Report #59

Something rare occured since the last report: I completed a previously beaten game, 112 Operator. Because there were several DLCs and fixes added since my initial review I think this warrants a re-review. I’ll put that into another category than the normal reviews, to highlight the difference. Apart from that I’ve beaten AoE II in the HD edition from 2013. While AoE II itself is easily a 5/5 game, this version has some serious annoyances, which lead to the lower rating. However, I’m pretty happy to have completed this behemoth of a game with achievements. I’m slowly making progress on my yearly goals, maybe I’ll still reach them in time.


Half-Life 2
Released 2011

Disciples III: Resurrection

35 hours
no achievements

Disciples III: Resurrection is a turn based strategy game, very much alike the Heroes of Might & Magic games. It is the middle part of a trilogy of Disciple III games.

There is basically only one important thing to know about the game: It is virtually broken on Win 10. Visual bugs make it unplayable. My recommendation therefore: Stay away from this game!

I played this on an older machine with Windows 7 running, whenever I had access to it. But even without the Win10 bugs, there are still several other unforgivable bugs in the game, some of them even forced me to replay some campaign missions. And even without this second set of bugs, the game is not great, neither in gameplay nor in technical execution (the UI is terrible in many regards). There is one thing that I really enjoyed though: Every piece of 2 dimensional art, like the loading screens or the unit portraits. They had their own style to it and were well drawn. Everything else (unit models etc) wasn't of the same quality though.

Disciples III: Resurrection has a horrendous 33% positive ratings on Steam…and I think that is still too much ;)

Half-Life 2
Released 1999/2013

Age of Empires II

Aoe II: 5/5; this version: 3/5
147.7 hours
294 of 294 achievements

Age of Empires II is one of the most iconic RTS games made to date. It is still being played by a small but dedicated community, despite the game being more than 20 years old by now. The version I played is a remastered version from 2013; there is a newer remaster available by now. I'm not going to review AoE II itself here. I guess most people know about it. The game is easily worth a 5/5 rating. It's unarguably one of the best RTS games ever made.

I have some serious issues with this particular remaster though. The first being the game's achievements: They are stupidly grindy and really idiotic. Yes, they can be cheesed, but they still take forever. This is arguably my own fault for caring about achievements, after all noone is forcing me to get them. But since I do care about achievements, I deduct one rating star for this. Secondly, the game introduces bugs into some of the campaign missions. A handful of missions cannot be won without the use of cheat codes. Like, seriously? A remaster breaks them? That should not happen. That's just enough for another deduction and therefore a rating of 3/5 stars.


Half-Life 2
Released 2020

112 Operator

43.5 hours
45 of 45 achievements

I originally reviewed the game in Report #49.

About a year later, the game is finished in development and DLCs. The DLCs add new equipment, like waterbased emergency services, and a lot of scenarios highlighting those additions. Each scenario let's you play a few duties with a given overarching emergency (e.g. wildfire, plane crash or virus outbreak) and is supposed to work like a mini campaign. The important part here being "supposed to", because unfortunately those scenarios feel pretty much alike. And they highlight one balancing issue of the game: A lot of basic unupgraded emergency units always beat a set of fewer, but better upgraded units. Every scenario can be beaten by selling your high-tech stuff and buying a lot of cheap units instead. But what's the motivation to upgrade your units then and invest in more expensive stuff, like helicopters or protective gear for your police officers?

The basic gameplay and concepts are still fun and interesting, but for the lack of balancing and variety I leave my initial rating of 3/5 unchanged. Sadly. I was hoping for some improvement and I'd argue that there is a lot more to make out of the groundwork the game layed.

Currently playing

Little progress was made in DiRT 3, still grinding for the last MP achievement.

I realize that my 3/5 rating of AoE II (2013) is quite harsh. After all the remaster introduces a bunch of improvements and new stuff and surely was instrumental in revitalizing the fanbase. Maybe take my rating with a grain of salt. After all it’s still a really great game. What’s your favourite RTS?

Happy backlog-clearing to everyone,

2021 goals: 6/10 achievement games – 9/10 long games – 53/49 unfinished games


This is arguably my own fault for caring about achievements, after all noone is forcing me to get them.

No it isn’t. It’s never an achievement hunter/completionist’s fault for poor design choice in achievements. AoE 2 Definitive Edition somewhat fixed it but now the achievements are very skill based and can be quite difficult. They actually feel like achievements in the truest sense of the word but because of it they are too hard for me to 100% :D

My favourite RTS is Warcraft 3 but I love a lot of them. Age of Empires, Rise of Nations, Starcraft, Command and Conquer, Red Alert are exceptional. I also know I would enjoy They are Billions a lot when I get it cause I enjoyed hundreds of hours of its streams.


Thanks for the encouragement. I had a look at the achievements of the Definitve Edition, they at least seem less “stupid”. My knack for AoE II is cured for the foreseeable future though :D Maybe I’ll give the Def Edition a try in a few years.

You are right, there are a ton of great RTS games. I remember that Warcraft III was one of the first games, where I actually finished the campaign instead of just dinking around in the game as a kid. It was a blast, additionally I played it a ton with my school friends back then. The best RTS for me personally is the first Age of Empires game. It was one of the first games I played and nostalgia is huge with the game.

They are Billions sounds like fun indeed. But the achievements look like a trap :O


There are so many new RTS games and genre is definitely populated but I always find myself going to the older ones.It isn’t just the nostalgia either, they actually play really well. I love the first Age of Empires too.

I believe I can do They are Billions. I learned a lot of tactics in streams and all streams I watch play at 900% difficulty but achievements require mostly 100% with the exception of one requiring 200%. I will most likely struggle but I think I can do it. Game has pause as well (one achievement requires finishing a survival game on 100% without pausing). I’d never pause normally because then it isn’t an RTS but it’s a game’s feature and if I find myself seriously struggling with certain achievements, I might do that.

AoE 2 DE on the other hand is another story :D I don’t have the micro for stuff like “defeat all enemies before this event happens” “defeat everyone in 10 minutes” etc etc :P I feel like I can do a lot of them, but 100% is out of the question. I don’t have such apm anymore, I’ve grown too old.


The newest RTS that I would put on the all time favourites list is Starcraft 2. Which is 11 years old by now :D I enjoyed the game immensely and even played a little bit of MP. Never got good in MP though, it’s just too stressful for me!

I played only very few newer RTS games. Most were okay and enjoyable for a while, but the classics catched me more. A part of it is surely nostalgia though, but I think that many newer RTS try to do something different than the older games (obviously) and that mostly does not work for me. Or at least, not totally. By now I enjoy turn based strategy games more, there are some great newer ones.

Sounds like you have really thought about the achievements in They are Billions…so do you plan to get the game, if I might ask? I’d also worry about the “Kill 100 million infected” one…that sounds super grindy, maybe even more than the “Play 1000 MP battles” achievement in AoE II HD…


I’ve been planning to get the game for ages but it got a 100% price increase in my region out of nowhere and the highest discount it gets despite its age is only 10%. I can afford it but I am somewhat “protesting” it in my own way I guess by waiting for a bigger sale or by not buying it. For that achievement a They are Billions streamer said there are maps for that and you can do it very easily. Some other achievements are scarier than that grindy one cause they actually require skill.

Starcraft 2 was awesome. I never play MP in any games. I play RTS for campaign. I should play more skirmish maps though. Classic RTSs are the best :D


Achievements are a great way to boost the game experience, so I would not say that all the blame is solely on the player for caring much. It is part of the game, and developers should approach it from the player’s perspective to make their game more entertaining. It is just my thoughts.

My favourite RTS is an odd one…well, it is not even a separate game; it is a game within a game! I am talking about the planetary battles in Space Rangers HD: A War Apart (i.e. Space Rangers 2: Dominators). It is a simple ‘capture and destroy’ RTS. It has unit production bases, four types of factories producing different resources, and customizable robots as units. The main twist is that the player can assume control of a separate robot, which is often necessary for victory as the AI cannot do certain things right. One such battle can take from 10 to 90 minutes, and there are like 80 of them. Another twist is that they appear randomly during a playthrough, and some of them require prerequisites to meet. Here is an example of an advanced planetary battle (sorry, the video is in Russian, but you can get an idea of how it works).

The last time I played Age of Empires II was like 15-18 years ago. I preferred Heroes III over it, to be honest. :-)

Wouldn’t you mind if I send you friend request on Steam?


Gladly accepted your friend request!

I think you make an important point when talking about achievements are supposed to boost the game experience. I agree 100%, well put!

Well, that is certainly an uncommon choice, a game within a game :) Thanks for linking me the video, looks interesting. Especially taking manual control of a unit. That’s a cool feature. Space Rangers overall looks intriguing, a bit weird, but in a good sense. Definitely a rather unknown game in western europe, but with a bigger following in eastern europe from what I can gather. If I remember correctly it’s one of your favourite games, isn’t it?

I never played Heroes III myself (at least I don’t remember), but I know it’s held in highest regards. I only played Heroes V, which was a lot of fun. Turn-based stategy is just a bit more relaxed and not as hectic. I really appreciate that the older I get ;)


Heroes III and Space Rangers 1&2 are my all-time favourite games, yeah. I always was a turn-based person since my father taught me how to play chess, and my grandma taught me how to play Durak (well, this is another example of an Eastern European classic that is unknown in the West, only this time, it is an old card game). I was 3-4 years old, and I loved to play both games even before I knew how to read.

Space Rangers are something of a phenomenon and have a considerable cult following in Eastern Europe. They have its own “mythology” (the in-game Universe is crafted very carefully around the galactic federation of five different species/nations united against a common threat). They have a complex living world that lives on its own, without the player’s involvement, and I mean it: you can start the game on Easy, press the space button for a few hours, and the game will resolve itself on its own by natural progression. They have many games within the main game, making it even more complex (and unique). Let’s see. They have VNs of sorts (so-called “text quests”), RTS planetary battles (a new feature introduced in SR2), real-time arcade space battles (opposed to the turn-based gameplay & combat in the main game). You can explore unexplored planets, be a famous war hero, be a famous trader, be a famous pirate, have a team, fly around to shoot and loot, complete quests, complete deliveries, protect systems and ships, capture systems, assassinate targets. Whew. I think I didn’t describe even 50% of everything SR can offer. The only downside is the language / weak translation and cultural barrier because Russian developers from Vladivostok wrote certain things with a flavour of the time and place (the late 1990s in post-USSR with all its preconceptions). In every other respect, SR games are masterpieces like any other. Moreover, they have aged exceptionally well: they still work, even on Windows 10, and look gorgeous without any remasters, just with a simple resolution fix.


Having free reign in choosing your own path is something I really enjoy, add to that my love for scifi settings…Don’t make the game sound that good, there are already too many games I want to check out :P

Yeah, I think despite the gaming community being quite international, some things are just culturally different or not understandable for someone from another time or place. It’s the same with games that are really old sometimes. The humor and the cultural references just changed and are less understandable now. A truly good game does not suffer too much though, so I think that can be overcome.

Pretty cool that the game still runs on Windows 10 without problems. That’s not always the case. Especially the upgrade to Windows 10 seems to break quite a few games that still ran fine on Windows 7.

I think I heard of Durak before, but I never knew what it was exactly or how popular it is. Good to finally know!


BTW, the closest thing there is to Space Rangers is probably Star Control games. Did you play them?


No, I can’t say I have. Did you?


I played old ones a little not so long ago to compare. There is a fairly new one called Star Control: Origins, and it is high on my wishlist. :-)