Christmas Buyer’s Guide: Action and Economics
This one, might be a shocker. The Hitman Series. On one hand, we could consider it an action game, on the other a Hitman simulator. But, to me, it is an action game, since it does not qualify for anything else. What is the Hitman series about? You are Agent 47. An assassin created from the DNA of the world’s greatest criminals (and other selected persons). What do you end up with? An emotionless master assassin. Do not be mistaken, each of the games follow their own “main plot”. As you progress through the different missions more and more of the plot surfaces, until you realise what is this all about. The main focus of the Hitman games however, is completing your objectives, in any way you see fit. On one hand, it could be the very stealthy approach. Where nobody find a single clue, bodies are disposed of cleanly, and the tape with camera recordings disappears mysteriously. Or, you could go the insane route, take the biggest gun money can buy and fill everybody full of lead. Sometimes the second approach is just plain ineffective and wasteful, and stealth is usually your primary concern. This is not only because tasks might be much easier that way, but also because when you complete a level with maximum stealth you unlock bonuses (usually extra equipment) and get a substantial cash bonus (to buy basic upgrades or equipment).
The game is challenging, if you aim for tip-top marks. But even without that getting through with minimal detection, or the smallest possible number of bodies is demanding. Graphics wise, the newest game is the nicest, but the others are not that far behind, and they are certainly playable. With the music by Jesper Kyd (though not only) all the games have a unique climate. It is not, like the Thief games, since you have the option of losing yourself in the carnage, but it is a lot like Thief, in the modern setting, and without sandbox elements (you do not have to travel to the mission locations, or walk between stores). This is a must-have for people who enjoy stealth games, or at the least, some “puzzles” which involve timing and often quick thinking. This is not a game for children, obviously. So do not buy it for little Timmy. Speaking of which, the newest Hitman game, Blood Money is still as great as the previous from the series. So if you do not want the whole pack, focus on that one (or Contracts).
The Thief series are also on my list of must-haves. It is like hitman, but with purely an FPS element, much darker environments and a much “darker” and Fantasy storyline. The stealth system is masterfully done, and often if you are detected you might as well consider yourself dead, if you want to fight off all the guards. The guards will also react to every suspicious noise, and lights going out. This is both a perfect way to distract enemies, as it is a way to being caught. Knocking out opponents and hiding them is also the option, but expect hell on earth if they are discovered. It all comes down to knowing the game expertly (just like in the case of Hitman) in order to realise how the AI and stealth systems work. Knowledge of the maps helps as well, but if I were to be honest, despite the difficulty any beginner can ease into the game, with the handy tutorial, and having very easy missions at the start. A warning though. Unlike in Hitman, going rampage will not work. Take that into account when considering this purchase. As to the available titles. I played Thief: Dark Project (first one) and Thief: Deadly Shadows. Take into account the graphics, I presume a lot of “current age” gamers would prefer Deadly Shadows to Dark Project.
|Create your own little paradise! Or a Military Dictatorship. The choice, is yours!|
In Tropico 2 (Pirate Cove) the story is different. You are a Pirate King. Build your fleet, hire captains and send them on raiding trips to bring back loot and slaves to your (and their) coffers. The Slaves are much more demanding to keep track of than the citizens in other Tropico games. Although you can have as many of them as you want if you get a food shortage, or you fail to provide them with some sort of housing they will oppose you. Your pirates are more picky. They need grog, treasure, food and some sort of housing. Although it is unlikely for a whole bunch of them to revolt at the same time, individual pirates could go on a rampage and kill their fellows (and slaves) in fits of rage. This is not the end of your troubles however. There are the nations you will have to rob. Go over the top and they will retaliate and invade your little island. You can also make peace with some of them and focus on raiding just one of them. Beneficial on one hand, but betray your “Rulers” and they will destroy you.
The newest, Tropico 4 has a bit more content than Tropico 3. The political and economic elements were expanded making the game a bit more challenging, but for a Tropico 1 and 3 veteran pure joy to fiddle with. if you want to stick to the basics you should be able to buy the Tropico 1 and 2 in packs. Meanwhile Tropico 3 is a solid purchase. If you are that rich (*gasp*) go for Tropico 4. But, for a starter either one of the previous titles is a good test of ground for a “like” or “dislike”.
The Guild 2 is more than an Economic game. I would consider it a nice mix of RPG elements, with Economics Although it all boils down to buying or obtaining basic materials, then obtaining something different and selling it on the market The Guild 2, especially with its later Stand-Alone expansions, broadens your possibilities. In a lot of financial games you usually are limited to “just” trade, sometimes doing something on the side. In The Guild 2 among other things you also can commit acts of intrigue, or if you are bored of the basic Economic system, steal from others. I, for example, in one of my playthroughs decided to create a number of Thieves Guilds all around the map in each city. Once that was established, and I had a sizeable workforce I sent most of them doing petty thievery, while the rest (most experienced thieves) took on much more dangerous and demanding jobs. I did not only have a steady flow of money, but later on I also obtained ready stolen products which I sold on different markets. Not only that, but I gathered information and evidence on any criminal activity my opponents performed. My purse was full of gold and I had a hook on everybody who could be a potential threat.
|In this economy one should not complain when you have to wear such silly outfits to work… But come on!|
The Guild 2 suffers however from an illness. This illness is lost potential. Although the game is fun, and challenging on a number of levels the Intrigue of your opponents seems to be on a brutally low level. You can outsmart your opponents easily, and most of the time gain the upper hand in “street battles”. On the other hand, there is no other game of this type. So if you want to try something unique, try the Guild 2. It does have a multiplayer, but it seems to be rather dead. Also, remember, you do not need the original Guild 2 to play the expansions. The expansions work on their own. So if you prefer to do so, obtain only the newest one, The Guild 2: Renaissance.
Patrician 3: Rise of the Hanse is an interesting, and demanding game. You are a merchant, and that is all you do, trade. Although you could ask “Is that it?” allow me to broaden it all up a bit. In Patrician you are limited to port towns around Europe. You start with an office and a ship in one of the towns and what you do from here, is entirely up to you. Some towns are better at producing certain goods, while having a higher demand for other goods. Although you could build numerous farms or factories you could suddenly wake up with an excess of goods and nowhere to sell them. Your shipment of expensive furs might had been raided by pirates. An invading army has wrecked your farms outside the city walls… Patrician is a fun game, but it can be also terribly cruel. As you advance through the ranks, get married, start making a name for yourself, build a fleet and open up numerous factories around Europe the game does not stop on your just being “Top Merchant”. Instead you can become the “Top Mayor”. Once elected, you can performs numerous changes to your home town, which (in essence) should benefit local business and as such yourself.
Other than being just about trade Patrician has a “military” element. Eventually you will have to defend your convoys. Build ships and arm them, for the sole task of destroying enemy vessels. This will be necessary to travel not only within your home ports, but also to explore beyond and bring in expensive goods back to Europe. On the side note, you can also perform some “darker” missions, such as having to hide illegal goods in your warehouse, or hiring pirates to raid your fellow merchants. There are also small “tid bits” which make the game intriguing. For example, you could have a court case because you entered and prayed in an orthodox church. Or somebody would had noticed you dealing with pirates and reported you. The events only get harder as your progress through the ranks, but that allows you to “set in” on your current level and steadily take in what comes next. Although an old game it has very pleasant graphics as well as music which differs from port to port. If you enjoy the slightly bigger Economic challenge (without too much of a headache) this is the one.
Alex “WriterX” Bielski