GOG Galaxy is a great lightweight client with a killer feature missing from Steam

If I were only allowed to use one game client, it would be Steam. It’s where I do almost all of my multiplayer gaming, which currently includes PUBG, Killing Floor 2, and Rising Storm 2. But the only reason it would be my choice in this strange hypothetical scenario is the size of its library and its player population. If I were to choose my favorite client, it'd be GOG Galaxy.

As a store, GOG has continuously improved since it started adding new games to its library of classics in 2012. It remains DRM free, regularly discounts games by as much as 75 percent, and if a game costs more in the customer’s country than it does in the US, it promises to refund the difference as Wallet funds. This is a problem Steam hasn’t addressed.

Until recently, though, I didn’t bother with Galaxy, the site’s relatively new client. I had a folder called ‘GOG Games.’ I went to the website, bought a game, downloaded it to the folder. That was the beauty of GOG to me: no bloat, just executables.

Galaxy includes a feature every other game client should adopt.

But if you don’t have Galaxy already, I highly recommend it now. It’s lightweight, includes basic quality-of-life features such as cloud saving, and just looks nice. I especially love how my game library is presented on shelves, as it is on the site—a cute, sentimental touch for collectors that doesn't over do it. Plus, Galaxy includes a feature every other game client should adopt.

On Steam, if an update breaks something, you usually have to wait for the developer to fix it, but Galaxy smartly lists every version and makes it easy to hop back in time. I haven’t had a reason to use that feature yet, but I can think of several times I’ve wished it existed on Steam. A couple years ago, for instance, I was trying to take screenshots of a game using a free camera made possible by CheatEngine, but one of the game’s recent updates had broken the method. Nothing I could do. The only way to offer players the option to rollback updates on Steam is to use beta branches, but I haven't seen them used that way very often.

As for the library, the Ubisofts and Activisions of the world don't release new games on GOG. Anything from a big publisher that isn’t CD Projekt—which owns GOG—is currently unlikely to appear on a DRM-free platform, at least until it’s pretty old.

Popular competitive multiplayer games which take advantage of Steamworks and Valve Anti-Cheat are also unlikely candidates. Galaxy does provide social features and achievements, including GOG's own multiplayer integration which enables matchmaking through an in-game overlay, but only a few games take advantage of it right now. No one I know uses GOG socially—the multiplayer games we frequent all live on Steam, Origin, and Battle.net—but I'm pleased to see the possibility of competition emerging.

Galaxy is the quiet cafe to Steam’s packed Dave & Buster’s.

What you will find on GOG are games such as Mount & Blade, Baldur’s Gate, Starfleet Command, Kerbal Space Program, Metro: Last Light, The Banner Saga 2, and Wing Commander IV. It’s a mix of classics and some of the best, modern PC-focused games.

Steam is valuable for its ballooning, increasingly diverse library and large social network that populates multiplayer games. Itch.io is a wild forest of the smart and strange and avant-garde, and I value it, too. But GOG is the collection I’d bring to a desert island. The library only contains 2,059 games compared to Steam's 16K, but there are few games on GOG I wouldn’t play.

Right now, Galaxy’s main addition to that library is the simple convenience of not having to organize your game directories or make shortcuts or open your browser to scan the store. It isn’t full of user-created guides or screenshots or videos, or an item marketplace or trading cards, or tools like Steam’s in-home streaming. It's just a quick way to launch games, with useful features for collectors—the quiet cafe to Steam’s packed Dave & Buster’s, a low key space and a more elegant home for Planescape: Torment and Freespace 2. 

While I'd welcome a new multiplayer hub, especially if GOG's matchmaking is applied to more classic games which have defunct multiplayer support, I hope GOG continues to approach Galaxy as a laid-back collector’s room. Right now, it's doing a great job of replicating Steam's best qualities without becoming it.