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That damn Brendan’s always flaunting the fact that he had a childhood, that he didn’t just floop fully-formed out a pod. Oh hark at you, Mister ‘Renegade Ops makes me feel all young and boisterous again and not at all like what grows if you spill nutrient paste down the back of the radiator.’ Yeah, well, the rest of us can also enjoy shooting tanks and helicopters and soldiermen in top-down Jungle Strike-ish shooty action, you know. And we can do it for free, as Sega are giving away Renegade Ops along with Gunstar Heroes and Viking: Battle for Asgard right now.
The third and final round of Sega's weirdly generous Make War Not Love promotion is here, which means a new bunch of games has been made available for free. If you already have Gunstar Heroes, Viking: Battle for Asgard, and Renegade Ops in your Steam library, then there are zero reasons for you to be excited, but if you don't, well, I have some good news.
Gunstar Heroes, Viking: Battle for Asgard, and Renegade Ops are free for the next few hours, though it will probably take a little while for you to receive the keys. Unlike the first round of Make War Not Love 3, you have to visit this site and sign up for Sega's newsletter, though it should be easy enough to unsubscribe afterwards. It's the same procedure as round two, meaning you'll need to input your email address and wait for Sega to email you a Steam key, something that could take up to three days. (If, like me, you already signed up for round two of the promo a couple of days ago, you should automatically receive round three's games without having to do anything.)
So yes, if all goes to plan your Steam library will soon devour another trio of old/classic games. There's also some Dawn of War II: Retribution DLC available for free from the same link.
If you want even more free Sega games, consider booking tickets for the PC Gamer Weekender in a couple of weeks.
At its best, the Total War series casts a spell over you. Your empire rises from nothing, surrounded by enemies who are poised to trample it into the dust. Each decision on the strategic level is a gamble on the immediate future, where “one more turn” isn’t just a stepping-stone to a new upgrade, but a perilous step onto thin ice. Each time you take to the battlefield is another do-or-die moment, a possible Hastings or Austerlitz that can open the road to conquest or plunge you into a desperate fight for survival.
But the Total War series has also been defined by massive, abrupt swings in quality. While the series has been on a linear trajectory in terms of graphics, the quality of the games underlying those vivid battlefield vistas has varied wildly. Total War at its best is interactive Kurosawa and Kubrick. At its worst, it’s a middle-school history textbook as told by Drunk History and filmed by the cast and crew of The Patriot.
So before the series (temporarily) leaves history behind for the grimdark faux-history of Warhammer fantasy, let’s put into order the times that Total War was at its best and why sometimes its lows were so very low. We’ll save the worst for last, because if there’s one thing that every Total War fan loves, it’s an argument over which games were the biggest disappointments.
In Now Playing PC Gamer writers talk about the game currently dominating their spare time. Today, Matt tries to rewrite history in Medieval 2.
Stories in Total War appear without warning, like aunts on damp Sunday afternoons. Attila and Rome 2 deliberately construct these stories, letting you make decisions that nudge the narrative in whichever direction you choose, but I prefer the accidental drama of Medieval 2.
I m drawn back to Medieval 2: Kingdoms after reading about the Crusades: a compelling period of history, rich in tales of dashing Norman princes, religious fervour and the taut diplomacy of the Byzantine Empire. Specifically, the battle of Manzikert, in which the once-supreme imperial army was crushed by the Turks. It makes me sad, because the Byzantines were always my favourite faction, which is a bit like picking the least-worst racist in an inner-city chain pub, but also: I don t care. Compared to the frothing barbarians of the West, Constantinople had guile and romance. I decide to make myself feel better by changing history, because games let me do that.
I start a new Crusades campaign, 100 years after Manzikert. My empire is diminished but capable—although huge chunks of Anatolia belong to the Turks, it s still possible to fight back. Soon, purple fingers begin stretching across the map, gradually reclaiming lost lands which were probably taken from someone else in the first place. I construct mines and grow crops. I send emissaries into enemy lands to spread religious dissent. On the faction rankings graph, my purple line creeps upwards while Turkish forces diminish.
I reach that moment that comes in every Total War game, where armies fight to determine the future of each faction. It s an event where the lines on the graph converge; one faction falls, another ascends. Our forces clash at Amorium, and it s butchery. My general is killed, and the future of my campaign is left dangling from thin gristle like a hacked arm. A wave of green threatens to wash my forces away, leaving the path to Constantinople unguarded Unexpectedly, a young Byzantine warrior steps forward. Instead of fleeing, my troops rally to him. He charges the vulnerable flanks of the Turkish army, presumably screaming something really inspirational, and one by one, the enemy forces rout. Being a true hero, he hacks them down as they flee.
The Doge is captured, I ransom him for 28,000 gold, capture him again, then execute him.
Brilliantly, my hero s name is Modestos Bringas. I reinforce his army and send him after the remnants of the shattered Turkish forces. He pursues them relentlessly, menacing the fringes of the Seljuk empire for years, and I almost forget about him. Back in the West, a Venetian crusader force appears, intent on reclaiming Jerusalem. They re dangerously close to my capital, but being fellow Christians, they ll definitely pass by harmlessly.
The Venetians take Constantinople. Only one person is near enough to save the city: Modestos. I march him back to the capital. The Venetian force is led by the Doge. (That s their leader, not the smug dog.) Modestos pushes forward to Constantinople, marches through the same holes the crusaders made in my city walls, and expels them. The Doge is captured, I ransom him for 28,000 gold, capture him again, then execute him. Modestos Bringas, once nothing more a humble soldier, has saved the greatest city in Christendom. If only he d been at the battle of Manzikert.
Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.>
It’s nice and all that Obsidian are crowdfunding a trip back to the ’90s, but I wish they were able (and willing) to revisit something a little fresher. Alpha Protocol is my favourite game they’ve made, an RPG from 2010 which used timed conversations and silent branching to make the adventures of a super spy feel exciting and unpredictable. Yes, it’s jolly wonky in ways – Obsidian made it – but it feels like the fresh green bud of what could’ve been an exciting branch for RPGs.