Updated: February 6, 2009
This time of season again: Linux gaming. Today, I will show you several more interesting titles that you may want to run on your Linux desktop. We'll mainly talk about strategy games, but we'll also see a few special, unique games, including a pair focused on physics. Hmm, physics, you say? Physics, fun, does not seem to go well together. Wait until you read the article, then.
We'll also review a Java/Flash game, so all those who love to play games through their Web browser, this one is for you. Oh, we'll also mention an incredible new First Person Shooter toward the end of the article, so don't run away after four paragraphs! If you have four or six minutes of time to spare, then, by all means, read on! In no particular order ...
Toribash is one of the more unique games ever created. Truly. It has a very simple mission statement: decapitate your enemy. That's all. And ye of little faith would think that such a basic scenario makes for a very dull game. Not at all.
In Toribash, you're in charge of a mannequin (doll, if you like). You control its joints by relaxing, contracting and extending them. Once set in motion, your doll obeys the rules of physics, so any move you make influences how the doll behaves. The goal is to make your doll perform Steven Seagal style kicks and chops - against the second ragdoll right in front of you. There's the single player mode where you fight against a helpless enemy. But there's also the multiplayer where you fight against other people. And then, there are replays, allowing you to bask in the glory of your lethal aerobatics.
Toribash is my wife's new favorite toy. I'm still a bit of a newbie, but she's already kicking ass - or rather - kicking head. The game is addictive. And fun. You'll spend hours laughing helplessly at the stupidity of your own moves, while secretly cursing gravity. Don't forget to check out the trailer at the game's homepage! I'd like to thank Garrett for telling me about this game!
This is a great educational games, especially for children. You build simple, nonsense stuff inside your sandbox, but then you let the rules of Physics kick in. Play with gravity, friction, spring forces, and other cool things you hated in high school. Not only does the game demand mastering the interface, it really teaches you about the interaction of mechanical forces. I am hard-pressed to think about another software as intuitive and friendly as Phun when it comes to learning the basic principles of classical mechanics.
The graphics in the game is quite spartan, but the graphics has never been the declared goal of Phun. Do not let the simple looks fool you. Phun is ... fun! Check out this Youtube move for a spectacular demo. I'd like to thank rice4lunch for discovering the game for me!
Douglas Adams was more than just a great writer and an ex-Monty Python-ist. He was also a very talented geek. In addition to writing, Douglas Adams created several computer games, including a namesake title, where you play the slightly Plonkerous Arthur Dent in his quest across the Universe. P.S. If you're wondering who Arthur Dent might be, you should definitely read the book.
The game is text-only. In other words, there are no graphics! You use text commands to street Arthur into the adventure. This may shock the younger generations born with some sort of MP3 thingie connected to their umbilical, but it's awesome fun, once you get into it.
The original game has been rewritten in Java, so it will run inside your Web browser. If you've ever wondered why you should keep Java installed on your machine, here's the one good reason. There's also a Flash version available, if you want. You'll find the instructions how to play the game on the website. Here's a screenshot of what it looks like:
I may not be the greatest fan of quest-style games, but there are a few exceptions, this being one, the other being the legendary Leisure Suit Larry (which we will talk about more in the future).
If you've liked Civilization II a lot, but did not like Civilizations III & IV, like me, you'll definitely want to try Freeciv. The game is very similar to the original Civilization II, allowing you to revive this fabulous game on modern operating systems. You start in the ancient times and slowly advance, discovering technologies and building cities, while dealing with other nations on your world map, be it through trade, war or diplomacy. The ultimate goal is to either destroy all your opponents or send a rocket into space, just like the original game.
The game isometric pseudo-3D graphics is quite simple, but like the other titles discussed above, it focuses on gameplay strategy. Freeciv is meant for the true connoisseurs of exploration and nation building, just like the venerable Transport Tycoon Deluxe, a timeless game given a second life in OpenTTD. Freeciv will rekindle the 90s child living inside of you.
This is a simple, straightforward racing arcade. You're a fat little penguin and you race down the hill on your belly. Along the way, you eat some nice fish, slalom down snow-clad gorges, jump over cliffs and drops, and enjoy the view. Very simple, very pleasurable.
Don't expect a Dynasty sort of plot from Racer. Just street the tubby little bird down the hill and have fun. You can also race at night. The goal is to best yourself and advance in levels. This incredible simplicity is what makes the game rather popular. The game has many incarnations. The one shown in the screenshots is the PlanetPenguin Racer, but you also have the Open Racer, Extreme Racer, and other versions.
Glest is a 3D real-strategy game. The game is about defeating the other faction. You can fight either as a Tech, controlling an army of conventional warriors and machines, or as a Magic, leading an army of spellcasters and magical creatures. There's a multiplayer, too.
The games requires a bit getting accustomed to, as it differs somewhat from typical RTS titles. In my opinion, it's more of a hybrid game, involving RPG and RTS. It's rather similar to Warcraft III, which introduces customizable individual heroes to the original pure-RTS series. The game is fast and intriguing and will captivate you. The graphics level is also quite reasonable, with lovely settings for the maps.
Lincity is a city building game, very similar to SimCity. You're in control of a city and you're responsible for the social and economic prosperity of your population. To successfully maintain a functioning, growing city, you'll have to balance between food and goods production, water and transport management, energy, services, and more.
Like most other games reviewed today, Lincity has relatively simple graphics. But if you're less choosy about the game looks and prefer a strong and rich story over graphics, you'll like Lincity. Not that two must be mutually exclusive, mind ... Still, do not let the very basic aesthetics dissuade you from trying Lincity. All in all, it's a fairly decent game. While Lincity is mostly like SimCity, I also feel it borrows some elements from Civilization and Transport Tycoon. After playing for a while, you'll get used to the game and start liking its nuances.
The best for the end ... Wow! Savage 2 is one of the more refreshing games I have seen in a long time. It's an incredible First Person Shooter that also incorporates elements from RPG and RTS games, combining them all into a mega-pack of fun. The game is professionally made. It has amazing graphics, a deep storyline, lots of detailed characters you can choose to play, rich statistics, and replays saved on the game's server for every single match fought. It's also rather heavy, with 1GB footprint, and quite thirsty, too, demanding at least 1GB of RAM and 256MB video memory, although I have managed to play it quite well with a 128MB Nvidia 6600GT card.
Savage 2 takes place in a magical world, somewhat similar to the Warcraft universe. You fight online in teams, trying to defeat the other faction. Savage 2 is somewhat similar to Tremulous in that you both fight in the conventional FPS way, but you also have to defend your base, where your friendly units respawn during combat. You have a wide range of characters to choose from, each unique in its fighting and magical abilities.
At first, you can only choose several basic units, but as you fight and gain experience, new characters are revealed to you and made playable. Furthermore, your existing characters become stronger and faster and develop new magical abilities. Since you play with an online account, your statistics are saved at the end of each match, allowing you to retain your hard-earned abilities and carry them on to the next match. The experience method makes you work better and harder in gaining the points, and you revel in each new level attained.
On the combat map itself, you fight, either in the first or third-person view, cast spells, perform beautiful combat stunts, build useful structures at your base, earn gold for your achievements, trade in souls of your dead enemies, and summon hell creatures. And all this happens in frenzied combats with tens of players all around you, with magical torrents of fire, lightning and meteors raining around you.
It's wild, beautiful and addictive. I have never thought myself capable of enjoying RPG-style games, yet Savage 2 grips you in a lock of gleeful fury the moment you start playing. It's really like no other game. If you don't care about magic, you can simply wield your axe or sword and try chopping the enemies. But if you like power beyond tactics, you can incredible strategical moves with spells.
To play the game, you have to register. It's simple and fast. After that, you should definitely try the tutorial and practice a little before heading online. It takes a while to master Savage 2, even if you're an experienced FPS player. The game is beautiful and runs well both on Linux, Windows and Mac. Try it, you won't be disappointed!
Since this is the fifth article in the series, you may want to read the first four: the three First Person Shooter (FPS) articles and the one comprehensive Linux games review.
Linux games - First Person Shooters
Linux games - First Person Shooters - Part Deux
Linux games - First Person Shooters - Part Three
Linux games - Lots of great choices
I'll reiterate: Linux gaming exists. It's rich and fun. And no, it's not yet as good as Windows games. And yes, some of these games do have rather simple graphics. The purpose of my Linux gaming articles is not to compete with Windows or try to prove the world is round. It's about sharing the pleasant experience of playing free games on your Linux desktop.
There are lots of games for Linux. But even if you dislike many of them, there should be one or two you'll like. The First Person Shooters genre is quite strong. Unique games like the Hitchhiker's Guide or Phun should appeal to most of us. RTS lovers will struggle a bit, but eventually find the games they like. Old timers have nothing to worry about; their favorites are all there. Savage 2 is a true beauty! And then, throw in DOSBox, WINE, which we'll talk about in the future, and the latest kick of 3D acceleration in virtual machines, and you're in for lots of fun with your Linux installation.
One last thing: after reading this article, you may (also) think that I have forgotten writing about several rather obvious Linux games. The truth is, I have not; I have merely left them out, postponed them for the next review. Of course, if you do have suggestions, feel free to email me. For instance, without you, I would not have heard about Toribash or Phun, so once again, than you. Either way, I would very much appreciate comments. Writing comprehensive games reviews takes a motherload of time, so please soothe my ego with excessive flattery. That would be all for now.