Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, June 05, 2012
Are there any offline games left?

One of my readers wrote me with a question about playing games offline, and as I am very much online all the time I'm not in the best position to answer it. So I'm passing the question on, and maybe you can help. The question is from somebody deployed overseas without commercial internet access: What good strategy and roleplaying games are there which do not require any internet connection, neither for installation, nor for playing? Thus the game needs to be available "in a box", and not require internet authentication for installation or playing.

Obviously multiplayer games are out. But even games like Diablo 3, or games requiring Steam or Origin for authentication are out. I remember a lot of uproar on online authentication for Ubisoft games, but I'm not 100% sure whether that is still the case for all of their games, or whether they changed that policy. I probably have several games which require online authentication, and I'm not even aware of it, because my computer is always online anyway. Unless authentication servers are down frequently (/wave Blizzard), I tend to not notice. But I freely admit that I am in a somewhat privileged situation there, and there are a lot of people which do not have unrestricted internet access.

So, which games would you recommend for taking on a lonely island or similar region without internet?

For more rewarding gameplay than Diablo 3:
For a lonely island? Dungeons of Dredmor.
Don't Steam games work offline as well?
Steam works offline for running games you previously installed online. If you want to buy a new game without having internet access, Steam can't help you.
I went without internet at home for a month due to a massive bureaucratic screwup by the phone company. The Steam games worked at first, but one day it decided it needed to re-authenticate me. I was not able to run any of those games after that.

I played a lot of Diablo 2, and also really old games like Star Control 2 (still a classic!) and text adventures.
I should think that if you were stuck on a lonely island, you're not buying any new games, Tobold.

On that note, I'd be playing Minecraft.
For strategy games, I think most titles from Paradox (Europa Universalis, Hearts of Iron etc) and Matrix Games (lots and lots of classic strategy titles) are still available in physical boxes.

Of course, it will be easiest to find these titles from each respective company's online stores, so that may not count anyway! :)
I can think of plenty of good games that don't need an intenet connection but getting a copy of a physical box is the problem.

I would be tempted to check out some classic of yesteryear such as Homeworld and the various Age of Empire games. Most of these are available on budget re-release (Sold Out / Best Seller) that include recent patches on the CD.
It's been years since I haven't had an always on internet connection. Are there really gamers out there still on dialup who don't have a second phone line or something? Is this a kid gamers vs adult gamers thing?

Shrug, if you have even partial or intermittent internet, most games out there can be pirated to play offline, I'm sure. There's a trend towards making the online component a fun, worthwhile part of the game, to fight piracy, but you can't enjoy those anyway without internet.

One of my favorite games is called SpaceChem, but even in that a good chunk of the fun is seeing how well your puzzle solutions compare to other players.

I don't know, I'm not really comfortable making suggestions, as people who choose not to get an always on internet connection probably enjoy very different things from someone like me where that's an easy decision.
people who choose not to get an always on internet connection

I wouldn't call for example a soldier deployed in the middle east having "chosen" not to get an always on internet connection. There are lots of places in the world where always on internet isn't quite as ubiquitous as in the US or Europe.
Dwarf Fortress
Hmm, the tricky thing is the installation requirement.

If they had access to downloading the game off the internet, there are lots of small Roguelikes (Angband as suggested above, TOME, nethack, Unreal World, etc.) that don't take up much space and provide hours of enjoyment.

As well as indie games like Legend of Grimrock, etc. but there's that internet connection required to download bit.

So if we're looking at a box purchase from a computer game store, the best bet is probably a good rated, mainstream, strategy game of some kind like Total War, Galactic Civilizations, etc. and to check the side of the box very very carefully for "internet required to activate" warning.
Battle for Wesnoth is a free fantasy strategy game with loads of mods and extras. You could play one of the missions, play a vs game with the computer (or against another player if you connect up two computers) or download some of the fan based stuff.
I was going to say indie games but heck, they're all distributed online.

Personally, I'd take a few of these games with me:
-Anno 1404 (mmm, probably needs internet to activate it so do that before you go to your island)
-The paradox games (Crusader Kings 2, Victoria 2,...)
-Minecraft (again, you have to buy it online)
-Skyrim is pretty great too
-Visual Studio so I can create some games of my own

I'd recommend those as great time-sinks. Plenty of other good games but why take a 10 gig game to your island that you can finish in 6 hours?
Dragon Age origins
Civilization V
Total War series (medieval my favorite)

are all epic games with a lot of replay-ability value...
If you're into the 4X games, I recommend Sins of a Solar Empire and Galactic Civilizations 2. First one's more combat-focussed, but both are definitely strategy over tactics.

Stardock's always been pretty good about being DRM free, but I don't know if you can get these things shipped to you in physical boxes anymore. They've opted to use a steam-like digital delivery system called 'Impulse'. If you haven't checked it out, I strongly recommend you do. Especially if you're in a non-US country.

Reason? The pricing is often better than Steam. For some reason, many publishers will charge the stupidly-high boxed retail console prices for games like Deus Ex, which tack FORTY dollars on to the standard sixty asking price. I've found that these prices get mirrored for digital distribution on Steam most times, but Impulse seems to have avoided that for quite a few.
Bonus? You can take the 'CD Key' (heh. CD) and authenticate it through Steam anyway, if you want to continue making use of the Overlay an social features.

It's funny, the concept of purchasing things in a box being a requirement. I know a large number of excellent games (especially if you don't mind going back a few years to GoG's selection) are available to play without online authenticatin or DRM, but the DELIVERY is online.

When things aren't available for purchase in brick-and-mortar stores and you don't have access to the net, what are your legal options? Pretty much Nil. I know the copies of Sins and GalCiv2 may be DRM-free, so someone could burn you a copy and mail it to you on DVD, but if you then wanted to compensate Stardock for their efforts, I have no idea whether they'd actually be open to the idea of you saying: "Hi. I want to play your game, I can't get a copy physically and I don't have internet access. A friend can mail me a copy, but I'd like to send you some money."
Not sure if that's even legal, given that governments need to control the flow of money to fit with taxation and reportables are required for publicly listed companies...
Nice list Giannis...100% agree.

It'd be a real hard choice between Skyrim and Civ for me.
Slitherine got quite a few strategy game that I dont think need internet playing single player (mostly bought download versions myself, but they got boxes too).
Space Rangers 2, one of the best games from rpg/strategy hybrid department to this date.

Fantasy Wars is a nice tbs, although it tends to be more puzzle than strategy at times.
Can't argue with Angband, Dwarf Fortress or CiV. I attempted to calculate my total play time in those three games and discovered that I am actually 700 years old and have been using PCs since before the discovery of electricity.
A few gems like Dungeons of Ddredmor have already been mentioned, so I'll try to add some new ones:

Terraria, while best when playing with friends, is a pretty good single player game. And it can even be bought as a physical disc if you're counting out online distribution only titles.

Darksiders is a great game that's a bit underrated in my opinion, might be a good time to play it with the sequel coming out soon.
May be a bit modern for your liking but I recommend the S.t.a.l.k.e.r. series.

I'm currently going through the first game again but with the mega mod known as "StalkerSoup" (huge download). It's epic.
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I’m the one who asked Tobold about this. I’m currently deployed and the base I’m at has such a poor internet connection you can’t even patch games via steam. It’s $30 a month and I was getting 5-15kbps when I tried to patch L4D2. When I ping it was around 500ms assuming it didn’t time out.

We’ve been playing Skyrim, Civ 5, and Battlefield 1942. I was lucky enough to preinstall some games via Steam before coming out here but those are getting old; Dawn of War, Left 4 Dead, and a few others. The problem is that even single player games now typically require you to purchase and download via online or authenticate.

I just ordered Destiny Quest, the book Tobold reviewed, to give that a try. It’s not that I want to play old games, I bought Diablo 3 because the previous base I was on had decent internet but I can’t play it at my current base.
Neverwinter Nights 2 is a little older but the license runs off a CD rather than an online connection. If you get the platinum edition it has all the patches and updates.

Also, have you played Torchlight? The box version is available through Amazon and the developer's website says the box version has no DRM.
We are looking into getting NWN2 and I think I will pick up Torchlight 2 when it comes out. I'm also going to grab Borderlands 2 when it comes out. I love Borderlands even if the story was terrible. The gameplay and jokes were great.

When you purchase a game from the store (any of the games, not just the one linked), you can buy a CD (for about $6) that allows you to install without having an internet connection.
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