Getting back to games

It's been a while since I played many video games.  Not counting "casual games" on my phone, of course.  I'm talking about games that take more than ten minutes and that you can't necessarily put down at the drop of a hat.  But I've been getting back into PC games a bit in the last few months.

As I mentioned back in July, I've been playing some Halo.  Specifically, I played my way through the Master Chief Collection (MCC) on Steam.  For many people, playing the MCC is an exercise in nostalgia.  But I had never actually played any of the Halo games before (despite the first one coming out like 20 years ago), so this was all completely new to me.  And for the most part, I found them quite enjoyable.  (Now if only they'd port Halo 5 to PC, I'd be all set - I'll be damned if I'm going to buy an Xbox for one game.)

I actually picked that up from taking my son to the Strong Museum of Play.  You see, a while back they brought in a Halo: Fireteam Raven machine.  We tried it out and my son was immediately hooked.  He started wanting to play that every time we visited (which was pretty frequently, since we have a membership) and started to pretend to be using the weapons and fighting the aliens when he was playing around the house.  


The game itself is nothing super special.  It's an on-rails shooter with cooperative multiplayer.  You get different weapons at pre-determined points in the gameplay and fight different enemies in different stages, but that's really the only variation there is.  However, unlike many arcade games, it does have an actual plot, with cut-scenes at the beginning and end of each level.  It's not a super-deep plot, but it's something, and it does tie into the larger Halo universe.  (Synopsis: It's set at the same time as the events of Halo: Combat Evolved.  You're a member of an ODST fireteam on the Pillar of Autumn and you have to fight off the Covenant and the Flood until the Master Chief can destroy the ring.)  So I ended up getting interested and playing the PC games.

As I said, I decided to install The Master Chief Collection via Steam.  I'd had a Steam account for many years, but never really used it much.  At one point I downloaded Railroad Tycoon from Steam (because I'd enjoyed playing Loki's Linux port of it years ago) and it didn't really work properly, so I wrote it off.  But it's very popular these days, and I already had a lot of unused Steam codes from Humble Bundle games, so I figured I'd give it a shot.  And you know what?  The Steam client is still buggy.  But it's usable and it's pretty good when it works correctly.  So I've been redeeming some of my codes and playing a few of those games via Steam.

My latest favorite is Stardew Valley.  I got a copy of it as part of a Humble Bundle at some point - I honestly don't even remember when.  I've seen plenty of ads for it, especially the mobile version, but never really gave it much attention.  I don't know what made me decide to try it, but since I already had a copy, I figured I'd give it a look.  Turns out it's actually surprisingly enjoyable.  It's a retro-style life simulation, where you play a farmer who moves to a valley with a small village and become part of the community.  There's no real plot that I can discern yet, or any real win or loss conditions.  You just build your farm and form relationships with the townspeople.  Yet it's oddly relaxing and just feels good to play.  It's also on lots of different platforms and it's pretty cheap, so if you're looking to unwind, it might be worth checking out.

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