With the Christmas period upon us the end of year Steam sales are now here. Whilst Steam has a number of sales throughout the year the Christmas/Winter sale is the one that I look forward to the most. In the past we used to have flash deals that were only good for a number of hours, then there were daily deals and there were other deals that would last the whole sale period. In recent years Steam has made it easier by simply having a bunch of deals that are available for the entire sale. At the start of each major sale it’s a good idea to set your wish list and budget.
The following recommendations come with the caveat of “check the classification, check the Steam user reviews and check the system requirements.” Also, the prices are in USD as per the Steam store.
Let’s lead off with strategy titles to get things going, starting with some nostalgic games that were awesome back in their day and still represent good value in either their original or a remastered state.
Age of Empires II HD
Age of Empires II was a really well balanced RTS that felt ahead of its time on release and the HD version gave the title a shot in the arm to make it timeless. Steam has it on sale at the moment for $4.99. It’s been improved from the original graphics but the gameplay remains untouched.
Cavedog’s Total Annihilation was one of the first of its kind where the commander unit could determine the outcome of a battle by building, supporting/fighting or by being assassinated. There were different game modes and the developer even released new downloadable units and maps that you could add to your game and use in skirmishes or multiplayer. This game paved the way for Supreme Commander. Total Annihilation isn’t on sale this year but is still well priced at $4.99 for those wanting to re-live the thrill of 1997 RTS. It’s in its original state so the graphics have aged but the gameplay and strategy are great value with very modest system requirements.
Homeworld 1 and 2 were the first Real Time Strategy games I played that operated on 3 axis. This is an epic space simulation where your mothership needs to find its homeworld and you balance your space fleet with research, resource gathering, construction and military craft. The view and factoring in the vertical axis took a little getting used to but the tutorial is good. The learning curve does catch some people out. The remastered textures look great and as soon as I started this one up, I remembered the soundtrack – it’s so serene and calm as your mothership and frigates float in space… then engage in violent stellar combat. The sale has The Homeworld Remastered Collection at 70% off so it will only set you back $10.49.
Rise Of Nations Extended Edition
This one is much like Age of Empires 2 but feels more modern in terms of the tech tree. I really enjoyed it and rate it as a great buy for $4.99 on sale with 75% off. There are improved graphics and SteamWorks integration for mods.
Fallout Tactics Brotherhood of Steel
I bought this one as a 3 CD pack many years ago but then bought it again via Steam for convenience and nostalgia. It’s a real-time squad based strategy game that uses action points to balance the activity. You can kit out each soldier in your squad, loot bodies for weapons, health, armour and ammunition. Each squad member can be hired, fired and levelled up. The nuclear wasteland setting is full of danger from mutants, other humans, robots and beasts.
As you undertake missions, you need to balance stealth with a carefully selected fire team. It is easier to keep your team alive for the duration of a play through if you build your team with different specialist roles and execute each encounter with tactical formations and use the crawling, kneeling standing stances sensibly. This was a lot of fun and I put some serious hours into this game back in the early 2000’s. You can grab this one at 75% off for $2.48 which is one of the best bargains on Steam.
Turn based strategy at its best and Civilization V is probably one of the best Civilization games in the series. The base game is a good buy when on special but have a look at the expansion packs and complete edition as well.
The graphics still look great and it plays well at 4K resolution as you look down on the map from a God’s eye perspective through the clouds. I have to be careful playing this one as I regularly get stuck in the inevitable “one more turn” cycle and before I know it, the time is 2am…
At 75% off, you can get the base game for $17.49 but the complete bundle with all DLC is effectively discounted by a massive 92% and can be bought for $19.97
XCOM Franchise (Fireaxis Games)
The original Microprose XCOM series had me completely hooked in the mid-late 1990s. I remember getting the first demo of the original Enemy Unknown game on a 3.5” floppy disk with a game magazine. Fast forward 20 years and we have the turn based squad sim with research and multi element strategy that are the modern Fireaxis XCOM and XCOM 2 games
Both are brilliant games with brutal learning curves that teach you early on not to get too attached to your squaddies. Each soldier can be levelled up, assigned perks and trained… they can also be injured in combat and you genuinely want to risk another squad member to revive and heal them. This game requires a split between strategic focus on what to research and manufacture as well as what missions to take and which missions to leave. The tactical combat is also very intense and at times frustrating when things don’t pan out as you may hope.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown currently has a 75% discount and is available for $9.99 and the Complete pack with all DLC is $15.99
XCOM 2 will set you back a little more at $19.79 for the base game
This always felt like a tribute game based on the original XCOM series. If you can’t afford the newer XCOM games and don’t feel like suffering the 20+ year old graphics of the original XCOM series, take a look at Xenonauts. Good fun, well regarded, modest system requirements and will only set you back $6.24.
Supreme Commander Franchise
The last titles in the strategy section are Supreme Commander 1 and 2. These games allow futuristic real time strategy on a large scale. The game mechanic is solid with strong defensive units, energy shields, long range weapons, and an army/navy/airforce element that can see a battle fought on different fronts. Even the largest navy that can pound land targets from a distance can be wiped out in less than a minute with a well executed air and submarine strike supported by long range artillery or nukes. Want to rush your opponent? Sure thing, you can do that too but watch out for a strong defence as most of the maps have great natural choke points for defensively minded commanders. There are different game modes, respectable AI, multiplayer functionality and this game also handles multiple monitors so you can zoom in and out of different parts of the battle on different screens.
I really enjoy smashing out a map or two in skirmish mode in either of these games. They both feel true to their Total Annihilation roots you can pick up the Supreme Commander Gold Edition with Forged Alliance expansion for just $4.99. Disappointingly, Supreme Commander 2 is not on sale and is listed at the standard retail price of $12.99 – while this is still a good price, I’d ‘Wishlist’ it and wait for a sale notification later on.
ARK Survival Evolved
Crafting, looting, dinosaurs and pretty graphics – this deserves to be at least considered. ARK: Survival Evolved has been in early access for a while but was finally released at the end of August this year. The current sale price has it at $23.99 which is cheaper than the Early Access standard price and a reduction of 60% on the current retail price so it’s a bargain.
You can play in single player or multi player, taming dinosaurs, levelling up, crafting shelter, weapons and food. There are different zones on the map with variable levels of risk/reward.
The BioShock franchise is best played in a dark room with headphones. The almost steampunk-like atmosphere is brilliant, the quirky environments are immersive and the weapons, puzzles and tactics make it a lot of fun to play. As you progress through the original BioShock you get the opportunity to modify your character with enhancements, upgrade your weapons and create new ammunition types – which adds to replay potential. Bioshock is on sale for $6.59
BioShock 2 takes place about 10 years after the first game, placing you as one of the Big Daddy brutes that look like a deep sea diver. You get to navigate the undersea Rapture once again with many methods available to eliminate those who get in your way. Bioshock 2 is on sale for $6.59
BioShock Infinite takes place in the sky rather than underwater like the previous titles. The game has the same BioShock feel to it but a very different story. It’s a great game to play and Irrational Games once again completely nailed the atmosphere and environment of the game.
BioShock Infinite can be bought as a base game for just $9.99 on sale at 75% off normal retail. These are great games and if you like the look of all of them, the Collection can be had for $19.80 which is a good price for three AAA titles, even if a couple are a bit long in the tooth.
CounterStrike: Global Offensive
This game isn’t heavily discounted but it isn’t expensive either at only $10.04 in the Steam Store. CS: GO is one of the more iconic eSports shooters going around and its never too late to get on board. This is a fun tactical arena style shooter that has a large player base. You can practice with bots to get your aim right, learn the maps and get familiar with the weapons. This is a classic shooter and there is a good reason that it still has that solid community behind it.
At $14.97, this shooter is a great buy. The remake of Doom by id Software is a fine example of a remake being true to its roots. I enjoyed the original title back when it was new and the 2016 title stands out as one of the best action games I have in my library.
The Steam store describes the game as “Relentless demons, impossibly destructive guns, and fast, fluid movement provide the foundation for intense, first-person combat – whether you’re obliterating demon hordes through the depths of Hell in the single-player campaign, or competing against your friends in numerous multiplayer modes.” Doom does exactly what it says on the label – provides a fast paced, over the top action shooter experience that is hard to beat.
Elder Scrolls RPG/Adventure
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was my first exposure to the franchise and at $7.47 on sale ($9.97 with all the DLC), this is a must have for people rocking older systems. The immersion and detail of this title is amazing for a title that is 10 years old and the system requirements are pretty modest by today’s standards. There is a main quest but you don’t have to follow it as this is an open world game with many side quests and discoveries to make.
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was the first game that I ever pre-ordered. According to Steam, I’ve spent more than 245 hours playing it. This was all before the improved Special Edition came out in late 2016.
Skyrim is an epic fantasy game where you can create and develop your character to suit your preferred style of game play. The graphics, sound and map/location design all combine to create an extremely immersive world to explore, loot and interact with.
Skyrim Special Edition is currently 50% off and can be bought for $19.97 which is great value when you look at the sheer volume of content, replay potential and consider that it is one of the most decorated games available.
With Star Citizen still going along in development, there are a couple of alternatives that might tide you over – especially if you are looking to upgrade closer to the launch of Star Citizen….whenever that may be.
Elite: Dangerous is available for just $7.49 which leaves you some cash to buy a simple joystick or to put towards a more extensive flight controller. This game won’t be for everyone but it is a solid space sim with goobd sound and visuals that combine with a well thought out flight mechanic to create a memorable space title. The progression could be faster (grindy) and the learning curve can be a bit steep for casual players but for the price, this is a bargain and worth a look for sure. This one is also VR-friendly.
Whilst not exactly a space simulation and more of a rogue space shooter, EVERSPACE is an attractive game with lots to offer. The game includes crafting, fighting, and exploring a well detailed universe. The graphics, flight mechanics and sound are all polished – resulting in a game that you can play at your desk or on the big screen with full controller support.
The steam sale has EVERSPACE at half price, costing only $14.99 which is good value for what you get.
X3 Terran War Pack
This is another open world, (or should that be open universe), sandbox game. X3 Terran Conflict isn’t good value on its own at $11.19 but the X3 Terran War Pack that includes X3 Albion Prelude and X3 Terran Conflict has a 75% discount and is available for only $4.99 which makes it a real bargain. You can trade in a universe with a real-time economy that is influenced by the NPC ships and stations. If a station is destroyed, any product that it produced/sold becomes more in demand and thus more expensive which leads to trade opportunities. Your reputation also makes a difference to how you trade and the weapons or technology you can buy. There are bounties that you can collect, assassinations to undertake, wars to fight in and choices to make as to whether you want to be an upstanding citizen or a pirate. You can amass a fleet of ships, set their routes and have them mining, trading or patrolling for you.
The main strength of X3 Terran Conflict isn’t so much the base game, although it is one of the most complex universe simulations I’ve ever seen and would have been a lot of work to create/code. The key strength is the modifications available to adjust the sandbox with gameplay enhancements, additional functions and other improvements that are available on the community forums.
If you’re into space sims and like to create and maintain an empire with factories, trading, manufacturing and large scale fleets, this could well be the best $5 you ever spend on a game.
Fallout 3 and 4
The First Person Shooters in the Fallout Series are all solid value and worth considering in this year’s sale. Fallout 3, New Vegas and Fallout 4 are all post-apocalyptic RPG shooters with an addictive lore, loot system and environment. They are aimed at adult gamers and have coarse language, gore and adult themes but not made in a way to shock the player. You get to decide how your character behaves, their strengths and their weaknesses. You can decide how they look, interact and the end game can pan out in different ways depending on your choices along the way. There is a main quest but the side quests are where most of the fun is to be had.
Fallout 3 is the oldest title and can be bought for $9.97 . Check it out here. I’ve lost track of how many hours I put into this game but I finished it twice.
Fallout New Vegas is the follow up title to Fallout 3 but set in the Mojave Wasteland. There are plenty of landmarks to enjoy and this game presents the best value with the base game available for only $2.48 on sale. The full experience with all DLC will set you back $9.97 but the base game is a real bargain.
Fallout 4 is the latest title in the franchise and it’s taken 180 hours from me so far. Obviously I really enjoy the franchise and there is so much to do and craft in these games. There are also so many ways to deal with enemies and things to loot. Fallout 4 is only $14.97 on sale with the 50% discount.
The following games are harder to categorise beyond just good fun.
We’ve seen Forts at PAX two years running and it’s great fun to play. Forts is a physics-based real time strategy where you and your opponent build forts while trying to blow each other up and hit the enemy reactor.
It’s on sale for $9.89 and worth every cent.
At $2.50, Faster Than Light (FTL) is almost a no-brainer. It’s a rogue-like spaceship simulator with a strategic gameplay element in a randomly generated galaxy. It has somewhat quirky game-play but an overwhelmingly positive review score. If you have some loose change and are looking for a roughie to round out your shopping cart, give this one a go.
Prison Architect is a lot more fun than it sounds and harder too – don’t let the cute graphics fool you. This game involves building and maintaining a maximum security prison. If you enjoy games like Dungeon Keeper or Theme Hospital, this belongs in your library. It’s a great game to play here and there or to sit down and lose a few hours with.
Prison Architect is currently 75% off and yours for $7.49. Check out the store page here
Project Zomboid has been in Early Access for ages but lucky for us, the Early access version is pretty good! This story isn’t about how you survived a zombie apocalypse – it’s about how long you lasted before you died and what you managed to achieve in that time.
Don’t be put off by the graphics, this game has a very rich game-play experience with looting, building, farming and defence. The idea isn’t to kill as many zombies as possible, its more about avoiding them, building a fortress, becoming self-sufficient and then fending off the horde as long as you can. The swarm mechanics of the zombies is great and the permadeath nature of the games makes it really mean something when you inevitably die.
For $8.99 we can satisfy that inner Doomsday Prepper in all of us. Check out the Project Zomboid store page here
Games for Grown ups
Grand Theft Auto V is probably one of the most inappropriate games I’ve ever played. The open world element makes it a lot of fun and once you get past the adult themes, it’s not hard to appreciate the work Rockstar put into this title. Not one for the kids but it’s now at a price you can more easily justify. Steam currently has this at 60% off so you’re looking at $23.99 to get some open world crime waves going.
Wolfenstein: The New Order is a graphic game set in an alternate timeline for the 1960s where the Nazi war machine prevailed in WWII and now rules the world. Check out the store page and decide if it’s for you but the graphics are solid and the action gameplay runs at a cracking pace. This isn’t something I’d recommend to everyone but it’s a good deal at $9.97
If you’re into Wolfenstein or Doom-style action shooters, the newer title Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is also on sale at 50% off and can be bought for $29.97. This isn’t as much of a bargain as other tiles in the list but it’s not bad for a new game and looks amazing.
We recently acquired an Oculus Rift and this is one game that we had a lot of fun playing. It’s a western title where you narrate/re-enact your western gun slinging achievements to your grandson. It’s comic action VR that’s fun to play and fun to watch. For $4.99, you can’t really go wrong here with this Early Access Title.
There will be plenty of bargains out there not on our list so get into the Steam store and have a look. The next week and a bit is one of the best times of the year to buy your Wishlist on Steam so have a great festive period and game on!