Of the three remaining pillars of full-priced essential PC gaming, the Creative Assembly’s truly magnificent Total War series has so far escaped the problems of piracy and validation. While World of Warcraft avoids these problems by its very nature and the Half-Life series is policed by Vale’s Steam spyware, the only RTS series worth considering has so far politely ignored the issue. But, as last week’s long-awaited release of Empire: Total War made clear, a fate worse than death has now befallen the historical epics.
What’s the problem? Find out after the jump.
In short, Total War has now been infected with the viral nightmare that is Steam, with predicable consequences. Thanks to the programme’s insistence on connecting to the internet to validate, and then download about half of the web in order to allow Steam to run, the simple process of installing the game and getting it ready to play took just over two and a half hours. I was gnashing my teeth before even half of the time had elapsed, but kept a stiff upper lip thanks to the knowledge that I would only have to sit through this process once.
A very rude awakening followed.
It soon became obvious that Gabe Newall’s little box of horrors was going to insist on connecting to the Internet every time I tried to play the game I held in my hand. So, no more taking the laptop on holiday, then. A long weekend in Bath last year was rendered all the memorable thanks to my forces sweeping around the Mediterranean, courtesy of Rome: TW. These limitations of use of the game, and the resulting breaches of privacy, have not even been accomplished with a semblance of competence. Over the last week, most times I’ve tried to play the game have lead to around fifty minutes of no activity, with only the words “Updating Steam Client” to explain why I cannot enjoy the product which I bought myself in a local store. And are the moments when I’ve been lucky. On several occasions, I’ve just received a blunt message that “Servers are too busy” when I try to launch the title. Too busy to allow me to play my own game? Fuck off.
Early adopters of Half Life 2 were rightly up in arms about the demands of its developer’s pet bug-fest, but the majority of PC gamers seem to have developed a form of Stockholm syndrome, whereby they now claim to love their non-sentient captor. This suits Valve, who have spend the last few years consolidating their stranglehold on the corpse of mainstream PC gaming. Unfortunately, the inclusion of the latest in the Total War series means that Valve are now faced with an influx of dedicated TW fans, with absurdly unrealistic expectations.
Such as, being able to play the game they have bought.
I don’t really do “angry”. I can be annoyed or despondent, but I’ve never seen the point of rage. It’s a waste of time that could be spent doing something productive or entertaining. But after having so many hours wasted over the last week, taking twenty minutes to write an infuriated blog post seems like a trivial amount of effort.
I don’t want to have to fight a half-baked pseudo-console every time I play my new game. I just want to conquer the world. Is that too much to ask?