So I’m away from home for the week and that means that I only have my tablet with me. With an Intel Celeron N3450 1.10 GHz CPU and 4GB of RAM my tablet is hardly an impressive gaming rig. That said, compared to the machine that I bought my first PC games for, this is an absolute beast. So this got me looking through my library of games to get together a list of some amazing games that will still run on a very low spec system.
Stardew Valley is a lovely game about leaving your not-so-lovely office job to go to live in your Grandad’s lovely old farm in the lovely village of Stardew Valley. It’s all so very lovely.
But the thing about Stardew Valley is that it’s not just an giant bag of overwhelmingly sickening loveliness. It’s actually a really well put together game. Growing your farm from a few lousy turnips in an overgrown field into a profitable farming business is incredibly satisfying, as well as weirdly addictive. The pacing of this aspect of the game is masterfully done and should be held up as a shining example of how to get people strangely obsessed with virtual cauliflowers. The flow of the game is separated into days, your progress being saved at the end of each day. This separates the game into the same just-one-more-turn structure that keeps people up all nightplaying Civ.
But there is a lot more to Stardew Valley than just building a farm (although that is probably the best bit). You can make friends with all the villagers who all have their own unique-ish personality, if you’re in to that. You will get an opportunity for some mild dungeon delving with the adventurer’s guild to kill some bats, slimes, and other miscreants. There’s also the mysterious sewers… but you’ll have to find out about that for yourselves.
Right now, I’m a bit addicted to Stardew Valley and I just have to recommend it. It’s nice to aim to build something that feels a bit more permanent in these days of faced-paced battle royal games where all you want to do is shoot at each other. Oh and the fishing is fantastic in Stardew Valley, and so relaxing it’s almost hypnotic. I don’t score games or award them points but if I did then Stardew Valley would definitely get some points or a score.
If you need to scratch that RPG itch of yours, then you would struggle to do much better than the original Fallout (and Fallout 2 for that matter). The Fallout series is undeniably one of the most iconic RPG dynasties around, but while the original games have been somewhat eclipsed in recent years by the newer Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, and the other ones, the original Fallout remains a very special (get it?) and unique game.
You begin the game setting out with an apparently simple task: find a water chip, whatever that is, to save your home. In true isometric RPG style though this will lead you to get in trouble with all sorts of raiders, mutants, and political shenanigans. While by modern standards, the point-and-click movement feels a bit clunky, the turn-based combat is excellent, complete with the ability to aim for different bits of the radscorpion. And of course, Fallout establishes the now iconic S.P.E.C.I.A.L attribute system, and who doesn’t love a good acronym!
It’s fair to say that I love just about everything in Fallout, the dialogue is great, the sense of freedom is incredible, and let’s face it, the world of Fallout is pretty much the the best post-apocalyptic setting around. While the graphics of Fallout may seem a bit dated now that we find ourselves over two decades after it’s first release, Fallout still strikes me as an incredibly stylish game.
If you played Fallout when it first came out (well done you!) or more recently and haven’t played in a while, or just forgot it was in your Steam library (like I did) then you absolutely must pick this up again. Fans of isometric RPGs should go for this straightaway. For those of you that are fans of the more recent Bethesda Fallout series, then this is certainly worth considering, but it might not be for you as this is not the first person shooter that the modern games are.
Is Dark Souls a bit too easy? Done exploring the wasteland in Fallout? Or just fancy some DnD action on the PC? Then you should absolutely be playing Baldur’s Gate. Now Baldur’s gate isn’t the first Dungeons and Dragons game on the PC, not by a long shot, but it is probably the best known and it is the first to use the fantastic Infinity Engine, the same engine used to create Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale.
Let’s get straight to the point: this is an unforgiving game. But that works really well because it gives you a sense of real consequence to your actions. This is made clear by one of the very first encounters which (playing as a halfling rogue) took me an embarrassing number of attempts to get past. The game gets easier for a while after that but don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll find yourself in over your head before you know it!
In Baldur’s gate you start off investigating some fairly cliche mysterious ongoings, and from a single level 1 PC (with a suitably low life expectancy the first time you play) you eventually forge a party of up to six powerful and famous adventurers. The artwork and level of detail that has gone into the world of Baldur’s gate is impressive and the brief cutscenes between each of the eight chapters that make up the game are beautifully illustrated. Baldur’s gate is the quintessential isometric fantasy RPG: it has magic, mystery, almost endless character customisation, and a decent real-time combat system to boot!
One of the things I really love about Baldur’s gate is the sheer volume of content. I really don’t think I would ever be able to get around to seeing and doing everything in this game and that really adds to the sense that the adventures of your small band of heroes take place in a much wider world. Sometimes the dialogue is a little corny but I think that’s all part of the fun of playing out an adventure in a fantasy world. This really is as close as you can get to a true DnD experience while you’re on your own and that can only be a good thing.
The Final Station
The Final Station is a game that I have only recently discovered. Again, this has been in my library for a while and I guess I must have just forgotten about it.
The minimalist nature of this game shines through just abut everywhere, the oppressive aesthetics, the controls, the dialogue, and the enemies you face off with. This all combines to make a very stylish game. Also the sheep in the background are absolutely fantastic! The game proceeds by switching between two styles of play: stopping everything falling apart on a malfunctioning train.
The story is communicated almost entirely through short snaps of dialogue and while it might not be for everyone, I love the sense of confusion this causes. Very end-of-the-world-ey. The gameplay is good fun, if a little shallow at times. Where the game really comes into it’s own is that you so often have more enemies than you have the bullets to kill which forces you to get creative. Not necessarily an easy task in a 2D game, but there’s always just enough in the way of boxes and chairs lying around for you to throw about without ever making the game cluttered or too easy.
To be honest I’m not sure whether I would recommend this game at full price. Don’t get me wrong, this is a wonderful game, but, looking at the reviews on Steam, there are some complaints about the amount of content in this game for the price tag. That said, if you see this game on sale or find it (as I did) in a Humble Bundle you should definitely give it go!
When it comes to light-weight games, it doesn’t get much lighter on your system than Uplink, taking up less than 30MB of your precious hard drive space. First released in 2001 by Introversion software, Uplink is a hacking simulator, or rather a simulator of cinematic representations of hacking. That and dial tones.
Uplink presents you with a deceptively simple interface. The core mechanic of the game is to bounce the longest path you can through a series of systems spread across the world in order to give yourself enough time to get a job done and cover your tracks. These jobs range from stealing or destroying files, to hacking into national security databases to edit records, to investigating financial transactions.
On the surface, this game seems incredibly simple but it can be deceptively tricky, requiring speed and quick thinking to cover up your tracks as well as a healthy dollop of strategic thinking to plan your next big score. Uplink is a game best served in the dead of night to get the proper holywood hacker feeling. I don’t think this game is for everyone. It is, at it’s core, a game of puzzles of increasing complexity and not much else. But the way that the mechanics are so deeply intwined into the theme of the game and that this is done so well, makes this a fantastic game that I think everyone should try.
Let’s face it, Half-life isn’t just the best game to play on a low-spec system, it is the best game, period. If you haven’t played Half-life then, you need to. Right now. I think it’s fair to say that Valve owes almost everything to Half-life – if you’re anything like me, the only reason you ever got Steam was to play Half-life 2. But Valve aren’t the only ones, Half-life was, and still is, a truly revolutionary game.
Half-life isn’t a young game. And that shows with the blocky graphics, and the same three scientists appearing in every room. But that doesn’t stop half-life being an amazing game. Half-life combines a strong plot with a great first person shooter experience, along with some light puzzle solving and some excellent, albeit often tongue in cheek voice acting.
What makes Half-life a truly great game though, is the level design. The attention to detail in this game is truly astonishing, surpassing most modern AAA games in my opinion. Everything you encounter in Half-life adds something to experience, whether it’s a short clip of dialogue giving you some hint at whats going on, a nice big round button that you can’t help but push, or some nice atmospheric flickering lighting.
Half-life is an extremely linear game, of course it is, it sort of has to be. After a scroll through the recent reviews on Steam, it looks like some people have an issue with this, but not me. Half-life can be forgiven for railroading because it tells a story really well, while never giving too much away. There are no cutscenes and no one ever tells you what’s going on in Half-life or why you’re there, because it just isn’t needed. And it is this seemingly effortless level of storytelling excellence that keeps you wanting more, and it is what keeps people demanding another sequel to this day. Put simply, Half-life is a game that is so well assembled, that it needs no further explanation and this is what makes it so brilliant.
Half-life is available from Steam for £7.19.
So that’s about it for this list of six of my favourite games that I’ve been able to play on my tablet this week. There are loads more I would recommend so this post may well get a sequel further down the line. Why not let me know what you’ve been playing on your terrible PC in the comments below? Go on… You know you want to…