The Steam Summer Sale is always dangerous, threatening to take money from your wallet and hundreds of hour of your life away with tantalizing games. But today's best deals feel especially life-threatening, because there are some masterful strategy games on sale. Civilization 5, Rome 2: Total War, and Europa Universalis IV are all heavily discounted, and any one of these games could keep you occupied for months of economic planning, political trickery or open warfare. The deal of the day, though, is Dishonored, a top contender for 2012 game of the year .
Don't forget to check out GOG's summer deals, too.
Reminder: if a game isn't a daily deal or a flash sale, it could pop up later in the sale for an even lower price. If you want to be safe, wait until June 30 to pick up a sale-long deal.
5 - Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
50% off: $19.99 / £19.99- Steam store page
If you couldn't captain a pirate ship, cannon a schooner to pieces, then leap onto its deck to sword-n-pistol away half the crew, we might have a lower opinion of Black Flag. It's not that landlubbers will get nothing from it: on the islands you'll find a healthy mix of Ubisoft game design staples—some good, some tailing missions—with a Far Cry 3 level of stuff to do. You can air assassinate an ocelot, which is certainly worthy of praise, but the sailing makes it. Black Flag is one of our favorite Assassin's Creeds because it ditches lots of legacy AC stuff and says: “Hey, how about you just be a pirate now?”
4 - Europa Universalis IV
75% off: $9.99 / £8.74- Steam store page
Grand strategy is complciated. Paradox Development set out to make it slightly less so, by refining EU4's interface and presenting every important bit of information a ruler could need in clear, concise alerts. As we said in our review , it worked, and while EU4 is by no means an easy game, it's way easier for new grand commanders to learn. This is a game that you can spend 300 hours with and still discover new surprises. Paradox has the base game on deep discount here, as well as seven different pieces of DLC on sale—though Wealth of Nations, its newest expansion pack, is not.
3 - Rome 2: Total War
66% off: $20.37 / £18.69- Steam store page
The Creative Assembly's latest 4X strategy epic is discounted to $20 from its $60 high perch, and that's a great price for a game as vast as the Roman Empire. When Rome 2 launched last September it had some significant issues with performance and enemy AI. Creative Assembly may have gone too big and launched too quickly, but the developer owned up to Rome 2's problems and has released 12 major patches since launch. The campaign map runs more smoothly and battlefield AI isn't completely worthless. And when the game works, it has the Civ effect of pulling you in for just one more turn, until you've spent all night managing your economy and beating off barbarian hordes with a small force of veteran Hastati. Steam Workshop support also means there are tons of mods available to customize the battle experience.
2 - Civilization 5
75% off: $7.49 / £4.99- Steam store page
Some of us were firmly in the “Civilization IV is better, and you're wrong if you think otherwise” camp when Civ V released, but the debate has become less polarizing—it's more about what you prefer than which is better . Between the great Gods & Kings and Brave New World expansions and the magic of Steam Workshop support, Civ V has proven worthy of the series' prestige. You might consider the Complete Edition for 67% off —again, Gods & Kings and Brave New World add a lot—but there are also loads of great free mods . And if you already have Civ V, both of the expansions are 75% off.
1 - Dishonored
75% off: $4.99 / £2.49- Steam store page
It's hard to find a better realized world than Dunwall. It's grimy, filled with rats and refuse, plague-ridden and disgusting. That Arkane Studios made a world this dirty so fun to explore is quite the achievement. Every taffer on the corner has a story to tell, and few of them have happy endings. Sneaking through this world (or marching through it, murdering everyone in your way) is really best experienced on the PC, where you'll have full control of its graphical features and every inch of the rotten city is gorgeously rendered. Sadly, none of Dishonored's DLC is on sale, but you'll get a pretty good taste of Dunwall by the end of the base game.
Other great deals today
Remember that games not categorized as Daily Deals or Flash Sales may be reduced further later in the sale.