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Ever since I was a wee kid, I’ve been stuck to PC gaming like a faithful dog to his master. I still remember the first FPS game I played on it was Wolf 3D. It was incomprehensible, the amount of fun I had shooting Nazis around the corner and behind open doors. But, for some inexplicable reason, I was afraid of playing it alone, and since my parents were not that interested in games or me playing them, I only played it whenever my cousin came over at my place for a stay. I made him finish most of it out of sheer dread, not to mention. These are the reminiscent recollections of my childhood, of me growing up with PC gaming, of how I developed a potent liking to games. Sadly enough, coming from a middle-class household, I was not allowed to own a console for the price tags then were too sharp to be anywhere near affordable, which is why I am often found bewildered in the midst of the crowd whenever someone strikes up a conversation about games based on consoles. PC gaming has since then been my bread and butter and that is why I wanted to take some time off and share with you some of my favorite games of all times, in the hopes that everyone reading this would take a whack at it and then give me a piece of their mind. Here’s the list:

5) Medieval II: Total War

Strategy games are quite popular on PC, or rather, they used to be until the glorious console race(racism not intended) started dominating the market with their own content. If you are into strategy games you would know that Total War is an eminent name in the genre. Total War games are unique in their own way, combining the popular RTS with TBS is something you do not often see in strategy games.

As a fan of the genre, I have played many Total War games, but believe me, Medieval II is where its all at. It totally takes the cake, for it adds several additional features never before seen in the Total War franchise.

It is set in the Medieval era, somewhere around the 1100s, when feudalism was only beginning to spread to other parts of Europe, Medieval II was an experience for players like no other game. Packed with content and stretching beyond the 1400s, it took the players around Europe in four different historic timelines:

  1. The Mongol Invasion- Around 1190
  2. Gunpowder Age- Around 1300 
  3. Timurids- Around 1350 I think
  4. The discovery of the New World(The Americas)/ The onset of Renaissance- Around 1400

And you thought video games were not educational right? Well, the joke’s on you now.

Have you ever been crushed by an AI in a strategy game on Easy mode? No? Let me tell you. This isn’t your average strategy game. This is something that can be only compared to the AI of Ashes of Singularity. Medieval II’s AI has a notorious reputation for turning the odds against you at the worst of times. Imagine forming an alliance with another nation and the next moment repelling a full scale invasion of two stacks of pikemen and archers dispatched by the same; the Lannisters would have said something waggish but these ones slaughter in cold blood. That is how capricious the AI can get at times, someone who is with you today, will and most definitely will be at your throat the next. Your survival rests on your diplomatic prowess. But even so, the ground reality is, in Medieval II you have no friends. Trust no one and serve under no one. Live by your own rules, make every turn a worthy one because one wrong move could be the end of your prosperous empire.

‘But wait, what if I make an army strong enough to ward out the perpetrators?’. What army? Oh you mean that general you adopted the other day? Sorry to break it down to you sire, but the enemy bribed him and his subordinates into their own faction. Oh and by the way, you might want to tend to the religious unrest in that other settlement of yours. Looks like a riot is about to break lose. Good luck!

4) Age of Empires 3

Age of Empires III constituted a third of my childhood. I invested a lot of time in it— fiddling with the  skirmish mode, testing out different factions to see how they were unique from each other. The New England map was one of my personal favourites. But it was the campaign which kept me latched to this game for years. I managed to finish it a third time on medium difficulty and by the time I abandoned my keyboard I was sweating like a farmer who has returned from his day’s labour. But you know what? I attempted to finish it again, only this time it was on Hard difficulty. Needless to say, they AI was brutal. It beat me time and time again compelling me to rely on cheat codes. But none the less, I beat it anyway. Who cares if I used cheats? What’s important is how compulsive the campaign was, which mainly revolved around three latent plots set in three different time lines:

  1. Act I: Blood— Following a character called Morgan Black, you assume control of the kingdom of the Knights of St. John on a small island known as Malta. In an attempt to defend the island from the Sahin “The Falcon” of the Ottoman empire, Morgan, after successfully fending off the Ottoman army, discovers that the Ottomans were actually after a hidden stone library that tells the story of the Lake of the Moon which contains the Fountain of Youth, a native-american legend which claims to grant the person who consumes the water in it, eternal life. [late 16th century]
  2. Act II: Ice— Most of the campaign hinges on the discovery of the Lake of the Moon or the Fountain of Youth. Act II focuses on the character John Black, the descendant of Morgan Black and his Mohawk friend Kanyenke. On their way through Carolinas to Brunswick with a regiment of mercenaries, John is summoned at the settlement by his uncle Stuart Black. After reaching the settlement John Black and Kanyenke successfully manage to defend the settlement against a Cherokee assault. To send the Cherokee a message, John builds an army and destroys the Cherokee war-base. Upon their return, they find the colony in ruins. After interrogating a dying soldier they find out that the colony was attacked by the British army under a certain General Warwick who abducted John’s uncle in the carnage to question him about the forgotten legend of The Lake of the Moon. [mid 18th century]
  3. Act III: Steel— Act III takes its roots in the United States after independence. This time following a lady named Amelia Black, the granddaughter of John Black, who happens to be the heiress owner of The Falcon Company, a rail road company. After having defeated a rival rail road company and laying tracks to supply the US Cavalry near the Mexican border, Amelia meets a French traveler named Pierre Beaumont, who helps her and the US Cavalry commander, Major Cooper, defeat a Mexican army attacking a fort. Beaumont then lures Amelia into a mine in Colorado where they are surprised by an aged Kanyenke who happened to have brought Cooper and his cavalry regiment with him. He tells Amelia that Beaumont is the leader of the Circle of Ossus. Amelia, Kanyenke, and Cooper then chase Beaumont through the mines where they find a map to the Lake of the Moon. [early 19th century]

The campaign is only of the many reasons I fell in love with AoE 3. The map designs and the abundance of content substantially fueled by extra DLCs(sorry EA, but I would rather buy DLCs from Microsoft than ever from you) made Age of Empires III one of my absolute favourites of all times. Not to mention the fact, that me being a humanities student, I’m extremely fond of history, and anything that innovates teaching by adding depth and an interesting story that develops around a potential character, captures my attention.

3) Counter Strike: Global Offensive

I was first introduced to Steam when I was 13 years old and the first transaction I ever made on it was for a copy of CS:GO, although it is to be noted that the transaction discussed here was not direct, infact, it was via. a physical copy which I ordered from an online store. The sad part of the story is that I did not play it immediately, or rather, I was not able to. Considering the state of the internet back then and also the fact that I owned a puny rig, it was basically impossible for me to either download it or run it on my PC. It was not until 2014 that I was finally able to run it without any complications and my first impression of the game was beyond positive. I got addicted to it, I was latched to it all day, I even bunked my classes just to play it. I fell in love with the competitive and strategic aspect of the game, of how timely rotates and proper nade executions could win you rounds. But what becomes the most crucial ingredient in mastering CS:GO is a steady aim, proper crosshair placement and mad reflexes which requires years of training. I underwent the same training procedures, although it was greatly hindered by my obsessive affection towards various skins, so much so that at one point I focused more on gambling for skins than playing. But with time I lost my interest in skins and spinning online slot machines simply got boring. In the process I learned three important things, (i) gambling is bad and a waste of time, (ii) CS:GO case opening is the equivalent of burning money, (iii) the importance of economy and how it could affect gameplay. And since I was never good at mathematics I had to sit down with a calculator, subtract and add numbers before every round to try and save up as much money for a good rifle as could be possible(humour not implied, this actually happened). I attained my first ever AK rank almost after 2 years, MG 2 has been the highest I could ever go and before I knew it the ‘hacker infestation’ grew to the extent that it became virtually impossible to root it out, eventually costing me my rank. My performance deteriorated and so did my morale, my rank started plummeting and eventually I lost interest. I told myself, ‘If I can’t master CS:GO then I will definitely find another game to master.’ And that was the day I decided to abandon CS:GO and shift to a game that today, takes the second place on my list.

But despite these, my love for CS:GO has not faded entirely. I still play it time to time but instead of taking it seriously and preposterously raging at my teammates, I try to enjoy it instead and play it casually like a gentleman.

2) DOTA 2

For me, competitiveness has been sitting infront of the screen and grinding hour upon hour trying to learn the meta, new concepts, the different strategies while forming a few of my own and putting them to the test, but DOTA 2 added a whole new dimension to that. My entry into the MOBA world was gloomed with failure. Trying to learn 118 heroes and memorising the item combinations that go with them was too much to cope up with. It was a mess— the first few months, but as I started to play with my friend who has 3K MMR in ranked, I got better. I was insisted by my mentor to watch videos to learn the game better, but I refused, for I wanted to learn it on the field itself. I firmly believed that learning the modus operandi while on the field of practice helps a player understand the ‘whys’ and ‘why nots’ better. It provides more insight. And even though it has cost me a lot of matches, I have not looked back. I was called names, even abused and reported uncountable times but I learned whatever I learned on the field.

As a support, I was practically inexperienced in warding and my item sense was pretty doltish, but with time and through playing more I became more knowledgeable. Within the span of just a year I was placing wards, dewarding, collecting runes on time, supporting when needed and building items depending on the situation. DOTA 2 has given something to me that most other games could not, it made me feel complete. It is an experience only next to that of CS:GO, so much so that I forgot when to switch off. I’ve always wanted more and more from it. It is an experience that I never want to forget and is something that I will treasure in the deepest corner of my heart for as long as time goes on.

1) Half Life

As a hardcore PC gamer, it may not come as a surprise to many people that Half Life takes the number 1 spot on my list. There is no holding back the fact that Half-Life simply has one of the best level designs in the history of video games. With the fast-paced combat set in, around and outside the Black Mesa Premise, following the crowbar-wielding scientist Gordon Freeman, who has just received his PhD from MIT, Half Life is a game years ahead of its time. On the first glance it may appear as a straight-forward shoot ’em up title like doom or quake, but believe me, there is more to it than meets the eye. Half Life was the first FPS game to have introduced the element of story-telling and has taken that one step forward by adding a touch of suspense, the G-man, who is he? What does he want? Is he even a human? Or an apparition in disguise? There are hundreds of questions revolving around the Half-Life lore and thousands of theories put fourth to answer them.

Enemies will be waiting for you around the corner and often lay traps for you to walk into, turrets and mines will be strategically positioned at places where the player is forced to either destroy them or surpass them via. alternate routes. For a game developed in 1998, Half-Life’s AI is way ahead of its time. In the middle of a shoot out the HECU will attempt to flank the player as they try to take them down and chuck grenades at them if they stay in one place for long.

Half-Life is not a game, it is an immersive experience where you, the player have to be aware  of the environment at all times. At times a guard or a scientist will occasionally speak with you and if you are not paying attention you are bound to miss out on key segments of the story. The only thing that is off-putting is the protagonist’s incorrigible silence.

But despite that, Half-Life has attained a position that no other FPS has been able to do, even to this day. A single game that has laid the cornerstone of the genre and has inspired generations of FPS  games in the long run, the presence of Half Life in the gaming world is intrinsic, indubitable and undeniable.

So, what do you think about my top 5 list? Have any of your favourite games made it into my list? If not, let me know of your personal top 5 games in the comments section below.

And while you are at it, check out these list from the rest of our team too, to discover even more iconic games:

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