As a passionate, but ultimately unsuccessful Counter-Strike player, 2023 was a big year for me. But surprisingly CS2 wasn’t the only new game that I played: Here is my gaming year 2023.

I decided only to list games that I played for the first time in 2023. But of course I also played classics like CS:GO, Satisfactory, Stronghold Crusader HD, Company of Heroes 1 & 2, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.

Going medieval [Early Access]

This is a game that I actually picked up by and for myself in late December 2023.

This is the first “colony-sim” type game that I played. Instead of giving direct commands to individuals or groups on the map, you create personal schedules and priorities for each inhabitant of your small settlement. Then the inhabitants ideally act according to those priorities, while also being influenced by their personalities or health.

I was always intrigued by this concept, that often also involves complex cause-effect sequences (eg. “Unexpected nudity and vomit-covered cats: how Dwarf Fortress tells some of gaming’s most bizarre stories”). But I was also worried about the barrier-to-entry, so I never tried Dwarf Fortress or Rimworld.

Going medieval makes it relatively easy to get started with this type of game. You guide 3 people in their attempt to build a sustainable and defendable settlement in a medieval world that has fallen into chaos because of the Black Death. I played on medium difficulty, and even as a total colony-sim noob I managed.

I have played only 10 hours of this game until now, so I haven’t seen all of it yet 1- but I do enjoy it. It has relaxing phases of just watching your people do their thing, micromanaged combat with robbers, and the constant dread of the next winter in the background.

Going medieval Website

Collage of screenshots of CS2, Going medieval, and a photo of our LAN party setup

Mindustry

Mindustry is a mixture between tower-defense and factory builder - and it’s open-source. I played this on a LAN party in early December.

Factory-complexity-wise Mindustry is more comparable to Satisfactory than to Factorio - but because of the ever-impending next wave of attackers that’s probably a good thing. This is especially fun in multi-player, as you can split the work between tower-defense constructors, resource extraction specialists, and factory builders.

But watch out, a lone enemy that has broken through your tower defenses could just decide to destroy a critical supply line, which might render all of your frontline defenses useless!

A great game, and it’s awesome that it is open-source! I initially downloaded the game for free, but decided to buy it on steam after 8 hours of fun.

Mindustry Website

Sunkenland [Early Access]

Another LAN party discovery. It’s a survival base building game in a water-world setting.

It is still early access, but while there are some rough edges around inventory management and vehicle mechanics, it offers a absolutely respectable amount of content at this stage.

In the past years, we also played a lot of Raft, which obviously is more polished and has a great story, but also feels more unique and has a clear design language, which I miss in Sunkenland. But Sunkenland feels less restrictive and might also find it’s own design language later - and they haven’t even begun working on the story yet, so you can’t really hold that against the game.

Overall, a surprisingly solid game for an Early Access title (we played this in early December 2023).

Sunkenland website

1.6, Source, GO, … 2!

This makes sense, when you play too much Counter-Strike, I promise!

I played this game since 1.6, when I mostly played for fun at unofficial school LAN parties with friends. When I think “1.6”, I think “mouse” maps: maps that place you in giant bathrooms or living rooms from the perspective of a mouse or toy soldier. And while I may have taken short breaks from CS:S’s fy_iceworld map to rescue a virtual hostage or two on cs_italy, it wasn’t until Counter Strike: Global Offensive, released in 2012, that I learned to love the competitive game mode.

And over the last 10 years, I played CS:GO reasonably consistently. At the start with friends from by bachelor class, later also alone, and now with the infamous *LadU* (Lappen an der Uni, roughly “Lowbobs from University”) clan. Because of certain individuals we would exclusively play de_nuke - which I do believe is the most interesting and complex official map the game has to offer, but… I’d like to play on other maps. :D

Anyway, 11 years after the release of the last Counter-Strike game, 2023 was the year of Counter-Strike … 2. No “Galactic Offensive” or “Condition One”, simply “2”.

Let’s start with the good stuff:

  1. We are finally playing maps other than Nuke, because of the new Premier mode, which more closely resembles the way that pro teams are deciding which maps to play on: By alternatingly banning maps from the available map pool until one maps remains. This is a pretty nice change, which makes playing more exciting.

  2. I also do like the new smoke dynamics and the ability to interrupt smoke walls through HE-grenades.

  3. The game stays true to its competitive shooter roots.

Now to the less good changes:

  1. Gun-game is gone. This game mode, in which you would get a new weapon for each kill, was great as a quick warm-up before the actual competitive 5v5 game. Valve, please fix.

  2. I need a new laptop. My private laptop is a from 2015, and while it was a pretty high-end gaming laptop back then, I only get about 60-90 FPS out of it in CS2 on average. Should I sit in a water pond surrounded by smoke grenades, this might drop down to 30. I can kind of play around it by relying on game sense instead of sick flicks, but 2024 is going to be the year of a new laptop for me 2.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing - I have been putting of playing a lot of higher-end graphical games that I otherwise would have liked to play in the last years, specifically Cyberpunk 2033. So CS2 is simply the final nail in the coffin.

Overall I’m pretty happy about CS2. They stayed true to the series, and in my opinion could have even added another feature or two. But maybe that will come once the dust2 of the release has settled.


  1. And I probably never will, because I’m too much of a do-gooder; A colony of cannibals? Not on my watch. I’m the one protecting the bodies of my slain enemies from polecats. ↩︎

  2. It has to be a laptop or a very portable mini-PC case, because I take the train to these LAN-parties and don’t want to risk carrying a gigantic gaming PC through Hamburgs rain. ↩︎