The 5 Best-Reviewed Games You Might Not Have Heard Of
Baldur’s Gate — and its influence on practically every RPG to come after it — cannot be overlooked. Freedom Force was heavily influenced by Baldur’s Gate, and unfortunately often can be. A campy, tongue-in-cheek take on superhero combat, the game cannily invokes the Silver Age of comics, when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created heroes with absolutely no concept of irony.
Freedom Force’s heroes are controlled four at a time, at the squad level. Players can stop, slow, or speed up time in order to better coordinate the actions of their chosen superhero quartet. Clever touches like destructible (and wieldable) scenery, fire that accidentally spreads, and a fully unfettered camera makes the action that much more fun. Throw in a robust set of character creation tools and the ability to import player-created characters into the game, and you’ve got a potent super-serum of enjoyment.
Critics apparently agreed, handing out 9-10 scores like The Thing hands out punches to the face. Despite the approbation it received around the time of its 2002 release, Freedom Force is available on Steam for only $4.99.
Michigan-based developers Stardock are deservedly praised for their tight relationship with fans, so it’s fitting that they got their best review scores for this expansion pack, which incorporated a number of fan-suggested changes. Twilight of the Arnor perfected what was already a great game, tweaking the 4X formula Stardock established in Galactic Civilizations II in all the right ways.
Critics point to the clear differentiation between civilizations as the biggest change, and it’s this deft move by the developers that revolutionizes diplomacy, research, and replay value. By programming the Twilight of the Arnor’s already-clever AI to behave in civilization-specific manner, Stardock was also able to ensure a consistent challenge in a game that lacks multiplayer. The Galactic Civlizations II Ultimate Edition, with all expansions included, is available for download on Gamestop’s “Impulse Driven” imprint for $19.99.
Austin Powers was still riding high in 2000, though The Operative: No One Lives Forever earned its glowing review scores entirely on merit, not by association. Monolith Productions took a swinging 60′s secret agent premise, flipped the script by introducing a female lead, and created an all-time classic.
Packed full of Bondian gadgetry, period music, goofy humor, and exotic locales, NOLF is the rare game that can blend an irreverent tone with deep, nuanced gameplay. Bodacious heroine Cate Archer will have to use stealth, violence and ingenuity to make it to the end of the game, all the while avoiding civilian casualties and tangling with enemies who dodge and take cover — two abilities that turned a lot of heads when the game was released.
Unfortunately, like most of Ms. Archer’s wardrobe, NOLF is currently out of style — to get the game, you’ll buy a physical copy (what is this, the 60′s?). All the more reason that it should feature as the #1 game in this list!
If there’s a forgotten game with great scores that you think we should’ve included and didn’t, why not call our attention to it in the comments?