Steam Sale & Choice Paralysis
December 26, 2020 5:33 PM   Subscribe

I got a $25 Steam gift card. Steam is having their year-end sale. For whatever reason I am wracked with choice paralysis over $25 stinking dollars. Help me spend my money!

Annoying fussy nonsense:

- I play on a PC, keyboard & mouse, PC is 6 years old and was midrange (Care more about performance than high-res display anyway).

- I am cheap & patient and would rather get 3 solid games for my $25 than one game that will be even more discounted next year.

- Fallout New Vegas is an All-Time Top 5 Game in my book: Open world, RPG elements, choices, action that is keyboard & mouse friendly, straightforward controls/interface, fun, & dense enough story that when I'm done I felt money was well-spent. Generally don't replay story-rich games, I got the DLC for Fallout NV after finishing the game and haven't felt the need to go back, it's just sort of done in my mind.

- Despite really liking Fallout 3 & NV I did not like Elder Scrolls: Oblivion at all, so I've been kind of leary of Skyrim despite it often being compared to Fallout (As it is, Skyrim Special Edition is listed at $20.)

- I like action and shootin' stuff but bounced hard off of COD: Black Ops, Borderlands, & Dead Rising, all of which are grim or stupid slaughter grinds with annoying there-and-back again plots.

- Played a lot of The Long Dark, but that is also becoming a bit of a grind; survival and crafting elements are fun, but feel tedious and futile after a while.

- Enjoy casual games like Faster Than Light & Into the Breach that you can drop in and out of for a few months without having to remember a lot of story or relearn how to play, as well as board games like Patchwork, Ticket to Ride, & Carcassonne. We have most of the offerings from Asmodee Digital that interest us.

- Probably going to get Battletech as I enjoy the concept, some strategy - though I often feel like I hit a ceiling & can only win by using Fabian tactics until I stockpile enough resources to steamroll my opponent - and really like games from Harebrained (Currently playing Shadownrun: Dragonfall) and Paradox.

- Often if I've played one kind of a game that's enough for me. I have Tropico 4, scratches the itch if I want to play a city-builder/sim. I played too much AoE 2 back in the day, hard for me to not see most 4X/RTS games as derivative of that. Shadow Tactics: Blade of the Shogun sort of did in stealth games for me, etc.

- I'm sort of curious about the Far Cry franchise, particularly 5 though I'm not sure it would run on my PC, as well as STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl, Metro: Last Light, and Mad Max (Though that one is more for the concept, video I've seen reminds me of Borderlands).

- I know about Steam's return policy, but would rather avoid that hassle.

So, assuming you've made it this far, what games would you recommend?
posted by Alvy Ampersand to Shopping (23 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Hades is my GOTY. Action galore, incredibly satisfying mechanics, wonderful story.

(I am on a beverage break from playing it at this very moment!)
posted by sevensnowflakes at 5:56 PM on December 26, 2020 [5 favorites]

If you have any interest in Myst-style puzzle games, I recently started playing The Talos Principle. It is a surprisingly immersive experience with a great balance of world interaction and puzzle solving. I've been playing a few hours a day over the last week and I'm barely a quarter of the way through the game, if that. At $3.99 it's an absolute steal IMO.

I finished The Witness, a similar style puzzle game, before starting Talos. Similar puzzling but little in the way of environment interaction (beyond the puzzle kiosks). $10.

If FPS shooters are more your style, the Serious Sam franchise (created by the same development team) might be more your style. I've not played it but it's on its fourth go-round so it's obviously popular.
posted by SquidLips at 6:14 PM on December 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

As far as shooters go, if you haven’t played Doom (the 2016 version), it’s both hilariously tongue-in-cheek and supremely well-designed on a technical level such that it looks good and remains playable across a wide breadth of computer performance profiles. It’s selling for $6 at the moment, so it won’t eat up your entire budget. I can also second The Witness as a gorgeous puzzle game that meets your “drop in, drop out” criterion pretty well in terms of gameplay.
posted by invitapriore at 7:16 PM on December 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

If you're looking for something like Fallout NV, The Outer Worlds is by the same developer and is on sale for $30. I enjoyed my time with it and the universe, but it's not as epic as Fallout NV. Fallout 4 is even cheaper at $9 and has some interesting stuff but I personally thought it was kind of boring compared to Fallout 3. You don't mention liking a single Fantasy game, so might be better to stay away from Skyrim when there's plenty of space stuff left to check out

Battletech was kind of clunky at launch and needed a pretty beefy PC, but it's gotten a lot better and is very cheap right now. It does sound like you'd enjoy it if you like the shadowrun games + Into the Breach.
posted by JZig at 7:40 PM on December 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

I fell in love with the game Control which is on sale for 20 bucks with all the expansion packs. If you're a fan of Twin Peaks and first person shooters it may appeal to you. One of the best features of it is the brutalist architecture of the building that you traverse. The telekinesis mechanics are fantastic and there's nothing better than throwing a forklift at a cluster of enemies.
posted by benzenedream at 7:55 PM on December 26, 2020 [4 favorites]

If you haven't checked it out already, I'd highly recommend Outer Wilds (which is a different game from the already-mentioned Outer Worlds). The conceit is that you're exploring the miniature solar system of a non-human species (as one of the non-humans); it's very open-ended, chock full of places to explore and lore to discover and is all around an amazing experience. No combat in it, but it's definitely an adventure with plenty of environmental hazards to navigate and some puzzles to solve (though nothing I'd consider over-bearingly hard). I'm being a bit vague about specifics as it's a very easy game to spoil, and I'd recommend that you avoid looking up information about it in advance if you do decide to get it.
posted by Aleyn at 8:06 PM on December 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

I am putting a good word in for Skyrim. I played it on a Switch but the things you like about Fallout are all there: lots of plot(s), open world, choices, I found it very fun. I feel like I got more than $20 worth of fun out of it.
posted by hepta at 8:16 PM on December 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

You expressed curiosity about Mad Max. If you are referring to the 2015-ish game then I can highly recommend it as one of the most underrated games I've played. There isn't much grind, and the game is winnable, and afterwards you'll have that feeling of being "done" but you'll feel like your money was well spent.
posted by McNulty at 8:29 PM on December 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

Seconding Hades. Absolutely the best game of 2020, and maybe the best of its genre, ever. It's a top-down action game that controls like a dream, has enormous variety between runs, and plays in discrete half-hour (or less) chunks, with shockingly good writing and characters.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:31 PM on December 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

For open-ish world exploration, great character development and a really interesting combat system, I'd recommend Divinity Original Sin 2. This game is great with multiplayer. You can easily immerse yourself in this for hours. ($18)

I've also really enjoyed what I've played of Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Open-ish world, lots of main and side quests to explore, and a fun combat system too that rewards preparation. The stories the world tells can be uncomfortable, but are not glorifying of violence. (~$12)

Superhot is really quite terrific. A fun/puzzley shooter where time generally only moves when you move, so you can really think through how to take down the 5 enemies coming as if you were some type of super hero in a movie. Short-ish, but spectacular. (~$10)

Kind Words has been an unexpected hit on my steam play list this year. It's not a game per se, but you get anonymous notes from people asking for help/advice, and you write anonymous notes of support and encouragement back. Then you trade stickers and listen to lofi beats. In 2020, I found it to be a way to send some love? hope? back out to the universe and ask for the same. This is the review that convinced me to buy it. ($4)

Slay the Spire is a great rogue-like deck builder. Interesting combat system, a lot of luck, and ultimately very satisfying to pull off some neat combos. ($12)
posted by ellerhodes at 8:41 PM on December 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone!

I've been tempted by seemingly everyone's enthusiasm for Hades (Recently got Transistor after reading a profile of Supergiant, haven't played it yet) but rogue-like combo-type games aren't my thing; the only thing roguey about FTL that I can see is the dead-is-dead dynamic.

Control piqued my interest, but the Can I Run It websites say my PC is not up to snuff. Battletech is a go, but I suspect my fan will be screaming bloody murder.

Not too big on Puzzlers, I really dug Portal but Portal 2 left me cold.

You don't mention liking a single Fantasy game, so might be better to stay away from Skyrim when there's plenty of space stuff left to check out

It's ridiculous, but using a medpac in Fallout is a-okay with me, but using a heal spell in Oblivion or The Witcher (I played the first one for 30 minutes and apparently deleted it, don't remember why) kind of takes me out of the game. I don't hate Fantasy - I don't mind those elements in Shadowrun and enjoyed Tyranny until I plateaued, set it down for a while, and then completely forgot almost everything about the game and what my plan was - but it definitely ranks below Post-Apocalyptic in my genre preferences.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:34 PM on December 26, 2020

Have you played any of the Homeworld games? They’re lighter weight than battletech, and they kinda sit in the same zone for me.

If you prefer emphasis on RPG, instead of open world, I’d suggest Outer Wilds, but it’s quite short if you’re comparing it to Fallout NV, and still kinda in the expensive side for what it’s worth.

I did not enjoy oblivion, but skyrim is so huge and lived in that I feel like it’s worth picking up; the scale of it is so beyond what most games seem to be able to deliver. And it happens to be pretty damn cheap. I put it on par with Fallout NV but weighted more in terms of a sandbox game than an RPG; the story is fine, but I’ve done a very long play through avoiding main quests and have enjoyed it very much.

It sounds like it might be a bit heavy for your computer, but No Mans Sky is fantastically sandboxy and I really enjoy that one for how huge the universe feels in that game.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:42 PM on December 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'd highly recommend Battletech, I played over 90 hours of it and still plan to come back for more. Currently $9.99 on Steam as I'm sure you know.

My second suggestion is Subnautica, which in my not-so-humble opinion is the finest survive/craft/explore game by a huge margin. It has some good story elements to tie the other gameplay together, and a largely non-violent approach that I really appreciated. It's currently $14.99.

So, that gets you to $24.98 before tax :)
posted by EKStickland at 9:46 PM on December 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

The 2013 Tomb Raider will probably run well on your machine and is about $2 right now.
Stardew Valley is $10. It's a game I avoided for a long time because it didn't look like anything I'd like, but I loved it.

Apart from those, I'd suggest looking at Steam250. It is a list of the top 250 games on Steam using an algorithm that combines number of player reviews with % positive.
posted by justkevin at 7:25 AM on December 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

Fellow Fallout fan here. IMO, Skyrim is a much better game than Oblivion. IIRC, I paid full release-day price, and I've definitely gotten my money's worth (and then some).

Subnautica is $15 right now, and is pretty great. It has a unique extraterrestrial deep-sea theme. It's essentially a survival/crafting/base-building game, but it feels like a fresh take on those mechanics. And the game world is pretty vast and open.

Also in the "big open world" genre, I've gotten a lot of enjoyment out of Dying Light. It's a free-running, melee-focused, open-world zombie game. It's pretty straightforward (fetch quests, standard-issue crafting, RPG elements) – but it's well made, and the basic movement and combat mechanics feel really satisfying. Zombie skull go cronch.

You mention a lot of big-name titles, but no games from smaller studios. There are some really good ones. They also tend to be cheaper, and to have more modest hardware requirements.

Off the top of my head, I suggest checking out Rogue Legacy (platformer with clever roguelike elements), Don't Starve (darkly humorous 2D survival game with a lovely Gorey-esque visual aesthetic), Oxygen Not Included (challenging colony sim), Project Zomboid (sandboxy post-apocalyptic urban surivival game where you're better off avoiding combat), and both Starbound and Terraria (both often described as "2D Minecraft").

Have you tried Stardew Valley? The cutesy pixel-JRPG aesthetic is not my usual jam at all, but there's a reason it was such a hit. Totally chill experience – just grow crops, explore the landscape and forage stuff, go fishing, mine for minerals and gems, take care of your livestock, gradually expand your farm. There are a million and one things to do, and you can do 'em at your own pace. (However, if you're the kind of player who needs a game to tell you exactly what to do next – it might not be for you. It's very much a "set your own goals" kind of game.)

Speaking of Stardew Valley, it seems to have spawned a growing subgenre of relax-em-ups. Slime Rancher has a bit of the same DNA, although it's a bit more action-oriented. And I just bought Spiritfarer last night – again, the cutesy aesthetic turned me off for a while, but I'm glad I gave it a chance. I'm enjoying it so far.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 8:11 AM on December 27, 2020 [3 favorites]

Borderlands for a shoot-em-up with a dose of humor and a bit of that open world feel with plenty of quests to run around and complete.
posted by AnneShirley at 8:50 AM on December 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: You mention a lot of big-name titles, but no games from smaller studios.

Yeah, I'm a pretty casual game person, and outside of MeFi & Twitter (Colin Spacetwinks' Sale Round-Ups are very helpful) don't have much of a social/cultural connection to games so I mostly just hear about the big ones or established classics. Additionally, I'm pretty suspicious of game media because so many review sites seem to be blatant marketing operations - Rock Paper Shotgun seems to be an exception - and many gameplay video reviews are nearly unwatchable because of the yammering idiots who make them.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:30 AM on December 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

There's a reddit community for "patient gamers" and they have a list to help you find really good games that are probably cheap now.

Between that and other recommendations in this thread, I'll suggest/second/nth:

* Portal 1 & 2
* Half Life 1 & 2 / Black Mesa
* Slay the Spire
* Celeste
* Battleblock Theater
* Broforce
* A Short Hike
* The Binding of Isaac Rebirth
* Bastion
* Dishonored
* X-COM 1 & 2

Also, the big Steam sales like these are when everything is on sale, but not always discounted the most. is great for waiting for a good price on a specific game.
posted by hankscorpio83 at 10:44 AM on December 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

Seconding Stardew Valley and Divinity Original Sin 2.
posted by VyanSelei at 12:48 PM on December 27, 2020

This is totally not what you're asking for, but if I had a PC, & a Steam gift card, I'd git Aviary Attorney.
posted by ovvl at 2:46 PM on December 27, 2020 [3 favorites]

'Control' only looks good with raytracing turn on, otherwise, it didn't feel like anything special on a GTX 980.

I can heartily recommend 'The Outer Worlds.' Its artistically beautiful without being too much of a hardware hog. It played great on the 980. Doesn't require as much investment as bigger titles, it's kind of a Fallout4/ Borderlands/ MassEffect.
posted by porpoise at 4:58 PM on December 27, 2020

I'll second the recommendation for Max Max - fun game to pick up casually and drive around beating up bad guys.

You also mentioned Far Cry 5 - I've got 3, 4, 5 and New Dawn and a machine around the same age as yours with no noticeable performance issues (there are websites that will scan your computer to tell you if you can run a particular game). These are all super similar but if you like the genre, they do it pretty well.
posted by Twicketface at 6:49 AM on December 28, 2020

Response by poster: Well, after a lot of purchases and refunds due to fussiness and technical limitations I settled on Mad Max ($8), Invisible Inc. ($5.50), Homeworld Remastered ($4), and exceeded my $25 limit for Aviary Attorney ($12), which, as someone who has been curious about Phoenix Wright games for a long time but really turned off by the anime aesthetic, I am super-duper jazzed about.

I'll definitely be referring back to this AskMe in the future, and will leave it open in case folks with other suggestions come across it. Thanks so much, everyone!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:34 PM on December 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

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