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Games That You Are Supposed To Like

March 1st, 2007 by Troy Goodfellow · 5 Comments · Me

From Peter Berger’s recent post about Galactic Civilizations II.

Stardock’s Galactic Civilizations II is a great game. I can’t stand it.

It appeals to a lot of players, has simple game mechanics, an acceptable UI, and a very high degree of polish. There are many people whose opinions I respect who enjoy it immensely, and you might be one of them.

I am not one of the people that enjoy Galactic Civilizations. It bores me. It bores me to tears.

I suspect I’m not the only person who has a list of games they think they should like, but don’t. If I simply didn’t like GalCiv I would have played it once and ignored it. But instead, every so often I forget that I don’t like it. It’s simple to learn, hard to master! It’s polished! It’s shiny! I’ll play it again, and maybe this time I’ll like it!

Peter’s objections to GalCiv 2 largely boil down to pacing, in my opinion. Buildings can be queued and upgrade automatically, so there isn’t much domestic micromanagement after the first few turns. Relying on this, however, would only exacerbate his problems with the “end turn” button being the only thing to do. It’s a thoughtful look at a game that I, personally, think is easily the best space 4x game available, improved by the recent expansion.

The opening, however, got me thinking about games that I am supposed to like but don’t. Not the usual pointless claptrap about games being “overrated” or about the mass of humanity not being tuned into my deeper wavelength. Just games that I recognize as being quality product, games that I can rationally accept as milestones or important titles, but that still don’t entertain me or amuse me. Kind of like how I can watch Animal House, understand why people find it funny but still find myself flipping the channel to watch a Girlfriends marathon.

Age of Empires II fills this spot for me. From a pure game design perspective, it is an objectively better game than the original AoE game. It had formations, town centers that vigorously defended themsevles, unique units to separate the factions, better peon management…all of these are so standard now that it’s easy to forget how these changes wowed the critics.

But, to quote Peter, “It bores me to tears.”

Part of the problem was that the cool stuff became uncool after a while. It took a while before the race balancing made the Teutonic Knight unit anything but a juggernaut (he was hard to kill and harder to convert) and the introduction of the trebuchet to a generation of gamers somehow meant that this Weapon of Medieval Destruction would be the god unit. If your opponent could get three trebuchets out before you could get even one, you were screwed. They would target your castle and that would be it. Using a square formation around a few siege units could make you invincible, especially against an AI that really had no idea what it was doing half the time.

The larger problem was that the game seemed dry to me. It had a brain, but not a lot of heart, and refreshed all of the original Age of Empires goodness but with not enough of the cartoon coolness.

Don’t fill the comment box with explanations of what I am missing. I played a lot of Age of Kings. I know what I am supposed to be missing. I accept that it is, in all likelihood, one of the most important RTS titles of all time. And it’s a real treat compared to Warcraft II, which I played almost to the end of the campaign and enjoyed none of. But I don’t get why AoK was the most popular RTS of all time (except for in Korea).

Please do fill the comment box with confessions that some great games aren’t for all people.


5 Comments so far ↓

  • Alan

    I’ll begrudingly admit that there are plenty of games that I’m supposed to like, but for whatever reason I simply don’t care to play them. Homeworld is on the list, not because it’s a bad game, but because I consider it just another RTS-by-attrition. I blame Westwood and the early Command & Conquer games for establishing what turned out to be a really crummy mission design, which everyone else saw fit to copy up until Age of Empires arrived on the scene.

    As much as it pains me to say it, GalCiv and GalCiv II also fall into this category, but for entirely different reasons. Mostly, I never felt like I ever had a good grasp of how the games worked, at least not in the same way that I felt I understood other turn-based games like Civ IV or Age of Wonders. Maybe it was the lack of tutorials, or perhaps just that too many game mechanics were hidden “under the hood” for my liking.

  • JonathanStrange

    I like 4x turn-based strategy games and I like space settings, but I’ve never enjoyed GalCiv or GalCiv2. And I’ve tried many times. It’s just rather dull. I’ve no real feeling that I’m dealing with several idiosyncratic alien species with weird techs and strange combat tactics. I mostly look at the universe map and think “Oh. Orange is expanding. Red is collapsing. Green is at risk.” And click the end turn button. There’s no need for me to devise new battle tactics or outfit new warships with point-defense systems or plasma cannons to counter this or that threat. Just click end turn and move on. At least with CivIV, for example, there’s strategic territory: bottlenecks, high ground, ocean barriers, river crossings; and the terrain’s interesting to look at to boot. I still recognize that this game seems to have the ingredients all there, I’m just not enjoying the results.

  • Taranis

    For me it has to be COH, I have only played the demo but I really just didn’t feel it. Sure it has amazing graphics, sound and it looks like a great MP game but I felt like I was interacting with a movie instead of contemplating different strategy’s to defeat the enemy and the pace of the game was also a turn off for me. I’ll probably buy it once it hits the bargin bins and give it a second chance, right now though I really don’t have the urge to go out and buy it.

  • Krupo

    Should’ve stuck it out with Homeworld – if anything, their missions were pretty unique, but I totally understand where you’re coming from looking at it from other angles.

    I think I hit that problem – games I should enjoy but haven’t – with flight sims. I have two sitting around gathering dust which I should’ve flown tons of sorties in, but the desire to do it in ‘true sim fashion’ was shot down in flames by the lack of committment/time to learn HOW to do it in true sim fashion. Sigh.

  • Eumel

    Company of Heroes here, too. Rather well designed, but all to soon I remembered why I don’t like RTS games. Too many things happening at the same time — so I end up constantly pausing the game, especially when I’m fighting on several fronts. This is too fast for me, or I am too slow.

    I also never liked the Baldur’s Gate games. They are vast and looked very interesing at first sight, but there was too much (real-time) combat for me, so I got bored very quickly. Planescape: Torment on the other hand…