Ok I’ll admit it, I’m cheap; I’m a frugal, bargain hunting dime-store scavenger. That is why 2012 was a pretty awesome year for someone like me. Games are being sold for less, Steam sales are an almost daily event, and free-to-play titles with microtransactions are becoming more common. Hell, I don’t even think my last five purchases totaled more than $40, making this my most cost effective year as a gamer ever since my parents stopped buying my games for me.
While there are plenty of end-of-the-year lists, encompassing everything from the best games of the year to the worst, given my proclivity for penny pinching I thought It best to list what I thought were the best deals of the year. This list is by no means all inclusive as I couldn’t possibly play everything, but it outlines what I feel were pound for pound the best deals I experienced in 2012. Feel free to leave a comment if you think I missed anything critical, I’m always looking for a good deal. Also, I chose to not include free-to-play titles as they operate obviously on a different level.
Don’t Starve (Currently $11.99)
I bought Don’t Starve a few months ago during a Steam sale, snagging it for about $5. I didn’t know what to expect, but I figured that even a few hours spent on a game that was only five bucks would be worth it. Thirty hours later I think it’s safe to say that I got my money’s worth, but it doesn’t end there.
Don’t Starve follows what has now become a pretty common business model; release the game in alpha for cheap, slowly raising the price as more content is added. If it sounds familiar that’s because it’s the same model used by Minecraft – The earlier you get on board with the game the more content you get for less. There have been about four content patches since I bought the game, transforming it from a fledgling sandbox game to a full-blown adventure game. Each patch adds more items and interactions for players to create their own little safe haven in a world that’s trying very hard to kill you.
It’s a combination of Minecraft and those point-and-click adventure games made popular by Double Fine. Each item added to the game serves multiple purposes; seeds for example can be eaten, planted, cooked, or used as bait to catch birds. It’s a resource management game with a dark almost Tim Burton-like feel. I may not play it every day, but every time I load it up there is something new to do, making the five bucks I spent on it more and more worth it.
Chivalry (Currently $16.74)
Chivalry is a game I’ve always wanted to play, yet didn’t know it. First person games have been around for about fifteen years, but most have been centered on shooting and/or ranged combat. Yes there are other first person melee games, but none that let me wield a battle axe with as much brutal efficiency as Chivalry. It probably has something to do with how difficult it is to design realistic and intuitive controls for the subtle nuances of melee combat. Just ask the makers of Clang who as I write are hoping to give the same attention to detail in swordplay as other developers do for assault rifles.
Chivalry is messy, brutal, and, in many ways, completely ridiculous. While there are plenty of videos outlining the proper and honorable ways in which to fight efficiently, sometimes just grabbing the biggest weapon and swinging like a maniac is just as efficient. Well maybe not efficient, according to my teammates, but rewarding nonetheless.
I’m not that great at the game, in fact I’m pretty terrible. Most of the time that would be a bad thing, but here it adds to the realism and messiness of old-school medieval combat. Sure I may accidentally decapitate my teammates as well as my enemies, but you can’t make an omelet without decapitating some chickens. Wait, that’s not right, I’m not very good with idioms. When in Rome, I guess.
Legend of Grimrock (Currently $14.99)
To be honest Legend of Grimrock’s map editor alone is worth the $15 I paid just for the fun of making customized dungeons. I’ll admit I originally slept on this title. Either I didn’t see the appeal or I was literally asleep when the game came out, but when Steam had a sale a month ago I picked it up to see what the fuss was about. Three hours later the notepad in front of me was labeled with all sorts of notes and ideas for more effective adventuring. Once again my enjoyment level for a game could be measured by the insanity of the notes I took while playing – just below things like “Call Grandma” and “Buy Christmas Cards” are headings like “4 Mage Skill Build” and “I can hear Skeletons but can’t find them.”
Legend of Grimrock is great because it reminds me of the pen-and-paper games that got me into all of this in the first place. It’s simple in theory, yet difficult in execution. There are vastly less combat encounters than in other games but each one is much more potent. I’ve killed plenty of skeletons in my day but none felt as good as this, finally silencing them after hours of their non-stop marching.
Also, the simple yet intricate level editor means a whole lot of fans are making and sharing content for the rest of us to enjoy for free.
Awesomenauts (Currently $4.99)
I don’t really understand how they can sell this game for five bucks. When I saw how cheap it was my first assumption was that it must not be that good. While it normally sells for $10, this is the second time Steam has sold it at 50% off; making what is already a good deal a great one.
Thanks to the success of MOBA’s as a fully fledged genre many newer titles have looked to them for gameplay inspiration. But Awesomenauts isn’t just a MOBA; it’s a MOBA with a dash of Super Smash Brothers, a slick sidescrolling combat arena with both a solid theme and solid gameplay.
It doesn’t look like much at first, but given time there’s a lot of strategy to find just under the surface. Each of the characters are unique, customizable, and fun to play. The matchmaking works well, even if you do sometimes get thrown into a game that’s already started. Although it isn’t super competitive (throwing players into games that have already started or AI controlled bots tends to do that), it is fast paced with very little downtime. In fact the lack of competition is a nice break from the never ending rage that’s normally included with online games.
I can’t think of a game that gives more bang for your buck in 2012, perhaps with the exception of…
Endless Space (Currently $14.99)
Normally $30 (still cheap for what you get if you ask me), Endless Space is now on sale again, this time for about $15. It’s every bit as robust and pretty as Civilization V with many of the game’s features emulating Firaxis’ tried and true 4x strategy sim formula. I have to admit that this game snuck up on me. I’ve always been a Civilization fan, but past that I don’t normally go for these types of games. Even though Endless Space operates with the same formula, it’s very much its own game.
Again, the free updates are important, as are the customization options. Sure without them the game would be good, but with them the game is truly great. I’ve spent a lot of time waging intergalactic war against the computer (which cheats its pants off), but I’ve also spent some time playing online with friends and strangers alike.
Civilization’s multiplayer is good, but after a few centuries on a large map the game chugs big time. Not so with Endless Space, while the maps look smaller there’s much more density as each star system is full of planets to explore and resources to exploit. Fans of these types of games will find many familiar elements, shortening the learning curve, while new players will probably find some of what they see a bit daunting at first.
It truly is a beautiful looking game, with well thought out perks, luxuries, and resources. It will be on sale until January 5th, if you’re looking for a fun and complex time-sink. I highly recommend it.