Gaming on the Cheap for the Holidays

Hi Everyone. It’s your friendly neighborhood editor here taking over the Eurofiles column this week. You know how it is over the holidays. Everyone is taking time off and scrambling to find perfect gifts or traveling to spend a nice vacation with friends and relatives. I do all that stuff too, but currently am here, deep in the GiN bunker, minding the fort.

One thing that I like to do over the holidays, and this should not be too much of a shocker, is play games. Sure the holidays are crazy, but there also seems to be at least a bit of downtime for some good gaming. But one thing that I never like, at any time, is spending money. So I try to find some good deals on games that have a lot to offer, but don’t ask for too much in the way of monetary investment.

So without further ado, here are my thoughts on a few options you might consider for some nice holiday gaming on the cheap.

Sailing Away with a Raft and a Prayer

Do you think he wants the watermelon or the grilled fish? Or something else?

What could be more fun than spending the holidays in a tropical island paradise? Developer Redbeet Interactive began their Raft game as a proof-of-concept, ocean-going simulation. Basically it was designed to be a survival game, but set on the water instead of land. Players need to scavenge resources on whatever island they start at, but the crux of the game is building a tricked out raft that can safely take you to other islands and let you explore the game world. The proof of concept went so well that Raft has evolved into a full game complete with story-based chapters, a sandbox mode and even multiplayer. The first episode in the game’s story was just released in early December.

In a lot of ways, Raft kind of reminds me of The Long Dark, which just released episode three to great critical acclaim, including a review by yours truly. The Long Dark broke out of the crowded survival simulation market by setting the game in a deep, global winter where keeping warm is just as important as finding food and staying hydrated. With Raft, the hook is that you not only have to survive on whatever islands you come across, but also build a raft to act as your mobile home and transport. Some of the rafts can be quite ingenious too, with lots of cool gadgets and propulsion systems.

Down fishie. Bad fish! Bad fish!

There are also quite a few dangers out there in the world of Raft. For example, sharks are pretty terrible and can attack your raft if they get really angry. The smart ones will wait until you decide to dive into their realm to find a bit of tempting salvage in the lower depths. You can still fight them in the water, but it’s their home at that point and you won’t have a semi-sturdy raft to protect you. Don’t be like the dwarves of Moria. Try not to dive too deep.

As an early access game, Raft is on sale through Steam for $13.99, which includes the new story-based chapter. That really checks all the boxes, offering a unique survival experience for not a lot of upfront cash.

Checking in on the Children of Morta

Just like a modern Thanksgiving, without all the fighting and drunk uncles.

Developer Dead Mage and legendary publisher 11 bit Studios (of This War is Mine fame) have banded together to bring Children of Morta to consoles and PCs everywhere. The game was released for the PC through Steam as well as the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in September. The Nintendo Switch followed a couple months later after a few technical details with that platform were ironed out. It’s now available pretty much everywhere and for every platform. There is already talk of new DLCs and a possible sequel.

Children of Morta plays real smoothly.

Children of Morta is a cool RPG where the main characters are all part of a single family of adventurers. They live in big house together, and each family member practices a different style of combat. Some are upfront, melee fighters while others use ranged attacks or powerful spells. You can eventually play as any of them. The gameplay itself is pretty typical of an action RPG, running around and bashing monsters, collecting coins, solving little puzzles, looting everything and leveling up. Even the graphics are fairly typical, pixel art type of fare.

I guess they won’t make it into Children of Morta 2.

What makes Children of Morta special in my humble opinion – Vincent Mahoney is working on our official review – is the story and the interactions between family members. The whole game is expertly narrated so that you really feel for each of those characters. Although they are adventurers living in a magical realm, their actions, thoughts, fears and concerns often mimic those of a real family. That helps the game punch well above its weight for those who love a good story like I do. It takes what is a pretty good game and turns it into a really great experience.

[amazon asin=B07STWQ38Z&text=Grab Children of Morta for yourself from Amazon!]

Children of Morta is currently available for consoles for about $30, other than for the Nintendo Switch, which is a couple dollars more, probably because it’s a newer release there. Steam has the game for PC on sale for $16, and it’s normally $21 there. At any of those prices, Children of Morta is a great title for those who like action RPGs and deep, sprawling stories.

Old(er) But Still Good(er)

Of course, we all want the latest and greatest games for the holidays, and developers and publishers oblige us by releasing a ton of great new titles this time of year. But just because a game has been out for a little while doesn’t mean that it suddenly becomes worthless. What I like to do around this time of year is to find games that I missed when they were new, and find them on sale or even super sale. If you check places like the Xbox or PlayStation stores, the Steam online service or the online shops of places like Amazon or GameStop (or even visit your local game store if you are lucky enough to still have one nearby) you will find them bristling with the great games of yesteryear (and month) for sometimes half or less than when they were new.

Last year that is how I acquired Horizon Zero Dawn complete with all the DLCs for around $15. This year, I was able to snag the sequel to a game that I really enjoyed, but never got to follow up with. Last year, when I reviewed Far Cry 5, I loved the game. But I was disappointed when the game ended (spoilers ahead) in what I thought was an end to the entire series. Given that there was a nuclear war and everyone seemed to die, I didn’t really see how it could continue.

You can never go home again I guess. This is not the Hope County I remember. Something is different about it.

But continue it did. The latest game, released early this year, was called Far Cry: New Dawn. GiN Reviewer Todd Hargosh gave it a respectable 4 GiN Gems in his review. It uses the same basic setting and maps as Far Cry 5, though Hope County has changed quite a bit since the bombs fell. Apparently the game is still an action-packed shooter, so don’t expect a Fallout-like RPG just because we had a little nuclear war. Given how much I loved Far Cry 5, I really wanted to pick up New Dawn, but never got around to it.

Are you telling me that millions of people died, and THIS GUY lived?

Enter my hunt for a budget game this year. I found New Dawn as part of a PlayStation online super sale for just $15. A version with all the DLCs was also available for $19, but having gotten burned a bit on the DLCs for Far Cry 5, which ran the gamut from pretty good with the Vietnam one, to average with the Mars mission, to kind of bad with the zombie expansion, I was wary of getting any DLC this time. So it’s just the core game for me, but you can’t beat that price for a AAA title with 40+ hours of gameplay, especially if you like the game world.

How cool is this game? Just amazing!

I don’t have a Nintendo Switch at home, but my friend Carlos does, though it’s still in wrapping paper since he’s getting it for his kids for Christmas. He wanted to know what games to get, and of course I recommended The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Almost unbelievably, the game came out two years ago and is still the best title for the Switch. Its so good that it’s practically a reason to buy a Switch, and one wonders if anything will ever actually be better for that platform. Unfortunately for bargain hunters, that means that the price remains high. New copies are still offered for full price at many outlets, which is amazing for a two year old game. But again, the Switch really does not have anything to top it.

(Begin stupid holiday song joke) Deck the halls with gasoline. Fa la la la la, la la la la. Light a match and watch it gleam! (End stupid holiday song joke)

Thankfully, the online code price has dropped a little bit, down $20 to $39.99. If storage was not in such high demand for the Switch, it would be an instant buy at that price. Thankfully my friend found a new physical copy during a cyber Monday sale for $25, which makes it a revolutionary find for him. He definitely beat me on the bargain game hunting this year, but anytime a gamer can get a great title for themselves or their family is a win. I only wonder if he or his boys will rack up more playtime with it. I suspect it might be him once he starts playing.

Happy Holidays!

Even Call of Duty is getting into the holiday season, or killing, or something.

Hopefully I have given you a couple ideas about where to find some great games at lower than expected prices, and where to start your search. The holidays are a great time to find deals on either very new titles like Raft, or older ones you might have missed like Far Cry: New Dawn, so don’t miss out. Sure, we all want to find the latest hits under our tree, but don’t overlook those other possibilities. The deals are ripe this time of year. With just a little bit of hunting, you can bag something great.

In any case, I wish you all a wonderful gaming season. And if you manage to snag a great deal or two yourself, feel free to brag about it in the comments section below. Happy Holidays everyone!

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