbook Air and an iPad, and I've wanted to try playing some games again. My special pony wishes and kinds of games I like below the fold. It needs to be something I can play on my admittedly not game optimised environment. I haven't played games on any serious basis in likely 10-12 years.

I used to play Final Fantasy on an Playstation I no longer own. My problem is I don't really like multiplayer. I like fantasy RPG with complicated world building, but I haven't enjoyed when I've tried WOW. Probably the last multiplayer game I played and enjoyed was Ancient Anguish (which most of you are probably way way too young to even know existed it unless you read about it in a history of MUDs or something).

I really loved CIV for a very long time, but only when it was possible to win cultural victories.

I like games where you win skill points and can learn spells. I'm not at all a fan of shoot em ups. The only level game I have ever enjoyed is Castlevania a long time ago.

I'm basically looking for introvert exploration/magic play or where you can play multiple characters to create parties. I would be open to different things too, but these are things I know I like. (I spent many happy hours in Ancient Anguish as a messenger and trader, so no need to fight at all!)

I'm prepared to hear that unicorns like this don't exist.
posted by frumiousb to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (18 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Pillars of Eternity is an RPG (real-time with pause) that has good character customization, 8 companions to choose from, and a great big world to explore. And it has a Mac version, and according to a brief google search, should probably run on a Macbook Air.
posted by CrunchyFrog at 9:48 PM on June 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

If you get a Steam account, you could sample the PC games available on that platform. The one time I downloaded a Steam game my computer was unable to play, they readily refunded it as soon as I explained the problem.

You might enjoy the Tales series -- it's a similar RPG style to Final Fantasy, but the battles are more realtime. They're still quite easy -- I mostly spammed the same attack and was still able to complete the games. Some of the characters learn spells, while others have weapon-based skills. Tales of Symphonia was my favorite in the series.

If you only ever played one Final Fantasy, you could try the others. A number of them have been released for PC. Tastes differ, but I'd recommend #9.

Another series you might enjoy would be Dragon Age -- it's got a bit of a grittier feel compared to Final Fantasy or Tales, and has a lot of emphasis on the player's decisions changing the flavor of the story. It's also got sword and sorcery elements in the gameplay, and rich worldbuilding. I believe the style of play is that the battle action plays out in realtime, but you can pause it whenever you want to choose your next move from a menu. Dragon Age 1 and 2 were more linear, whereas 3 was an open world game that I found a little harder to get into since you had to choose/discover your own objectives to an extent.
posted by space snail at 9:51 PM on June 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Banner Saga and its sequels are strategy RPGs that don't require a very powerful computer. Mac and iOS versions are available. Plenty of characters to choose from and character upgrade options. It focuses more on combat and resource management than exploration, though.
posted by CrunchyFrog at 9:52 PM on June 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

Dragon Age origins! It has sort of a Final Fantasy feel. Great characters, magic spells, lovely game. It is a bit older now, but I think you would really like it.
posted by DTMFA at 9:54 PM on June 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

If you act in the next ~24 hours, the Racial Justice Bundle will give you a horde of interesting and low system requirement games. General MeFi commentary here. There's a ton of content in it that you won't be able to play on your devices, but given the low cost of the bundle and what it benefits, I bet you can find some gems in there.
posted by Candleman at 10:00 PM on June 14, 2020 [9 favorites]

You can get Baldurs Gate and BGII on Steam, and they are both old but excellent games with an interesting story and characters. I really enjoyed making my party in each one - you don't really get to customize characters (other than your original character that is basically the "main character" of the plot), but there are a lot of different characters you can choose from, and they all interact with each other in entertaining ways. I liked II even more than I but both were a lot of fun, and either one could keep you busy for quite some time.
posted by DingoMutt at 10:09 PM on June 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

You can get Baldurs Gate and BGII on Steam

Definitely get it on desktop, not iOS. The iOS port is passable, but has some frustrating interface problems.
posted by zamboni at 10:30 PM on June 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

Is buying a used PS4 out of the question? It sounds like you would **really** enjoy Skyrim Elder Scrolls
posted by McNulty at 2:04 AM on June 15, 2020 [3 favorites]

It's a game to play on a browser, but Kingdom of Loathing seems like it might be a good fit. It's an incredibly tongue-in-cheek, text-based game with some minimal (and usually fun) graphics, has PVP but does not require it (I've played the game for over 12 years and never done it), uses "skills" that act like spells, and allows you to "ascend" your character to basically start over a new class (or try a seasonal variety) with some/all of your previous skills carried over. Oh, you can also acquire familiars so there is a certain level of party formation.

Like any free browser game, they'll make their money by incentivizing you to buy in-game items. I think they do this in a mostly unobtrusive way, but YMMV.
posted by El_Marto at 3:49 AM on June 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

It sounds as if you might be a good candidate for my favorite game of all time: Dream Quest. This is a game that people either love or hate. I love it. It's pitch sounds absurd: It's a fantasy collectible-card rogue-like that's insanely difficult and almost infinitely replayable. And it's super fun.

The biggest downside to Dream Quest -- not for everyone, but for most people -- is that the art for the game is crude. It looks like it was drawn by a sixth-grader. (No joke.) Because of this, many people give up before giving it a chance. When I told my cousin that he'd love it (because he would), he wouldn't play it more than hour.

Anyhow, this game might be a good fit for you because it has a loose fantasy theme. The theme is really irrelevant because the game is ALL ABOUT the game play.

Quick premise because I have a Zoom call in three minutes: You are an adventurer in a dungeon. The dungeon consists of three levels that get progressively more difficult. (Plus a fourth level with a boss, if you choose the toughest mode.) As you wander, you fight monsters. You fight using a deck of cards. Monsters have their own decks. You also find treasure chests, etc. that might contain other cards. As you lose games (because you will lose hundreds before you ever win), you unlock new powers and new hero types and so on.

All of this is turn-based, like CIV. And although the game seems shallow at first -- and DIFFICULT -- it's actually super super deep. Google a little bit and you'll see that Dream Quest has a passionate cult following of game geeks who love it.

Okay, have to go to zoom call.
posted by jdroth at 8:00 AM on June 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

I should warn you that Kingdom of Loathing has recently milkshake ducked so you may want to look into that before deciding whether or not to try it. Also, it's a fun enough game but not something you can sink long time periods into the way a major RPG will let you.
posted by suetanvil at 8:02 AM on June 15, 2020 [3 favorites]

You might like Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup (aka DCSS). The learning curve is steep, but it scratches the skills and spells itch in a very deep and satisfying way, as do other games in the “roguelike” genre. It’s free and your Mac will handle it just fine. There’s even an online web browser version.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:03 AM on June 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

Since you mention an ipad, I will make an orthogonal suggestion: Apple Arcade.

...because then you can try a wide variety of good games in a variety of genres, for an extremely minimal outlay with an initial free trial period. For example, you might like The_Otherside, or possibly Towers of Everland. Or not, but with Arcade you can give 'em a try and find out.
posted by aramaic at 8:19 AM on June 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

Slay the Spire is an RPG-ish roguelike that just got launched on iOs (after much success on other platforms). It's fun and very clever.

I've also really liked 10000000 -- it's a match 3 game, but you own the whole game once you download it (unlike Candy Crush that tries to weasel more $ from you). Their sequel "You Must Build a Boat" is also quite great.
posted by ellerhodes at 8:39 AM on June 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

Also: my gaming tastes seem to be similar to yours (although I prefer SCIENCE!!!! over magic and a more open-ended story if possible) so I'll share some of my favourites.

The late nineties/early 2000s were a great time for isometric turn-based RPGs and a lot of those will now work on not-too-old Macs. In addition, this style of game has recently undergone a revival (e.g. the above-mentioned Pillars of Eternity and its sequel as well as Tyranny from the same studio.)

My personal favorites are Fallout and Fallout 2; these are post-apocalyptic turn-based RPGs with leveling et. al. Combat is mostly gun-based but it's not a shooter. (Wasteland 2 is a more modern game in a similar style.) Other classics from the era are Baldurs Gate (as mentioned above), Planescape: Torment and Neverwinter Nights 2 but I haven't played any of them (or at least not a lot) so this is a second-hand recommendation. (Beware that Mac support for these are kind of spotty but they are usually playable via emulation of some kind. This may or may not be more trouble than you're willing to go through for a game.)

I really, really liked Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) and its sequel. Both are third-person and kind of action-y but will let you pause at any time and think about things and both are RPGs. They're Star Wars games, granted, but the Force works really well as a magic system. I'm pretty sure there are supported Mac versions for both on Steam.

I also really liked Diablo and Diablo II as well as Torchlight and Torchlight II (made by the same people but not the same company; Torchlight is steampunk and newer while Diablo is medieval.). They're action-y with really streamlined RPG elements.

XCOM:Enemy Unknown works fine on my (pre-Catalina, 2014) MacBook Air and I really like that series. It's Soldiers versus Evil Aliens and is a bit more strategy than story-based but you do level your soldiers and and spend a lot of time managing your organization. The sequel is a bit more resource-intensive but may still work on your laptop.

Finally, if you're willing to sink a few bucks into an older console, I'll second the recommendation for Skyrim. You may also like its predecessor, Oblivion. Both are lore-rich sword-and-sorcery games where you do a lot of exploring and character building. They're both first-person and kind of graphics-intensive and also will require you to react quickly on occasion. And I'll also suggest Fallout: New Vegas, which is similar but with guns but lets you actually pause the action and select your target. Oh, and has amazing writing.

The nice thing about a lot of these games is that they regularly go on sale for a buck or two so you could just sign up for the major stores and pick them up then.
posted by suetanvil at 8:52 AM on June 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

Given what you've enjoyed playing and how long it's been since you've played anything: you're not going to notice when something's a bit older and might feel a bit clunky to someone who's spent the last decade playing new games. Use this excellent opportunity to play the terrific games you've missed before you get too used to the newest and fanciest. Bonus: cheap and will run on your (not that bad!) equipment.

I'll plug for Spiderweb Software since they've all got enormous free demos and all run on MacOS (and some on iOS). Especially Avernum and its sequels (you may remember them in their previous form under the name Exile.) If you like exploring, creating parties, and assigning skill points, these are some fantastic games for that.
posted by asperity at 9:39 AM on June 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

Oh my god, Exile! I LOVED those games and completely forgot about them until now. Spiderweb still exists?
posted by frumiousb at 7:17 PM on June 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the great answers! I marked the ones I'm likely to try as best answers. I'd need to get a television to get the console and since I'm living in Indonesia it's just too much outlay for me. Especially since I don't know how long I will be here.
posted by frumiousb at 7:27 PM on June 15, 2020

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