Dec. 17th, 2014

I've missed a few weeks so I'm writing a longer entry to make up for it. Today I'm going to discuss my favorite hobby: video games. My favorite genre is fantasy 4x, so here is a list of my top F4x games:

#1: Master of Magic. The genre-defining "One Ring." Great races, tons of spells and units, good city management, and just a great mix of well-integrated skills and features. Even though its 20 years old, no one has topped it.

#2: Fall from Heaven. A Civ 4 mod, with all the pros and cons of a mod - and this one has gone through several generations worth. The races are amazing, a huge amount of variety, and several even have their own special rules. The tech tree is perfect, just the right amount of breadth and depth. The lore just might be the best part. The world is a living breathing entity, and each race has a unique role within it. The only drawback is the combat: its a statisticians dream. "You have a 73.625% chance to win this fight." Fortunately there are enough skills and abilities to keep it interesting. The game also has a very steep learning curve because the engine has been pushed WAY past what it was meant to do, and it can be very difficult to figure out how the mechanics work.

#3: Age of Wonders 3. Defined by extremely good tactical combat, a solid good map, and excellent class/skill trees. The only issue is a lack of variety. Each race has the same buildings and the same units, the only difference is a couple stat points. To their credit, this keeps the game balanced, and the latest DLC made great strides in this area. The next pack will add a unique active ability to each race, so I have high hopes for this game.

Honorable Mentions

- Elemental: War of Magic, Fallen Enchantress, Legendary Heroes (Yes, its that huge title is for one game). On paper this is the best game in the world. It has every feature you could ask for: advanced tech trees for research, buildings, and hero skills, a good map, excellent tactical combat, a solid spell system, even design your own units. Unfortunately the whole thing is brought down by 2 things: the engine, especially the GUI, is clunky and unintuitive, and the graphics look like they're 20 years old. This would be the greatest F4x game in history if a big studio like Fraxis took it over.

- Eador. A Russian game, they combined the usual tech trees and building trees into one, and the results are beautiful. Its a massive, sprawling, multi-tiered web of bonuses and units. There are a huge number of units and picking them from the gigantic trees is one of the best parts. The tac-com is also gorgeous, with hexes like HOMM (see below). Sadly, this game has a fatal flaw: the map. On the surface its a standard hex map, but you don't explore it like you'd expect. You place your army on one hex and press the "explore" button. This brings up a random encounter. If you win, the hex gets becomes around 2% "explored." That's right, it takes dozens of random encounters to "explore" a single hex. After your hours of warring, the new hex can be "worked" which gives you a minuscule amount of money. And by the way, now you have to defend the hex from random encounters (which don't appear as roving bands on the map, they just happen in the event dialog box).

- Heroes of Might and Magic. One of the most popular franchises, this game boasts some of the best races and tactical combat systems ever. The visuals are also world class. But for me the weekly growth mechanic ruined the army building, every week you just hit the "build all" button, with no strategic planning or countering what your opponents are making. Also, the stacking mechanic applies the dreaded "stack of doom" problem to every unit. Ergo, the whole game is a mindless race to get the biggest army fastest.