More Free Games for Linux

Back in 2007, I wrote an article on free games for Linux and thought it was time to write a bit more on the subject. Actually, I had a lot of fun doing the research for this article and telling my sons that I really was "working." I don't really play that many games, so when I do, there are a few things that I look for.

Since there are so many very good games out there, I don't waste my time on games that run poorly, or aren't aesthetically appealing. I also don't have time to read reams of documentation in order to get started, though I will make an exception now and then if a game is particularly intriguing.

I have a reasonably beefy machine to work and play on. I use an AMD64 Dual Core 4200+ with 1Gb of RAM and a GeForce FX 5200 video card. Most game players have much better hardware, but this is primarily a work machine. You can use these specs to get an idea of how well a given game will run on your system.

One of the responses to my previous article referred to a game that I had seemingly neglected; I'd like to remedy that situation now. When I first saw Tremulous, (Figure 1) I thought it was just another FPS, which doesn't score many points with me, personally. It didn't take more than 5 minutes of playing the game online to see why it was unique. In Tremulous, there are two different types of players, Humans and Aliens, that battle against each other. On one hand, Humans are able to carry weapons and wage war from a distance. On the other hand, the Aliens don't carry weapons, but are able to crawl on walls and move faster, so they tend to take a more "in your face" approach to fragging their enemy. When a player enters a game of Tremulous, they are given the choice of joining the Human or Alien team, depending on a player's preferred style of play.

This Alien vs. Human aspect of the game is unique enough, but then I saw what really sets Tremulous apart from most other FPS's; I watched a Human player construct a machine gun turret during the game, and then watched the machine gun automatically target and shoot an approaching enemy! Tremulous allows players to assume two different roles, builder or soldier. We all understand what the soldier does in a FPS. But the builder role is unique. Builders are able to build and repair various structures during the game. For example, Human builders can build automated defenses, medi-stations and tele-nodes. Medi-stations allow soldiers to recover from injuries while tele-nodes are where players respawn when they are killed. In fact, the object of the game is to destroy all of the other team's tele-nodes, thus preventing them from re-entering the game. In addition to these unique features, Tremulous provides everything else you expect in a FPS, that is, if you expect blood, guts, and bullet holes.

Falcon's Eye (Figure 2) is a modern remake of the old Net Hack game we used to play on our 80x25 terminals. Falcon's Eye does a great job of preserving, and improving, what made Net Hack so unique. With Falcon's Eye, we have the same type of maze that we had with Net Hack, only now it's from a 3D isometric perspective. The objects and enemies in the game are no longer represented by sometimes cryptic ASCII characters, but now have actual graphical representations. For better or worse, Falcon's Eye even preserves the pet dog from Net Hack.

One of the things that made Net Hack so unique was the concept of having zero initial knowledge of the maze. When the games starts, the player can only see what is in his immediate vicinity. He only learns about other parts of the maze, or dungeon, as he explores it. In Falcon's Eye, parts of the dungeon reveal themselves as they come into the players view. Thus, the player has to explore the dungeon before he even knows what it looks like. Like Net Hack, Falcon's Eye has a plethora of different enemies to fight and a seemingly endless number of dungeon levels.

One area where Falcon's Eye improves upon Net Hack is in game control. In Net Hack, the player had to press arrow keys, or vi editing keys, in order to move around the dungeon. Thankfully in Falcon's Eye, the player can use the mouse to point to where they want to go and the player's character, and dog, faithfully move there, if they can.

In Falcon's Eye, the dungeons are still randomly generated, and the previously explored levels are still lost forever, as in Net Hack. I always thought it would be neat if these games would save the dungeon levels and allow you to move up and down between levels. Oh well, if you enjoyed playing Net Hack, I think you'll love playing Falcon's Eye.

Glest is a real-time strategy game set in a world inhabited by humans and magical beings. (Figure 3.) Up to four human or computer-controlled clans are in the game and the game supports setting up alliances between the various clans. The human clans are made up of various soldiers and mechanical weapons while the magical clans are composed of mages and conjured beings. Each member of the player's clan can be issued orders such as "go here," or "build this." The object of the game is to build an army, build and maintain the necessary supporting infrastructure, and defeat the enemy clans in battle.

As each member of a clan winds battles, or performs other tasks, they gain experience and gain additional, more powerful capabilities. Glest features a single-player mode with up to 4 clans, or an on-line mode. Once you have mastered one scenario, there are 5 more included in the game, and even more are available for download. The graphics and sound in this game are engrossing with various types of terrain, detailed structures and monuments, night and day cycles, weather conditions, and well animated characters. Finally, I've found that the computer-controlled AI is quite a formidable enemy, which makes this game challenging, as well as fun.

When I first started playing UFO: Alien Invasion, (Figure 4.) I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but I sure didn't expect the level of detail that this games provides. Here we have a real-time strategy game set on Earth in the distant future when all of the Earth is united and is threatened with invasion from aliens. It's the player's job to manage resources, devise strategy, and fight battles to prevent this invasion.

At the beginning of the game, the player is presented with a description of the geopolitical situation on Earth, a detailed mission briefing, and various research proposals, all very interesting reading, actually. Next, the player chooses a location for their first base. Then things get detailed. The next task for the player is to actually equip the base camp and hire workers, scientists, soldiers, and medics. The player is presented with a list of prospective employees to choose from, complete with a full name, picture, and various statistics about the applicant. Once hiring is done, and before any missions, the soldiers can each be equipped with various weapons and supplies. I underestimated how important this was until I lost my entire squad in my first mission.

Once a mission has commenced, UFO becomes a turn-based strategy game where you control your units in order to complete their mission, such as neutralizing the unknown number of aliens that have terrorized a city. The graphics and sound in this game are stunning, and once again, the AI is sophisticated. The aliens seem to use attack-and-evade tactics that make them difficult to defeat. Based on the fact that the base camp has many different types of buildings, an alien containment center, for example, and each one has a status report available, I tend to believe that I've only scratched the surface of the complexity of this game.

Finally, what could possibly be better than strolling around in an Algerian villa... with a large caliber assault riffle? Urban Terror quickly became my all-time favorite FPS. In fact, this article was delayed while I "researched" this game more thoroughly. (Figure 5) Unlike most FPS's, which are a bit too Gothic for my taste, Urban Terror is set in various cities and villages, mostly outdoors. This game really gives you an idea of what it must be like to fight in the streets. As with most FPS's, you have a wide selection of realistic weapons and equipment. However, what often disappoints me with other "modern warfare" FPS's is that it's often possible to find an unassailable position and just sit there sniping other players. I also don't like the "jump and run" game play that's so common with this type of game. Urban Terror doesn't seem to have these issues; it's just a very real, very intense game. If you enjoy FPS's, Urban Terror is a must-have.

Well there you have it, five more free games that I think are some of the best available for Linux. If you have other suggestions, please let me know about them.

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