Civ6 versus Tropico 6 versus Endless Space2 versus Stellaris

Civ6 is my current favorite, although I haven’t been playing it much, because it takes so long to finish a game, and seems a little too much like work.

Tropico was my favorite for a really long time. Early on, the humor in it was great. It still manages to be a funny once in a while. The combination of humor with discovery worked really well. When Penultimo yells at you “Presidente! The people are starving!!!” it really motivates you to figure out What is going wrong‽ How do I fix it‽‽‽

But recently, Tropico has been a bummer. Okay, watching a YouTube video helped me figure out why my previously winning strategy is now a losing one; but, the secret seems to be that unless one executes a perfect strategy of all the upgrades, one loses. I’m not perfect, and this is not fun.

So, I started looking for alternatives. The two I have tried are Endless Space2 and Stellaris.

Endless Space2 is gorgeous. The music is superb. The screen is responsive and smooth. And best of all, there was an excellent tutorial. I played 115 hours of it before looking for something else. Eventually, it seemed to me that I was not going to be able to win, ever. There seem to be two problems:

  • If the Grand Random Number Generator in the Sky took a disliking to you, there was absolutely nothing you could do to fix the problem. Time to quit and start over. This isn’t generally a problem with Civ6; if by mid-game one strategy isn’t working out, you can (usually) switch strategy and still pull out a win. Endless Space2 takes a while to figure out that the initial roll was poor – like 30 minutes. 🙁
  • Rather like Tropico, even with good RNG placement, execution needs to be perfect in order to not lose. I never did win a single game.

That said, one YouTuber said that Endless Space2’s use of the right mouse click as the {back} key is brilliant, and I agree. The game was a pleasure to play, even though I never won. But that I never would win, caused me to give up and look elsewhere.

Enter Stellaris. Although it says it got great scores by people for being a great game, it didn’t work for me.

I did love that Stellaris used the mouse to move the map around by nudging the edges. I had noticed that this was missing from Endless Space2, and found that first interaction with Stellaris pleasing. But nothing after that worked for me.

On one hand, I like Real Time Strategy (RTS) games. Indeed the most exhilarating game I ever played was a LAN game of Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 against one of my boys. Thrilling!

And Tropico is an RTS, too, and I like it okay. Perhaps Tropico works for me as a game because the clock runs pretty slow. There isn’t a constant pressure to perform or die. If anything, once you’ve got things set up, then I want to speed the clock up, to see how things are holding together (or not).

I’m old, so Turn Based Strategy (TBS) are more my speed. Civ6 and Endless Space2 are both TBS games.

Although my first interaction with Stellaris was really nice, it quickly gave me two things that annoyed me greatly – first impressions and all that.

  • Wow this game needs a keyboard.
  • The tutorial is terrible.

The need for a keyboard, oh so much keyboard, was not what I wanted. I have a big monitor that I can pull a recliner in front of, and play video games. This works best when the game is mostly mouse driven. I’ve got a Logitech Wireless Trackball Mouse. I don’t have to move the mouse; my thumb moves the trackball. It’s wireless, so I can use it on the arm of the chair, or my leg, or my belly, or even my chest. Needing a keyboard is cumbersome. That first poking around at the interface showed that Stellaris really wants to be driven by a keyboard. Civ6, Tropico, and Endless Space2 all work fine with mouse-only.

The user interface wasn’t great for me, either. They picked a font that has readability problems; the letter “t” for example, barely has any width to the crossbar. Is that a “t” or an “l”? Hard to tell. The text was small, and my eyes are old. Endless Space2 had larger, more legible text, which made it more enjoyable.

If I have to squint to read the screen, that is frustrating and takes me out of just enjoying the game.

The tutorial is terrible:

  • The robotic voice: let’s take the recording of a perfectly fine voice-actor, and muddle it through a robotizing filter so that it is difficult to hear the words. “But it’s so cool!” No, it isn’t. It was like I needed to squint, but with my ears. Well this is unpleasant.
  • Instead of a guided tour, the “tutorial” was nothing except a voicing of the button name. Well that’s unfair: it was a voicing of the button name, and some explanation that this is where the very important (button name) stuff is done. None of the text shown in the tutorial text linked to the related item that was mentioned. (So why color the text differently if it isn’t a hyperlink?) I’ll admit: I had never watched a single YouTube video on Stellaris, never read the subreddit, never opened a Readme doc if there is one. I installed the game and said Yes to the tutorial. And it lead me nowhere. About six or eight steps into the game, it just stopped. So what do I do now? No clue. Well, there was one big clue: the words “PAUSED (space bar)”. Huh.

I figure out that the tutorial was to click on every button and hear the the name of the button. Somehow, I managed to click the speed-up button a couple times (while paused) (which doesn’t have tutorial speech for it) (it is a filled circle with a plus, next to the same with a minus; for all I could tell, I was adding a something to a something else). Eventually I un-pause the game, and it’s throwing an awful lot at me with no time to process it. And … my scientist is dead.

Well this is just peachy keen. Not.

I asked Steam for a refund, which they granted me. I’d only played about two hours of it, and could clearly tell that I wasn’t going to be playing any more of it.

If I wanted to sit at my desk computer and drive the game with the mouse and keyboard, then it probably would have worked. But I work at this desk. I don’t want to play here. And the play machine has a more comfortable chair with no place for a keyboard.

So I’m back to looking for a TBS game which is mouse primary and has a guide-through tutorial. Suggestions?

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