They say “write what you know” and while I don’t know who “they” are I do know good advice when I see it. I happen to find myself in a situation where the only gaming I can afford to indulge myself in comes through the medium of a crappy ASUS laptop that was absolutely not made for gaming or photo editing or writing reviews or…. Well you get the jist.
So if by unlucky happenstance you find yourself in a similar situation in your life, and require a few good gaming recommendations that won’t burn out your sad lack of a graphics card, then I am proud to present my 6 games you can play on a potato
Qualifying note: You will not be playing these games on anything higher than “Medium” graphics settings and more often than not they will be set firmly on “Low”. You are a beggar, you don’t get to be choosy.
Xcom enemy unknown
If you don’t at least know of this title then you probably engage predominantly with a genre of games that makes this unrecommendable to you. Xcom is genre defining and requires an appreciation for squad based, turn based strategy. If you have heard of this game before then the fact that it’s graphical requirements are as forgiving as the game itself is excellent may just be enough to push you into buying it.
Xcoms place on this list is less a review and more a notification. If you can access this website you can probably play this game. Go do it.
Slay the Spire
Slay the Spire is a recent entrant into the rogue-like genre and sits in that grouping of games that the astute collector must be ever wary of: Early Access Games.
In this regard, however, I’ve rolled the dice on your behalf and this is definitely more on the “Warframe” side of early access than the “Godus”.
StS, an abbreviation that no one other than me uses but will be used exclusively for the remainder of this review, puts the player in one of three pairs of shoes: The Ironclad (think warrior archetype), The Silent (think rogue archetype) or The Defect (Mage, come on you get the idea). Each has a deck of cards which delineate the sum total actions that character can take in combat, and the composition of which will become, for you, a point of obsession.
This deck is made of a selection of cards which you can collect as you climb the titular spire, either from enemies (by doing murder) or from stores with gold you may obtain from enemies (by doing murder).
Herein lies the beauty of this game, the cards are made available on a random basis meaning that sometimes you might never see one kind of card and others you may drown in an abundance thereof. With varying rarities and thematic stylings these cards can, if selected and upgraded in an intelligent way, synergise in an insanely satisfying manner and thus demand a unique play through each and every time.
One run you may endlessly upgrade that one card that allows for that and one hitting every enemy with it and in others you may compile a selection of cards that, no matter which order they are played in, combine effectively.
Add to this the semi random events and relics (which you should definitely try and collect every single one of) as well as the frustrating steam achievements, which inspire some utterly unreasonable climbs, and you have a game that will give you dozens of hours of entertainment whilst never dropping below 60 FPS on even the most brick like of computational devices.
Kingdom New Lands
Kingdom New Lands is the successor/expansion to Kingdom, a game where you, a wandering king or queen must build up his or her struggling township from a meagre campfire to a mighty holdfast. The predominant motivating factor for this is the ever present threat of the Greed, so called for their persistence is stealing all your sweet sweet gold.
Each day you have the opportunity to distribute funds into various aspect of your kingdom, such as military, in the forms of bowmen, swordsmen and fortifications, economy in the form of bowman, farmers and that trader guy or expansion in the form of fortification or semi persistent upgrades. Each night you then knuckle down under whatever fortifications you have managed to cobble together and try and outlast the Greed.
In the first game this was, essentially, it. You gathered, fought and survived and eventually tried to strike back at the Greed, your main system of measuring achievement being the day counter. In New Lands developer Noio has introduced a miniature campaign, by which your monarch, if successful at surviving can partake in an additional project alongside the day to day maintenance of his or her kingdom. If you have the spare coins, and a sufficiently developed military, you may attempt to salvage and repair a nearby derelict, and thus travel to the titular new lands
Each land acts as a map seed, with various new challenges and resources with which to combat them. Now this is all well and good but the defining aspect of this game that earn it’s place on this list is the low fi art style. Vibrantly colorful and satisfyingly dynamic the game is a joy to behold and I must confess I’ve spent more than a few minutes staring at the ever present river that flows across the entire map. Definitely worth picking up if your laptop can’t handle Fallout 76
Stellaris has undergone many changes over recent years, ones that have shaped it into once of the most enjoyable 4x games on the market.
While it may be pricey, with its many expansions, and have a learning curve steeper than the decline of the Argentinian peso, Stellaris absolutely delivers it’s unique and satisfying atmosphere.
The vast majority of the games complexity lies in it’s mechanics, from research to diplomacy to expansion and resource acquisition. These are, especially in the context of the most recen armaggedon update, executed in a streamlined, clean way that drains very little of your computers processing power.
In terms of graphical quality it has the benefit of having relatively simple assets with a vast majority of your screen at any one time being occupied mostly with empty space, battles then are the most demanding aspect of the game. It’s evident that this aspect of the game has been lavished with attention as you can have phenomenally large space battles with very little graphical impact
Considering I’ve clocked over one hundred hours on this game and haven’t actually finished a map I’d say this is a highly recommendable game that gives maximum bang for minimum processing power.
It’s difficult to write about a farming simulation in a way that accurately conveys the appeal of simulated farming without just saying its farming being simulated…
Stardew valley is eight parts farming simulator, one part dungeon grinder, one part dating sim painted three shades of social commentary served on ice with a twist of lemon.
Still not quite right… Let’s try a more up front approach.
Taking place in the eponymous Stardew Valley, players are thrust into the role of a burgeoning young farmer slash fisherman slash socialite slash moonshiner slash artisan slash spelunker.
Having just inherited his or her recently deceased grandfather’s estate, and having exactly zero qualms about leaving their job and all presumed social ties, our character starts out on a messy lifestyle block being harassed by two inhabitants of the valley.
From that point players must then learn the basics of farming, social interaction and on season shopping as they try and carve out a place for themselves in this idyllic small town.
This game hides a ridiculous amount of depth behind its cheery colorful aesthetics and obstinately difficult to describe game design.
The day to day tasks you will find yourself occupied with, if approached with a little preparation, and I absolutely recommend checking out a “common mistakes to avoid starting out in Stardew Valley” guide, will easily absorb hours and hours of your life.
Considering also that this game has almost no processing requirements and is lovely to look at on any graphical setting it’s a solid recommendation for the lo fi gamer.
Or maybe “a wizard showed me some forest fairies and they helped me save the town hall” would be a good summary. No? I give up.
The Sunless games
Have you ever wanted to be a sailor?
To face the wind blasted seas with a glint in your eye and a song in you heart?
To master the waves and the depths and wring from them tales and adventures most fantastical?
To go insane and eat your crew?
If you said yes to one or more of those questions then I’d rather like to know which ones and if it was that last one please don’t come over for dinner on tuesday, you are not welcome.
But also, you should absolutely give either Sunless Seas or Sunless Skies a whirl, preferentially both, preferably in that order.
Set in Fallen Londons Underzee and High Wilderness respectively this deleterious duo place the player with force and eloquence in the captains seat of their very own little steamer. With minimal instructions they are then sent out to pursue their wildest dreams that in theory involve a lot of fame and money but in execution end in being eaten by a crab or their own crew.
And really that’s about all you should know going in. If you are like me you will also benefit from reading a lot of guides to better understand how to exploit the mechanics of the game and thus increase each successive captains meagre lifespan, but the true joy of this game is in the exploration of it. The fact that it runs flawlessly on even the starchiest potato you can buy these days earns it it’s place on this list, the hours of your life it will consume thereafter cements it there.