From the computer to the tabletop, this is all about games. Updated each week-end.
The early 2000s continued my dive into strategy games, with a bit of action on the side. This was the decade that online play finally became a relevant feature, and was integrated into most games. For some, it became the sole focus, although single-player mode was a relevant feature for most games, still.
Diablo II (2000)
I played this game for over 10 years, online and off. Yet the first time I played it, I didn’t care for it at all. The graphics were fine, but the gameplay wasn’t immediately gripping for me. It was only after the expansion that I really began to play the game, and dedicated many hours to runs designed purely to gain imaginary treasure. I won’t be getting those hours back.
Europa Universalis II (2001)
This was my next all-nighter game. For me this game had the perfect balance between complexity, strategic depth, and playability. It was not a simple game, but it drew you in, and before you know it you are learning and improving as you go.
Factions were absolutely not balanced. The pre-eminent powers of the game’s starting year had a clear advantage. Historical events during the game were drawn straight from history, and gave players some interesting choices that could have ramifications even centuries later.
I installed this game a couple of years ago. Not to play, but to get the soundtrack files for my playlist. The music for this game was another factor that drew the player in.
Mechcommander 2 (2001)
I had enjoyed the first part of this game, but the second perfected the blend of mech combat and strategic command play. I wait in vain for a third installment of this game.
The game puts you as the commander of a mercenary unit. After a twisting story full of betrayals you end up fighting against every faction that has so far hired you! The final battles were great fun, and the mech pilots each have their own personality, some more than others.
The game had some good replayability, since you could choose your machines and play back through the missions with different mech combinations.
Unreal Tournament 2004 (2003)
If I recall correctly this was the third game released under the Unreal title, but I could well be wrong. What made this game was the online play mode of Onslaught. This game allowed you to play against other people (or offline against bots) in a game that seamlessley took you from foot combat to steering main battle tanks, flyers, and other vehicles around the map.
I spent one very happy afternoon downloading and then playing maps build by the community for Onslaught mode. and those provided with the game had their own inherent challenges too.
Playing Onslaught allowed for a complete gaming experience in a short space of time, something to be treasured in between longer strategy games.
Medieval II Total War (2006)
Speaking of long strategy games, here is the king of my world. Medieval II gave you command of a number of factions from the 11th century forward. The objective was straightforward map control, usually with one particular city needed as well as over half the map.
Invasions by Mongols and Timurid forces added an extra challenge, and of course the game had tons of replayability. I still found myself wishing for more factions and an expanded map though.
With thousands of infantry and cavalry on the screen together, this scratched an itch that games like Warhammer couldn’t get to.