I have a guilty look about me at the moment. A guilt that stems from gaming. Oh, not anything caused by my exploits on Battlefield 3 or Skyrim- they’re normal games- my triumphs and lows are there, plain to see. No, it’s not my X360 causing the hot flush of self recrimination, it’s my laptop. No, not for that reason either, thank you…
Oh, I could point to some gaming classics on the hard drive. I could show off in a slightly hipsterish way- Look! I’m halfway through my nth play though of the the first x-com! I replayed the original version of Deus Ex in the last six months! I’ve tried getting Dungeon Keeper II to run stable enough to get past the 6th land! Nothing there to colour me crimson in embarrassment.
Alright, alright, damn you, I’ll tell you about it…
You see, I downloaded Sins Of A Solar Empire from Valve’s Steam about a while ago and just started playing it. Typically, I love it. It ticks several boxes by its existence alone- a strategy game, set in space. I love space and I love strategy games, be it turn based (a la Civ), real time (Command & Conquer) or a hybrid (Total War). Ever since loading ‘Quest’ on the Dragon32 pc as a wee nipper, carefully guiding the flashing white cursor around a largely empty map, hoping for random encounters before taking my glorious cursor… I mean army… to its final confrontation with the capital ‘T’ of doom, I’ve been seduced by that special savage glee of grinding your enemy’s armies, cities and culture into dust. It must be a megalomaniac thing (played it, loved it), carefully laying plans before executing them flawlessly, or not as the case all too often is. In that situation, it’s that delicious feeling at having successfully adapted your plans at the last minute, which is a rather poncy way of admitting the relief you felt when you extricate your battered forces from an ill considered assault just in time to defend against a counter-attack. Which in my case, happens a lot.
And that’s the source of my shame you see- Strategy Games- my favourite genre… I’m not actually very good at them. I don’t, can’t, play CIV III on higher than the third difficulty level which is pretty poor when you consider that there is something like eight of them. Any time I’ve attempted multiplayer RTS’s, I’ve lost my base before even finding the enemy’s. Even a single player real-time strategy game takes six times longer for me to play than most people because I actually batter the pause button. I’m happiest when I can issue orders during ‘pause’. I might even let a whole ten seconds pass before I jab the pause button again due to lack-of-order anxiety and have to check on every little unit, every building, every research option, every exposed piece of the fog-of-war.
I am being a bit harsh with myself, when forced to, I can rise to the challenge. Take what I consider to be the finest RTS title I have ever played: Homeworld. A space-set RTS in true 3D- x,y and z axis all present and correct. There was only one difficulty- ‘Damn Tricky’, and no chance to issue orders whilst the game was paused. It took me ages, but with a game as atmospheric and well executed as that, every moment was a joy. I grinded my way through the missions, murmuring in appreciation of the backdrops and music, but swearing as I lost half my fleet…again. But I did it.
I’ve completed X-COM and TFTD on hard a couple of times, notoriously difficult turn-based strategies but admittedly using more ‘lives’ (technically – ‘LOAD GAME’s) than Buddha’s schizophrenic cat had.
I’ve completed the ‘Imperium Galactica’ – a game that bafflingly began harder than it was to finish. Actually Imperium Galactica was just baffling overall, I was just being picky. But you get the idea- I can do it, I just don’t like it when I’m not completely crushing the enemy under my boots of assumed awesomeness.
So there it is, my secret shame resurfacing. I’m playing Sins of a Solar Empire on easy and spamming the pause button sufficiently to cater to my ‘rubbing hands with glee at every development’ compulsion. You know what? Who cares? I’m having fun, and that surely is the point. I’ll progress to normal difficulty in my own time, but will probably avoid hard….