February Favorites – 3

I hope you’re enjoying February. For me, it’s the toughest or second toughest month of the year. both February and March represent a time that I’m tired of winter, I’m tired of being inside, and tired of indoor hobbies. I’m ready for outdoors and I’m ready for sun!

But winter means a lot of video games for me. It’s how I like to pass way the time in the winter. So here, goes, a list of my favorite video games.

Where possible, I’ve tried to grab a quick image from in game, or from an official game page. It’s not surprising, that on my favorite game list, I still have most of these installed on my PC despite running low on hard disk space.

Diablo 3 – #1 PC

Diablo 3 is the perfect game for me. A friend introduced me to the game. I played thousands of hours…yes, thousands. Besides maybe Magic the Gathering (in real life and digitally), I don’t have thousands of hours in any other game.

Diablo 3 has the best aspects of an ARPG game that I love. Simplicity. Easy to learn, hard to master. Not too many buttons. Lots of interesting characters to play. Lots of replay options and enjoyment. Good balance of solo and group play. Seasons with different rewards.

At the height of my play, I’d get home from work, start playing, eat dinner while playing, and play until bed time multiple times a week. It’s very rare that I get into a game like this for so long and for so many hours.

I also got into hardcore mode, in which death means your character is permanently dead. Gone. Murder, death, kill. It’s riveting. You lose them and have to restart. It was so exciting. My first death though, I was crushed. You have to advance in the game quite a bit slower to avoid silly deaths.

I was obsessed with Diablo 3. Often, I think about going back and playing again. I might just have to reinstall and try again.

Valheim – #2 PC

Valheim – Stormy weather – my world

Valheim was released in early 2021, by a small developer and it caught fire. The game was very reasonably priced. I picked it up on a whim. Then I talked to a friend who talked to a friend and soon 5 or 6 of us were playing on a server. Super great solo and group game!

This game hits the mark for me again. I have 300 hours into this game and recently restarted it again out of curiosity. The game can be a little repetitive, but I find it so relaxing.

You chop down trees. You hunt for boar and deer to collect their hides and meat. You mine for tin, copper and silver. There are different environments: meadows, forest, mountains, plains, sea, ocean. You sail across the world. You build a house/base. The building mechanism is pretty enjoyable. I’ve spent a week just cutting trees, picking up rocks and building a base for fun.

And when you die, it can really hurt. You drop all of your stuff when you die, in that location. You usually die against an angry mob, so your body is always in a scary place. The game also returns you home. So if you got jumped or forgot to set a portal, you might have to rebuild gear and a new boat, so you can return to reclaim your inventory off your body.

I just really like this game a lot.

Magic the Gathering – #1 Tradeable card game (TCG) – PC

Magic The Gathering – Arena – my main page

The game is known by many names. I’ll refer to it as MTG or Magic. I started playing MTG in 1993 when I started post secondary school at NAIT (Northern Alberta Institute of Technology). I started in the first year of release for Magic. Had I known how big it was going to be, I would have held onto and bought more cards in the early days.

I have some old and valuable cards considered to be the best cards ever made. The highest valued cards from the first set are worth tens of and hundreds of thousands of dollars. The best card from the first set in perfect shape is worth a quarter of a million dollars! I wish I had one of these.

MTG is the only other game that I’ve spent thousands of hours playing. I played both Magic with real cards (IRL – in real life), and a ton of digital Magic on the two platforms available. I made a lot of friends playing Magic. I even made the Canadian Nationals event in Calgary one year. I hung out with some of the top players in Edmonton. I might have finished near the bottom, but I was in the top of Canadian players that year. It was fun!

I’ve played a lot of competitive Magic and a lot of casual Magic. I even went to a professional Grand Prix in Denver with friends. We had the time of our life. I got to play and meet some famous Magic players like Brian Kibler and Randy Buehler. They are both in the Magic hall of fame. I played Brian in Denver and he showed me why he’s a hall of famer. I sat next to Randy on an airplane (coming or going from GenCon for Dreamblade) and I was a fanboy!

I think for me, TCGs just have a little too much luck factor for me to enjoy long term. And while I love to play them, I’m not sure that I’m as good as my ego would like me to be, and for some reason, I have a hard time playing a competitive game and sucking. It’s a flaw.

But there is something about TCGs that I love. MTG has a hook in me. I watch a lot on Twitch and YouTube. I still return once in a while and play MTG Arena online. It’s fun.

Gods Unchained – #2 Tradeable card game (TCG) – PC

Gods Unchained – my main page

If you read my hindsight articles, you’ll know that I started looking into crypto currencies in 2021. As part of that investigation, I found Gods Unchained which is a new style of TCG where your cards are monetized as NFTs and you earn crypto just for playing the game. It’s a cool concept. And I haven’t invested any money, so it’s free to play for now. It’s the crypto version of Hearthstone which I have played in the past.

I started playing in November 2021. The main problem, is that my skill level and understanding of the game far exceeds the cards that I have. I’ve got into the game close to the beginning, but not early enough. The first couple of sets are no longer available and there are some powerful cards out there that I cannot own unless I’m willing to pay thousands of dollars. Yes, you heard that, thousands.

So, I’m quietly playing, collecting crypto and re-investing what I can to improve my card base. You win packs for playing. So my decks are getting stronger. But my ranking is going up. As that happens, I face tougher opponents with the top cards. It’s like I’m playing cards, but all of the face cards have been removed on my side. It’s an uphill battle.

And like all TCGs, there is a luck factor that I find difficult. I’m currently on a doozy of a losing streak, winning only 2 times in the last week. That’s difficult. But for now, this is my TCG of choice. I enjoy the community. I’ve found a streamer that I enjoy.

The game has weekend rank tournaments for rewards. You get rewards equal to the number of wins you get in your first 25 played games on the weekend. I hit Mythic rank (top rank) for the first time last week and I’m starting to win more packs on the weekends. But Mythic is hard!

Maybe this is no different than other TCGs that I’ve started to play and stopped: Eternal, Hearthstone, MTG, Legends of Runeterra, etc. They release too many cards, too many sets and the game starts costing too much money to keep up. You can only get so far in a free to play game before you need to buy packs when new sets come out or you resign yourself to always being behind. I guess the difference is that I’m gaining NFTs that might hold some value if this game continues.

We’ll see where this goes.

Fallout – Console xBox then PC

Fallout 76 – image from my game play

I used to play a lot on the xBox, until Microsoft decided that they were going to audit a fraud complaint from me, and took it to the “nth” degree. I’m still mad about it and never returned to console gaming and pulled everything except for my PC Windows license from Microsoft. I mean, it’s inconvenient to use Google Docs, but I refuse to give them my money unless I have to. Haha. I can hold a grudge with the best of them.

Fallout is my favorite console type game. I have played all of the Fallouts. Some are better than others. They are almost all fun. The games have lots of pieces I enjoy. There is something about running around thru abandoned buildings and looting everything you can find. There is a great RPG aspect to building your character. There is a minor survival theme within the game. And you can build houses and bases. There is lots of loot.

Really, the game has everything I enjoy in a game. I’m not the hugest fan of Fallout 76 on release though. And I’ve heard they’ve fixed it. But some games evolve into something that isn’t as enjoyable. That happened with 76. But overall, the Fallout games are super fun to play.

BioShock – Console xBox

BioShock Big Daddy – image from Steam game page

Specifically BioShock #1 is one of my favorite games. I played this game in the dark on my tv with the speakers turned up. It’s one of the creepiest games I’ve played. The atmosphere is creepy. Big daddies are scary. Little sisters are disturbing.

The sounds and shadows in this game got me. Every time I turned around the corner, I wasn’t sure what to expect. There is nothing like turning a corner and have a Big Daddy amble after you.

Really, just a nice shooter with RPG aspects that had a perfect atmosphere for me. BioShock #2 was good too. But after that, I lost interest. There is something about a popular game like this where I love the simplicity in the first release, but then the game evolves into something more complex in future releases.

Ms. Pacman – Classic arcade

I played the original Pacman on Atari and loved it. As a kid, I was good enough to learn the patterns and started playing the game left handed for a challenge.

As an adult, I have an arcade and Ms. Pacman is one of my go to games. I just love eating pellets, power pellets and ghosts. You can also chow down on the occasional fruit. The game is simple to play and hard to master; just me and a joystick!

It’s playable by anyone and it’s a riot to see how non-gamers play Ms. Pacman and freak out when the ghosts are chasing them! Nom-nom-nom!

Golden Tee Golf – Classic arcade

This is another go to game on my arcade. But I also played hundreds of hours of this in the pub. A buddy and I used to feel coins into Golden Tee instead of the slot machines. The game is so simple. Put a roller ball in an arcade and use it to play golf. Experienced players know how to hook or slice the ball. And everyone who has played the game knows that you hit putts as hard as you can to make them! A classic…FORE!

Stranded Deep – Survival

Stranded Deep – my last game save

This is a great, and cute survival game. You crash your plane on an island. You have to cut down trees, collect coconuts, collect water, build camps and tend to a garden. You build your raft by collecting supplies but watch out for the sharks in the water. This game was super fun and got me into survival games.

But I now realize that I don’t enjoy survival games too much, but I enjoy collector games. Games that you run around and collect things to make new stuff to advance the game. This is a mini-version of Valheim. And I keep looking for the next great collector to enjoy!

New World – MMORPG

New World – pic from Steam page

It’s funny to say that I enjoy RPG games, but I don’t enjoy MMORPG games. Massively multiplayer online role-playing games are all of the rage. Lots of people online. PVE. PVP. Guilds & clans. Tasks. Collecting things. I really enjoy these games. But most of these games don’t have enough of a solo gameplay feel for me. You have to be part of a big group to enjoy them. You have to complete your daily, weekly and monthly tasks to move forward. PVP players are always rewarded way more than PVE players.

But I played a couple hundred hours of New World before I got bored. It had some similar elements that Valheim did around collecting things. I thought I might like Lost Ark released by Amazon this week, but it just doesn’t grab me.

I never did reach max level in New World, and I haven’t played in weeks. I just recently uninstalled it for the space. But I got my money’s worth out of the game.

Dota Underlords – autochess

Dota Underlords – pic from Steam page

Lastly is Dota Underlords. I don’t know how I discovered auto-chess games, but I found this one a lot of fun and it’s another game that I played for hundreds of hours. The game, of course, is simple to play but hard to master. You pick creatures every turn to build a team that you place on a chess board like play area. And then they battle. You don’t control the battle, only where you play each creature.

Every round, you rinse and repeat: get money, buy creatures, place them, auto-battle. There was something relaxing about this game that I really enjoyed. You need to see what your opponents are doing, you need to react a little to a creature type that might be available, you have to pay attention to creatures that work well together, and placement is key. Where you place each character can affect the tides of battles.

Honorable mentions

Call of Duty Warzone – I tried to get into one of the top first person shooter games and played it solid for about 1/2 year. I enjoyed it, but I’m just no good against other players in a game like this. Just make this game with AI opponents, and I think I could really enjoy it. I really suck at PVP games, but I tried to enjoy this. After 6 months of play, I still didn’t have a Warzone victory.

Quest 2 Virtual Reality – I really enjoy VR. The thing is that VR is immersive. It attacks all of your senses. And after a long day at the office, I want to just sit down and enjoy a game. I don’t want to be fully immersed in a game. I really liked Half-Life: Alyx and The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners. I also really enjoy puzzle games. My favorite VR game is The Room VR: A Dark Matter. These days, the VR is mostly getting played for Supernatural, FitXR or Beat Saber.

Chess – I tried Chess online last year and really enjoyed learning, playing against the AI, and doing puzzles. Unfortunately, I appear to have this fear of playing games against other players. My personality doesn’t allow me to just enjoy these games. It’s a flaw that I’ve always fought. So for now, I’m happy to enjoy watching chess on Twitch with my favorite streamer: Hikaru who just won a huge tournament!

Virtual Golf – It’s not really a video game, but I enjoy virtual golf throughout the winter at various locations. Using the latest golf technology in ball tracking, you hit a ball into a screen using a real golf club, and then watch the ball fly on the screen. It’s super fun. You still need to hit the ball and make shots. But no walking. No searching for balls. You can play golf courses across the world. It helps keep my swing and body in shape over the winter!

Wrap up

So that’s it, that’s my list of favorite video games. A lot of my favorite games have simple mechanics. You don’t need to use a whole keyboard to make a game fun. I just tried playing Lost Ark and you need to use just about the whole left side of your keyboard. That just isn’t fun for me.

I’ll pick Valheim over that every day, WASD for movement, and a mouse, with weapon selection 1-8. Pretty simple but hundreds of hours of enjoyment for me. Diablo was really mouse + 1-4 and a couple of other buttons. Lots of games now can be played with a controller.

What games do you like? Happy gaming!

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