Second last post here on Labyrinth, and I thought “Man, I’ve already wrapped up the theme for this term, and finals are mostly over, so stress is hopefully subsiding. What am I going to write about?” So I thought I’d write about one of my favourite things to do after finals. Namely, videogames. But in keeping with the theme, here are my top 3 favourite medieval or classical themed videogames to unwind with after finals. Conquer civilizations, care for your people, or fight steel to steel, it’s all here. Not depicted here are fantasy games, which you can tell apart from historical ones by the presence of unicorns.
Rome: Total War
While I also love Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis III, it all started with Rome: Total War. Playing as one of three Roman factions, you set out to rule all of the known world by conquering cities, developing your power base, and eventually marching on Rome itself. Much of the game takes place in a turn-based logistics style, not unlike Civilization or a similar strategy game, but where it really shines is the battles. Warfare is conducted in real time, across sweeping 3d plains. Guide your cavalry around the flanks of the enemy and crush their morale as you sweep into their midst, or position your archers to hold the walls against catapults, or even war elephants. Quick thinking and skilled tactics can have your forces defeating armies that vastly outnumber them, making it truly a game of skill, rather than brute mathematics. Follow along with the history of Rome, or buck fate and make your own.
Mount and Blade
Rome does a great job of presenting a faction, but in Mount and Blade, you’re a person. Make your fortune, or break it. I have mostly broken it, usually getting murdered by bands of thugs as my suave diplomat gets his digital spleen perforated in the first thirty minutes of the game. But outside of that, it’s a land of opportunity. Purchase villages, hire armies, conquer castles, and become a great leader of people. Or become a merchant. The expansions improve the mechanics immensely, and there’s something visceral and fun about charging forward on horseback at the head of an army, rather than commanding it from a top down perspective. There’s a sense in which your life is on the line, rather than that of your tiny digital soldiers.
It was hard to pick between this and the Guild II, but I had a lot of fun in Settlers 6, and the next game in the series is a great improvement. It’s a wicked middle ground between the Total War series and Mount and Blade, too. Instead of controlling a faction or a person, you focus on building a town, making sure your people are fed and healthy, and expanding and building trade relations. The clincher is that it’s all in real time. When you build a lumber camp, your woodcutter will go out to the forest and cut wood, come back and process it, and then take it in their cart to the storeroom. Then you can use the wood. Every settlement starts off as just a few people carting goods around, and grows into a bustling city as you expand and upgrade buildings. It’s an exciting thing to watch, especially if you’re a base-building freak like I am. There’s warfare in this one too, but I find that the really exhilarating part is deciding where to put my next butcher’s shop.
There you have it, three fun games to unwind with while claiming that you’re still doing things related to your discipline. It’s important to keep up appearances, after all. You can find them all one Steam, and each for less than $20, so they’re a pretty good deal. Of course, there’s lots of other games you could play too. For instance, I’m off to play a bit of Warframe, which is free. What are your favourite games, medieval or otherwise? Leave your answers in the comments!