The top five video games that I’ve lost the most time to

Video games are becoming a medium with increasing respectability as more finance and talent is directed towards their creation. It’s hardly a surprise really- interactive story telling is the greatest immersive potential yet realized, and the bang for your buck far outstrips most other forms of entertainment with a game taking anywhere between 10-100 hours of time to complete.

With this is mind, I’ve decided to create a short list of the five games that I’ve whittled away many, many hours to. These are not necessarily the best games I’ve played (though most rank very highly) but their longevity speaks reams about their very high production quality and I encourage anyone with extra time here and there to invest in one. As might be expected, the list is mostly RTS and RPGs, given their usual, immense time demands. Honourable mentions include most sequels and prequels to the games shown here (Pokémon Blue in particular), as well as Anno 1404 (whose time demands are so great I actually gave up) and of course the entire Zelda and Halo series.

5. Goldeneye – N64

A teenager in the mid nineties did not truly have a soul until they played at least a few multiplayer games of Goldeneye. You could literally spend hours changing missions, upping the ante with different weapon arrays and handicaps, or even throw in a few cheats. I can still remember some of the house rules and note I had playing with neighbourhood friends- no Oddjob, klobbs are terrible and proxy mines were awesome.

Single player Goldeneye may be dated by today’s standards (for instance, shots from AI are calculated as probabilities, as opposed to bullet physics) but its fantastic learning curve, litany of missions and fun cheats made it replayable, enjoyable and engaging. A sore point for me is never quite beating Control on Secret Agent and thus missing out on the hidden missions. Goldeneye remained powerfully popular for years, petering off when Perfect Dark came out, and finally winking out when the next generation of consoles blew us away with Halo and GTA III.

4. Pokémon Gold – GBC

If there was ever a game that spoke to my inner obsessive compulsive, it was Pokémon Gold. Never mind the great adventures you had across Johto and Kanto, or the solid storyline that went along in quirky pokémon style, it was all about forming an unbeatable team full of great statistics, monsters and move sets. You don’t understand- this could take years.

Trading with other games, you had to beat the game once to get access to a monster I wanted big time- Larvitar. But you couldn’t train Larvitar because there would be no one to fight against. What do? You trade him to another cartridge, breed him with another (because exchanged monsters have weaker stats) and push through with a level 5 one throughout the new game. Mistakes with TMs were permanent and soul crushing.Think it was a simple game? Check out this website and feast your eyes on the horrific demands and calculations required to master the bloody thing. The release of Pokémon Stadium II, allowing play on the big screen with better trainers, only exacerbated the pain. I’ve since moved on, but I still keep a copy of Blue in the car when I’m bored.

3. Rome: Total War– PC

While I’ve played other games for a little longer, and other games have more variety, Rome: Total War wins out on sheer duration of play sessions. I wouldn’t call myself a fanatic so this won’t look too impressive, but I managed to play it 10 hours straight all the way into 7am.

The game play of Rome is RTS, but quite unique in the way that you organise cohorts, the affect of moral and tiredness, as well as castle defense et al. Its realism is a downfall for time management, as units ponderously behave like real armies would (I’m guessing) and with potentially thousands against thousands, it makes the whole scheme crazy especially when you consider the hundreds of battle required to beat the game. Rome: Total War and its successors are probably the closest you can get to really playing the general, and the only real fault lies with rather terrible AI. I’ve had to wean myself off this game, as the repeatability was getting rather silly.

2. Sid Meier’s Civilization III

 

Later Civs are a bit too easy and cutesy for me, and I never got into Alpha Centuri; Civilization III is the greatest history creating game in the world. The directive is to defeat other opponents as your civilization grows from stone age brutes all the way to tech-savvy modernity with all the stops along the way. It’s a game that can’t really be described in a short passage, so I’ll state that it is in a league of its own when it comes to master plans, careful negotiation and brutal policies.

Civ III is bloody hard until you have the grasp of it and even then is very difficult. As a time waster therefore, it lends itself to restarting and re-strategising. More than any other game on the list, it hides just how much time is wasted from you; a few turns is a few hours, and even when you quit it innocently inquires whether you’d rather keep going at it. Don’t listen!

1. The Elder Scrolls III- Morrowind -PC/Xbox

Yes there was Oblivion and Skyrim. Yes they are both unbelievably deep and fantastic games. But nothing, no game, ever, has come close to the hours spent and enjoyment earned from the little game known as Morrowind. When it was released there was a collective gasp of amazement at its graphical beauty (before you ask no, it doesn’t hold up) and enormous land to explore. But while it was highly praised there was a lot of whinging about the simple combat system, the massive demands for being a good magic user and the cliffracers. These all removed a lot of gamers from the warm loving embrace of Morrowind and the island of Vvardenfell. Those who endured have come to recognise that the game, put simply, cannot be fully explored. I’ve spent the good part of a decade dusting it off, playing with my prime character (a level 65 Nord in full daedric no less) and I’ve still not come across everything there is to find.

So what can I tell you about it that makes the game so huge, even when Oblivion and Skyrim are ostensibly larger? Well for starters, Morrowind reckons that the fast travel system in those games are for pussies. You have alternatives, such as the spell combo mark and recall, as well as various vehicular/magical travel to major cities and areas (that you pay for), but that leaves about 80% of the world map difficult to access. Secondly there’s no HUD map that alerts you to nearby undiscovered POIs- you have to find that stuff by yourself. And third- depending on Speed and Athletics, you start running about one quarter the speed of an Oblivion counterpart.

I would not change it for the world. Unlike the generated dungeons of Oblivion, Morrowind was hand made from the ground up, making every cavern a fascinating exploratory procedure. Monsters are also varied and unique and include the greatest number of daedra to date. When you come across your first silver sword, you really feel like you’ve earned it (and chances are, you really have). I can’t say how long I’ve invested in this game, but the number would be embarrassing. If you have the patience and tolerate the graphics and sound, then Morrowind will reward you in ways you didn’t think were possible for a video game to do. Morrowind sits on my shelf right next to Skyrim and Oblivion, and if I ever feel the need for some nostalgia, I know which one of the three I’ll be picking up.

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~ by freeze43 on July 10, 2012.

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