Tom Hooper aka Atomp
This week is the concluding part of Tom’s Toaster Tally. These articles consist of a short list of games that I’ve looked at or know of that are appropriate for those running legacy or underpowered hardware, i.e. toasters. Whether you’re restricted to low-end hardware by financial restrictions or you want some things to play on that work laptop with integrated graphics my aim is provide you with at least something to play and sink some hours into. I’m going to be classifying games by hardware requirements by splitting them into three subsets: Single-slot Travel Toaster, Twin-slot Domestic Toaster 3000 and the Quad-slot Toastermatic 4000. Last week I looked at the Single-slot Travel Toaster which corresponded to the very lowest of hardware. This week however is the turn of the two higher categories; the Twin-slot Domestic Toaster 3000 references machines with a little bit more grunt, covering the early i-series of Intel processors and their HD3000 iGPU and the Quad-slot Toastermatic 4000 which generally corresponds to most modern laptops with a newer i-series Intel CPU and an HD4000 iGPU.
As with last week this list is far from exhaustive and I’m sure there are a whole raft of games that the hardware I’m discussing here could potentially run. I know for a fact that I neglect to mention any and all emulators of any sort, which ignores a massive potential for retro-gaming. on older hardware. There are likely many more legit and native games for the hardware I’m discussing and any suggestions would be welcome as I’d quite like to do another of these once I get a big enough list of possibilities again.
Twin-slot Domestic Toaster 3000:
We start the Twin-slots off with a little game that I reviewed not too long ago; Delver. This is a fun little first-person rogue-like dungeon crawler with quite a lot going for it. I originally played with particular title on Android on hardware that I believe was around the 1GHz ARM processor with 500MB memory mark, not the most powerful specs even if Android video-acceleration is efficient. Whilst Delver has come some way since those days it does not require any significant hardware to run. I kept it out of the Single-slot category as I can see the old GMA iGPUs having a bit of trouble due to the rubbish 3D-acceleration however on the Twin-slot you really have little to worry about as the HD3000 chipset should be enough to allow for some pleasant gameplay. The game itself, as I’ve said is a little first-person dungeon crawler with retro graphics and I’d say somewhat less retro gameplay. The combat is fairly fast-paced and hectic, which I actually found to be a potential problem for the Android version as the first-person controls on a touchscreen take some getting used to. I can imagine on a laptop you’d probably have similar issues attempting to use a touchpad and I’d very much recommend using an external mouse of some sort in order to get full enjoyment out of the game. Compatibility-wise Delver is entirely cross-platform with Windows, Mac and Linux natives, which for me means I don’t have to reboot into my laptop’s Windows installation to have a bit of a play. I can imagine this being a nice little experience during a lunch or study break, which is you survive long enough could potentially go a little beyond planned time. Delver is a fun little game although I would recommend a mouse and an eye on the clock in case you have anything important to get to.
Teleglitch is something that I initially bounced off of, but since then I have had a chance to play it a little more and had my opinion swayed somewhat by the positive words of others on the title. I will admit that it is still not one of my commonly played games, but it is certainly fun, certainly well appreciated by many and certainly not high on the hardware requirements. Teleglitch is a top-down Doom scenario game with a brutally hard difficulty level. Mastering the strategies required for approaching certain enemies with certain weapons is the only thing that will keep you alive and the difficulty is no doubt going to keep people coming back time after time. The game really manages to give everything a great deal of ‘punch’ when is comes to weapons and aliens. There is very effective tied use of sound and visual effects to give the entire experience a very visceral sensation. The graphical requirements for Teleglitch don’t initially seem like they’d be as high as a Twin-slot, but appearances can be deceiving and I’d recommend going for this category for playing Teleglitch in order to get the most out of the game and avoid annoying framerate drops and the like. Really Teleglitch is a fun game and well suited to both short-but-sweet play sessions during breaks or multi-hour session intended to fight against that difficulty with determination.
Oh Terraria, this will be my third time writing on this and I can assure you that I am in no way becoming tired of waxing-lyrical about it. Terraria is a 2D side-scrolling free-roam adventure game. It has much of what Minecraft has, with exploration, mining, building, crafting and the like, however Terraria builds upon with model with a tier-based gear system as well as unlockable boss fights and even entire world changing events. To top it all off, it’s very often dirt cheap and behaves well, if not better in multiplayer. Requirement wise Terraria isn’t a huge strain, whilst some of the fluid dynamics can take a little while to process through (especially server-side) this doesn’t seem to affect the frame-rate in the game and as such isn’t much of a problem. At this point Terraria is a well-honed game with an immense amount of potential content and gameplay in both single and multiplayer. Like Delver I would absolutely recommend an external mouse rather than a touchpad for this, it might be possible with a touchpad but you’re not going to have much fun. Terraria loses out a little on compatibility, being Windows only as far as I’m aware, which is a shame. This may not be a case of a game to play during your break as it is rather too easy to lose many an hour to Terraria, in a very good way I might add.
- Don’t Starve
Don’t Starve is a game that I’ve not recently written about and probably should have. Recently, after countless free content additions Klei have released the Reign of Giants paid DLC pack which adds a great deal for a reasonable price. Don’t Starve itself is a 2.5D survival adventure game with a cartoony style and some very entertaining yet challenging mechanics. I’ve played this since beta and it has only ever improved in that time, with the recent expansion players have simulated hunger, thirst, temperature and now dampness. Missing from the game previously was rain, and now it is possible to have debuffs and item degradation from getting wet which further cements Don’t Starve as the casual yet challenging master of survival. In addition to the survival mode is an adventure mode which places you in a series of pre-baked challenges with tweaked environmental variables designed to trip you up and test your survival strategies to breaking point. Replayability is ensured through the necessity to come up with new strategies as the world changes and through an experience system that unlocks new characters each of which come with their own particular perks and play styles. Don’t Starve is one of those games that is suited to short as well as long play sessions, and the sheer amount of content could keep you going in mono-gaming for some time if the situation ever arose. This is absolutely something to keep loaded onto a laptop (and desktop for that matter) just for those times when you need something to play. Compatibility-wise, you’re certainly looking a Twin-slot game here although it does have native binaries on Windows, Mac and Linux so it’ll work on just about anything with a i-series Intel processor. In this case a mouse isn’t strictly necessary as the game is happy with a keyboard which makes it even better suited to laptop gaming.
Quad-slot Toastermatic 4000:
Banished is an interesting case as it would seem that it would need some heavy duty hardware to run, however due to the nature in which is was coded it’s actually very scaleable when looking at underpowered hardware. There’s a surprising amount of power in the HD4000 range when used properly and Banished with it’s configurability can work fairly happily on lower-end gear. I’ve covered Banished fairly recently and it must be said that it’s a great game; it is a medieval city builder with quite an emphasis on number crunching. It’s fairly well suited to a relaxed session on the laptop as you watch your city grow from a tiny hamlet to a bustling town (or not). I played Banished for some time and whilst I eventually drifted as my town failed and I ended up in a population stagnation situation, I’m fairly sure if I could be bothered to reboot this laptop into Windows I’d very quickly become absorbed in Banished again. This is my one little gripe with Banished, I just wish it was on Linux as well, however the dev team consists of one man and his focus at the moment is patching bugs. So whilst the Linux native port is promised, it could be some time. Personally I will revisit again when the Linux port is released however that doesn’t stop me from recommending this as a great game that will suck up hours of your time with a gratifying city building experience.
Starbound is not officially released yet, so it feels a little strange to be writing about it in this, however the character wipe updates have now been ceased and the experience, whilst it does shift about a bit as the developers change things, remains pleasant. Starbound is a 2D side-scrolling survival adventure game in a similar manner to Terraria, however it replaces the semi-fantasy setting of Terraria with a sci-fi theme and extends the gameplay accordingly. Rather than a single world to explore, Starbound offers a galaxy of procedurally generated worlds to be explored and in some cases exploited. Much like Terraria the survival aspects have been extended with a progression system, having the player advance through tiers of planets and gear. This is still very much a fluid system and has changed since the last time I poured any significant amount of time into Starbound so mileage may vary. Overall though even in the developmental state this is a game well worth playing, especially as it isn’t going to need a significant hardware investment. Once again however I would recommend a mouse as an addition as the game is pretty much unplayable on a touchpad like device. Compatibility-wise Starbound is doing it right with the client being compatible and up to date across Windows, Mac and Linux and the server being equally portable (perfect for a VPS based server).
- Civilisation V
I had a tough time choosing which Civ to place on this list as my initial thought for underpowered hardware would be to recommend Civilisation IV, however with that said even that can strain hardware in late game when the complexity really starts to climb. Civilisation V is a little more optimised and whilst the experience will not be as smooth as on a high-powered desktop it is still very much a game that can be played on a Quad-slot. A game that can, and really a game that should as the addictive yet challenging gameplay can last for many many hours and the re-playability is immense. I’m not a fan of having to drop graphical fidelity in order to get games to run, as might be the case here, however this is also one of those game that lose a bit of its prettiness and still remain as enjoyable as ever. That’s the beauty of the Civ franchise, they don’t need to look very pretty in order to be enjoyable. Civilisation V does have downsides though; the price is probably the biggest as the complete package will put you back a not insignificant amount of cash, however if you enjoy Civ games then there’s little doubt you’ll manage to get your time out of the investment easily, especially if its portable. My other big grip with Civilisation V is the compatibility as there is no Linux version, there are rumours that it might be a thing one day but at this particular point it’ll be a reboot into Windows before you get some of that Civilisation V goodness.
- Crusader Kings 2
Following Civilisation V I’m coming onto the biggest time-sink that I can imagine, a game that thrives on the lower-end hardware we’re looking at and remains as addictive and fantastic as ever; Crusader Kings 2. This is of course the medieval grand-strategy/soap-opera simulator that generates history and stories that will stick with you for a long long time. A single game can take quite some time (60ish hours) and the level of engagement is unmatched once you’ve gotten past the steep learning curve. My review of Crusader Kings 2 originally turned into something of a blow-by-blow account of my first game as the King of Sicily, which really displays how this game manages to create such compelling stories through emergent gameplay fuelled by complexity. The level of character simulation is intense, with pretty much everyone of noble lineage or influence having their own scheming little AI, there to trip you up in some obscure inheritance law mess that ultimately loses you a kingdom and a hand to the same crazy bitch. Compatibility-wise, Crusader Kings 2 will run on Windows, Mac and Linux and whilst the Quad-slot should be more than adequate to deal with the game, even it may chug as the complexity ramps up, but not to the point of being unplayable as this is a menu driven experience and not a twitch-FPS. The game is fairly laptop friendly in the control realm as a touchpad should certainly be capable to providing you enough control to rule your subjects and scheme against the rest. In short, it’s a compelling game that’s worth having loaded onto a laptop for the occasional binge.