The year 2006 has brought us some wonderful games for the PC, ranging from role-playing masterpieces to fantastic first-person shooters. Here are some of the highlights from the year:
- Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Double Agent
With nearly the same fantastic gameplay you’ll see on the Xbox 360, the PC version lacks nothing in excitement. Sam Fisher is back and ready to kick butt, working as a double agent who must make some tough choices. You need to keep an eye on your trust meters, or you’ll suddenly find yourself on the wrong side of a gun with one of the two agencies you’re working for. Fans of Tom Clancy or the FPS/action game in general will love this game.
- Lego Star Wars II
Both kid-friendly and great for adults, fans of all ages enjoy this game; as a crossover between the Star Wars universe and Lego toys, how could you not love it? Brilliant gameplay mixes with the kind of humor only Lego toys could get away with, with a healthy blend of puzzles to solve and Storm Troopers to…well, pull apart. Filled with Easter eggs and other delights, this is one game the entire family can get behind.
- Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
Science fiction wrapped in fantasy, Dreamfall features an engaging story, captivating scenery and a rather unusual-looking robotic monkey. Both an action/adventure and puzzle-solving game, it draws you in almost immediately. Voice acting and an incredible soundtrack seal the fate of this game of becoming one of the best adventure games in 2006–perhaps even this decade.
- Neverwinter Nights 2
The long-awaited sequel to Neverwinter Nights doesn’t disappoint. A highly customizable story engine with a strong mod community ensures the replayability factor several times over, and the affect your decisions have on your gameplay (either immediate or more subtle) also provide the motivation for going back later and trying a different tack. If you can get used to the strange camera angles (which do become less noticeable after a time) it’s a definite purchase for any RPG fan.
- Gothic 3
Building on the foundation created by the first two Gothic games, Gothic 3 once again places you as the nameless hero who must eventually choose to become a warrior, wizard or archer. Stuck under the oppression of harsh orc rulers, you develop your skills by performing local or longer quests until you’re strong enough to face your enemy head-on. A more intuitive combat system and stunning graphics make this game a delight to play.
- Lord of the Rings: Rise of the Witch King
Set just after the tremendous battle in the movie “Fellowship of the Rings”, this game catalogues the Witch-Kings recovery and return as he unites the evil factions in the north and destroys the kingdom of Arnor. The expansion pack introduces the faction of Angmar, with trolls capable of stampeding the enemy. Multiplayer skirmishes give an added appeal to an already well-designed campaign.
- Age of Empires III: The WarChiefs
The new expansion pack to Age of Empires III introduces three Native American Tribes to the mix, taking care of earlier complaints regarding the “homogenous” feel to the game. Build your empire as the rugged Iroquois, the lightning-fast Sioux or the proud and strong Aztecs in the battle for global supremacy. The expansion pack also brings in some key changes to the gameplay, allowing you different options to take control: declare a revolution and try to take what you want by force, or set up a trade monopoly and expand your current outposts. WarChiefs helps bring new life to your campaigns.
- Caesar IV
History buffs and those who love the Sims series will greatly enjoy the strategy and micromanagement behind Caesar IV. Build a magnificent city in the name of Rome, taking care of the housing, food distribution, sanitation and other concerns of civilized life. Like real people, your citizens care very much about aesthetics, so be careful putting your industrial buildings too close to residential neighborhoods. Watch your people thrive (or suffer) under your command. Manage the economy well enough, and your city can soon become one of the wealthiest in the land.
- Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends
The sequel to the brilliant Rise of Nations, Rise of Legends picks up where the original game left off. Build your bases, take over provinces, collect a stockpile of the blue stone Timonium and make your way through the extensive map until you’ve become a powerful force to be reckoned with. Although it’s similar to its predecessor in many ways, if you enjoyed playing Rise of Nations you’ll delight in the new installment.
- Sam and Max Culture Shock
A continuation of LucasArts’ famous “Sam and Max Hit the Road” (1993), this hilarious crime-solving duo–consisting of a wisecracking rabbit and his equally sarcastic canine partner–are back and better than ever. The game creates a perfect blend of comedy and puzzles, starting with the mysterious disappearance of the office phone. In typical point-and-click fashion you can interact with the objects and characters around you, sometimes with bizarre results. Culture Shock is the first in a series of episodes that will be coming out through the company Gametap. You can get the episodes through the subscription service or purchase the episodes individually for $8.95; you also have the option of purchasing the package for $34.95, and the episodes will each be sent to you as they’re made available.