I’ve been blathering on about some fairly complex topics in the industry of late. The last few articles I’ve posted have really just been me talking at all of you about how This Is A Very Important Issue and You Should All Care About It Very Much. I figured it was time for a change of pace. Today, I’m going to ask all of you to take a step back in time with me- back to simpler days, when the best graphics were still blurry polygons and low-res backgrounds. Back before all the talk of AAA titles and Hollywood. Back to the earliest days of gaming. In other words, back to my childhood.
Gods, I feel old.
Many of you are probably wondering what I’m on about, and why I suddenly decided to write about this. See, several days ago, I found myself wandering over to the EB games near my apartment with my lady friend. I can’t quite recall what we were doing, or why we were going there-it’s not important. As we wandered about the store and tried to avoid eye contact with a rather unsavory character I knew from my University days, something caught her eye. More specifically, two somethings.
Minds out of the gutter, please.
She tapped me on the shoulder, and I turned to see her holding two DVD cases. On the left, the PC D&D Collection. On the right, the Neverwinter Nights Collection. She hadn’t the money, so she wanted to know if I’d purchase them. At first, I was…hesitant. After all, money’s been tight lately, and Diablo 3’s release was nigh. I told her I’d think about it. The next day, I bought them- trading in a few other games for good measure.
She’s very good at convincing me to do things for her. Plus, I kind of wanted to purchase them, anyway.
After installing them, I immediately dove into Baldur’s Gate…and a thought occurred to me. This was one of the best, most legendary PC RPGs of all time…and until now, I’d never experienced it! Bioware’s first RPG, the game that truly put them on the map…and until now, I hadn’t bothered to give it the time of day. I quickly learned that I’d made a terrible mistake.
But enough with the personal anecdotes- I’m here to save all of you from making the same mistake I did. Or something. Whatever- here’s a few old-school titles that helped put gaming on the map. You’d be doing yourself a terrible disservice if you ignored them.
As an added benefit, unless you’re surfing the ‘net on a block of wood, your computer can probably handle all of these. I’ve made sure there’s something on this list for pretty much everyone, so regardless of what sort of game you like, you’ll probably find something that interests you. Sound good?
Obviously, we’re going to round the list out with the franchise that brought Bioware to the public eye- Baldur’s Gate. It was the game that put Bioware on the map, and featured challenging combat, an interesting storyline (for the time, anyway) and a selection of unique, entertaining characters. Unfortunately, the pathing makes you feel like you’re watching a bunch of blind, meth-addled chimps try to navigate a bakery. Still, it was fun, and fairly addictive, as well. There’s also the wee caveat that it lead to what was arguably of the best games of all time.
Baldur’s Gate 2(2000) , was absolutely incredible, and featured one of the most epic stories of the day, with one of the most memorable villains of all time: John Irenicus, you are a glorious bastard, and we love you.
Oh, did I mention they accomplished all of this by translating the D&D 2E ruleset into a video game? Yeah.
This game. My god, this game. I cannot adequately describe how long I’ve wanted to play it, just based on what I’ve heard of it, and titles like this are why it’s a horrible tragedy that Black Isle Entertainment is no more. Planescape: Torment is notable for being yet another game based on the D&D ruleset…but mostly eschewing combat. Unlike many other games of the time, it put the emphasis on story above all else. And the story…was a damned good one, even by today’s standards.
And that’s saying something.
Those of you who fully believe that Halo was Bungie’s masterwork…I urge you to play Marathon. True, the Halo series is pretty awesome, quite fun, and features an interesting backstory…but Marathon, which was widely viewed as the Macintosh counterpart to Doom (Fun Fact: Bungie was originally planning to release Halo on the Mac as well, until Apple gave them the boot), had an incredibly intricate plot that actually had a marked, pronounced effect on gameplay. Oh, it also featured objective-based gameplay on a much deeper level than many shooters of the day.
You should be able to pick up the Marathon trilogy for pretty cheap these days. If you’re a fan of Bungie, you owe it to yourselves to give it a try.
Will Wright’s “Sim” Games
Sim Ant. Sim City. Sim Copter. Sim Earth….you get the idea. The guy’s a friggin’ legend. These games are deep, complex simulations, and in many cases are actually…pretty damned difficult to pick up and play. I was downright horrible at Sim City, and when playing Sim Earth I always managed to somehow cause the apocalypse and exterminate all sentient life. I’d be a pretty abysmal god, apparently.
Anyway, check them out, if you haven’t already- I can’t even recall the number of hours I spent in the computer lab as a child playing Sim Ant.
The Blizzard Trinity: Diablo, Warcraft, and Starcraft
Again, it’s pretty much a given that the old Blizzard games would appear on here. Diablo and Diablo 2 are some of the best, most entertaining hack and slash RPGs ever made, with an epic sequel (I’m actually having to struggle with the urge to play even as I write this post), and Starcraft is…well, let’s just say I’ve been to South Korea, and Starcraft is more or less their national sport.
I am not exaggerating.
As for Warcraft, well…it spawned one of Blizzard’s most successful, best-known franchises, and was responsible for the creation of both Dota and World of Warcraft.
So, yeah. If you haven’t played any of Blizzard’s older titles…do it. Play them. And while it’s not necessarily a PC game, check out The Lost Vikings while you’re at it.
The original System Shock was noteworthy for being one of the first first-person shooters to feature truly three-dimensional environments, an epic scale, complex controls and elaborate gameplay, and the fact that the developer, Looking Glass Studios, basically took the FPS genre and the RPG genre and smashed them together to see what came out. I’d say it turned out pretty well, wouldn’t you? Still not convinced this game is worthy of your time? Consider this:
Deus Ex and Bioshock are both considered spiritual successors to the game, and many consider System Shock 2 to be one of the best(and most terrifying) games of all time. Give both of them a try, if you’ve the time. They’re pretty complicated, though, so you’re going to need to put a bit of effort into understanding how things work.
I hope most of you have heard about Quake. I really do. It was the Magnum Opus of first-person shooters at the time it was released, and everything about the game was near perfect- the atmosphere, the gameplay, the soundtrack…and the multiplayer. That last bit is where it truly stood out, and the culture that evolved around Quake’s multiplayer element has arguably defined the nature of competitive shooters to this very day. This game was- and still is- a bloody masterpiece. I could keep talking, but I’m not sure I could really do the title justice.
You need to experience it for yourself, truth be told.
Anyway, that’s all for today- the post has already gotten long enough. I’ll air the second half next Tuesday. See you folks then! Oh, and…excuse the image quality. I sort of had to throw this post together in a bit of a rush.