Ah, yet another year has passed, and the release of yet another Assassin’s Creed is upon us. That is, unless you’re in the PC master race and especially unless you live in Europe. Since its multiplayer is looking to be the finest yet, it’s understandable that you’d be anxious to play it. Who even bothers with the SP any more? Either way, in order to help you across this dreadful period just before release, here’s a list of pretty fine games that will be as kind to your soul as is Assassin’s Creed multiplayer. The best part? They’re all on Steam and you can get all of them for the combined price of less than you’d pay for AC4, so you can save up more money to toss at 1:1 conversion rates.*
The Stanley Parable
Okay. Stop. Stop reading this article and buy this game right now. There’s simply no words for it, so take mine and play it yourself. It’s like reading a book, except with 100 pictures per second and all the words read to you by an excellent narrator. Also, if you don’t like where the story is going, you can take a different turn and jump to your death just to prove a point. Gameplay-wise, I’d classify it as the lovechild of Antichamber and Thomas Was Alone. There isn’t really any gameplay, come to think of it. You just spend a lot of time walking through chambers that would make Newton roll in his grave while listening to somebody narrating everything you do. However, there are two things to explore around every corner, and three around each bend. And it’s awesome. If this can’t convince you of its quality, I don’t know what will.
Kerbal Space Program
Best classified as “Make your own entertainment”, KSP drops you off in a virtual solar system much like our own. The goal? Who knows, but perhaps the infinite supply of rocket parts and willing volunteers at your disposal can give you a hint. It’s quite physically accurate, in that you will explode and die a lot. Once you get to the point where you vaguely know what you’re doing though, nothing stands between you and the farthest reaches of space. Aside from the deep space Kraken, of course. Watch out for that. It just has been updated to 0.22 to provide some actual career gameplay. If you’re going to get in, now is the best time.
Faster Than Light
Moving on to times of not exploding on the launchpad, we have this little beauty. Like with the Civilization series, you can easily sink a weekend into FTL and mourn no loss. At the base, it’s a roguelike like any roguelike you might have played. You’re here, you want to go there, and you try not to get murdered on the randomly generated way. With several dozen of random events and a soundtrack that keeps you entertained by itself, FTL will deliver far more than the price promises. It starts off a little slow, but once you manage a few games and get the unlockables rolling, there’s nothing in space that’s out of your reach. A little warning though, it is a true roguelike and quite hard at that, so expect to die a lot of times before you even make it halfway through.
Full disclosure: you need to know a bit about how to play this game in order to learn how to play it. Jumpy learning curve aside, Don’t Starve provides a genuine fight for survival in a world where many, many things are out to kill you. Not only that, but you want to get somewhere, don’t you? So in addition to not starving, which will take up around a third of your playtime at least, you’ll be scrounging for resources to build better and better things. And these things tend to make your inevitable demise less likely to occur. You’ll find yourself running around the Burtonesque world, escaping monsters, gathering food, and genuinely planning ahead since there’s always too little time for anything. And then there’s winter. If only you had been better prepared when it came…
Like The Stanley Parable, not technically a game. However, when you’re getting more engaged stamping passports than you are getting spoonfed explosions and cover-based “gameplay”, I think something has gone right. Papers, Please puts you in the role of an Arstotzkan border inspector. Out of the games in this list, I’d say that this one captures the spirit of AC multiplayer the best, for you will be punished for missing the tiniest detail, as you’re paid for each customer treated correctly. Since you desperately need the money to keep your family alive, just getting a warning (and thus lack of payment) can be devastating, not to mention getting fined. The problem? You play a major role in a ton of storylines, forcing you to make real decisions while sitting in a border post all day. Sure it would only be right to admit the man who needs surgery available only in Arstotzka, but can you afford the loss of breaking the rules? Glory to Arstotzka.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Okay, this one costs slightly more. However, out of the XCOM games that I played, it’s the clear superior. Maybe I’m biased because I only played it and that crappy game that calls itself XCOM, though.
“Out of the two games I played, this was less shitty than the other.” Now there’s a quote to put on the box. Yes, it has a tendency to kill off your entire squad in a series of events you could not possibly have seen coming and against which you can do sweet fuck-all. Still, if you can tolerate intuitive controls and mechanics that serve gameplay instead of demanding to copy something that came out twenty years ago, you’ll have fun.
Besides, as if you really had to pay for it. It seems that 2k want to punish Firaxis for making a good game, so they’re giving it away until everybody has three copies. Ask around or wait for another 2k release, you’re bound to find one for free. In fact, I have two spare copies that I’m willing to give to YOU! Simply comment down below what are your favorite taunts for the aliens you just shot. Winning entries will be chosen using my personal judgement to decide. Game is distributed digitally using Steam, an account on which is required. Comment with a valid email adress, else you’re already disqualified. Void where prohibited, one entry per person, blah blah blah. Contest only open to residents of planet Earth.
Honourable mention 1: Antichamber
While I’m willing to tolerate some lack of gameplay, I’m not sure I can call walking through hundreds of hallways that all somehow lead into the same room a game. Rather, it’s a life experience. An enjoyable one at that. It’s mostly exploration with some logic puzzles built around cubes or perspective. Don’t ask me how the perspective puzzles work in a game that straight up ignores the laws of space.
Honourable mention 2: Outer Wilds
If you want KSP with easier physics and more stuff to explore other than realistic planets, this is the game for you. It’s not on Steam though and still very much in Alpha, which it makes up for by being completely free. It drops you off in a small solar system filled with planets that demand you to discover all of their secrets. The only limit is the sun going supernova and killing everybody, sooner than you might think. Fortunately for you though, you’re stuck in a time loop, so you’ll just get right back to the start to find even more things. And die again. It won’t keep you busy for more than perhaps two hours at most, but I can promise those will be two of the best hours you ever spent.
*Why, I’d love to pay 30% more for absolutely no reason at all. Everybody on another side of the planet than yours is just literally rolling in money anyway, right?