Killing Time/Aliens/Fraternity Boy Goblins: My Favorite Browser Gaming Experiences
- X-COM: UFO Defense - Online (browser version)
Browser version of classic game X-COM: UFO Defense. Here you can play online X-COM in your browser.
X-COM: UFO Defense ported to a browser!
A top-tier DOS gem from Mythos Games and MicroProse from 1994. 2k games remade the title, but the original is still the undisputed champ.
In X-COM , you're a private military company that gets government funding to try and defend the Earth from hostile aliens. You control every aspect of the soldiers, researchers and engineers individual projects as you kill things and take their weapons so that you can research them and use them in future battles. You can even have your enemies corpses dissected or capture them alive to do experiments on them. The combat system is turn-based and relies heavily on positional, strategic placement of troops and careful movement. I consider the combat system incredibly ahead of it's time.
The game alternates between two main modes: world map view and cityscape combat view. In the world map, you strategically place your bases to get the best global coverage for increasing your defense program's funding and choose which UFOs to intercept/ which alien terror sites to defend. You can even adjust your fighter jet's weapons loadouts for different outcomes like using long-range high-powered missiles to demolish something completely, or smaller machine guns to take down a soft target carefully to try and capture it's officers alive.
Cityscape view is where the real action is. You control your soldiers from the time they land at the crash site/ terror attack site and move them through the map to try and place yourself in a favorable tactical position. This doesn't always work out, and you'll watch your favorite soldiers die horrible deaths over and over. It'll break your heart, but the good news is that you can just hire more when the mission is done. Plus, the soldiers you don't like who keep surviving will level up and becoming tomorrow's champions.
The soldiers are highly customizable as well, from naming them to their widely varying stats and capabilities. You can give anyone any weapon, though giving a wimpy guy a rocket launcher means he won't be moving very far. You also don't want the cross-eyed guy with 40 accuracy carrying the rocket launcher. Nothing is as dismaying as watching a misfired rocket hit your entire team in the back, leaving nothing but their entrails and a smoke cloud behind.
The control scheme is a little tricky at first, and blunders are bound to occur, especially in troop combat mode. My advice is, save before battles just in case. Your sanity will thank me.
- A Dark Room
A minimalist text adventure
The fire is dead.
The room is freezing.
One of two great titles from Doublespeak Games that I'm including in my list.
Minimalist in design, but the implied story you discover as you play is both engrossing and quite imaginative. I'd talk more about the story, but wouldn't dare spoil it for you. Everything in the game happens over time, as you collect and use resources using workers that you allocate and manage. Every so often something major happens and sometimes it changes everything.
The multi-faceted gameplay accomplishes something with text and ASCII that big box games often only wish they could: It engages your imagination. You don't need cutting-edge 3D graphics to draw the player into your world. Often times, I feel like graphics are a substitute for a lack of substance.
A Dark Room features some permadeath-lite elements like losing things during times of calamity and a sort of secret crafting tree that sometimes leaves you guessing. Luckily, there are wikis out there, though I'd advise against leaning on them too hard. The real thrill in A Dark room is discovery and learning about the world through interacting with the gathering system and events.
Kingdom of Loathing manages to be a great light-hearted RPG while missing no opportunity to poke fun at fantasy, life and gaming in general. Each action you take in the game spends "adventures" and you can get more adventures by eating, drinking alcohol or going to sleep. The worldmap is full of funny, hand-drawn graphics with a stick figure aesthetic, but the place where the game really shines is the descriptions of the places you go and the descriptions of the combat.
For instance, my pet was a 20-pound mosquito that sucks blood from my enemies and charges my HP during combat. It added "You watch with glee as Bartleby extracts X drops of blood from your enemy. Then you listen with barely-concealed horror as he squirts the blood into your ear."
Hilarious, and gross.
There are a handful of weird classes in the game including Disco Bandit and Pastamancer and the quintessential stats that all RPGs have are renamed things like Moxie and Chutzpah. While not taking itself too seriously at any point, it's easy to get sucked into character building and trying to beef up for maximum sleaze damage or to get drawn into making mountains of Acceptable Bagels to sell on the auction house to get rich.
Match. Build. Survive.
Gridland is another gem from Doublespeak Games which features a day/night cycle where during the day you gather resources by attempting to line up 3+ of a kind and make combo plays in order to upgrade your village. When you run down the clock, it becomes night time and the resources flip over and become either equipment or demons depending on the daytime resource type. Make a wrong move and combo a bunch of monsters accidentally and you'll have your work cut out for you fighting the horde of demons using whatever equipment you can match up without making more demons.
The balancing act is at the heart of this game, and sometimes it pays to go slow and steady and other times it works better to power through and try and rush the clock to reach dawn when the demons go back into their hidey-holes.
As with their other titles, the game develops as the player unlocks more of the upgrades and since the game tells you very little, each change is a surprise that leads to triumph or heartbreak depending on how you rise to the challenge. Needless to say, my heart was broken many times by Gridland and there were intense moments of swearing during the night time demon hunter phase.
Needless to say, their studio will be on my radar for future titles with their singular appeal and emergent storylines. Maybe I'm just weird and like to picture what I'm doing in the game as a narrative. While playing Gridland, I can't help but picture the day/night contrast as Civ meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer.