Gaming in Afghanistan

By Shamus
on Feb 13, 2009
Filed under:
Video Games

republic_of_no_games.jpg
A reader posed the following conundrum:

He’s going to be in Afghanistan for the next six months. He’s going to be living in a compound. He’ll have a laptop, but probably not internet access. He’s going to spend a lot of time stuck in his room. (Perhaps all of his non-working hours.) What games should he take along to keep himself entertained?

This is a bit like the Games for Castaways post from a few years ago, except you’re not limited to just three games. What would you take with you in this situation?

  1. Hard drive space is limited. You can’t just install every downloadable game and pick through them later.
  2. No internet connection. Games which require online activation are a no-go. Even if you activate them before you leave, you never know when adding an external harddrive or adding a service pack or updating some drivers will cause the game to want to re-activate.
  3. Games which rely heavily on multiplayer are right out.
  4. The games have got to be self-contained on your hard drive. You don’t want to have to drag a bunch of disks all over the world.
  5. Steam-based games might be risky. If Steam throws one of its fits like it does sometimes, it might insist on re-connecting before it will let you into your games again. I have had people allege that this is no longer a problem, and others claim it is. Given the risk, I’d steer clear of Steam games for this trip. (Or at least make sure you don’t rely on them.)
  6. The games should offer robust replay value. A FPS is of low replay while taking up a ton of disk space. Nethack is minuscule and offers endless hours of soul-sucking frustration amusement.
  7. Let’s assume your laptop is reasonably up-to-date, but not cutting-edge.

You can either answer the question as to what you would personally take in the given situation, or you can offer advice to the reader who emailed me. (He likes strategy games, and I assume is using Windows.)

My own suggestions, from a variety of different genres & tech levels

Dwarf Fortress. People keep recommending this game so passionately that I don’t dare go near it. It’s unsuitable for comics, probably unsuitable for a review series, and apparently it’s so habit-forming the FDA is considering making it a controlled substance. I’m sure the game is tiny and it purportedly has immense replay value. It’s certainly worth sticking on your hard drive before you go. Ditto for Nethack.

X-Com, for all the reasons I discussed in the link you just passed up.

Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 – Probably one of my best-loved best games that I’ve never reviewed. Downside: The game requires the CD be in the drive. Yes, I’m sure there’s a crack for that sort of thing. You’d have to decide for yourself if the game is worth the trouble.

Mount & Blade – A reader just recently provided a copy of this to me as a gift over Steam. I’ve only just glanced at it. (A two-hour long glance.) Given the scope and depth here, I barely even grasped the dimensions of the thing. I believe the game is available as a full download outside of Steam, which should make it ideal for a trip like this.

Oblivion OR Morrowwind – You probably don’t need both, as they provide a very similar gaming experience. I believe that the latest patches (which you absolutely must get before leaving) will disable the CD check so you can leave the disk at home. Morrowwind has a better story. Oblivion is prettier. I’m betting if you spend a lot of time cooped up you’ll develop a bad case of wanderlust, and these games might scratch that itch.

Master of Orion 2 – My correspondent already has this one, but I list it here for completeness. It’s small yet deep.

Fallout – Available on Good old Games for $5.99, which – given the value of the game – is basically robbing them at their own request. A large and complex RPG world with lots of interesting turn-based strategy gameplay, available for direct download.

Obligatory: Nobody wants to hear your thoughts on any wars that might be going on. Let’s keep this on-topic, thanks. If it helps, just imagine you’re going to stay in The Republic of Has No Videogames-istan.

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A Hundred!202There are 122 comments here. I really hope you like reading.

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  1. Michael Anderson says:

    I think many of the Good Old games stuff – for example, Gothic 2 Gold is out for $10, takes up a couple GB, and will give ~100 hours or so.

  2. Ralff says:

    Galactic Civilizations 2 would be good. Other indie games also work very well; stuff like La-Mulana and Cave Story are pretty long and very small.

  3. Penn says:

    Some version of Civilization, probably CivII if space is an issue.
    Rather than Nethack, I suggest ADOM, it’s actually got a story and I believe will keep you entertained longer. Just my opinion though.

  4. MintSkittle says:

    I’d also vote GalCiv2. Starcraft is good. I’d swing by http://www.campaigncreations.org for some of the best 3rd party campaigns I’ve ever played.

  5. Annon says:

    Most of the strategy games I played are older. Something about newer RTS’s just aren’t as fun to me. Fortunately, these older games are smaller, so maybe they’ll work better in a space-constrained environment.

    I’ll second the vote for a Civ game. Also, Space Empires V is fun if 4X turn based strategy is your cup of tea. You can spend a crapload of time with that game without even coming close to exploring all you can do with it, plus it will run without a disk out of the box.

    If graphics aren’t an issue, there’s Starcraft and the Heroes of Might and Magic series (just pick one–they’re all essentially the same). Small (except the latest HOMM), and I’m sure you can finagle a way to run them without a disk.

    I also had a lot of fun with Red Alert, though the replay value probably isn’t the best (I guess you can say that about any of these without multiplayer, but the campaigns aren’t bad at all, really). If you’re looking at a time/HD space ratio, you’re probably still well off.

  6. Kevin says:

    Without a doubt, Dungeon Keeper must be on the list.

    Where else can you smack a chicken and watch it *poof* in a (small bloody) cloud of feathers?

    Just take headphones… ;)

  7. Bloodspider says:

    On Mount & Blade: to further extend its replay value, installing mods is HIGHLY recommended.

    http://forums.taleworlds.net/index.php/board,63.0.html

    The unmodded game is quite fun, but its features are also a little limited. Each of the mods listed on the website above can virtually double Mount & Blade’s replay value.

  8. NotYetMeasured says:

    If this person is old enough to have a job they should be old enough to know what games they personally could play over and over again.

    For me it’s two games already mentioned: Civ 2 and Starcraft.

  9. Magnus says:

    I’d suggest picking up some of the Sierra complation packs, theyre small and fun, although you’ll want to make sure you have the relevant fixes for things like the SQIV CPU speed issue.

    I’d also suggest getting Ultima Underwold (1+2 if you can! I’m currently replaying UW1 for the nth time), and possibly SimCity 2000, which has plenty of replay value.

    Castle of the Winds is available free (from the designers website), for a very old school top down RPG experience!

    I think the general gist of what I’m going for is the older the better, since some are available very cheap or free, and take up very little HDD space.

  10. SharpeRifle says:

    Hmmm…I was gonna make a suggestion…but then I reread your rules and decided that I could only respond with one thing.

    I’m glad I didn’t follow your rules when I deployed to Iraq…I would have been soooo bored.

    Edited to Add:Sigh allright the Baldurs Gate series with the Spellhold Trilogy Mod so I could play the entire thing in the Baldur’s Gate 2 engine.

  11. Nick says:

    One thing / series I’d recommend is the entire Avernum Series. Put out by spiderweb software (www.spidweb.com), it has a damned large story, tons of side quests, and plenty of random loot to it. There’s, um, 5 out in the series alone. While they change slightly from version to version, they’re mostly the same controls, just a new story and mystery.

    It’s small (disk size), with simple graphics (but still nice looking), but many hours of play. The demo can be downloaded, and can be expanded to the full game later by purchasing an unlock code. No CD (unless you order one, but it’s not needed to play), small size, LONG story, possibly replayable. I can’t recommend it enough.

    Also, Dungeon Keeper is something I’d take. But while the first one was more fun, I’d take the second one, for better enemy AI, and replayability. Or take both, w/e.

  12. Dev Null says:

    Basically I’m thinking of this challenge as “good games that you never had enough time to play”. Second Mount & Blade, Nethack, XCOM (I actually quite liked a couple of the more modern remakes: Aftershock or Aftershave or something like that) and raiding Good Old Games for a fistfull of things written when men were men and hard-drive space was expensive. At those prices, just pick a few at semi-random. I’d add the Geneforge series from Spiderweb Software if you like the old isometric RPGs at all, as they’re reasonably-priced, independently-developed, and a good long play.

    Also – based on the strategy stipulation – recommend Ground Control (I or II) as a strategy game that’s actually about warfare instead of building stuff faster than the computer, any of the Total War series as (fun!) incredible time sinks with huge replay value, and/or a Civ clone (though personally I’ve never managed to get into any of them since Alpha Centauri, these things were always good fun _if_ you could find the time to play them.)

  13. Patrick says:

    I have to second the nomination for GOG.

    I would sit down and just go through their catalog and find what you like. They have around 85 games available. Looking at your requirements they seem to fit perfectly.

    1. Most of the games are older which means they are also smaller. Once downloaded and installed you can delete the install package to save space. For insance Fallout, Fallout 2 and Fallout tactics take up only 2.5 gigs. That’s a lot of hours of gaming for not much hard drive space.
    2. Once downloaded there is no internet connection required to authenticate or patch (most games come fully patched).
    3. Most games are older and focus on single player. Also with their selection you can pick single player games.
    4. No disks. Just download, install, play.
    5. Not steam (I do like steam but I understand the issues it presents to people without a consistent internet connection. Also some steam games are region locked – not the case for GOG).
    6. Many GOG games have significant replay value or are so small (space wise) that even if you only play through it once it is worth the commitment.
    7. Older games will run on almost anything.

    Some recommendations from GOG selection
    1. Fallout
    2. Fallout 2
    3. Fallout tactics
    4. Freespace 2
    a. If you get this definitely get the Free Space 2 mod – it adds new graphical effects and many more campaigns

  14. GalCiv2, Sins of a Solar Empire…

    Come to think of it, pretty much anything in the Impulse catalog will fit the technical requirements, and Stardock developed games are generally very, very good.

    I’d also suggest KoTOR 1 and 2…

  15. Tommi says:

    Avernum 1 to n. (5 or so?)

    Computer “roleplaying” games with plenty to do. Also, ADOM, for the mindful hacking and slashing.

  16. Ben says:

    I second (or third?) the Impulse catalog. Particularly Sins of a Solar Empire.

    The Total War series is good as well. Rome: Total War and Medieval 2: Total War being two of my favorites which should run on moderate systems.

    GOG as mentioned above is also amazing. Tons of games for cheap that will play anywhere.

  17. Patrick says:

    I would also check out Greenhouse and Gamersgate they also offer small downloadable yet fun and engaging games.
    I have bought games from Greenhouse before and if I recall they require a one time online activation. If you did that before you left it shouldn’t be a problem.
    I don’t remember if Gamersgate require activation. Does anyone else know?
    I would recommend from Greenhouse
    1. Spectromancer (A game similar to the collectable card game magic – with a plot).
    2. World of Goo (great game but maybe not enough replay value)
    3. Hinterland (A cool cross between Sim City and Diablo – at least that the best way I can think to describe it)
    4. Defense Grid: The Awakening
    5. Eschalon: Book I (a game already reviewed on this site)
    From Gamersgate I would recommend
    1. Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords
    2. Puzzle Quest: Galactrix (Coming out soon – but if it is half as fun as the first one it will be good)
    3. Europa Universalis III Complete (Small game space wise for its epic scope – If I recall correctly it takes up less than a gig.

  18. Guus says:

    Any game of the Total War series. Rome is good, not too big, M2 is a lot bigger but very fun. Shogun and Medieval are small, very good but have not really good graphics.
    Morrowind is a bit older, but very good, Neverwinter Nights might be fun.
    Warcraft 3 and the Frozen Throne expansion are both good, long and challenging on high difficulty settings. If you have a MP3 player, you can download Audiosurf, it’s a lot of fun.
    The Homeworld series is a lot of fun, space RTS, with really big fleets. The first game and the expansion Cataclysm are both small but have a great story, excellent replay and custom battles, and don’t look too bad for their age.

    A thing I love about this site is the sheer variety of games people will suggest, and searching for them at a later time, without any trouble of finding good games.

  19. lebkin says:

    I suggest packing a whole bunch of older adventure games. In particular, SCUMM games since one should have no problems getting them to run. They almost all have a tiny footprint, and you can get a great deal of time out of each one. And without the internet, resisting looking up answers will be easier to do.

    And then I second a recommendation for any version of Civilization or its clones. Speaking of clones, Diablo 2 or any of its clones are also good choices. Great replayability there.

  20. Nick says:

    Yay, I’m glad I’m not the only one here to recommend Spiderweb software. I brought it up a week or so back, but don’t think anyone really noticed or even glanced at them.

    I recommend Avernum (1-5). I tried the Geneforge series, but couldn’t get into it for some reason. I’ll try again some other time, I’m sure…

  21. CaroCogitatus says:

    Neverwinter Nights includes a world editor so you can create your own modules, and literally hundreds of game owners have done so and posted them where you can download ’em for free.

    Just exploring the ramifications of the new races, base classes, and prestige classes provided by the PrC Consortium would take months.

    Sure, the quality of the user-created modules varies widely, but you can download a hundred of them zip them into a fairly small archive and have near endless gaming available.

    And if you want a *real* time sink, create your own module.

  22. Patrick says:

    One last idea. If you find more games than you have hard drive space perhaps you could get a large external drive (1TB drives cost about $150.00). That way you could download the install package for games that don’t require online activation (like GOG) there and install later.

    I don’t know if you want to spend the money on a HD or if you want to lug around another piece of equipment but it could significantly expand your available entertainment.

  23. DaveMc says:

    This isn’t quite what was asked, but I think it’s relevant: Why not pick up a Nintendo DS? It’s small, light, completely self-contained, and you can fit a dozen strategy games in the space of a single CD case. If you brought a DS, you could get vast amounts of strategy and/or RPG gameplay: Fire Emblem (the new DS one is just about to release, yahoo! I mean, google!); Advance Wars; Disgaea; Etrian Odysseys I and II; Age of Empires and Age of Mythologies (for the DS these are turn-based strategy rather than RTS); Puzzle Quest (if a Bejeweled-based RPG sounds like fun to you — I found it to be very fun indeed); and on and on. There’s a huge library in any games store you care to visit.

    Seriously, I’d think about it. If nothing else, it would be a huge supplement to what you can fit on your laptop, and the individual games are literally about the size of a postage stamp: get a little plastic case and you can carry dozens of them around with you.

  24. Michael says:

    GoG has the Shiny game “Sacrifice”, and I definitely recommend that one. There are five deities and each has a unique storyline to play through; it’s well voice-acted, and truly unique gameplay (essentially a first-person RTS).

    People have already recommended Civilization, but if you want a somewhat more relaxed strategy game I actually am a big fan of Zoo Tycoon. It’s head and shoulders above most of the Tycoon games, and has a lot to offer if your goal is to de-stress.

    And again, people have already suggested NeverWinter Nights, but I’m a big fan of the NeverWinter Nights 2 expansions. While the original wasn’t all that great, both of the subsequent releases have made enormous improvements to the game, and offer great (replayable) stories.

  25. Tim says:

    I would second Europa Universalis III Complete. Around 700MB no activation, no CD checks and no end to replayability.

  26. Takkelmaggot says:

    I’ve been in his exact shoes (nay, boots) before. I used the opportunity to play Baldur’s Gate I & II, Fallout, Civ3, and Rise of Nations. I’m also a big fan of turn-based strategy titles, such as the Modern Campaigns series (Fulda Gap ’85, etc.) and the excellent- and !!FREE!! Steel Panthers series, which has titles covering WWII through the near future and orders-of-battle for every major nation in the world. Lots of replay there.

  27. Calli says:

    If the ASCII interface of NetHack is too intimidating (and in my case, it is), there is a graphical version called Vulture’s Eye. It’s quite nifty.

    I actually am running a decent-but-not-cutting-edge laptop here, and I have to jump on the GOG.com bandwagon here. One caveat, though: Make sure the games are downloaded and installed before you go. And you’ll probably want to hang onto the setup programs, just in case. (If flash drives are available, that should work as a backup in most cases, depending on the size of the installer.) Out of my small collection I’d recommend The Guild and Disciples 2 in specific. The GOG.com release of these include all the expansion packs, too.

    If you’re into RPGs and don’t mind the old-school jRPG aesthetic, check out the games here. I haven’t had a chance to sit down and play Last Scenario yet, but I keep hearing it’s good, and Exit Fate is a new release. Both are freeware.

    Dwarf Fortress is a bigger game than you’d think, especially if you export the created worlds, and it has a steep learning curve. I tend to get frustrated as the fortress swiftly spirals out of manageability, but my husband keeps going back to it. Potential downside: most of the available information as to what thing has what effect is on the unofficial wiki. You could try and figure it all out yourself, but that way lies madness…

    Another edit: Nearly forgot to mention The Spirit Engine. Second one’s around 15-20 bucks, but the first is freeware.

  28. Trorbes says:

    I wouldn’t recommend Dwarf Fortress – not because there’s anything wrong with it, it’s a great game if you can get into it, but because despite its small size it has some major hardware requirements and even a good desktop computer can have difficulty running it without being very slow. It’d eat through his laptop’s battery pretty quickly, too.

    As for something I do recommend, it’d be GearHead. It’s a fun Mecha-fighting roguelike with a lot of replay value. Its sequel, GearHead 2, is also a lot of fun, but its currently in development so his mileage with that would vary.

  29. Thomas says:

    One of the Unreal Tournaments would be good for a while. UT2004 is better with bots IMHO than UT99 but it takes like 9GB of hard drive space, not to mention the GPU might not be up to it. You can get both plus Unreal and Unreal 2 in the Unreal Anthology (one dvd-rom)

    Painkiller took a lot of my time at school, again CPU/HD dependent.

    I put a lot of time into replaying Deus ex (+ fan missions) so if he hasn’t already sucked the life out of that one, it’s good.

    Grabbing a copy of ZSNES and some old roms (JRPGs like FFVI and Chrono Trigger are a good time sink, plus Super Metroid) is good, since they don’t need a mouse.

    +1 for Starcraft (the latest patch lets you play no-cd if you copy the data files)
    +1 for Total war if he has the CPU/HD for it
    +1 for C&C (the first decade pack has everything up to Generals on one DVD)

  30. Nazgul says:

    I like the Civ 2 recommendations. Depending on his personality, a turn-based game that worked either solo or multiplayer with friend(s) could be a really good thing. I’d also look at trying to hook up to another laptop if possible.

    I’d also look to get out of that room when I could. :)

  31. Nihil says:

    I feel compelled to point out that, with regards to enjoyable time / disk size ratios go, books beat video games fair and square. So before leaving for the ass-end of the world I’d make sure to get a good collection of e-books and some powerful reader software. With that out of the way…

    First, I’d hit up Abandonia.net and download, if not their entire archive, at least everything with a high rating and in a genre that interests me. There are plenty of well-known gems over there (Darklands, anyone?), and since the disk space consumption is minimal it’s worth it to see if you can stumble on something you love and would never have heard about otherwise (for me it was Floor 13).

    A similar approach applies to flash games. I assume there’s some way to automatically grab a local copy of all the stuff you can find on Kongregate or the like.

    After that, I’d include the classic RPGs I like. They don’t really provide *that* much replay value when compared to strategy games (I think I already know every possible line of PS:T by heart…), but since they generally clock in at less than a gig, and 7-Zip works well on them, it’s worth safeguarding myself against nostalgia.

    For bigger games, I would like to go into more detail but I’d just end up with a wall of text, so:

    – Rome: Total War Europa Barbarorum
    – Civilization 4
    – Whatever multiplayer FPS has the best bot AI and will run on my machine
    – Warcraft III just for the level editor
    – If disk size and processing power allows, NWN2 for the level editor, as well as two modules: one to create custom characters, one for an arena :)

    No Oblivion/Morrowind because the most fun part of it, IMO, is to discover new mods every week and follow their development. The same applies to the Baldur’s Gate saga.

    I’d also look into the Silent Hunter series. I never got around to try that, but it seems there’s a sizeable community that enjoys piloting realistic submarines on VERY long missions.

    And one, last, VERY IMPORTANT thing: I’d download and store detailed playthroughs and guides for EVERY SINGLE GAME you choose to bring around. Without them, not only you won’t be able to look up how to discover how to pass an impossible puzzle or, worse, a frustrating glitch – you won’t even have schoolmates to discuss it with like we used to in the pre-Internet days! It would be torture.

  32. I’ll second DaveMc about the DS. Civilization Revolution for the DS is a great game, The New Super Mario Bros is great. Mario Kart, Zelda, Final Fantasy III & IV…

    Extremely portable, great system, and he can probably by new games in Afghanistan (just don’t question the legality of it! :) )

  33. Peter H. Coffin says:

    I’m a fan of the classic Diablo II: LOD. Patch it up to the contemporary v1.12 before heading out and it won’t even need to spin a CD anymore, which is handy for stretching the battery life a bit. It’ll cheerfully run on a laptop even a half-decade old, and with multiple character classes, three built-in difficulty levels plus the options of giving oneself Hardcore and Ironman (no buying supplies or visiting towns outside of quest-related reasons) limitations, it’s good for dozens of differently-styled replays.

  34. Shinjin says:

    I’m going to have poo-poo one of your suggestions here – Dwarf Fortress would be terrible, unless you’ve been playing it heavily already (in which case there would be no reason for someone else to suggest you bring it with you).

    While Dwarf Fortress is a great game, it has a steep learning curve that involves heavy (*heavy*) wiki and forum use. So unless a given person has been playing it for months beforehand, there will be so many wtf and “how do I” moments that it would likely be quickly abandoned.

  35. Traska says:

    Master Of Orion II. There’s no better turn-based strategy for my money.

    Total Annihilation. It still holds up well.

    MAME and however many ROMs the dude wants.

  36. Derek K. says:

    Diablo and D2.

    Left4Dead High requirements, but the Director means it’s extremely replayable.

    Fallouts. Arcanum. Planescape. MOO2. Civs.

    And I’ll 2nd the DS. Front Mis sion and Final Fantasy Tactics (A2 and Advance). Many GBA games.

  37. gyfrmabrd says:

    I am surprised nobody mentioned Deus Ex (you know, that old first person cyberpunk-ish rpg that never got a sequel lalala I can’t hear you.)
    It’s available for ten bucks, maximum, and if you ask me, it’s still THE best game ever made.
    And I second Fallout/F2.
    Maybe a DOS-Box with some LA classics. And Beneath a Steel Sky.
    Should keep him occupied for a solid couple of hours.

  38. Tesh says:

    MOO 1 is still good, and Master of Magic is brilliant. I’ve still got those installed on my older laptop.

    I’ll second Defense Grid and Puzzle Quest. (I have the latter on my DS, as well as the aforementioned Fire Emblem and FFTA/FFTA2. Rebelstar Tactical Command is good, too.)

    Star Control 2 is fantastic, but I’m not sure of the best way to get a hold of it. Mech Commander is worth digging up, if you’re into the Battletech universe.

    I’m a bit surprised there’s no mention of any of the Panzer games while we’re talking strategy, but perhaps that strikes too close to home.

  39. Scott W. says:

    I agree with the other guys disagreeing with Dwarf Fortress, but had to plug the game anyway. Here are the latest two dev blog entries:

    # 02/11/2009: Today was compound fractures as well as fractured layers being knocked inward to damage soft inner portions. So a bone in the arm for example could break through the skin if the arm is struck by even a blunt weapon, and impacts can also force jagged skull edges into the brain or a broken rib into the heart or a lung (generally, the broken layers can cross body part boundaries according to the wound’s path over body part relationships). List updated.

    # 02/10/2009: I handled the liquid/gas/powder tissue creatures running into trouble today. Leaks of inner layers, solidification/condensation damage, wacking away parts of them, that sort of thing. List updated.

    That’s ridiculous.

  40. Cuthalion says:

    Actually, Mount & Blade has online activation. Or at least I think it did. I installed the demo. I don’t remember if I had to do the activation to play the demo or if that was for if I wanted to upgrade. (The demo is the full game, I think, except you can’t level up past a certain amount.)

    Also, while I dislike online activation, I think your reasoning is flawed: if you activate it before leaving, it would probably be fine. You’re not going to be upgrading your laptop’s hardware or OS in The Republic of Has-No-Games-istan.

  41. Korivak says:

    Any one of the Civilization games seems like the obvious choice. I spent a good many (offline) hours in my house playing Civ 2, SMAC, Civ 3 and most recently Civ 4, and there wasn’t even any gunfire outside keeping me there. If hard drive space is an issue, Civ 2 is tiny and still deeper than many modern strategies.

    In a similar vein, either Hearts of Iron or Making History, depending on your preference for either real time or turn based, respectively (for me, it’s the latter).

    Also, I second the suggestion of GOG. Everything there is small, needs no disc or activation, and is already fully patched and ready to go on modern systems. Many of the games there are from the good old days before it took three years of development to make less than ten hours of game, so the time-to-size ratio is good. The sixty dollars it would cost for one new game could probably buy you more entertainment than you could finish in the whole trip.

  42. haelduksf says:

    If I had to pick one game I’d go for Transport Tycoon, or the modern remake from http://www.openttd.org/en/.

    Though I didn’t much care for it, a lot of people loved Star Control 2, and there’s a free open source version of that one too.

    But really, why not spend a day on your favourite abandonware site and download a few dozen?

  43. Visi says:

    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2009/01/20/sound-of-the-underground-spelunky/

    “It’s called Spelunky. It’s basically Rick Dangerous meets Nethack: An underground platformer where each level is randomly generated whenever you play.”

    I also reccomend looking through GOG, lots of fun stuff there!

    Maybe download some ebooks or save some stories off fictionpress, there’s some decent stuff there. That’s what I did when I moved house and was without internet for a month.

    Edit : Oh, and the Sim games if you can find em! SimFarm is awesome!

  44. Brandon says:

    OK, let’s not forget that sometimes a little quick action is just what everyone needs. There are lots of little freeware and commercial action games. I’d say buy an arcade classics pack. Sometimes you just need to sit down and play something quick and dirty, with little commitment. All those long, involved games are great, but they won’t fulfill the action itch as well.

    I would say taking a balanced selection of games is key.

  45. Rick says:

    – Civilization (any version)
    – Puzzle Quest (both versions)
    – Star Craft
    – Some tower defense games
    – Chess/Checkers/Other ‘Board’ Games that can easily be played multiplayer on one computer (in case you have bunk mates that enjoy strategy games and that way it wouldn’t take up physical space.)

    A portable 250 (or more) GB external HD would offer plenty of disk space with very little physical space and would free you from rule #1. That would offer up the ‘download everything and sort it out later’ option.

  46. KarmaDoor says:

    Procedurally and randomly generated content is likely to be the key, here. I’m not a huge strategy fan, but I do know there are titles that can generate maps (with varying levels of success.) I will pipe in a few suggestions, mostly echoes.

    Diablo II – only last year did it finally meet the requirement of no CD checks, but it still can be entertaining, or at least a good, immersive diversion.

    Puzzle Quest – a very interesting mix of random “puzzle” play, avatar development (“RPG elements”,) and strategy. I’m supposing and PC version would have less bugs than the portable console releases.

    Spelunky – procedurally generated platform puzzles. I have yet to try it, but it comes across as unique.

    Tetris – easily the best strictly randomly generated action game. Any version is good, though I prefer Tetris DS and its Push mode.

    Yes, I’m suggesting a DS would be a good investment. So many good games of such a variety.

    A First-Person Shooter may not be a terrible idea given that AI ability is sufficient in some titles, but maps may become stale, even with user created additions.

    Card / tile / board games – AI certainly is strong enough for most people playing chess. Card and tile games randomness have kept generations going. It’s too bad that TCGs are too busy printing money to grow-up and finally generate a balanced product that can provide strategy and randomness (then again, the AI isn’t too hot in most of the electronic versions I’ve tried.)

  47. Freshmeat the Dead says:

    Well, after some consideration, my recommendations would be, in the catagories of disk-less and not:
    Disk-less, Diablo 2, the Dawn of War games… yeah, I don’t have many disk-less games that aren’t Steam related. Though, you do have to admit that Cuthalion up there has a point about not upgrading his computer.
    On the other hand, if it comes up, it’ll likely be because the computer got fragged.
    Otherwise, Steam, Halflife 2, Portal, load up on mods… I still haven’t gotten around to importing the HL2 campaign levels into the Portal engine. That’s gonna be worth one or two playthroughs right there.

    Now if you’re willing to deal with disks…
    The KoTOR games, the Mechwarrior 2 games (Mercenaries in particular), the original DOS Carmageddon can be fun, if you’re of the right mind…
    Tesh mentioned Mech Commander as well, and though I’d prefer Starcraft/Warcraft or Dawn of War to it, it had its moments. Halo 1 and 2 are both available on PC now, so those’re options as well. Halo Custom Edition has some great levels, but that’s prettymuch multiplayer only.

    A smart man would also look into throwing one or two dozen seasons of TV/anime shows (depending on tastes) onto the drive. Books are also good, and far too varied to make suggestions on. Comics or manga, if so inclined.

    I think that’s about all I can think to say on that.

  48. K says:

    I was in a similar situation recently, not as bad as Afghanistan, but no Internet and limited hard drive. I picked up X-Com once more (get some FaQs from Gamefaqs, in fact, do that for all games you bring with you).

    I would recommend a SNES emulator and all those great games, assuming he has not played them all yet. The average SNES game uses less than two megabytes and you will not run into performance issues on a notebook EVER. ;) The same goes for GBA, GB and of course Neo Geo emulators. Any RPG, fighter, shooter (and much more) on these machines is worth downloading. All in all, those would take less than 1 GB of data for a couple hundred great games.

    Nothing with CD-checks (or get a crack), those are a real hassle when “traveling”. Spelunky, Stonesoup with tiles (Nethack clone), cracked Diablo 2, cracked System Shock 2 possibly, Starcraft, Wizardry 8 (3 or 4 CDs, MUST be patched, but looong game, FaQ recommended), Cave Story, Lemming Ball Z, Jardinains, Aquaria.

    Funny how the games I recommend are either Indie or from the ’98 – ’02 era…

  49. sineWAVE says:

    Morrowind. OK, so little replay value, but who needs to replay when you’ve got all that world? I don’t know how good the builder is, but thats an option too.

  50. Legal Tender says:

    – Medieval 2: TW with the Stainless Steel mod available from twcenter.net They also have a mod coming based on The Lord of The Rings. That thing is going to be fantastic.

    (Heaven knows how many hours I’ve wasted with this thing).

    – Temple of Elemental Evil with the Circle of Eight’s mod available from CO8.org

    – Mount and Blade with the Hundred Years War mod available from taleworlds.com

    – Dark Star One. I don’t know any good mods for this one but it should add some Sci-Fi Shootey action to the mix

    None of these (save M2TW perhaps) demand a super-delux system so they seem to me like a good bundle for this person.

  51. Carra says:

    I was thinking about GoG too. I see 7 kingdoms will be on it soon. One of my all time favorite games with lots of replay value.

    I’d also want to bring a city builder game. Anno 1602 is my all time favorite and gives quite a bit of entertainment. Maybe pick up my city building package (caesar 2 3, pharaoh, zeus, emperor). The city building package could keep me busy for a long time :)

    I might bring the baldurs gate collection, should keep me busy for 300+ hours and been wanting to play it for a while.

    And maybe Rome: total war. Might actually have the time to finish a game then ;)

  52. Thomas says:

    @ #10 SharpeRifle

    What do you mean? What were the conditions you had while deployed?

  53. freykin says:

    I’d have to go with Gravy Trader, by Coconut Monkey. It’s the most indepth Klik’n’Play game ever made, I’ve spent many a night sleepless figuring out gravy exchange rates around the globe.

  54. Grimwauld says:

    I would recommend ADoM by far and away one of the great replayables :)

  55. Zaghadka says:

    I’ve found that Snood consumes a large portion of my time.

    It’s like “Puzzle Bobble” but it isn’t. Lotsa fun.

  56. skizelo says:

    If you go with Dwarf Fortress, you may want to start playing it when you still have an internet connection. The documentation is terrible (it’s still in beta, after all) and I needed to go to the forums for it to make the least sense.
    And any 4x games is good value. I’ll second Galactic Civilisations 2, but I don’t know how friendly it is to low-end computers.

  57. Simulated Knave says:

    For my picks:

    Planescape: Torment – Deep, deep, deep game, can take absolutely forever, minimal HD requirements. Definitely make sure you get the patch, though, since without it the game can freeze with a certain spell effect. May not work well on Vista. You can replay the hell out of it – I found new stuff on my fifth playthrough (nothing groundbreaking, but new).

    Kohan (either 1 or 2): Deep strategy, lots of fun.

    Dwarf Fortress also has a graphically improved version kicking around the net, which helps limit some of the learning curve.

    I’d second the vote for the Total War series. MechCommander was a remarkable amount of fun, and MechCommander 2 can actually be downloaded (legitimately) for free somewhere (along with several user-made campaigns).

    The Avernum series and Nethergate from Spiderweb Software can both consume a LOT of time. Nethergate’s the most unique, and I quite like Avernum 1-3 (though 1 is missing a Quest List. Gr..). The later ones, I have not played.

  58. WWWebb says:

    Tetris or your favorite, mindless casual game. Most of the games people mentioned above are engaging enough to cost you sleep (bad), so make sure they run in a windowed mode and you can see the clock.

    I second the emulator and arcade classics recommendations. Fun, easy to get into action with an ending (if you have enough “quarters”), but a different play experience each time.

  59. Guus says:

    @56, It’s friendly I think, the graphics are good but not demanding.

  60. LintMan says:

    Definitely worth getting nintendo DS – you can pack a lock of game chips in a small space, they’re cheaper than many PC games, and you won’t need net access for most DS games. (And as added perk if you find someone else with a DS, some games support wireless multiplayer).

    For the PC – I recommend Star Control 2 if you can find it (I think it comes free with Star Con 3, if you can find *that*). It’s got a great fun single player story, and a multiplayer “super melee” mode where two people can battle it out side by side using the same keyboard. (Sounds crowded, but I’ve done it and it works great).

    Dominions 2 or Dominions 3 from Shrapnel Games is an incredibly deep turn-based strategy with tons of sides/races. The learning curve might be a bit steep, though, if you’re just learning it and don’t have net access.

    Also from Shrapnel Games is a nifty little game called “Wierd Worlds”. You explore a randomized galaxy, meeting friendly and hostile aliens, and finding interesting objects technologies to outfit your ship with, before needing to return home after a set amount of time, with the most “stuff”. A typical game lasts maybe 20-30 minutes, but it’s extremely replayable (even more so because it’s easily moddable).

    I’ll also second the people who mentioned GalCivII (plus its expansions), and the DoW series. GalCivII is a huge sandbox game and it quite easily modable so there’s endless variety there. The DoW series has a some good story campaigns, and the later expansions add the territory-based metagame, offering a lot of variety there.

  61. Freggle says:

    Dear Shamus,
    I can’t understand why nobody has told you yet, so perhaps you told your reason in an older post I haven’t seen, but you manage to misspell each and every mention of Morrowind.

    Since I’m quite a fan of the game, and also a little bit of a spelling nitpicker (normally in Dutch), I do get a little bit irritated/agitated (whats the right word here?) by this.

    I’ve seen your objections against Oblivion, but I thought you were much more impressed by the storyline of Morrowind, so I can’t imagine you would try to insult the game or something like that. Besides, mistyping it Morronwind instead of Morrowwind would have been much more effective to that end ;).

    Can you please give me some reasonable explanation for this, or else try to prevent the typo in future mentions?

  62. Freshmeat the Dead says:

    Ug, I forgot a great game in my recommendations earlier.
    Silent Storm. WW2-era, turn based strategy game. I forgot it, because I had only borrowed it for a short time, and wasn’t on my shelf when I was thinking about this.
    Fair sure it’d go into the “require a disk” column.

  63. Jeff says:

    I think we should bomb the heathens in The Republic of Has No Videogames-istan. They’re the antithesis of everything this site stands for!

    I’ve been stuck on Icewind Dale 2 lately. If you do one run through, you can then get smashed in Heart of Fury mode.

    My friends and I were very stuck on Dawn of War (with all its expansions) for a while. It’s quite amusing. I imagine any RTS with skirmish mode can last a while.

  64. Rival Wombat says:

    As other people have said, Space Empires (4 or 5) is a great choice for a tiny timesink.The Fallout collection, up until 3, is a good choice as well.

    If you have the technical chops, Dawn of War: Dark Crusade is a highly repayable game that lets you run though single player with any of 7 races. Good if you like RTS.

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