It's a long climb, but the rewards are great
Some games just aren't designed for the pick-up-and-play crowd. With this type of game, just getting through the tutorial requires an advanced degree.
Stick with it, though—even if the amount of information on the screen intimidates you and the game concepts seem beyond comprehension. Because the more effort it takes to master the game, the more satisfying the victory.
Here we present ten games that are difficult to learn but awesome to play. We start with a teamwork-based tug-of-war that will keep you on your toes.
Two teams of heroes compete in an epic tug-of-war. You're presented with magic, abilities, and items galore—and you must consider every choice in a split second.
The Dota 2 user interface is full of vital information: a mini map with player locations; a health, mana, and experience bar to monitor; a list of your special abilities, with cool-down timers; and your inventory. Taking everything into consideration, including what the nine other players have up their sleeves, plays a key role in determining when you should attack, defend, or run away.
Fight as a team to push into the enemy base, and then wreak havoc.
Kerbal Space Program
Real space travel isn't quite what you see in sci-fi stories. It's much more tedious: It involves careful planning, complex math, and meticulous calculations.
Kerbal Space Program brings realistic rocket science to your PC, with proper physics, aerodynamics, and all the space math your brain can handle.
You may not know how to achieve orbit, the proper speed for leaving the atmosphere, or what the heck a "prograde" is, but spend some time with the Kerbal wiki, and you'll be blasting off in no time.
You've played Call of Duty and Battlefield, so you think you have a firm grip on military tactics and protocol. And then you start up Arma III and realize you haven't even passed basic training.
Arma III is a combat simulator. It shares many of the same characteristics as a first-person shooter, but it offers more control over your tactics and gear. Weapon physics, wounds, and vehicle damage are all realistic, which means you need to watch your step.
If you're serious about some virtual military training, you can join one of the many groups that run realistic missions, complete with squadding up and communicating over the radio using authentic military jargon.
Economic and logistics enthusiasts rejoice: Anno 2070 will keep you engaged for hours.
You're tasked with setting up resource-consuming societies and creating a supply chain to keep everyone happy and thriving.
Just when you have that part down pat, you'll encounter another society that turns hostile. Suddenly you're done worrying about farms and mines. Now it’s time to build factories to churn out armaments and, eventually, nuclear weapons.
World of Warcraft has nothing on the complexity that Eve Online boasts. This space-based MMO has less to do with Star Wars-esque battles and more to do with intense political debates and corporate board meetings.
You’ll eventually engage in epic space battles, but only after you’ve established a career, obtained a ship, earned enough money to upgrade it, and become established in your player-run alliance.
Instead of enjoying the sights of space, you’ll spend most of your time sorting through the brief notifications and messages covering your screen, most of which you can't afford to ignore.
Learning the unique strengths and abilities of the military units of an entire intelligent species is a lot of homework. Multiply that effort by three, and you’re headed for a brain fry.
The task is daunting, but it’s the best way to enjoy the epic real-time strategy game StarCraft II. This is one of the most exciting competitive games ever produced, and it's been known to fill entire arenas with spectators watching professional gamers show off their strategic thinking and lightning-fast reflexes.
PlanetSide 2 is a massively multiplayer, first-person shooter that plays like a cross between World of Warcraft and Battlefield. As you play and rank up, you’ll unlock more abilities, weapons, and tools that will shape your role in the war. Play to your strengths for optimal effect.
The persistent world is constantly engaged in battle, and your knowledge of the enemy and the battlefield will determine whether you excel or become just so much cannon fodder.
The ignorant will exclaim, "It's a kids' game—look at the simple graphics! All you do is punch trees." If any such critics actually played the game for 30 minutes, Minecraft would blow their minds.
Go deeper than just digging around, fighting monsters, and making silly dirt huts—amass an incredible amount of resources and create advanced tools and objects, and then use those items to become a powerful player who can slay the mythic Ender Dragon.
Even if you don't feel like messing with the game, you can use Creative Mode to assemble working contraptions including a functioning computer.
Remember that Leonardo DiCaprio movie Inception? That’s Minecraft in a nutshell.
DCS: A-10c Warthog
If you're afraid of buttons, switches, and beeping warning lights, turn back now. This hard-core flight sim is only for those who want to fly for real.
DCS: A-10C Warthog isn't like Microsoft Flight. The developers who wrote this software make military-grade simulations to train real people in how to deliver death from above with these epic war machines.
Everything on the screen is clickable and serves a function, making it extra-easy to screw up and auger in if you're careless. Just starting this beast is a 12-step process.
You can read all about it in the 671-page manual.
Don't let the ASCII graphics fool you: Dwarf Fortress might be one of the most complicated games you’ll install on your hard drive.
After you create a custom world with a deep history, your dwarves are ready to embark on an Oregon Trail-style journey. Assign them jobs, bring plenty of supplies, and then find a suitable place to construct a fortress that will stand the test of time.
Keep the fortress safe from the swarms of hell while allowing the dwarves to thrive.
The primitive graphics are something of a hurdle, and getting through the main menu can also be challenging. But the satisfaction of fending off a terrifying goblin siege is ample reward.
Today's Best Tech Deals
Picked by PCWorld's Editors