With the global economy still down the toilet and Christmas fast approaching, you’re not alone if you’re feeling a bit strapped for cash this November, yet publishers choose this month to release a shedload of games that you can’t afford.
Fortunately, Strategy Informer is here to guide you through the best games that won’t cost you a penny and mods that will give a whole new lease of life to the games you already own. Think of it as our way of saving you from blowing your Chrimbo present funds on the impending Steam sale. First up:
As you may have heard, Frontier Developments have launched a Kickstarter to fund a new, spangly version of seminal space sim Elite. But if you don’t want to pony up £20 for a game that you won’t be able to play until March 2014 (or £5000 if you’d like dinner with David Braben thrown in with that), there’s fortunately an entirely free way to get your interstellar trading kicks.
Oolite started life on Mac OS X back in 2004, before spreading across pretty much every operating system in the local quadrant, including Windows. It might not have all of Elite: Dangerous’ promised multiplayer bells and whistles, but it certainly scratches that single-player Elite itch, featuring the original’s trademark open-ended gameplay and vast universe, plus of course the requisite crashing into space stations when you’re trying to bloody dock. On top of that, Oolite is easily modifiable, and a huge number
of expansion packs or OXPs have sprung up to cover pretty much every space-sim fan’s desires.
The original Elite had a massive impact on me as a youth (he said giving his age away), and even now I like to occasionally boot up an emulator to play the freely distributed original ROMs, but for the nearest thing to a brand-spanking new Elite - at least till Dangerous arrives - Oolite is where it’s at. You can get the full game downloadon Strategy Informer.
From one sound-a-like game name to another. Anyone with a passing familiarity with Games Workshop’s output will likely have fond memories of 1989’s Space Hulk board game, a turn-based affair that saw players go head to head as either Space Marine Terminators or Alien-esque Genestealers aboard the confines of a derelict space ship. With it’s hidden play mechanics and rearrangeable maps, it was a stone-cold classic.
It’ll also cost you the best part of £200 to get a copy of the 2009 third edition, but thankfully your family won’t have to go without presents this year to get a taste of the game’s intense and atmospheric multiplayer due to the existence of Spaxe Hilk.
This free game accurately recreates the original’s tileset maps and the differing abilities of the two sides, and while there’s still a few features to be implemented, the 0.9 version you can download here will while away an afternoon quite nicely, even if you don’t get to play with chunky plastic figures.
Blood Bowl: Chaos Edition Community Content Pack
And now from one game based on a Games Workshop board game to another (it’s almost like I plan these segues...) - the Blood Bowl modding community have been busy beavering away bringing whole new additions and graphical tweaks to the hilariously violent fantasy version of American football. So much so that they’ve brought a bunch of them together under the Community Content Pack banner.
The 1.6 edition contains textures and skin packs for new and existing models, cleaner grid overlays, rib-tickling billboard adverts and makeovers for the likes of the Skaven and Dark Elf cheerleaders. Vitally, it’s all completely compatible with online Blood Bowl multiplayer, so there’s no worries on that front, and no excuse not to go and grab the download.
Company of Heroes: Eastern Front
Relic Entertainment may be taking their signature squad-based RTS action to the cold and bloody battlegrounds of Soviet Russia with next year’s Company of Heroes 2, but if you can’t wait till then to put yourself into the fur-lined boots of the Red Army, look no further than the Eastern Front mod for the original Company of Heroes.
This is no minor mod, either - it manages to add a whole new Soviet faction to the game, including infantry squads, doctrine units and vehicles, all with their own set of upgrades, as well as a ton of new maps and a different play style.
It’s basically equivalent in scope to Relic’s own expansions for the game, reflected in the slew of awards it’s garnered over at ModDB. You can grab the latest 1.70 versionat Strategy Informer, and Company of Heroes itself can be picked up for under a fiver. The Eastern Front team aren’t finished yet, either, with the addition of the Ostheer, a purpose designed Axis faction to combat the Soviets, on the way soon.
In other news
More Warhammmer 40K moddery, this time for Dawn of War: Battlefleet Gothic recreates the vast space battles of the dark and grimy future, with both Imperial Navy and Chaos Warfleets on offer. The 0.7 beta is the first public release of this mod, so go downloadand and take it for an intergalactic spin.
Remember I mentioned the Game of Thrones-based Clash of Kings mod for Mount & Blade: Warband last month? Now Medieval II: Total War is getting in on the George R.R. Martin action with the Game of Thrones Artmod for the Westeros Total War modification. To get that authentic GoT feel, downloadand . If you have the Season 1 and 2 soundtracks you can use to make them compatible with the mod for extra atmosphere.
Wargaming buffs do like their historical accuracy, and Hearts of Iron III players are no different, as The Historical Plausibility Project, designed with “the goal of helping the game reach its full potential as a half-historical/half-sandbox game”, proves. The core mod is here, with the optional, and available as well.
Mental non-Doom 3 mod of the month
Sadly, the normally reliably bonkers Doom 3 modders have had a quiet month, but fortunately there’s still madness to be found in the ranks of the Serious Sam 3: BFE community. In all fairness, that game’s already off its trolley to begin with, but the Serious Fantasy Legends content pack from Pan and Finzy manages to take it that bit further.
Not content with prising the likes of DeviantART favourite Sephiroth, Dragon Ball’s Goku and even Rayman (amongst a total of 41 new player models) into the game, there’s also 16 new versus maps and a whole heap of optional mods for replacing weapons, sounds and other features. It takes Serious Sam 3’s old-school shooter mentality off in a whole new fantasy direction, and you can grab the full download. Just don’t say that we didn’t warn you.
So hopefully there’s something in that selection to ease the weight on your wallet this month. I’ll be back in December with the next round-up of the best that free PC games and mods have to offer. In the meantime, as always keep your eyes peeled on the
So hopefully there’s something in that selection to ease the weight on your wallet this month. I’ll be back in December with the next round-up of the best that free PC games and mods have to offer. In the meantime, as always keep your eyes peeled on thefor the latest files.