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 411mania » Games » Columns

The 8 Ball 12.31.13: Top 8 Hibernation Games
Posted by Marc Morrison on 12.31.2013

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball where the topic this week is on hibernation games. The idea behind that label is games with near (or infinite) replay factor, that you could just play over and over during the winter, and hopefully never have to leave your house. I tried to shy away from MMO's, pretty much because if you got into a good one, you could become addicted and have years go by if you're not careful. Still, let's begin:

8. Ni no Kuni

I've actually just got into this game during this winter, with a friend having gifted it to me for Christmas a few weeks ago and I'm already slightly hooked. The big draw with the game is a Pokemon-style capturing monsters mechanic where you can recruit enemies on the battlefield to fight for you. You can then metamorphose (evolve) them into different forms which can unlock newer powers. The odd thing about this game is that battles are in real time (as opposed to turn-based) so you have to be kind of on the ball when it comes to avoiding enemy attacks/planning your own. It's a large game, full of grinding, and can last you a while.

7. Euro Truck Simulator 2

On the flip side of the grindfest of Ni no Kuni is Euro Truck Simulator 2. This game varies between calm road driving and nail-biting tension with trying to manage your rig. And I'm not really exaggerating when I mention the second part. ETS 2 does a fantastic job of getting you in the zone of a trucker and kind of letting the roads pass you by. This is expertly done by having a locked speed limit so you can't just barrel down the freeways at 180kph. Most times it's better to go slow, since one wrong move can cause your truck to jack-knife and you're out some money. The business-building side is also great, managing your other truckers and leveling them up to do bigger jobs to earn you more cash. It's one of the closer meditation games that I've played.

6. Torchlight 2

There are other dungeon-crawler RPG's out there sure, Diablo 3, Path of Exile, Van Helsing, but none come close to Torchlight's sheer amount of fun and mod-ability. While I haven't tried Path of Exile yet, Diablo 3 got very repetitive and Van Helsing's difficulty curve was off the chart. Torchlight 2 hit that sweet spot of being challenging but fair enough to keep you interested. Plus, the fact the game is tied into Steam's Workshop system means you can try out an almost infinite supply of mods. From new character classes, new maps, new weapons, new spells, new game modes, new levels, new quests, even adding in more people to the multiplayer sessions, the mods make this game truly crazy. You could start playing this game in fall and wake up one day next spring wondering where all the time went.

5. Audiosurf 2

At present, Audiosurf 2 has a lot of rough issues going on. It's only on Steam's Early Access program so the game isn't quite finished yet. It's occasionally buggy/glitchy and some game modes (notably Eraser goddamn it) aren't in the game yet (or at all). However, like with Torchlight 2, the mod community is what is making that game interesting right now. The normal Audiosurf formula has you moving a ship left and right on a grid platform. But with some mods in Audiosurf 2, this formula goes out the window. My new mod is the "Sprint" mod, made by the creator, where it turns the game into an endless runner type of game. You only use two buttons, duck and jump, and you have to maneuver your runner around blocks on the level. It's quite interesting to see how certain songs look in this mode. Other people have tweaked how the levels look, how points are tabulated, or even basic gameplay mechanics of the stock modes in the game. It's not there yet (bring on Eraser mode!), but Audiosurf 2 is a worthy edition to any music-lovers game collection and will fascinate you completely.

4. FTL

There are other rogue-like games out there, Binding of Isaac, Rogue Legacy, Spelunky, but none are quite so methodical about destroying you as FTL. The other games I mentioned give the appearance of it occasionally being fair. FTL doesn't. It is just mean all the time. And that is what can make the game so addicting to play. The final ship in FTL takes on Final Fantasy levels of craziness with it having multiple forms to go through and utterly obliterate you with. That only breeds the feeling of "No, this game is NOT going to win, I am going to beat this!", then 100 times later you're no closer to where you were before. The game can be conquered but you really have to devote yourself to it, and learning all the intricacies of what is going on with it. At least you can recruit Nick Breckon in the game and that is cool in my book.

3. Team Fortress 2

Thinking back on it, TF2 might actually be the only multiplayer first person shooter experience I really enjoy. Halo can be fine but only if you know some people in it. And CoD's mindset of "You have to be at least level 50 to get what you really want" always represents a time commitment that seems insane to me. From the second you boot up TF2, you can get in and play, and be relatively effective. Sure other gear might outclass you, but you feel like you can at least help out your team, even if you are a new player. You can devote yourself to trying to get all the gear and hats, but a lot of it is for naught. Team Fortress 2 is just a blast to play, either with friends or by yourself with strangers and is a total time sink if you let it get its hooks into you.

2. Space Rangers HD

Time for everyone to go, "What the hell is Space Rangers HD?" I almost did a review for it a few months ago, but I got my copy a bit too late. Space Rangers is a brilliant game that is basically four different games in one. The main part is a turn-based 2D space sim where you can fly around, trade cargo, or fight aliens/pirates. Another part is a frenetic arcade shooter where you fly around a circular level killing bad guys. A third is a basic RTS game where you can build (and directly control) your own units to capture enemy control points and gather materials. And the final part is a text adventure game with some of the oddest writing ever put forth in a game (translated from Russian) to work your way through. The HD version is an updated version of Space Rangers 2: Reboot, with better graphics, and (if possible) a worse translation from the original Russian, which honestly kind of makes the game even better.

1. Civilization 5

Space Rangers has 4 different games in one package, Civilization just has four game styles in one game, the 4X model. Explore, Expand, Exploit and Exterminate. You could honestly spend a month just playing a single game in Civ 5, if the turns are on the slowest limit and there are a bunch of other AI players involved. Civ 5 does a great job of making you curious about the start of the world then once you meet another Civilization, it becomes a battle (either overt or subtle) to get them on your side, or to crush them into dust. The expansions have broadened the game out, adding new features (both good and bad), and the Steam workshop stuff is amazing. Someone created a game in Civ 2 that lasted 10 years (in real time), going up to the year 3991 AD (in the game). That could be completely done in Civilization 5, and if you were buried in a winter cabin for a few months, would be a great way to pass the time.

The Better Half with Liana K


Top 8 Hibernation Games

Hey all! Sorry I wasn't around last week. I had no power for almost a week due to the ice storm. So the topic for the week is a bit ironic since I'm still trying to get my life back to normal, and if my contribution for this week seems rushed, it's because, well, it is. Still, hibernation games are the comfort food of video games. They're those games you can play for dozens and dozens of hours... or in my case, sometimes hundreds. They can border on boring in places, but that's part of the charm: they're not so intense that they spike my adrenaline, so they're good for the lazy winter months that seem to go on forever anyway. So here's eight that I love for lengthy chill-out purposes. Someday, I'll even have enough free time to veg on games like this again.

8: Disney Infinity

Disney Infinity's toybox mode means hours and hours of new content, available without leaving your living room, den, or man cave. The cute factor adds to the cuddly element, which is the closest video games come to comforting blankets of warmth.

7: Civilization V

Despite some of the backsliding this game does from previous Civs, I keep going back to it. The quotes when I research new technologies are actually quite, uh, quotable, and the turn-based nature of the game means that I can leave it running while I go make another cup of tea. My favorite part of Civ V is still the early game map exploration, when I'm seeking out ruins. I don't know why, but it's strangely compelling.

6: Warlock: Master of the Arcane

Civ V is the cooler turn-based game, but I actually prefer Warlock, just because it's silly, and doesn't try to be at all realistic. Sure, the AI faction leaders are dumb as twigs, and there are game balance issues all over the place, but it's still fun, and I can play it for hours. Unlike Civ V, it's easy to build sprawling empires in Warlock, and Warlock's equivalent of a science victory in a magical setting is oddly clever. It also takes a very very long time to achieve.

5: Little Big Planet

I suppose the sequel made improvements, but my heart is with the original. With the high challenge level, the downloadable user-generated content, many many collectables, and the ability to build your own levels... well, Little Big Planet is one of many temptations that discourage me from leaving the house in lousy weather.

4: Baldur's Gate 2

Baldur's Gate 2 is an absolutely massive game that never seems to end. You need a sabbatical to finish it, but the story makes it worth it. The enduring quality behind it, however, comes from the fantastic dialogue and fan service references that made it feel cool to be a geek before it was, in fact, cool to be a geek. Because of this, it's always nice to revisit it. Hamsters and rangers everywhere, rejoice!

3: Assassin's Creed 3 and/or 4

As good as the stories are in these games, what makes the adventures of the Kenway family hypnotic enough for hibernation are the chase sequences. Whether it's accidentally falling on a Red Coat or picking up some new shanties while being chased by soldiers in the Caribbean, being a wanted man is something I can do for hours.

2: Fallout: New Vegas

I couldn't really love Fallout 3, and I avoided New Vegas for a long time because I was afraid of another round of disappointment. But one Steam sale later, and I was hooked. If I had the free time, I'd play it again to make different in-game choices. Sadly, the game is so long, I'd need a Christmas holiday of a month and a half to actually do that.

1: Dragon Age Origins

Is anyone surprised? Really? Not if you regularly read this column. My personal bias aside, Dragon Age Origins is some of the best character-based, dialogue-driven storytelling in modern media... provided you have the time to get through the game. Ideally, you have the time to get through all the origins too. Even I haven't had the time to do that... but someday I will. Someday...

Complainer's Corner

There are a lot of games that didn't make my main list. My honorary 9th pick would be Tales of Vesperia That is currently in my half-finished pile, waiting to get picked up again. That got game incredibly massive (with sidequests and such) that I actually lost all of my momentum with it. So that would've been my 9th pick, if I had one. Other potential games: Warlock: Master of the Arcane, Fallout 3/New Vegas, Skyrim, Trackmania, and Anno 2070.

The General Roundup

A few general observations about last week's largely disgusting comments: 1. If you don't know who someone is, Google him. See the body of work he's created, the impact he's had on people (both personally and from afar) and see the legacy he has left behind. 2. Like someone else also pointed out (points to you sir or madam), if you don't like a pick on my list, or my list in general, feel goddamn free to put your own down. I and Liana always welcome hearing about other people's choices. If you have a comment from another column, repost it here, I don't care. But to blithely say "Oh I don't like this list but I won't discuss my own view", is cowardly. Lastly, if you can't respect someone's death, (again) feel free to go somewhere else and poison another site with your rampant stupidity. Thanks.

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