From Russia with Love (Great Games from the Eastern Block)

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snide

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#1  Edited By snide

My list of the day :) 
 
Please upvote it on the actual list page if you enjoy. Upvoting really helps the engineering team when tryng to figure out which lists are worthy of floating on the game pages. 
  

From Russia with Love (Great Games from the Eastern Bloc)

1C publishes most Eastern Block games these days. 
1C publishes most Eastern Block games these days. 
I love games that come out of Eastern Europe and Russia. If "Eastern Bloc" was a proper genre I would probably declare it as my favorite. So why the fasicination? I guess I just really like the cerebral and difficult nature of games from that part of the world. They also tend to make exclusively PC games for the simple reason that consoles don't seem to be common in that part of the world.
 
Mostly though I just love that games from that region are a little odd. They always have fairly unique storylines and although the voice-acting and stability are usually in question, they tend to be extremely ambitious games that take on way more then they are capable of achieving. I also love that most Eastern Bloc games use homebrew engines that for the most part tend to rival a year agos technology from major development houses in the US. 
 
In cinema I often refer to one of my favorite genres being "flawed epics", which encompass long movies that are huge in scope and all over the place in pacing. I think that tends to match well with this list of games. 
 
Really though, the reason I loved all of these games is because I had no fucking clue any of them were coming out. As someone who has been involved in professional game website building for over a decade that's a pretty rare feat. Almost all of these games had very little marketing campaigns and became a success based on word of mouth user reviews alone.
1. Serious Sam

From Croatia. Probably the biggest hit from this list. Serious Sam serves as a perfect example of the behind the times / ahead of the times style of Eastern Bloc games. For a 2001 game the idea of a pure level to level kill-stuff-till-you-get-to-the-end shooter was extremely archaic. At the same time the game's engine was pretty impressive, boasting an unbelievable amount of on screen baddies. The game kind of made everyone wonder what the fuck Carmack and Sweeney were doing in their claustrophobic counterparts.

2. IL-2 Sturmovik

From Russia. Like most other PC nerds I sometimes get it into my head that I'd really like to get into a deep flight sim. For close to 5 year IL-2 was the only game in town.

3. S2: Silent Storm

From Russia. Silent Storm is one of my favorite pure combat TBS games. Set in an alternate history WW2 the game slowly moves from sniper rifles and grenades to mechanized combat suits. The big thing it has going for it was an amazing destructible environment engine. I used to love setting charges on the first floor's support structures as a means of killing enemies up high.

4. Nexus: The Jupiter Incident

From Hungary. For some reason Nexus never made it out from under Homeworld's shadow. The game focused almost exclusively on capital ship battles which gave the whole game an epic feel with long, drawn out battles. The story was similarly heavy with lots of loaded questions about humans vs. machines and the idea of creationism. Really dissapointed a sequel was never made. This one is truly one of a kind.

5. Heroes of Might and Magic V

From Russia. Pretty much either the return or death of the TBS / world map style games depending upon who you talk to. I remember being completely amazed by the attention to detail in the artwork and character models. Still an extremely pretty game and if you like this style of TBS there really wasn't a lot better that came around until King's Bounty.

6. S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl

From Russia. I'll say it quickly: I enjoyed STALKER more then Fallout 3. A terribly misunderstood game that is extremely deep, if a bit broken. The concept was amazing and its implementation of RPG as FPS is the one I prefer given the alternatives (Mass Effect, Fallout 3). I've yet to play the prequel, but I'm trying to save it for a rainy weekend. If you're a fan of Far Cry 2 and its open world style and difficulty, you might want to check this one out.

7. King's Bounty: The Legend

From Russia. Featuring possibly the prettiest UI I've ever seen in a game, King's Bounty captures World of Warcraft's visual aesthetic and combines it with a better take on the fantasy, TBS / world map style game. There are times when it can get incredibly frustrating, but King's Bounty has the honor of being the most polished game on this list. Was extremely surprised when I found out it was a Russian dev.

8. Cryostasis: The Sleep of Reason

From Ukraine. Probably my favorite game on this list and definitely the one that made me start thinking about how Eastern Bloc games share an odd weirdness in common. Cryostasis includes one of my favorite every storytelling in video games. From the jump into someone before they die concept to the disjointed narration style I was absolutely floored by this game. It unfortunately has some terrible stability problems and crashed quite a bit during my play through. So far it's a toss up between this and Batman: Arkham Asylum as my favorite game of 2009.

9. Men of War

From Russia. Essentially think Company of Heroes but much harder and much more strategic. The interface can get a little clunky, and I'll admit I didn't make it through all of this one, but definitely a game I really respect for its take on RTS gameplay.

10. Mount & Blade

Mount and Blade comes from a Turkish developer, which means it really doesn't belong on this list since Turkey was usually friendly with the US during the Cold War. However, it completely fits in with the aesthetic we're presenting in this list. It's the one game I haven't played here mostly out of worry that it will completely absorb my time.

11. Majesty 2: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim

From Russia. Just started playing Majesty 2 but can already tell I'm in love with it. Perfect fit for this list as it's a very different take on the RTS genre. Instead of actively maneuvering your friendlies, you recruit heroes who pretty much act however they see fit. Somehow I missed out on the first game in the series.

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JJOR64

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#2  Edited By JJOR64

Serious Sam was an awesome game.  I hope the XBLA version is as good as the original.

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juanvaldes

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#3  Edited By juanvaldes

Tetris? 
 
Heros V was a great release. Pretty to look out, detailed, played well and didn't perform like crap (unlike 4). Tons of fun, only downside is there were not many co-op levels that came out of the box. 

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#4  Edited By snide
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#5  Edited By TwoOneFive

Snide is all about lists. 

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juanvaldes

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#6  Edited By juanvaldes
@snide: Personal lists are personal. Just saw the title and was surprised to not see Tetris. Going to need to look into Kings Bounty now. 
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#7  Edited By Black_Raven

I love the STALKER series and Men of War. Another game that really needs to be on the list is DCS: Black shark, it's an awesome combat helicopter sim made by a developer based in Moscow.

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#8  Edited By MattyFTM  Moderator

I do agree that great games can come out of that part of the world, but there have been some terrible ones too. It's hard to accept that a game with such an awesome trailer could be so bad. 

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Red12b

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#9  Edited By Red12b

Big Rigs. 
The best review I have ever seen or read. 
Alex Navarro Is king. 
I miss his reviews of bad games :(
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#10  Edited By Pazy

I own a couple of games on that list but most of the rest of them (save Men of War since I have only recently heard of it) are games that I keep meaning to buy. The aesthetic of these games really appeals to me and I cant quite articulate why, its something to do with the way they are usually presented without a lot of shine (which usually seems to wear away depth) and are very unapolagetic in there "hardcoreness".

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#11  Edited By Carlozz34

Men of war is definately an RTS jewel. haven't had that much fun with an rts in along time. Games from the post-sovjet countries are probably pretty hard to get into for the average joe, and demand a little work to really get into, but once you do there are certainly some great titles there. 

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#12  Edited By c1337us

I still want to play Cryostasis in a bad way. The only other game on that list I have played is Serious Sam. My old man is into IL-2 Sturmovik though.

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#13  Edited By Fallen189

Get out of here STALKER!

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#14  Edited By ArbitraryWater

Yay. Dave mentioned Heroes of Might and Magic, which means I am not the only person on this website who knows what that series is.

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#15  Edited By eroticfishcake

Dave just loves 'em lists! There should be another game on that list but it's completely escaped me.

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#16  Edited By Absurd

Nice list. I need to get around to playing Cryostasis.

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#17  Edited By PureRok

STALKER and M&B are both great. The one thing I hate about Mount & Blade is I'll sit down to play a little bit of it, and when I finish four hours will have gone by.
 
Civilization manages the same feat, but I know that time has gone by in that one, but in Mount & Blade it's like you just jump into the future.

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#18  Edited By Throdax

The lack of Pathologic and The Void (granted The Void is yet to come out outside of CIS countries, Germany and Poland) in that list is disturbing.

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#19  Edited By hamlaser

Serious Sam was so rad. About 6 years ago when my desktop at the time went down I ended up playing Serious Sam on my laptop. It ran pretty well on the crap specs that I had. It saved me.

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#20  Edited By McPaper

I loved Mount and Blade in its early beta and I played the HELL outta STALKER despite it being down right broken and I agree that it's very overlooked. I recall replaying it with the Oblivion Lost mod and patches and it felt more like a complete game.
 
Im looking forward to the 3rd game "Call of Pripyat", apparently it's actually bug tested this time!

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#21  Edited By snide
@Throdax said:
" The lack of Pathologic and The Void (granted The Void is yet to come out outside of CIS countries, Germany and Poland) in that list is disturbing. "
Have not played either. I'll have to check them out. Are they any good?
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#22  Edited By Throdax
@snide said:

" @Throdax said:

" The lack of Pathologic and The Void (granted The Void is yet to come out outside of CIS countries, Germany and Poland) in that list is disturbing. "
Have not played either. I'll have to check them out. Are they any good? "
 

 They  can considered a bit of cult games. Definably not for everyone stomach or taste. Both games won several Russian awards and the The Void was even part of a Russian museum.
 
I'll let others speak for me in much better words:
 
Pathologic :
http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2008/04/10/butchering-pathologic-part-1-the-body/ (Contains Spoilers)
 
The Void:
http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2009/01/26/unknown-pleasures-typrop/ 
http://resolution-magazine.co.uk/content/review-the-void/ (First English review)
 
Ice-Pick Lodge:
http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2009/02/03/rps-interviews-ice-pick-lodge/
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#23  Edited By Jimbo

Holy two comment sections, Batman!
 
First, allow me to re-raise my eyebrow at the omission of The Witcher  ^_~   Maybe not obscure enough?
 

  1. Serious Sam:  I can't remember which SS game I played - It had co-op and was awesome.  It's all fun and games until somebody loses an eye.
  2. Sturmo:  I totally get your comment about wanting to get into a 'proper' flight sim every so often.  I usually end up sat on a virtual runway trying to figure out what a 'flap' is for 20 minutes until the urge goes away.  Il-2 is one of the many, many flight sims I have bought and then not played over the years. 
  3. S2: Never played any of these.  Tried to recently and it said "Ha!  With this OS?!  No." :(
  4. Nexus:  The real hidden gem on this list.  I love a good space opera and this hit the sweet spot of engaging complexity without being frustratingly difficult.  Really needs a sequel.
  5. HOMM / King's Bounty: Despite repeated attempts I have learned that I absolutely hate these types of game.  I think it's the transition.  I tried Disciples and hated that too.
  6. STALKER: No doubt a great game, I enjoyed it until I started having to fight radiation monsters and what not, then I lost interest  (See also:  Far Cry, Crysis).
  7. KB: See 5.
  8. Cryostasis: Not played yet.
  9. Men of War:  Awesome, awesome, awesome.  I've been cheerleading this series since the first one, Soldiers:  Heroes of World War II (I have no idea what they were thinking with this title, it doesn't even abbreviate well) came out, it's great to see the series finally getting some recognition.  If you (or anybody) enjoyed MoW I would highly recommend going back and taking a look at S:HoWW2 (??) if you haven't played it - it still looks great and the core gameplay is nearly identical, but it's all on a much more manageable scale, which I think suits the gameplay a lot better than the large scale action of Faces of War and Men of War.  Soldiers is hands down the greatest co-op experience I've ever had on any platform - there's no save function at all in co-op, which believe it or not actually makes it more enjoyable.  If you do play Soldiers, don't be put off by the start of the first (British) mission (as many people were), bizarrely, it is just about the hardest part of  the whole SP campaign.
  10. M&B:  Pretty good but somewhat overrated.  Something I would love to see - but know we never will - is Mount & Blade Natal.  Think about it.
One to watch from The Motherland:  Majesty 2.  I played the demo last night and was instantly hooked.
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#24  Edited By snide
@Jimbo: I bought Majesty 2 today. Absolutely loving it and added to my list :)
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#25  Edited By Jimbo
@snide: Excellent.  I haven't played the first one either, but I have had my ass kicked by the demo level about 6 times already- that's a tell-tale sign of a quality Russian product.  
 
I'm a little worried by the absence of terrible voice acting though; the Sean Connery sound-alike advisor seems disconcertingly competent.
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#26  Edited By Claude

The Witcher was made in Poland, not sure if that counts. Great game from Eastern Europe.

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#27  Edited By totenxcx

Actually Croatia isn't in Eastern Europe, it's in Southern Europe. And it isn't a former Eastern Bloc country either. Yugoslavia, which Croatia was a part of, was in the Non-Aligned Movement. Just so you know..

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#28  Edited By MattyFTM  Moderator
@totenxcx said:

" Actually Croatia isn't in Eastern Europe, it's in Southern Europe. And it isn't a former Eastern Bloc country either. Yugoslavia, which Croatia was a part of, was in the Non-Aligned Movement. Just so you know.. "

Croatia is in Eastern Europe. Just because it's in the Southeast doesn't mean it can't be considered Eastern Europe. And Yugoslavia was a USSR state until the late 1940's when they formed an independent, non-aligned movement. They are still be considered part of the former Eastern Bloc, they just left it before the other countries did.
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#29  Edited By Throdax

Shameless plug I know, but on the topic of Russian wonders.
 
 
A great review by RPS of The Void, for those interested
  http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2009/09/29/wot-i-think-the-void/
 
I must confess it would be nice to have GB do Quick Look or even a review, as you know the perls of gaming deserve all the publicity they can get to help support such devs to continue and create such wonderful games and to prove to publishers that these games are capable of selling.
 
Sorry for the shameless plug. :(
 

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#30  Edited By Tordah

I'll have to check some of these games out. I love the earlier HOMM games (up until the third one at least) but I never checked out the 5th installment or King's Bounty.

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#31  Edited By TheHBK

Where is Big Rigs?

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#32  Edited By jakob187

Damn Communists...

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#33  Edited By PeasForFees

All should play Mount and Blade, (I even put it in capitals, I don't do that with god)

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#34  Edited By Mikemcn
@snide said:
" @Jimbo: I bought Majesty 2 today. Absolutely loving it and added to my list :) "

Check out Mount and blade, you will love it. It will take up some time, but it is the only game with a serious horse Archery Mechanic , Its worth it for that alone!
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#35  Edited By ahoodedfigure

I watched Cryostasis all the way through and loved what it did with the standard game narrative.  I played the demo for Mount and Blade, which was damned fun, but never got the full version because I guess the updates were starting outpace my computer.  Other than Tetris and Facetris and all that, I guess my first Eastern Bloc game that I remember was a weird lily-pad hopping thing where you try to avoid bureaucrats :)  It was filled with Russian text and took me a while to figure out :)

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#36  Edited By mrhankey
@snide: 
Cryostaisis and STALKER are probably the best games from the Eastern Block.

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