CRPG Addict - All News
Wednesday - September 28, 2016
CRPG Addict - The Economy Sucks: SSI GoldBox
In a guest post at the CRPG Addict there is an in-depth look at why the economy of the SSI Gold Box games was useless.
Unfortunately, as many fans know, there is one glaring flaw in these games: they essentially lack any sort of useful economy. Money, in almost every game in the series, is essentially useless, because of the fact that the party is given copious amounts of it, at every turn, as a reward. Unlike most other games of the era, there is simply nothing worthwhile to spend money on. In an average play-through your party will throw away literal mountains of copper, silver, gold and platinum.
My goal, in this article, is to examine the how's and why's of this situation, and to essentially assign responsibility for this state of affairs as I see it. During the course of this post we will discuss several points about these games. SSI's company line that they were forced to use the rules as written, the changes made by SSI to the written rules, how money sinks were avoided, and how they clearly followed treasure tables, while ignoring written rules in the DMG that were supposed to be used in conjunction with said tables.
1.0 Rule changes
SSI has always stated that their license with TSR required them to follow the AD&D 1st edition rules. Their stance is that any issues with the economy were endemic to the rule set. From the CRPG Addict's discussion with SSI Producer Victor Penman (contained in a posting on Champions of Krynn):
I asked Mr. Penman about [the problems with the in-game economy], and he attributed this problem mostly to the AD&D rules, which gave experience rewards based on both enemy hit dice and the amount of treasure collected.... TSR required SSI to use official rules for both experience and treasure... Penman somewhat brusquely told me that, "Following the rules and providing XP were our concerns, not what people spent money on."
Unfortunately, this statement is heavily inaccurate as SSI modified the AD&D core rules substantially in order to fit them into the paradigm of the game they wanted to make. Changes were made at several levels in order to adapt a table top, human moderated experience, into a computer based, pre-programmed experience. In some cases, rules were changed as their written implementation would not work in actual play. The rest of this article examines the many changes that SSI was not afraid to make to AD&D 1st edition rules.
Wednesday - July 13, 2016
CRPG Addict - Downfall: End of an Empire
The CRPG Addict has postulated on an upcoming RPG in development by a fictional Henry Lancaster who is looking for a publisher. The made up game is called Downfall: End of an Empire.
Downfall: End of an Empire takes place in a large city--the capital of the Maranian Empire--and its surrounding environs. The player takes on two roles: the origin character (drawn from one of the scenarios above) and the character he or she becomes when he or she puts on Nakata's cape and cowl and takes to the streets in disguise. The player can choose any name from the origin character but chooses from one of seven names for the assassin; this allows the in-game dialogue to refer to the character by name while still preserving some sense of freedom in character creation.
Although standard weapon-based combat is possible, the game stresses assassination and stealth as its primary mechanic. After the origin story, background, and possession by Nakata, the game becomes completely open. The player must topple the empire by assassinating (or otherwise eliminating) its leaders and functionaries, from the lowliest tax collector to the Emperor himself, but it's completely up to the player to determine who those people are, and in what order to target them. Through research, scouting, reading, listening, NPC dialogue, and other means of acquiring knowledge, he learns who controls what in the Empire and develops his own plan for working his way to the top. The story changes dynamically and plays out very differently depending on the order of execution.
The key is that every assassination produces a reaction. An individual guard may simply be replaced, although the Empire has a limited pool to work from. A mid-level bureaucrat might be succeeded by a more cruel and efficient one--though if the player assassinates several holders of the same office in a row, the Empire may have to leave it unfilled. Eliminate the captain of the guards, and the resulting confusion on the streets may give you a few nights of breathing room--or it might lead to a squad of Zaüd Seekers scouring the poor quarters and killing indiscriminately.
Monday - November 02, 2015
CRPG Addict - Review Roundup (Part Twenty Two)
This week's roundup of CRPG Addicts classic RPG reviews features another Goldbox title: part three in the Pool of Radiance Forgotten Realms series.
The Stone of Telnyr (1990)
The Stone of Telnyr, an independent title from an Australian developer, published in a disk magazine, may be the most obscure game I've played since beginning this blog. (..) In basic gameplay and look and feel, Telnyr takes obvious inspiration from Ultima, but with far fewer features and a much smaller game world. (..)
The best I can do on the GIMLET is a 15. It earns something in every category except NPCs, but the game really offers the minimal amount necessary in each category to be considered an RPG at all.
Secret of the Silver Blades (1990)
SSI has been curiously unable to improve upon the experience of Pool of Radiance. Oh, sure, the graphics and sound have gotten a little better, but the core gameplay experience has degraded slightly with each new title. (..)
The final rating of 50 is reasonably high, though significantly lower than the 60 I gave to Curse and the 64 I gave to Pool. This is the third Gold Box game I've played in 1990, and while all have offered above-average experiences, I worry that the series is resting on its laurels instead of really innovating. Pool of Radiance was a staggeringly good game for 1988, but since then, SSI seems to be content with offering gameplay that is merely competent rather than truly thrilling.
- Game 163: Secret of the Silver Blades (1990)
- Here There Be (Weak) Dragons
- Enemy Mines
- Giant Problems
- Final Rating
Dragon Sword (1990)
The sheer number of enemies offered in the game is a bit ridiculous, and the game tells you nothing about them--but in some ways, figuring out each enemy's special attacks and defenses is part of the challenge. (..)
The sum is 25, but I have to subtract 2 points for the many bugs, including one that constantly brought up the "game over" screen in the middle of combat and exploration, forcing me to reload and re-cast all my buffing spells. This final score of 23 is well below what I would recommend and well below the 37 I gave to Wizardry, the game Dragon Sword seeks to emulate. I admire what Mr. Tieman and Mr. Musa accomplished programmatically--particularly the dedication to create and populate 30 levels and so many different encounters and monster types--but making the game so big and long also made it boring and unbalanced.
- Game 164: Dragon Sword (1990)
- The First 10%
- One Dungeon Down
- Unmitigated Galt
- A Crossroads
- Won!* (with Final Rating)
Crystals of Arborea (1990)
Crystals of Arborea is a weird little strategy/RPG hybrid from the French developer Silmarils. The company would later become semi-famous for the Ishar trilogy. (..)
The final score of 23 is well below what I consider "recommended." The engine isn't horrible, the graphics are nice, and the combat system is promising. It just needed a better-balanced game, with more RPG trappings. I assume this is what we get in the Ishar series starting in 1992.
Saga is a bafflingly bad game. (..) Nothing about the game makes any sense whatsoever. (..)
The final score of 15 is the lowest I've given to any game since 1983 with the single exception of The Stone of Telnyr, which was a shareware title.
Fountain of Dreams (1990)
The sum is 35, the score that I generally consider the cutoff between recommended and not recommended. That reflects how I feel. The particularly annoying thing about Fountain of Dreams is that there's a nucleus of a good game here. The story is mostly nonsensical, but it has some decent elements, and it could have been turned into a compelling and interesting plot. The Wasteland-inspired engine and skill system is mostly solid, just poorly used. As such, I must concur with Scorpia's comment in her January 1991 review: "It is the perfect example of grasping the form, but not the substance, of a superior product, and coming up a loser."
MegaTraveller 1: The Zhodani Conspiracy (1990)
Well, what a weird little game. After spending about 20 hours on gambling, bounty-hunting, and trading to amass my "Jump 2" drive bank, I only had about 3 more game hours before winning. (..)
If the main plot had required a different variety of skills and the combat had been harder and more interesting, and the rewards had been more balanced, the player would have had a reason to do all of the side-quests to pay for better equipment and skill-development. The developers spent a lot of time on mechanics but didn't integrate them into a sensible, cohesive, balanced game. (..) That gives us a final score of 34, right about where I expected it.
- Game 171: MegaTraveller 1: The Zhodani Conspiracy (1990)
- Space Sucks
- The Journey Re-Begins
- A Cool $2 Million
- Won! (with Final Rating)
Ultima: Escape from Mount Drash (1983)
Naming the game Ultima had been a cheap attempt to cash in on the growing fame of Garriott's series, and while this didn't work in the way Sierra intended, it ironically worked decades later. (..) The final score of 8 puts it at the second-lowest rating I've given. To be fair, it never claims to be an RPG--it's much more an action/arcade game--and as a erstwhile VIC-20 owner, I think I might have had a modicum of fun with it when I was 10.
Warrior of Ras, Volume Two: Kaiv (1982)
Unfortunately, we still have no character attributes and no way to even name your character, but the series is clearly growing. (..) This gives us a final score of 23, surprisingly only one point higher than Dunzhin. The discrepancy is primarily in the 2 bonus points I gave to Dunzhin for some of the innovative elements that didn't fit into other categories.
Warrior of Ras, Volume Three: The Wylde (1983)
The games (..) do features some interesting innovations for the era, in particular a complex system in which every body part has its own hit points, armor class, and protection. (..) The final score of 25 is 2 points higher than Kaiv and 3 points higher than Dunzhin, reflecting the continued development of the series. The improvements are modest, but still impressive given the rapidity with which the games were released.
Warrior of Ras, Volume Four: Ziggurat (1983)
The final score of 27 is 2 points higher than Wylde. In my post on Dunzhin, I said that the game "has some ideas too good to ignore, but it lacks too many RPG elements to fully enjoy as an RPG." It's in this sentiment that I leave the series. Although it developed some RPG elements, like an inventory system, after Dunzhin, it never really blossomed into a full-fledged RPG.
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin Cartridge (1983)
Treasure of Tarmin seems to be the first RPG ported from a console to a PC. (..) For gaming, the Aquarius had the same clumsy dial-below-keypad controller as the Intellivision, so it's not like the port was a lot of legwork. Nonetheless, it is technically a "first." (..)
The final score of 19 isn't a great one--it is still a console RPG, after all--but it reflects how far things had come in the one year since Cloudy Mountain, which I gave a 9.
Explanation of the the final score: The GIMLET.
Tuesday - October 20, 2015
CRPG Addict - Review Roundup (Party Twenty One)
This week's review roundup of CRPG Addicts chronology of CRPGs that we missed before kicks off with Thalion's Dragonflight, which could be seen as an experimental template for the later, more well-known Amberstar and Ambermoon. The other highlight is Quest for Glory II, which let you continue where you left on in Hero's Quest, before the latter was re-released a year later with a legally enforced new name.
The game is way, way, way too long, with too many large dungeons, too many combats, and too much backtracking around the game world. Dragonflight has absolutely no sense of pacing. And while the game was too long, it was also too easy, with the foes offering virtually no challenge in the latter two-thirds of the game. (..)
(..) we get a final score of 36. I usually consider a game "recommended" at 35. In this case, I recommend that you play it for a few hours to experience an unusual contribution from some developers who would become famous for other games, but for the love of all that's holy, don't bother to try to win it. There are better things to do with our short years on Earth.
- Game 147: Dragonflight (1990)
- Struggling for Sundries
- The Complete Picture
- The World Takes Shape
- Balancing Average with Average
- Overseas and Underground
- The Glass Ceiling
- Almost Won (with Final Rating)
King's Bounty (1990)
The game is built to be replayed. During character creation, you choose your class from four options: knight, barbarian, paladin, and sorceress. (..)
That produces a final score of 35, not bad for a game that isn’t an RPG being ranked on an RPG scale. (If the RPG-specific categories were removed and everything was re-scaled, it would score about a 50; less than 10% of games I've played have reached that level.) It obviously fails most in some classic RPG categories, but for what it intended, it does it quite well. I would regard it as a fun “lite” strategy game for people who aren’t really that into strategy games.
Well, Fallthru is certainly an odd and original little offering: a text RPG that doesn't really seem to be aware that it's an RPG. It follows few conventions of the genre, and judging by the evidence, I'm not sure Paul H. Deal ever played an RPG prior to developing this one. (..)
The final score of 32 puts it slightly below what I consider "recommended," at least as far as playing the whole game. It certainly is worth checking out for a few hours. There's a good base here, and a few tweaks--tightening the last act, offering a more interesting plot resolution, allowing the player to buy something that dealt with the food logistics--would have propelled it well above my "recommended" threshold.
- Game 151: Fallthru (1989)
- Hunting and Gathering
- 400,000 Squares and Counting
- Hitting Limits
- Two More Dungeons
- Final Rating
Dark Designs II: Closing the Gate (1990)
Although I rated the first game a bit low (31), I was generally positive in my review. The two games aren't epic RPGs; they're little diskmag games, two among many cranked out by staff developers operating on monthly deadlines. You have to admire them for not trying to be more than they are. They're tightly-programmed and plotted, pitched at just about the right difficulty level, compact, and winnable in an afternoon. (..)
The final score of 30 ends up being essentially the same as the original. I still wish the developers had thrown in a few NPCs and maybe a non-combat encounter or two, either of which would have pushed the series into "recommended" territory.
Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire (1990)
Like its predecessor, Quest for Glory II is a fun game, full of wit and humor as it covers a relatively serious and interesting main plot. Also like its predecessor, it isn't a great RPG specifically, but it does deftly blend RPG elements into an adventure-game template. (..)
We get a final score of 50, which turns out to be (as I suspected) just shy of the 53 I gave to Hero's Quest. It's still a reasonably high score--the fourth highest so far in 1990, as it happens. Do remember that I'm rating it as an RPG specifically. I wouldn't be surprised if Trickster over at The Adventurer Gamer ended up scoring it higher than the first game, because I do think it performs better as an adventure game than the first Quest for Glory.
- Game 154: Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire (1990)
- Class Conflict
- Trial by Everything Else
- A Knight without Armor in a Savage Land
- The Thief of Araby
- Round Up the Usual Suspects
- Final Rating
Captive is nominally a sci-fi game that takes place in space, but it really feels more like a standard high fantasy game with sci-fi textures (the same way that Don't Go Alone felt like a standard fantasy game with horror textures). The framing story is essentially unnecessary and its conclusion confusing and uninteresting. In this, I must admit, it captures the spirit of other Dungeon Master clones perfectly. (..)
Ultimately, my ambivalent feelings about Captive boil down to it not having enough of the elements that I truly enjoy about RPGs, something that I think will be reflected in the GIMLET (..) The final score of 36 puts it just above my "recommended" threshold. I think Captive could have elevated itself to something I truly enjoyed with just a little additional effort (..).
- Game 156: Captive (1990)
- Penned Up
- Determinate Sentencing
- A Long Stretch
- Surviving on the Inside
- Final Rating
The Keys to Maramon (1990)
Here, we have a minor game that occupies a brief space between The Magic Candle (1989) and The Magic Candle II (1991). (..) The RPG elements were weak and provided little challenge. (..)
This gives us a total of 36, just on the cusp of what I call "recommended." It certainly doesn't hurt to play it for the few hours that it takes to win, and when you're done, you have a character for use in The Magic Candle II. But like Hillsfar--another game weirdly sandwiched between bigger titles--it's not really worthy of its franchise.
Maze Master (1983)
In Maze Master, we have a “missing link” in the evolution of first-person, multi-character RPGs—a genre that started on the PLATO system with Moria in 1975. (..) In a GIMLET, I can only award the game 12 points, with 1s and 2s in every category except “NPCs,” where it gets a 0. This is understanding that I didn’t get to experience the BALROG, the puzzle, or the endgame.
The Return of Heracles (1983)
Why aren't there more RPGs set against Greek mythology? Smith's worlds are rarely very self-consistent, instead liberally adapting themes and stories, but the glossary is a lot of fun and does provide some gameplay hints. (..)
This gives us a final score of 32, a little bit lower than I normally consider "recommended," but in this case let my text override the score. None of Smith's games are conventional RPGs, and thus they do poorly on my scale, but all have an ineffably enjoyable quality the transcends the common RPG of the period.
The Ring of Darkness (1982)
I ended the last post wondering whether Ring of Darkness had an original bone in its body. It turns out that it really doesn't. It lifted almost everything from Ultima, including the basic plot outline, the names of most of its monsters, the types of equipment, and just its overall ideas of how such a game should work. (..) That gives us a final score of 25, not bad at all for the year, though still under-performing Ultima by 9 points.
Super Quest (1983)
Super Quest exceeds the difficulty and length of a roguelike with far less interesting content. (..) The final score of 21 is actually a bit higher than I thought it would be when I started. The game grew on me after the first post, as I started to realize the strategic challenge associated with mapping and route-planning, but it would have been torture to play "honestly," especially where I don't have any friends playing SuperQuest with whom I could vie for high score.
Quest 1 (1981)
If nothing else, Quest 1 served as a good base for a more elaborate game, which is what we got in Super Quest. (..) In a GIMLET, I can only give Quest 1 a 12, but it's an interesting piece of the past with some original ideas and at least two CRPG firsts.
Explanation of the the final score: The GIMLET.
Monday - October 12, 2015
CRPG Addict - Review Roundup (Part Twenty)
Ultima VI. 'nuff said.
Spirit of Excalibur (1990)
Spirit of Excalibur (..) underwhelms me in just about all of its areas. It manages to combine three genres--adventure, RPG, and strategy--without being good at any of them. (..)
With its highest scores in the "game world," "NPC interaction," and "quests" categories, we have a game that's relatively strong in narrative but weak in mechanics. The final score of 33 puts it slightly below my "recommended" threshold. Despite what sounds like a lot of pessimism, I'm glad I played it--but mostly for the plot alone. I enjoyed reviving my long-dormant interest in Arthuriana.
Ultima VI: The False Prophet (1990)
Ultima VI is one of the best games I've played since starting this blog, and I fully expect it to finish, quantitatively, among the top three. Whether it technically beats Ultima V or even Pool of Radiance isn't a particularly important concern--at this level, small differences in the final rating are somewhat meaningless. In broad strokes, in terms of just exploring and messing around, I had more authentic fun with Ultima VI than any other game I can remember, but it leaves me unimpressed in certain RPG categories, predominantly combat. (..)
It's one of the few games of any era in which you can have a lot of fun just screwing around--in which you can make little vignettes and scenarios for your characters that don't depend on the regular plot. (..)
Add 'em all up and we get a final score of 68--still one point lower than Ultima V! But owing to small variances in scores that I can never make fully consistent, I think we can consider them tied. V is a "tighter" game, with better combat and difficulty, and just as good in most other categories. VI offers better game mechanics that create that "sandbox" feeling.
- Game 139: Ultima VI: The False Prophet (1990)
- Mis-Rule, Britannia!
- It Must Have Been Moonglow
- Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves
- Clair de Rune
- It's a Small World After All
- Treasure Hunt
- Combat, Equipment, and Magic
- Playing in the Sandbox
- Final Rating
Tunnels & Trolls: Crusaders of Khazan (1990)
There are some strengths to Crusaders of Khazan, which will come out in the GIMLET, but the fusion of literal gamebook text with a CRPG frame is something I hope we don't see again. (..) It's an interesting take on a CRPG with elements that we haven't seen before. I'd recommend to both hardcore T&T fans and students of CRPG history. If you're not one of those, load up a Gold Box title. (..)
The total is 49, but I'm subtracting 3 points for all the bugs and dead-ends, resulting in a final rating of 46.
- Game 141: Tunnels & Trolls: Crusaders of Khazan (1990)
- Choosing My Own Adventure
- Computer Solo Adventure
- Might & Magic
- Mowing to Victory
- Back to the Books
- A Full Map
- Tunnels & the Ultimate Trolls
- Won!* (with Final Rating)
Lord of the Rings, Vol. I (1990)
While I may not like the use of a licensed title, no one can deny that Middle Earth is a good setting for a CRPG, with plenty of races, monsters, history, lore, magic, and other trappings of fantasy role-playing. The manual gives a nice overview of history, people, and places for those not familiar with the books. (..) the game does a good job responding to the players' actions, and of course the party's place in the setting is very well-established. (..)
That gives a final score of 49, a very respectable rating that puts the game in my top 20. (This applies to the 1993 CD version, anyway; the real 1990 version would score 1 point lower for "interface" and 2 points lower for sound, putting the rating at 46.)
- Game 144: Lord of the Rings, Vol. I (1990)
- A Different Shire
- Exploration Angst
- Forging Anew
- I Will Take the Ring to Mordor!
- You Shall not Pass!
- Final Rating
Empire II: Interstellar Sharks (1982)
The manual says that "Interstellar Sharks is the simulation of the complexities of modern day life projected onto a galactic scale." I guess I have to agree, but I find it bizarre that anyone thought players wanted a game like that, let alone make it. The game's good ideas (the stats checks, the crime system) are subsumed by a monotonous gameplay that contrasts starkly with the completely far-out game manual and back story.
Tunnels of Doom (1982)
I get why TI-99 owners from the early 1980s felt this was a gem, but today it's interesting solely as a curio. It only scores a 18 on my GIMLET (..) [Edit: in consideration of features I didn't experience, I increased the "encounters and foes" and "economy" ratings to 3, increasing the overall score to 21 overall.]
The Valley (1982)
On a GIMLET, I can't do better than an 11. Its primitive approach to character development, its lack of NPCs or equipment, and its boring, random gameplay put all of its scores at 0, 1, or 2. It barely qualifies as an RPG under my definitions.
Expedition Amazon (1983)
The back story is idiotic, but the game deserves some credit for offering a modern South American setting with themes from Incan mythology. This isn't the first RPG to offer a non-fantasy setting (that would be 1978's Space), but it is the first to offer a contemporary setting. (..) The final score of 21 is about par for the course for these early-1980s, mostly-forgotten offerings that never had a DOS port.
Galactic Adventures (1983)
The game is full of things we haven't yet seen in 1983 and that I've never seen before at all. (..) Even the skill system, which certainly isn't unique to this game, has a few selections that I've never seen elsewhere, such as "atomic wand," the ability to duplicate small objects; and "bio transform," the ability to change the appearance of a living organism. (..) The final score of 33 is pretty high for the era, though perhaps a smidgen lower than the point at which I'd say "definitely check it out for yourself."
Gateway to Apshai (1983)
At best, the game is an action RPG, but one that isn't very fun. It seems primitive even for 1983, and the Apshai label seems like a cynical attempt to cash in on a famous name. (..) This gives a final score of 10, one of the lowest I've ever given.
Halls of Death (1983)
The game doesn't fare well in a GIMLET. With no game world description, no character creation, character development that consists only of finding items, no NPCs, primitive magic and combat, no controllable inventory, and so forth, it scores only a 10. I do give it credit for relatively brisk gameplay, an easy-to-master control scheme, and innovative use of color in an era where things tended towards the drab and monochrome.
Monday - October 05, 2015
CRPG Addict - Review Roundup (Part Nineteen)
In this week's recap of early reviews by the CRPG Addict we have only one game he'd actually recommend by his own criteria: Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday. One of the Gold Box games, of course. Naturally that doesn't diminish the historical influence of other games, particularly those very early ones that but hinted at the role-playing goodness to come.
Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday (1990)
The game was almost the perfect length, and although I eventually found combat a little boring, I can't say I was ever bored with the game overall. (..) on the whole the difficultly level was pitched just right. (..)
The final score of 46 sits 14 points below Curse of the Azure Bonds and 10 points below Champions of Krynn. As I said before, most of my satisfaction with the game comes from the Gold Box engine itself, but this setting didn't make the best use of that engine, and it simply doesn't strike me as a great setting for an RPG in the first place.
Lords of Chaos (1990)
"Scenario" games occupy a minority of RPGs. The others on my list so far have been Sorcerian, Paladin, Eamon, and SwordThrust, and I haven't been captivated by any of them. (..)
The final score of 28 puts it below the threshold (35-40) at which I really recommend a CRPG. I again want to emphasize that this game's primary purpose is not to be a CRPG, and thus it isn't the developers' fault that I'm playing it as part of a pathological quest to hit every game tagged as such on Wikipedia or MobyGames.
Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1990)
At it's core, Elvira is an adventure game, not an RPG, and like many adventure games of the 1980s and early 1990s, it has the virtue of brevity. It took me about six hours to fully explore it and figure out the puzzles, and another two and a half hours to win it with a fresh character. (..)
That gives a final rating of 29, which sounds like I didn't like it very much, and I didn't--as an RPG. It's a decent adventure game, the presence of Elvira notwithstanding, but it lacks the combat, economy, and equipment that would have made it a true hybrid.
Dark Designs I: Grelminar's Staff (1990)
Dark Designs is an unpretentious, short, somewhat satisfying little diskmag game that distills the most common RPG themes into a nice package. It doesn't break any new ground, but I don't think that was its goal. (..) The final score of 31 is pretty good for a diskmag game. It's a little below what I'd put on anyone's "must play" list, but it's certainly good enough to pass an afternoon (..)
Vampyr: Talisman of Invocation (1989)
The game offers too few tactics to justify the raw difficulty of the monsters you encounter. Dungeon exploration is a frustrating, thankless experience, as you never find anything but a few key NPCs and a ton of random monsters along the way. Though in appearance it evokes Ultima, it has no complexity in its inventory, economy, spell system, or NPCs. (..)
The final score of 28 puts it lower than the threshold at which I typically "recommend" a game (which is around 35). It was certainly worth a look, though, and if they ever stumble upon this entry, I congratulate the developers for accomplishing this much at such a young age.
Another top-down dungeon crawler, a clear adaptation of "pedit5" (..) The final score of 16 makes the game not as good as Moria or Oubliette--it simply doesn't have enough content--but still fun in its own way.
Avatar is impressive now and must have been mind-blowing in 1979. It draws from the best elements of the PLATO games that preceded it (particularly Oubliette, but also Moria and Orthanc) and anticipates games to come, including roguelikes and MMORPGs. (..) Avatar ends up with a score of 32 on my GIMLET to Oubliette's 31.
Dungeons and Dragons (1980)
The game is the very definition of "forgettable," and its omission even on a "comprehensive" list of RPGs would be perfectly understandable. (..) I give the game an 10 in my GIMLET, with 0s in the "NPC" and "economy" categories, 2 in "quests" and "gameplay" and 1 in everything else. It simply doesn't have enough RPG elements (especially character development) to be a good game.
Hellfire Warrior (1980)
The enterprise took me about eight hours. I'm giving the game a 20 on my GIMLET scale. Its best scores are 3s in "encounters" (the monster and room descriptions add a lot of atmosphere), "equipment," "character development," and "gameplay" (I like the choice of levels and the overall nonlinearity). It does poorly in "NPCs" (there are none) and "quests" (I don't like that the game doesn't really acknowledge the quest in-game) and "graphics, sound, and interface." Combat remains disappointing in the series, which continues to exclude any magic.
Apventure to Atlantis (1982)
It's not much of an RPG. The combat is almost entirely action-based rather than attribute-based, the inventory is all for puzzles, and the character development is extremely limited, consisting only of wizards "leveling up" from casting spells. (..) The final score of 25 makes this the highest-ranked of the Clardy "Campaign" series. It was fitting end to a group of early games that featured some interesting elements but didn't have a lot of impact on the development of the CRPG genre.
The Caverns of Freitag (1982)
Freitag is a minor title, even for 1982, and it only earns a 15 on my GIMLET scale. Its economy, creatures, interface, and quick gameplay are worth a few points. I think it's impressive what Shapiro was able to accomplish as a young developer working alone, but I'm glad we're in an era in which the success of Wizardry started producing CRPGs of greater depth and complexity.
Dungeons of Daggorath (1982)
Dying in Daggorath is a memorable experience. It can happen from enemy's blows, attacking too quickly, or even just running down a corridor too fast. Your heartbeat gets faster and faster and suddenly the world fades. (..) it's a wonderfully tense period in which you're wondering if you've died or if you'll shake it off and live to fight a little longer. (..) On my standard GIMLET scale, it does okay in the areas of combat tactics, sound, and overall gameplay, but even with a bonus of 3 points for its original elements, it ends up with a measly final score of 22.
Warrior of Ras, Volume One: Dunzhin (1982)
Warrior of Ras, Volume One: Dunzhin begs to be bred with some other dungeon crawler of the era, like Temple of Apshai or one of the Robert Clardy or Stuart Smith games. It has some ideas too good to ignore, but it lacks too many RPG elements to fully enjoy as an RPG. (..) In a GIMLET, I can only give it 22 points, including a couple of bonus points for its innovations.
Sword of Fargoal (1982)
Sword of Fargoal is an audio treasure chest in which every effect is a gem, (..) making it one of the only games of the era that I wouldn't dream of playing with the sound off. (..) Although it's fun, innovative, and charming, Sword of Fargoal isn't much of a role-playing game under classic definitions, and it doesn't do terribly well in the GIMLET, earning only a score of 19.
Explanation of the the final score: The GIMLET.
Tuesday - September 29, 2015
CRPG Addict - Review Roundup (Part Eighteen)
This time in our recap of reviews we missed from CRPG Addict's adventures there are two big ones: a Goldbox game, Champions of Krynn, first part in the Dragonlance trilogy -- and Wizardry VI, first part in the, uh... Wizardry 6-8 trilogy. You can also find out how CRPG Addict tics by reading some interviews with him from 2013.
Champions of Krynn (1990)
The game itself does a decent job integrating itself with the Dragonlance mythology, something that developer Victor Penman tells me was strictly regulated by TSR--they required SSI to "faithfully adhere to the Krynn mythos." In general, the game made me feel that I was the protagonist and the canonical Heroes of the Lance were the supporting characters, though it did skirt the edge sometimes. (..)
This provides a final rating of 56, which is 4 points less than Curse (and 8 points less than Pool), but still my seventh highest-rated game. I swear, if any Gold Box game would simply retain Pool of Radiance's extensive side quests and nonlinearity, and then fix the economy, it would rocket to the top.
- Game 112: Champions of Krynn (1990)
- No Time for Losers
- No Bed of Roses
- We'll Keep on Fighting 'Til the End
- Final Rating
There are no opportunities for role-playing in the game, and no real "encounters." (..)
The final score of 30, quite low, reflects my opinion that the game really isn't a good CRPG. Since the puzzles are far more difficult than the foes that you defeat in combat, it's much more a puzzle game with an RPG façade. I liked the combat and skill development, and I think there's a place for a third-person perspective with a Dungeon Master approach to skills and combat, but this wasn't it.
- Game 115: DarkSpyre (1990)
- Mannaz Naudiz Sowilo
- Mazes and Dead-Ends
- White Hot Hatred
- Won! (With Final Rating)
Dragon Lord (1990)
Dragon Lord is an odd game, not quite an RPG, not quite a pure strategy game. It's basically a computerized board game. (..) The final score of 22 is very low. The game has great graphics and some interesting ideas, but I didn't enjoy it as an RPG, and I didn't enjoy it for whatever it was supposed to be.
Wizardry VI: Bane of the Cosmic Forge
The game offers a substantial selection of races and classes, including some original (if derivative) ones and the ability to change classes at will. With selection of spells and assigning of skill points, the game supports extensive choice during the process of leveling up, and leveling comes often enough that you feel substantially rewarded. (..)
The final score of 53 is much higher than I gave its predecessors, influenced by the much better approach to the story and NPCs, and the slightly better approach to magic and combat. (..)
- Game 120: Wizardry VI: Bane of the Cosmic Forge
- I Capture the Castle
- King of the Mountain
- Temple of Doom
- Cry Me a River
- Final Rating
Legend of Faerghail (1990)
The game is an interesting misfire. It starts with an interface and quest reminiscent of The Bard's Tale but adds some innovative features. The quest is original and intriguing, and the combat system blends some neat characteristics of games like Wizardry and Phantasie, along with some fun animations. It has excellent graphics and sound. (..) Unfortunately, almost everything it innovated, it screwed up. (..)
I do have to subtract 2 points for the bugs. (..) It deserves a third lost point for poor translation in parts of the game that, among other things, make two riddles essentially unsolvable without spoilers. That gives a final score of 32.
- Game 122: Legend of Faerghail (1990)
- Hidden Valley
- At Least I Have the Maps
- Legend of Faerghail
- Encounters, Combats, and Stuff
- Riddle Me This
- Buggin' Out
- Final Rating
- 1990 Loose End #1: Legend of Faerghail
Empire I: World Builders (1981)
Empire is a uniquely weird game. Its weirdness begins with its manual, full of a propagandist history of the empire that offers an alternate take on human history, and continues with its interface, mechanics, and overall gameplay goals. (..)
The final score of 22 isn't bad for a 1981 game, and if I had a lot more time or the game had a main quest, I'd love to play it longer and see what other gameplay elements it revealed.
SwordThrust is a commercial version of Eamon: an all-text RPG that combines some of the puzzle-solving and item-finding of text adventures with RPG combat, attributes, and economy. (..)
This gives a final score of 35, quite good for a 1981 game series. I hope a few of you are inspired to check out some of the scenarios, read my walkthrough, and give it a try. See if you can do what I didn't, and complete the final scenario!
Dragon Stomper (1982)
Like a lot of early CRPGs, both console and computer, Dragon Stomper suffers from too little strategy and too much dependence on luck, especially in the "wilderness" section. (..) The final score is 16 [Edit: 17 with my addition of 1 for NPCs]. The lowest rating I gave to a computer RPG in 1982 was 21 for Ultima II, and I really didn't like Ultima II.
Unlike the 1983 version, the original Oubliette is a multiplayer game--a shared environment, including a castle (Ligne Castle) and dungeon, in which multiple users can meet in a tavern and form parties for dungeon exploration. (A single character can adventure by himself, but it's deadly.) The amount of detail in the game is astonishing for the era in which it was created. (..)
This gives a final score of 31 for the PLATO and DOS versions (though different combinations) and 33 for the iPhone version [later edit: the iOS version might go up to 36 if there are quests]. This is the highest of any PLATO game so far, and the highest of any game at all prior to 1981, when its child, Wizardry, would trump it with slightly better encounters, NPCs, combat, and of course a main quest.
In contrast to the other games being developed concurrently in 1975, which were both top-down, iconographic affairs that would inspire the DND/Telengard line, Moria is a first-person game in which the players navigate a series of wireframe mazes (shown in a tiny window) to slay enemies and collect treasure. (..)
I'm going to add 2 points for the cooperative multiplayer options and the game's other innovations, such as the "string," for a final score of 26. (As it happens, I gave Telengard a 28, so I was pretty close.) It's an excellent score for such an early game.
Interviews in European Publications
6. What are your thoughts on why you are drawn to CRPGs in particular, and not some other genre?
I think they manage to achieve just the right balance. They have a lot of logistics, but not to the mind-boggling level of simulation games. They feature tactical combat, but not to the overwhelming level of strategy games. They tell a story, but without the completely deterministic world of adventure games. They’re exciting, but without all the frenetic clicking of action games. I love the sense of progress and development in great RPGs, where every hour brings a new level, a new piece of equipment, more money, an upgraded ability, or a quest reward. There’s always something to give you a shot in the arm and keep you playing.
A New Plan
From now on, my "play list" consists of all single-player RPGs released in a Latin-alphabet language for any personal computing platform.
Remaining off the play list are a) games released only for consoles or handheld devices; b) multiplayer games; or c) games released only in languages that do not use a Latin alphabet. Most of the games excluded in the latter category will be Japanese, Korean, and Chinese. It's regrettable, but while I'm willing to make some effort to translate foreign games, I have to be able to type the characters into the translator.
Explanation of the the final score: The GIMLET.
Monday - September 21, 2015
CRPG Addict - Review Roundup (Part Seventeen)
This week's standouts in our recap of CRPG Addict's history lessons include ORIGIN's Space Rogue and Sword of Aragon by Bret Berry / SSI, a Strategy-CRPG hybrid that the 'Addict found surprisingly good.
We also get a GotY of 1989 as the year comes to a close: The Adventure-CRPG Hero's Quest.
Space Rogue (1989)
6 points for NPCs. The game is clearly an ORIGIN game in this respect. It's one of the earliest games that offers dialogue options and not just keywords when speaking with NPCs, although some of them have keywords, too. These options allow for some significant role-playing opportunities. (..)
That gives us a final score of 46, quite respectable. I think it's easily the best of the "in-between-Ultimas" offered by ORIGIN and I'm sure elements went into their Wing Commander series a few years later. For a reasonably good game, it doesn't seem to have made much of a splash at the time, although almost everyone who reviewed it gave it a good rating.
Rance: The Quest for Hikari (1989)
As you've seen, the RPG elements are scant. The only things it has going for it are a theoretically good dialogue system (the mechanics are good; it's just that everything out of Rance's mouth is contemptible) and a reasonably quick pace. I gave the largest negative bonus I've ever given (-5) for the content, bringing the final score down to 17, one of my lowest ever for a post-Bronze Era game. But I suppose if the content doesn't offend you, you'll like the game about as much as a natural 22. (..)
Sword of Aragon (1989)
Gameplay. Generally excellent. The game is brisk and lively, challenging without rising to the level of exasperating. I think the curve turned a little too steeply for the final battle, but other than that one fight, I felt the level of difficulty was just right. (..) Even more notably, the game has a high degree of replayability--though to fully enjoy this, you have to forget about the points and just go with your role-playing whims. (..)
The final score of 48 doesn't seem very high if you don't understand my GIMLET, but it puts the game in the 85th percentile of games I've played, ranking 18th from the top out of 104 rated games.
- Game 107: Sword of Aragon (1989)
- The Empire Grows
- A Chronicle of Deeds
- A Conqueror's Mentality
- Final Rating
Like its predecessor [Moebius], Windwalker is a game with interesting ideas that doesn't take enough time to develop them. It's a simple action RPG masquerading as some kind of epic experience, and its uses of eastern themes are shallow and ultimately unnecessary to the gameplay. (..)
I can't help but subtract one point for those stupid storms, giving us a final score of 33, considerably higher than Moebius's 24, but still lower than the threshold I'd use to suggest a game is "worth playing."
The Third Courier (1989)
The Third Courier turned out to be almost exactly like B.A.T.: a nearly pure adventure game masquerading as an adventure-RPG hybrid, in which all but a couple of combats were unnecessary and avoidable, attributes and traits didn't matter at all, the plot was extremely limited, and the developers bulked up the game with inexcusably large and tedious mazes. Just like B.A.T. (and, frankly, a lot of games I played in 1989), it had some intriguing elements that simply didn't come together in any kind of coherent fashion. (..) The final score of 29 is exactly the same rating I gave B.A.T., which doesn't surprise me. There's an admirable effort here, with some nice innovations, but it simply isn't enough of an RPG to deserve a high rating on my scale.
Keef the Thief: A Boy and His Lockpick (1989)
The subtotal comes to 38, a respectable score for the era, suggesting I liked it about as much as The Mines of Titan or Prophecy: The Fall of Trinadon. But as I said at the outset, it irks me how little faith the developers had in the integrity of the game as a serious fantasy story, and from the box art to the endgame text, they filled it with the most senseless drivel. (..) What particularly annoys me is that this is fundamentally not a comedy game. It tells a serious plot, and all it would have taken was some changes to the text to offer the player a more interesting, immersive experience.
Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (1981)
Many of the players who fondly remember this game also fondly remember the cooperative multi-player aspect which I, as a solo player, didn't get to experience. (..) This kind of option is rare in an RPG and worth an extra point. I'm also going to give a second bonus point for the navigation puzzles, which are a big feature of the game and don't really fall into any other category. (..) That leaves us with a final score of 27, very good for its era.
Crown of Arthain (1981)
Arthain distills RPGs to their most basic elements: fight, collect treasure, improve your stats, become king. An amusing distraction (..)
Dragon Fire (1981)
I'm giving Dragon Fire 18 points on my GIMLET scale, with the highest values in the "game world" category, for the care put into the descriptions, and the "gameplay" category, for its brisk and challenging pace and its constant replayability. It's not a great game by modern standards, but among the myriad of early-1980s Apple II offerings, it stands out of the pack.
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Cartridge (1982)
Despite (..) the game's lack of CRPG elements, I wanted to play it because it's really the first officially-licensed Dungeons & Dragons game for anything resembling a computer. On my GIMLET scale, the Cartridge ties with Braminar as the lowest-rated game ever, at 9. It was hurt by 0s in the key "Character Creation and Development," "NPCs," "Equipment," and "Economy" categories.
The Dragon's Eye (1981)
On my GIMLET scale, I give the game a 20, which is a reasonably high score for the era. It suffers from a lack of NPCs, no economy, and no real character development, but it gains from making an attempt to give the world a back story, a decent action combat and magic system, and robust, non-linear, replayable gameplay.
1989/1990, Game of the Year
Game of the Year 1989: Hero's Quest
I know the choice is a bit unorthodox. It's small, short, and a hybrid besides. It lacks the tactical combat, dungeon-crawling, and world-exploration of great RPGs. But to my mind, these factors are outweighed by the things it does right, starting with an unparallelled skill- and attribute-development system. We've seen games where skills develop based on use before, all the way back to Wizard's Crown and notably in Dungeon Master and The Magic Candle. But Hero's Quest beats them all with the variety of ways that the skills can develop and the synergistic leveling of both attributes and skills.
Explanation of the the final score: The GIMLET.
Monday - September 14, 2015
CRPG Addict - Review Roundup (Part Sixteen)
Continuing in 1989, here's part sixteen of our "CRPG Addict review roundup" of CRPG history.
Knights of Legend (1989)
Knights of Legend is the damnedest game. (..) Its deficiencies are just jaw-dropping (..) And yet, there are moments of genius and stark originality (..)
The numbers add up to 44, but I'm subtracting one point for an unforgivable bug, which puts the final score at 43. That's not bad as things go. It puts it in the top 25% of games I've played so far, on par with games I honestly enjoyed, like Star Command, Demon's Winter, and Chaos Strikes Back. But this is the rare type of game that's lesser than the sum of its parts. There are some really good elements here that just don't effectively come together in what we might call a "good" game. If the score doesn't adequately reflect that, I hope the text does.
- Game 94: Knights of Legend (1989)
- The Sweet Taste of Victory
- The Agony and the Ecstasy
- Hardly worth the BOTHR
- Who's the Monster?
- Knights of Legen...Wait for It...d.
- Questing by Numbers
- The Fearsome Creatures of My Quest
- Final Rating
Prophecy I: The Fall of Trinadon (1988)
Prophecy is the opposite of [Knights of Legend]: a fast-paced action RPG with relatively rapid advancement, limited tactics, and the ability to save anywhere, any time. (..)
The final score of 39 is a very respectable rating that puts it above most of the other action RPGs I've played so far, and in the top 20% of all RPGs from 1988/1989. It's the first action RPG that I've truly enjoyed, and it does a good job of being not all action.
Legends of Murder: Volume I - Stonedale Castle (1989)
Legends of Murder isn't much of an RPG, but it's a reasonably fun game nonetheless. There's always something pleasant about a simple game that knows what it's about and does a decent job within its limited goals. It's quick: I won in about four hours. (..)
The final score of 24 is relatively respectable. I wouldn't have wanted to play a 40-hour game with such limited gameplay options and combat, but it was nice enough for a four-hour diversion.
Girlfriend Construction Set (1989)
The annoying thing is that the "scenarios" section of the game isn't a bad idea. I wish more CRPGs featured them. Though Girlfriend Construction Set isn't a role-playing game by any means, it is a game in which you "play a role," with relatively clear choices between good and evil (though I'm not sure the developer actually realizes which ones are good and which are evil). It'll still be several years before these choices start appearing with abundance in proper CRPGs.
Dragon Wars (1989)
To me, the game world is unquestionably the best part of the game. Sure, we've seen "kill the evil wizard" in a lot of games before, but rarely has it been done with this much detail and attention to the plot. (..)
The final score of 51 puts it just below the top tier of games in my list: the Gold Box series, the Might & Magic series, the Starflights, and the last few Ultimas. It has some great elements, and with a little extra effort, it could have been among those greats. But it was certainly good enough to keep me addicted and playing well into the wee hours of the morning.
The Land (1985-2009)
The world of the Covenant books is obviously quite large and rich, but The Land doesn't really make any attempt to ease non-Donaldson readers into the lore of the world. The player's place in the world never really becomes clear throughout the game. (..)
You take a risk with shareware games from a single developer, and in this case the risk doesn't pay off in a way that the initial sum of scores doesn't make clear. The bugs, lack of documentation, overabundance of combats, and difficulty conspire to create a game that I cannot really recommend--a game that essentially feels unfinished--and for these reasons I feel compelled to subtract 3 points from the initial sum [edit: reduced to 2 in light of Mike's willingness to talk about the game and fix problems] to arrive at a final score of 30 [Edit: 32 with the modifications].
Mines of Titan (1989)
The pacing of the game is just bad. You have to do all your character development in the first two-thirds, and the last third is just a boring trek through featureless hallways. (..)
This gives a final score of 40, which is frankly higher than I want to rate it, but I can't think of any reasons to lower the score that I haven't already used in one of the categories. (..) In fact, if you look at he entire range from about 35 to 45 in my list, you'll see a host of games with intriguing elements but, ultimately, significant flaws that keep me from fully recommending them.
Eamon is a cross between an RPG and a text adventure. Aside from the opening-screen graphic, the entire interface, including all commands, is text. Each module, or "adventure," is a self-contained story that takes maybe 10-30 minutes to play. (..) An updated version of Eamon for Windows exists, called Eamon Deluxe, created by Frank Black, last updated in 2012. It runs in DOSBox and provides a graphic interface, with icons and commands similar to Ultima I and II. (..) Final Score: 21
Maces & Magic: Stone of Sisyphus (1980)
Maces & Magic is what you get when you combine the irreverent text adventure style of Zork, a character sheet with attributes and inventory, and the limited selections that you'd find in a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book. (..) It's startling how similar this game is to Eamon (which I just reviewed), which came out at the same time. Final Rating: 14
I don't think there's enough variety in gameplay for Fracas to be authentically "fun" today, but it would have been a joy when I was 9, playing with friends, letting our imaginations embellish what the screen was telling us. (..) Final Rating: 16
Odyssey: The Compleat Apventure (1980)
We see a very similar mechanic, minus the equipment, in games like Pirates! and various strategy games, but Clardy's games are the only ones I know that use armies as the central unit of an otherwise conventional RPG experience. (..)
The final rating of 21 isn't horrible for a 1980 game and it reflects Odyssey's complexity, but it's several points lower than what I gave Wilderness Campaign; I had more fun with the predecessor.
Cheats and Liars
My employment of the ridiculously favorable gambling odds in The Land prompted a fun and interesting discussion on what does and does not constitute "cheating" in computer role-playing games. This subject has been on my mind since at least December, when I capitulated to looking at spoilers for NetHack.
Explanation of the the final score: The GIMLET.
Monday - September 07, 2015
CRPG Addict - Review Roundup (Part Fifteen)
In this recap of CRPG Addict's earlier reviews we have another Gold Box game as well as one of the few Sci-Fi CRPGs around, and a bunch of very early games as he continued to revisit CRPGs that were released for platforms other than the PC.
Curse of the Azure Bonds (1989)
I still think that the Gold Box system of combat is one of the best ever created. It has everything I like: a turn-based, tactical map; multiple attack and defense options; even some fun animations and sound. (..)
The final score of 60 actually puts it 4 points below Pool of Radiance but still fairly high; only Ultima V, Pool, and The Dark Heart of Uukrul rank higher. That feels right. Fundamentally, I liked Pool of Radiance better for its story, quests, encounters, and a slightly better (if still bad) economy.
- Game 82: Curse of the Azure Bonds (1989)
- Tyranthraxus Again!
- A Pile of Filth
- Four Down, One to Go
- Final Rating
Dungeon Master: Chaos Strikes Back (1989)
Gameplay. Before Chaos Strikes Back, I didn't think a nonlinear dungeon crawler was even possible, but wow, does this game blow that notion out of the water. (..) I'm going to give it a high score here but not a perfect one, for one primary reason: I don't like games that force me into a choice between reloading a lot or wasting a lot of time. (..)
This produces a final score of 45, slightly below Dungeon Master's 47, but look: I don't care how much you love this game, I think you have to agree that Dungeon Master was better as a straight "CRPG."
- Game 84: Dungeon Master: Chaos Strikes Back (1989)
- Hard for Hard's Sake
- Better Equipped
- A Spot of Violence
- Lessons in Maneuverability
- The Corbumite Maneuver
- A Hint of Success
- Final Rating
Tangled Tales (1989)
NPCs. If they weren't so goofy, they'd be some of the best NPCs we've seen in CRPGs so far. You have a selection of dialogue topics for both party NPCs and other NPCs, and they contribute significantly to the atmosphere of the game. (..) They have unique characteristics and are extremely memorable. (..)
The final score of 38 puts it close to Drakkhen, another game whose innovations I admired but which had enough flaws in the gameplay to edge it into the "thumbs down" category. Tangled Tales has an interesting interface, a great approach to NPCs, and a rare blend of RPG and adventure game elements. I just wish they had been employed in a more serious game in which combat had more purpose and deeper tactics.
[The game is] a brief diversion in between two superior games, providing some additional context to the region and some additional experience points. (..)
Hillsfar doesn't excel in any area, and the final score comes to a measly 29, the lowest I've given a non-1970s game since Don't Go Alone. I'm going to us my "bonus" category to bump it up to 31, though, to recognize the innovations in the mini-games. I did enjoy the challenge that lockpicking and archery provided, at least, and I have a regard for games that show me something new.
Starflight II: Trade Routes of the Cloud Nebula (1989)
The game world and story remains the best part of the Starflight series. You have an entire galaxy to explore, and a good reason to explore it. As you do, you uncover tantalizing bits of history and lore that slowly come together in a galactic puzzle. (..)
The final score of 53 turns out to match Starflight exactly. It jives with my assessment that in totality, Starflight II is equally as good a game as Starflight, just slightly less impressive because it was developed three years later. I had hoped it would be more like the Ultima series, which between IV (1985) and V (1988) kept its focus on a great game world, plot, and quest, but introduced significantly more advanced and enjoyable elements to things like combat, dungeon exploration, and inventory.
- Game 92: Starflight II: Trade Routes of the Cloud Nebula (1989)
- Rooting for Trade
- Nonconvergent Evolution
- We Come in Peace, Shoot to Kill
- Echoes of Memories
- Final Rating
Dungeon Campaign (1978)
[Dungeon Campaign,] like Beneath Apple Manor, is another pre-Rogue roguelike-ish game for the Apple II (..)
The game is intriguing but, to be honest, it's not much of a CRPG. It technically meets the criteria of character development and statistics-based combat, but only barely in both cases. Final Rating: 15
What interests me about the three pre-Rogue quasi-roguelikes I've tried recently (Beneath Apple Manor, Dungeon Campaign, and Dungeon) is that they're significantly less sophisticated than the PLATO games developed several years prior. (..) The first commercial games from 1978 and 1979 pale in comparison to what a bunch of kids were able to accomplish under the radar, in between classes, for their friends. This says a lot about both the technology of the times and what motivates people to develop truly excellent programs. (..) Final Rating: 6
Dungeon of Death (1979)
I am not in any way sad to be finishing the last of the two Commodore PET games. Based on my experience with it, I don't understand how Commodore remained viable in the age of the Apple II. (..) Final Rating: 10
Wilderness Campaign (1979)
Overall gameplay is brisk, as you wold expect from a game that doesn't allow saving, so you can easily win it in an hour or two. (..)
The final rating of 24 puts it in the realm of something that you might actually want to check out.
Dunjonquest: Temple of Apshai, Datestones of Ryn, and Morloc's Tower (1979)
As torturous as these games are to play today, they deserve credit for being the first commercial CRPGs to offer the kind of RPG experience that we've come to expect, and for trying hard, with the limited technologies of the time, to replicate the tabletop RPG dynamic. Final Rating: 15
The Wizard's Castle (1980)
The final score of 19 is perfectly respectable for the 1970s. The lineage of Wizard's Castle came to an end 20 years ago, and it's hard to detect its influence on other CRPGs, so it was worth investigating this small, stunted branch on the CRPG family tree.
Akalabeth: World of Doom (1979)
When I originally rated Akalabeth, the GIMLET only added up to 9. It was early in my rating days, and probably a bit harsh. Without looking at my previous rating, today I'd give it (..) 15 (..)
Explanation of the the final score: The GIMLET.
Monday - August 31, 2015
CRPG Addict - Review Roundup (Part Fourteen)
Onwards to 1989, continuing with more games played by the CRPG Addict. While compiling these review roundups I really tend to get an urge to try out some of the more well known classics myself, although I'm not sure I could invest ~260 hours in a single game, no matter how replayable it is ...
NetHack 3.0 (1989)
I can see how people become addicted to NetHack. Every time you step into the dungeon and start exploring the first level, you wonder, "What am I going to find? What unique challenges will the game throw at me this time?" (..) But ask me if I really "enjoyed" the 262 hours I spent over the past year ascending, and I don't know how to answer. (..)
I note that the final rating of 44 is 2 points higher than I gave the previous version. My understanding is that future versions will develop more in the quest, character development, and encounter categories. (..) Despite ascending, I still don't feel like I "mastered" the game. There are a host of things I didn't experience or didn't think about until after I won.
- Game 71: NetHack 3.0 (1989)
- From the Beginning
- A Guy What Takes His Time
- Dos and Don'ts
- He Coulda Been a Contender
- The Great Heist
- The Blurst of Times
- Another Milestone
- Final Rating
Galdregon's Domain (1989)
Galdregon's Domain was too easy not to win. Clearly designed for novices, the game had a simplicity that I found almost almost endearing, although this didn't make up for some awful gameplay and interface elements. (..)
The final score of 18 is the lowest since Times of Lore almost a year ago, and it earns a place in the "superlatives" in the right status bar. The game just seems half-assed. It's name doesn't even make any sense ("Galdregon" is never referenced in the game or manual), and the dragon promised on the main title screen never appears. It feels like Pandora spent a lot of time on the graphics engine and didn't have time for anything else.
B.A.T. ought to stand for "Bait and Tswitch." The game promises to be a CRPG/adventure hybrid and almost entirely fails to deliver on the CRPG part. (..) This is the first cyberpunk-influenced game that I've played, and while I'll never love the genre, I am grateful for the chance to play something other than the typical sword-and-sorcery CRPG. (..)
The final rating of 29 puts the game slightly above some CRPGs that I didn't like and didn't finish. That feels right; I didn't hate the game, but I was a bit disappointed by it. Its score is notably below Beyond Zork's of 46; the latter game is really the first RPG/adventure hybrid, and even though it was non-graphical, it showed what a hybrid could really be, with statistics and equipment that mattered, complex (but logical) puzzles, and far more interesting encounters.
The game is at least consistent in its badeness. I ranked 7/10 categories at exactly 3, with a total of 25. However, we have to talk for a second about the [cooperative] multiplayer aspect of the game, which is remarkably innovative and, frankly, belonged in a better game. (..)
Although I didn't have anyone to play with, I have to applaud the innovation that went into this addition to the game, and I'll award 2 bonus points for a true final score of 27. This still puts it in the lower tier of games (35% at the time of this posting).
- Game 74: Bloodwych (1989)
- We All Have to Take a Bite
- Dead Ends
- Inexplicably Still Eating
- More than I Wanted to Chew (Final Rating)
The Magic Candle (1989)
Playing The Magic Candle, for the first time, I experienced a sort-of déjà-vu nostalgia: the sense that I'd played the game before and remembered it fondly, even though I never had. (..)
We have to award some bonus points something that doesn't fit into the other categories: the party-splitting option. Although Wasteland offered it first, this is the first game that truly makes use of it. I love how you can set a character to working a day job while his compatriots adventure (..)
(..) giving a real final score of 52. That puts it in the top 14% of games and ranks exactly where I would have placed it in my preferences: above most games, but below the last two Ultimas, the two Might & Magics, Starflight, Wasteland, and Pool of Radiance.
- Game 75: The Magic Candle (1989)
- Burning at Both Ends
- In the Wind
- Wax On, Wax Off
- Curse the Darkness
- On the Water
- Dark Passages
- Abra Cadabara
- Final Rating
The Dark Heart of Uukrul (1989)
Uukrul does a great job transcending the traditional "dungeon crawl" with both a solid back story and an innovative dungeon design.
The Dark Heart of Uukrul isn't perfect in any of my 10 GIMLET areas, but it's above average in almost all of them, resulting in a final rating of 61, higher than everything I've played so far except Pool of Radiance and Ultima V. I think that sounds right, and if my postings on the game didn't seem brimming with this kind of joy, it's because of the fragmented way in which I've played it over the past month.
Uukrul deserves to be at least as famous as Dungeon Master. It isn't, and I suspect that's simply because it never achieved much of a following during its first release.
- Game 76: The Dark Heart of Uukrul (1989)
- Cold, Cold Dark Heart of Uukrul
- Take Another Little Piece of My Dark Heart of Uukrul
- My Deark Heart of Uukrul Would Know
- Angry Dialogue During Clash of Blades
- More Puzzles
- Magic, Gear, and Combat
Hero's Quest: So You Want to Be a Hero (1989)
Character Creation and Development. One of the stronger parts of the game, and where it really gets its CRPG credentials. The initial choice between fighter, mage, and thief has more serious consequences than the average game (partly because it's single-player), and you have extensive customization abilities with attributes and skills.
The final score of 53 is a bit lower than what is reflective of my actual enjoyment of the game (a fate that also befell Pirates! with a score of 48), but it's still a good score, tying the game with Ultima IV, Starflight, Wasteland, and several others. If it still seems low, keep inmind that the GIMILET is meant to rank CRPGs specifically and not "enjoyment" in general. (..) Hero's Quest is a near-perfect CRPG-adventure game hybrid, and the beginning of a series that only gets better. If it sounds like you would like this kind of game at all, don't miss out on the chance to play it. (..) You might, however, want to play the VGA remake (..)
- Game 77: Hero's Quest: So You Want to Be a Hero
- Hero's Quest...Will Start After the Pillaging
- Come a Hero from the East
- Free the Man from in the Beast
- Bring the Child from Out the Band
- Drive the Curser from the Land!
- Final Rating
- Revisiting: Quest for Glory - So You Want to Be a Hero (1992)
Don't Go Alone (1989)
The final rating is 18, tying the game with Galdregon's Domain, and reflecting how little I enjoyed it. The funny thing is, in broad strokes it doesn't appear a lot different than The Dark Heart of Uukrul: both feature dungeon exploration through relatively (graphically) featureless corridors, lots of combat, and a party of four characters with distinct professions. There are a lot of ways that this game "sells" on paper; it was just blundered in execution.
- Game 78: Don't Go Alone (1989)
- Don't Go Alone...or Even Necessarily at All
- Don't Go Alone: Won! (With Final Rating)
Like a couple of other recent games, you're forced to play with specific classes: fighter, scout, priest, and mage. They have different capabilities and restrictions, but there's no real "role-playing" associated with the character classes. (..)
The final score of 36 is fairly low but accurately reflects my feelings about the game. It really is too bad; there were some promising things in the game, and in many ways it was ahead of its time. More combat options, a better equipment system, and a slightly lower difficulty might have redeemed the game and make it authentically fun today.
- Game 80: Drakkhen (1989)
- Baffling, Frustrating, Intriguing
- Lots of Tears
- Boys Against Girls
- Final Rating
- As Close as Possible
Beneath Apple Manor (1978)
I'm going to stop short of saying that Beneath Apple Manor is "fun" to play today, with no character creation, back story, combat tactics, or NPCs, limited equipment, and a primitive economy. A quick GIMLET on it returns a score of 17. Nonetheless, I give it credit for the customizable settings and difficulty (making it somewhat replayable), the ability to spend experience points on attributes, and the "buying save slots" feature, which I've never seen in a CRPG before.
Space (1978) and Space II (1979)
Space is not really a CRPG in a classic sense. Of my three core criteria, it has only two: character development--and even then, only during training--and statistics-driven combat. But it does represent one direction that CRPGs could have gone. (..)
Explanation of the the final score: The GIMLET.
Saturday - August 22, 2015
CRPG Addict - Review Roundup (Part Thirteen)
1988 was coming to a close and the CRPG Addict introduced GOTY awards for the previous years. He also tracked back to the very first (surviving) CRPG, The Dungeon aka PEDIT5 from 1975.
Wizardry V: Heart of the Maelstrom (1988)
The nature of the inventory puzzles makes the game extremely linear. It has virtually no replayability. If you don't spend hours and hours grinding, it's too hard (especially at the latter stages), and if you do spend hours and hours grinding, it's too long. (..) A challenge is good, but this game ends up being repetitive torture. (..)
This gives us a final rating of 37, equivalent to the first Wizardry. While this game improves upon NPCs, equipment, and a couple other areas, it lacks the first game's brisk gameplay, and many of V's "innovations" annoy rather than impress. I didn't deliberately engineer the rating to come out equal to I, but I think it says something accurate that in seven years, Sir-Tech was unable to fundamentally improve on the experience that they first offered in the CRPG Bronze Age.
- Game 67: Wizardry V: Heart of the Maelstrom (1988)
- Home for the Holidays
- All I Want for Christmas is Two Front Ranks
- Oh, Come All Ye Faithless
- It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Torture
- Wizardry V
- Final Rating
The Dungeon / PEDIT5 (1975)
Here I am, nearly two years after starting this blog, doing what I should have done in the beginning: playing the first CRPG, regardless of platform. (..)
I'm actually quite impressed. I would have forgiven the first CRPG for being really basic and dumb: perhaps a text-only game in which you managed some basic attributes against some random encounters. (..) Instead, we get a fairly large dungeon, a solid set of attributes, challenging random encounters, 8 spells, monsters with resistances based on type, and graphics that the DOS platform won't surpass until Ultima III. (..) Obviously, I don't recommend playing it now, except as an archaeological exercise; any roguelike will give you a similar challenge with a better gameplay experience.
The Game of Dungeons / dnd (1975)
The title screen calls the game The Game of Dungeons, but the file name was just dnd, and this is what has stuck in history and legend. (..) This may be the first CRPG developed openly as a game, without having to hide under fake file names on the PLATO mainframe. (..) It would be cool, but I suspect impossible, to win this one. (..) I definitely recommend that every true CRPG lover sign up for a Cyber1 account and play a few rounds.
BattleTech: The Crescent Hawk's Inception (1988)
Gameplay. I almost wish I could give a negative score on this one. The game is completely linear, non-replayable, too easy, too short, and it ends with the worst puzzle inclusion I've ever seen in a CRPG: a completely rote, bang-your-head-against-the-wall slog through a twisty maze, involving no intelligence and no tactics. (..)
As it is, I give it a final rating of 37. The scores add up to 39, but I'm using my "bonus" category to take away two points for having such a dumb ending and for essentially betraying its name through some staggeringly awful gameplay decisions. It started out with such promise, too.
Editorial: 1988/1989 and GOTY
Starting with 1988, CRPG Addict named Games of the Year and did so retroactively, so here's his top games from the early years.
- 1981: Wizardry
- 1982: Telengard
- 1983: Exodus: Ultima III
- 1984: n/a
- 1985: Ultima IV
- 1986: Starflight and Might & Magic I
- 1987: NetHack
- 1988: Pool of Radiance
Friday - August 21, 2015
CRPG Addict - Building a CRPG Glossary
Stumbled upon this while compiling the review roundups. CRPG Addict identified various CRPG phenomena for which he suggested there ought to be terms and asked his audience for help. Commenter Giauz et al. came up with a bunch of names for these situations I bet most of us have experienced themselves before:
- Slight of Dice
The rhythm that you fall into while repeated re-rolling attributes during character creation, causing you to accidentally blow past the perfect set of statistics. And/or the combination of horror and rage you feel when this happens.
- Prolonged Prototyping or Roll-playing or Stat Eugenics
The act of growing so obsessed with character creation that you never actually play the game.
- Non-Player-Person (NPP) Limbo
After you've taken a break from your game for a week or two, the uncomfortable period in which you don't want to continue with the old character but it seems too soon to create a new character.
- Ten-Clicks Rick
Rapidly pressing buttons to escape from a conversation you've already experienced, only to click (or hit "A") one too many times and end up asking the same question again.
- So Clo-RESET
The moment, around the 2/3 point of the game, that you start to feel like you haven't been playing optimally, and that you should probably restart and do it right this time.
- The Prestige Corollary
Related, the perverse desire to hit "New Game" when you've already invested 120 hours in your existing one.
- Role-play the Fool
The rationalizations that you go through while repeatedly extending your allowable game time. (At the start: "I'm only playing for four hours, tops. Then I need to study." After four hours: "Two more hours. I don't have that much material." After two more hours: "All right. I'll just finish this quest and I'm hitting the books." After another hour: "It's more important that I'm relaxed for the test than it is to have a head full of useless knowledge anyway." After three more hours: "Playing games is pretty much as relaxing as sleep is.")
- Omni-Club President
The tortuous backstory that you invent for your character to justify joining the thieves' guild, the fighters' guild, the mages' guild, the paladins' circle, the temple, and the assassins' guild all in the same game.
- Reaper's Stopwatch
The high positive correlation between likelihood of death and the number of minutes since your last save.
- Immaculate Screen Junk
Character portrait and icon options that someone obviously took a great deal of time to create and yet it's impossible to imagine anyone using them.
- Gandalf's Weed Madness alternatively Richard British
The urge to perform CRPG-related activities in real life. (Thanks to Oblivion and Skyrim, I can't pass a field of wildflowers without wanting to stop my car and grab my Swiss Army Knife.)
- Macguffin Withdrawal
The vexing feeling that somewhere--maybe back in the Dwarven ruin you explored six hours ago--you missed a chest.
- Schultz Detour
Undertaking a three-hour journey back to a previously-explored dungeon because a walkthrough informed you of a missed area that will give you 160 more gold pieces and 28 more experience points.
Feeling the need to explore every corner of a new location, such as visiting a friend's house or going to a store, looking for hidden Easter eggs and treasures. Along the way, seeing the "Employees Only" and barricades as either later plots or level boundaries.
- Unlearned fencelessness
Accidentally forgetting that a two foot tall barrier won't actually stop you.
- Premature Expiration
The intense loss of excitement that comes after the first death.
- The 'Next' Temptation
The desire to save your life before having a conversation so you can safely say the wrong thing, just to see what happens. (Related, the Sands of Time had that in the final cut scene *grin*).
Sounds familiar? I'm sure there are more.
CRPG Addict - Review Roundup (Part Twelve)
Two well-known classics this time around in the hands of the CRPG Addict: Ultima V and Wasteland.
Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny (1988)
The back story of the game is compelling and well-narrated, and the world itself is full of interesting terrain, cities, towns, keeps, lighthouses, dungeons, and other places to explore. Origin's manuals continue to top the competition in their history and description of the land and its people. It's one of the few games of any era in which the entire world--rather than just discrete pieces of it--is explorable from the outset. (..)
I confess that my final rating of 69 is a bit of a surprise. This makes Ultima V the highest-rated game in my blog so far, beating Pool of Radiance by 4 points and its predecessor by 14 points. Truth be told, I think I enjoyed Pool of Radiance slightly more, but the difference isn't notable enough to revise the GIMLET, and I might have mentally ranked Ultima V higher if I didn't have to take such a long time-out in August. I might also have mentally ranked it higher if it had a better ending--I almost want to subtract points for that. Why do I keep helping Lord British if he's just going to boot me out of Britannia the moment he's done with me?
- Game 63: Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny (1988)
- Starting Out
- Into the Underworld
- Towns and Their Folk
- You Don't Know What We Can See
- World Tour
- Raid on Blackthorn's
- Finishing Up on the Surface
- Shards, Shadowlords, and the Underworld
- Ars Arcanum
- Not Bumping
- Things I Discovered While Replaying
- Final Rating
Visions of the Aftermath: The Boomtown (1988)
The game is not a CRPG; its inclusion here is another MobyGames errata. It is, nonetheless, mildly interesting, and I can see how things like the health meter and the inventory could confuse someone as to its CRPG creds. (..)
So, having won at least one scenario, I'm giving it a ranking of 26 and moving on.
It is the first game that I have played since starting this blog that I felt was truly "replayable," in that different party a skill choices would result in a fundamentally different game. (..) It is legitimately difficult to determine what skills to choose, but awfully fun to watch them develop through use and additional training. (..)
This gives us a final score of 53. It ties with Ultima IV, Starflight, and Omega for my fifth-highest rated game so far. But I maintain that the two Might & Magics, Ultima V, and Pool of Radiance are better games. You can find pitchforks and torches at your local Home Depot.
- Game 65: Wasteland (1988)
- Dry Bones Can Harm No One
- I Will Show You Fear in a Handful of Dust
- Breeding Lilacs out of the Dead Land
- Restless Nights in One-Night Cheap Hotels
- A Heap of Broken Images, Where the Sun Beats
- Prison and Place and Reverberation
- We Who Were Living Are Now Dying
- Final Rating
Wizard Wars (1988)
Overall gameplay is methodical, mostly linear, non-replayable, and easy--but at least reasonably fast-paced. (..)
That gives us a final score of 24, lower than all but a few games, most of which I didn't finish. I would have finished this one. Maybe I felt I needed an easy win before another Wizardry title.
- Game 66: Wizard Wars (1988)
- Walking Through
- Need "Defeat Copyright Protection" Spell
- Someone Else Won!
Explanation of the the final score: The GIMLET.
Thursday - August 20, 2015
CRPG Addict - Review Roundup (Part Eleven)
This roundup starts off with the first entry in SSI's popular and mostly AD&D based Gold Box series, an engine that was used for no less than fourteen games over four different series (plus three standalones): Pool of Radiance (Forgotten Realms), Savage Frontier (Forgotten Realms), Dragon Lance and Buck Rogers.
Pool of Radiance (1988)
You don't need to read to the end to get to the important news: Pool of Radiance is the best game I've played since starting this blog. I knew it would be from the second or third day. The variety of encounters is rivaled only by Might & Magic, and the tactical combat system is unparalleled. I loved it. (..)
The final score of 65 puts Pool of Radiance at the top of the heap, 5 points above its next-nearest competitor (the first Might & Magic). We won't be away from the Gold Box series long: Curse of the Azure Bonds comes up in less than 20 games. I remember it even less than Pool of Radiance--I'm not sure if I ever finished it as a youth--so I really look forward to it.
- Game 57: Pool of Radiance (1988)
- The Story Begins
- First Expedition
- Clearing the City
- Holy and Unholy
- The Great Outdoors
- Cleaning Up for the Show
- Final Rating
Questron II (1988)
The only real option you have when creating your character is the name. Leveling occurs at fixed intervals and in response to progress on the quest, not slaying monsters or building experience. You have no choices when leveling. (..)
The final score of 26 almost seems too high. I think I might revisit my system soon to allow for a "discretionary" category where I can add and subtract points based on particularly well-done (or hated) features.
Scavengers of the Mutant World (1988)
I can't deny that it's fairly original--this might be the first post-apocalyptic CRPG (I don't know if Wasteland from the same year is before or after). The state of the land and your quest is fairly clear (..)
This brings the final score to 26, the same as Questron II, which was bad for different reasons.
Sentinel Worlds I: Future Magic (1988)
The sum of the individual scores is 38, but we have to talk about some adjustments before we go. First, we're going to deduct a point for the final "battle." That and BattleTech vie for the stupidest endgames I've ever experienced, and I docked BattleTech a point for it, so it would only be fair to do it here. Second, there's the writing. I've rarely encountered such distractingly bad writing in a game. It couldn't have been any worse if Malcolm Trandle had sent a message to the federation that "all your base are belong to us." (..)
In any event, I'm lowering the final score of the game to 36 based on these two factors. I forgive you if you think I've been a little hard on the game. It does have its charm, as a rare science-fiction CRPG and one that at least attempts something original.
- Game 60: Sentinel Worlds I: Future Magic
- Reboot: Sentinel Worlds I: Future Magic
- Foreign Soil
- Careful What You Wish For
- Final Rating
Star Command (1988)
[Star Command] appears largely overlooked in the history of CRPGs. (..) I felt that [it] was a fairly good game, especially in the opening stages. Although the plot veered into nonsense towards the end, it held together better than Sentinel Worlds. (..)
That gives us a final score of 44, which outperforms every game I've played since Wasteland. That feels right. It was an interesting game with innovative ideas and good moments, and it motivated me to play to the end, even if the overall package is a bit flawed. It didn't really stand out in any one category, but neither did it completely fail in any one category.
- Game 61: Star Command (1988)
- Making the Galaxy Safe for Democracy
- Reboot: Star Command
- May Day
- Disease and Danger Wrapped in Darkness and Silence
- Final Rating
Times of Lore (1988)
I'm not so stubborn as to keep playing such an unrewarding game just because I don't want it to beat me (although I admit it is a bit galling). (..) Like Wizard Warz, another difficult-to-maneuver game with a tiny window, this game feels like it simply wasn't meant to be played with a PC keyboard.
Final Score: 18. Almost the exact same score as the aforementioned Wizard Warz, to which this game felt very similar.
Explanation of the the final score: The GIMLET.
Update: The walk through Sentinel Worlds I: Future Magic was rebooted later on, so I updated the quote and links accordingly.
Wednesday - August 19, 2015
CRPG Addict - Review Roundup (Part Ten)
Kicking off the tenth batch of reviews by CRPG Addict with one of the meatier CRPGs from 1988:
Might & Magic II: Gates to Another World (1988)
Quests. The Might & Magic series continues to shine here. It remains the only series in this era with a strong selection of side quests as well as a compelling, multi-stage main quest. The main quest was slow to reveal itself, just like in the first game, but it was one of the more interesting main quests of the CRPGs I've played, and it fit well with the game's back story. (..)
The final score is 58. That's two points lower than I ranked Might & Magic I. If you want to howl in protest, believe me, I understand. From a purely objective standpoint, it seems like II should be better than I--if only for the graphics alone! But, to be perfectly honest, I enjoyed the first game a little bit more. I think the quests had a little more depth, the game was better balanced, and the plot was more original back then. It's still the second-highest ranked game in my blog, though, and I did have a lot of fun playing it.
- Game 53: Might & Magic II: Gates to Another World (1988)
- Packed with Stuff
- An Urban Tour
- Anatomy of Combat
- Touring the Countryside
- Castles and Quests
- Castles and Quests, Part II
- The Land Explored
- Mazes and Monsters
- On the Main Quest
- Stuck in a Bog
- Final Rating
Moraff's Revenge (1988)
In short, Moraff's Revenge is a single-character, permanent-death dungeon crawl with limited tactics and almost no story, but with some decent programming innovations.
Omega allows a fascinating type of character creation in which you can "play yourself," answering questions about your own lifestyle and attributes to generate your character. Naturally, there is a temptation to lie during this process (warning: the game notes the most outrageous ones), but it's still exceedingly clever, and the most original system this side of Ultima IV. (..)
The final score of 53 ties it with Starflight and Ultima IV in third place of all the games I've reviewed so far. Only the time factor keeps me from launching into a new game with different guild choices. (..) I'm sure I haven't even scratched the surface of what's possible in this game, especially as regards the religious system.
- Game 55: Omega (1988)
- Rich Game World
- Succumbed to Cheating
- Everything is a Reference
- Low Expectations, High Satisfaction
- Sort-of Won!
- Final Rating
The game would be more interesting if the quest were unified under some kind of general theme. Fractured as they are, playable in just about any order, some of them not particularly chivalrous, the game doesn't have a very good overall game world (..)
The final score of 21 puts it on the lower tier of games, but of course I'm rating it as a CRPG, not as a strategy game, which is closer to its correct category.
Explanation of the the final rating: The GIMLET.
Tuesday - August 18, 2015
CRPG Addict - Review Roundup (Part Nine)
It's 1988 and what else is there to do besides playing CRPGs? Rhetorical question, of course, so here's another part of CRPG Addict's ventures into the past.
The Bard's Tale III: Thief of Fate (1988)
Leveling is unrewarding. You're expected to bring in characters from The Bard's Tale II who are already at around Level 30-40, and if you don't have them, there's a starter dungeon to get you there. At that point, you have all your abilities and spells and there's nowhere else to develop except to add a few more hit points and spell points to your pool. (..) [Gameplay is] linear, repetitive, non-replayable, too difficult at the beginning and too easy after that, and far, far too long. (..)
Final Rating: 33. This puts it 3 points lower than II and 4 points lower than I, keeping with my belief that the series got worse as it progressed. The developments the story and dimensions was offset by repetitiveness and boredom.
- Game 47: The Bard's Tale III: Thief of Fate (1988)
- Just What I Needed
- More Complaints, Mostly
- Brief Break
- Don't Make Me Do This. Please.
- The Age of Aggression is Just About Done
- Swan Song
Demon's Winter (1988)
The world of Ymros itself is nothing special: a standard high fantasy realm populated with interchangeable towns and temples. The back story of an imprisoned demon seeking to wreak havoc on the land is also nothing new. (..) Nonetheless, it's done well, the game is one of the only ones from this era (or indeed any era) to measurably change the game world as the plot moves forward. (..)
Anyway, final score of 5 on gameplay for a final rating of 45. This is reasonably high; my median right now is 34.5. The game is strong on story but weak in logistics. I do recommend it, and if I didn't seem to enjoy it more while I was playing, it's probably because unrelated life stuff was creeping into the tone of my postings.
- Game 48: Demon's Winter (1988)
- Miscellaneous Stuff in Bulleted Form
- A Slight Thaw
- The Main Quest At Last
- A Plot Twist You Won't Believe
- Final Rating
Evets: The Ultimate Adventure (1988)
The economy is (..) quite good for a roguelike. There are many things to spend money on, including equipment, identification of found equipment, healing, resurrection, and changing classes, and you never feel like you have too much money (..)
Final Rating: 27. Not too bad for a shareware rogulike title. Please chime in if you know more about the game than I do.
War in Middle Earth (1988, Non-CRPG)
I've decided that the game doesn't meet the criteria I outlined at the beginning of the posting because combat is not based on attributes. The only thing it has going for it is an inventory--you find potions and weapons and such along the route--which isn't enough.
Journey: the Quest Begins (1988, Non-CRPG)
This isn't even remotely a CRPG, so I have no idea why I played it as long as I did. The writing was good and the story decent and the puzzles were interesting, but a good game gives you more options for solving them and is less obnoxious about ensuring that an extra spell cast in the first five minutes keeps you from winning in the last five.
MAG: A Dungeon Adventuring Game (1988)
I really have to hand it to Mike Teixeira. This would be a great game to introduce players to the concept of roguelikes without being as punishingly difficult as Rogue or as complicated as NetHack. (..)
The final rating of 26 puts it slightly higher than Rogue but not extremely high. It would be tough for most roguelikes to achieve a particularly high score on my GIMLET scale because they often lack elements of CRPGs, like NPCs and stores. (NetHack is an exception, obviously, as are some modern roguelikes.)
Explanation of the the final rating: The GIMLET.
Monday - August 17, 2015
CRPG Addict - Review Roundup (Part Eight)
Wrapping up PC/DOS CRPGs from 1987, including several games that were apparently misclassified, here's part eight of our review roundup. In the meantime CRPG Addict decided that he's going to play CRPGs released for other personal computer systems as well, so we'll revisit the earlier years at some point.
Phantasie III: The Wrath of Nikademus (1987)
Battle tactics redeem some of the bad elements of the game. Since you can only rest and heal in towns, you have to take care in every encounter, especially in dungeons. (..) Carefully planning battles is the only way to win, and with its multiple attack, defense, and spell options, the game gives you a lot of planning to do. (..)
The final score of 39 matches the original Phantasie exactly. Although III suffers from being a retread, its tactical combat system, which I probably didn't spend enough time on, makes up those lost points. I'm not sad that there isn't a Phantasie IV*, and that SSI would soon move on to cooler things.
- Game 39: Phantasie III: The Wrath of Nikademus (1987)
- A Hard Start
- Over the Hump
- Nikademus Wins
- Final Rating
The gameplay is really the best element of Pirates! It is completely non-linear, allowing you to do whatever you want whenever you want. Much of the fun in the game comes from strategizing next actions, since time is so precious. (..) Pirates! allows for considerable role-playing, and in that role-playing comes enormous replayability.
The final score of 48 seems awfully low given how much I enjoyed the game, but of course I'm ranking it as a CRPG rather than a strategy game or simulator. For its real category, I would invent another kind of GIMLET scale.
- Pirates! (1987)
- The Career of Captain Gatomalo, Part 1
- The Career of Captain Gatomalo, Part 2
- Final Rating
The Seven Spirits of Ra (1987)
I can't really see this as a CRPG. I have to stop accepting MobyGames's word for such things. There appears to be no attributes, character development, or leveling, and combat is all action-based. It is, at best, an "adventure game."
The game world is undistinguished fantasy fare. It combines so many themes from literature, mythology, and fairy tales, it really doesn't seem to know what it's about. (..)
The final score of 28 seems about right. I liked it marginally more than Mission: Mainframe, but not enough to keep playing when there was no way to "win."
Star Saga: One - Beyond the Boundary (1987)
The game is a weird, possibly unique, hybrid of computer and board game. It originally came in a three-pound box with several floppy disks and a dense package of character booklets, instructions, tokens, a game map, and 888 passages of text. (..) This is fundamentally not a computer game. (..) The long text entries are very well-written and interesting, but I don't have any sense that I'm really playing anything.
Wizard Warz (1987)
Wizard Warz is not remotely a CRPG. (..) No character creation, no development except the acquisition of an occasional new spell, no inventory (okay, no player-controlled inventory), action-based combat rather than tactical combat, no NPCs, and so on.
The Ancient Land of Ys (1987)
Gameplay is mostly linear, given the limited game world, and there would be no reason to replay it. The boss fights do add a satisfying level of challenge, and the game doesn't overstay its welcome. (..)
The final score of 35 seems about right. I wouldn't have wanted to play it for much longer, and the score would have been much lower without the challenge and tactics of the seven or eight boss fights, but it was an acceptable way to pass a couple of CRPG sessions.
Gameplay is of the side-scrolling platform variety, and in between slashing at creatures, I have to navigate mazes and jumping puzzles. (..)
The final score of 36 isn't too bad for a game that really isn't a CRPG. But seriously: this is the seventh game in a row whose CRPG creds are a little fishy. Time to cross into 1988 and try one that no one doubts.
Sunday - August 09, 2015
CRPG Addict - Review Roundup (Part Seven)
More reviews from the past by CRPG Addict.
The game is fairly non-linear. I'll give it that. But the huge game world offers nothing valuable. It should have been contracted to 1/4 of its size. It's far too easy and offers no replayability. (..)
Final score: 27. Definitely one of the lower-ranked games on my blog. My apologies to those of you who disagree, but I just don't understand what you see in the game. The game manual brags that it features 17,000 screens. The developers should have put something in them.
While I continue to like this game and think that it has promise, I don't look terribly forward to my gameplay sessions. First, the process of constantly translating is a little tiresome--why do the French games have to be the wordiest games? (..) Second, the overall uncertainty the game leaves me with respect to items, food, and leveling makes it hard to just sit back and enjoy it.
You have to give it points for originality. Sure, the world itself is fairly standard fantasy fare, and the peasant-rises-up-to-defeat-the-evil-warlord has been done to death, but the framing device of the Galactic Museum is quite original. (..)
The final score of 38 puts it about on par with 2400 A.D., of which it reminds me a bit. Both of the games were short isometric outings in fairly limited and somewhat boring gameworlds despite interesting sci-fi framing plots.
I like games that are challenging but not impossible; Mission: Mainframe strikes me as impossible. Unlike some roguelikes, it's really not replayable--the "classes" offer the same experience--there's no real opportunity for role playing (especially since the game world is so goofy). (..)
Final Score: 25. That puts it lower than everything except Ultima II and the original Rogue, and frankly I think I gave Rogue a raw deal (the GIMLET scale was new back then). It ranks higher than Rogue only because it has an economy and the encounters are a little more interesting. If you like traditional roguelikes, you'll likely disagree with this assessment, but I wouldn't be upset if this was the last one I played.
[Equipment] is perhaps NetHack's strongest suit. You find an enormous variety of weapons, armor, potions, scrolls, and wands randomized throughout the dungeon, and all of them are unidentified when you discover them. (..) This adds an enormous amount of strategy to the game: when should I try to use an unidentified item, and when should I play it safe? (..)
The final score of 42 seems a little low, although keep in mind that I didn't get to experience everything, and I might have ranked it a few points higher if I did. I hear that later versions have more NPCs, more complex dungeons, quests, and such, and I expect a significantly higher ranking then.
- Game 38: Nethack (1987)
- Five Adventures, Five Fates
- Playing, Dying, Screaming, Restarting
- Enough For Now
- Final Ranking
After that CRPG Addict added an editorial On Roleplaying and Roguelikes, in which he described how the possibility for the player to experience or construct a sensible narrative in a game's context is very important in order to make a game a good role-playing game.
Friday - August 07, 2015
CRPG Addict - Review Roundup (Part Six)
Continuing skavenhorde's review roundup series from four years ago about games played and reviewed by CRPG Addict, here's another piece of gaming history.
I give it 7 points for the game world; it's the only game I know that draws on Mesopotamian mythology, and it's quite well-researched at that. (..)Final Score: 30. It was brief enough that I would have finished it if it hadn't been for the game's sudden surprise, but it wasn't enjoyable enough that I mind watching the end on someone else's video. (..) [ed: Updated final score after the revisit: 34]
- Game 29: Adventure Construction Set (1987)
- Rivers of Light: Western Civ Redux
- No Eternal Life for me...
- Constructing Adventure ACS Addendum
- Revisiting: Adventure Construction Set/Rivers of Light (1984) (Won!)
[Matt Barton said,] "Alien Fires is an extremely difficult game...I certainly wouldn't recommend it to everyone, but I've never played another game that had the same otherworldly ambiance." See, Barton has a way with words. He says "otherworldly ambiance." I say, "WTF?"
My GIMLET scale wants "unique monsters." Folks, I give you monkey grinders, cruel puppets, lucksuckers, Christmas Tree Monsters, and of course grues. (..)
Final score: 46. The little non-CRPG gets a higher score than any CRPG I've played except Ultima III, Ultima IV, Starflight, and Might & Magic. I'm on board with that 100%. If this wasn't supposed to be a blog about CRPGs, I could give it additional points for its sense of humor and quality of writing.
- Game 31: Beyond Zork: The Coconut of Quendor
- Zorkish Puzzles, Beyond-Zorkish Combat
- Giant Onions, Unicorns, and Puppets
- Lost in Quendor
- Closing In
- Reverse Metamorphosis & Time Travel
- Final Ranking
Braminar is a CRPG the way that the home movies your dad made are "cinema." They might be interesting, but you wouldn't expect to find them cataloged on IMDB. Braminar's inclusion on MobyGames's list of CRPGs stretches the definition of the term to its utmost limits. (..)
I give it a 9/100 on the GIMLET scale (it's not even worth explaining why).
Although the constant flurry of clicks wore me down, I give a lot of credit to the landmark real-time combat system that the game uses. Combat is very tactical, with numerous weapon and magic options, and attack functions that increase with your skills. The magic system is one of the most original encountered, with a combination of runes and mana, and a spell list that only slowly reveals itself. (..)
Total ranking: 47. This has it beating Beyond Zork but not Might & Magic, Ultima IV, or Starflight, all of which I agree I enjoyed more. I admire Dungeon Master for its innovations, but despite them I don't think it's a "great" game.
Tuesday - December 09, 2014
CRPG Addict - Return from Hiatus, First Impressions of Fountain of Dreams
If you are anything like me, not only are you aware that the CRPG Addict is back from his month-and-a-half long hiatus, but you have already greedily gobbled up his first impressions of EA's pseudo-Wasteland 1 follow-up Fountain of Dreams. However, for the rest of you, said impressions reside here:
Given all of this, I found myself, to my surprise, not hating it. If you strip away its Wasteland baggage and mentally block some elements of the story and setting, it becomes a perfectly serviceable little RPG that does a reasonably good job recreating Wasteland's engine and adapts some of the previous game's best elements. Oh, it's not perfect, but when I was playing yesterday and had to stop and get some work done, I didn't want to stop. That's better than a lot of games.
Update: And he won the game already.
Sunday - June 17, 2012
The CRPG Addict - "LOLCRPGS"
A week or so back The CRPG Addict wrote about humour in CRPGs, which is an interesting subject. Here's a snip:
1. The dialogue of HK-47 in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. The homicidal droid insists on calling humans "meatbags," although he refers to you as "master"--except when he slips.
2. Minsc's dialogue in Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate II, particularly the latter. This is a perfect example of humor that grows from characterization. What might otherwise just be "goofy" becomes funny and endearing when you learn Minsc's story, alignment, and approach to life. ("Eh? He is like a bad penny, this one. An armored, deep-voiced penny of most sinister evil!")
3. Many of the throw-away "scenes" in Skyrim, including one that includes a bed, a copy of The Lusty Argonian Maid, and a potion of fortify one-handed.
Thursday - January 05, 2012
General News - The CRPG Addict: back to the 70's
The CRPG Addict takes us down to memory lane (for those that remember those days) to look at the RPGs of the 70's.
The earliest surviving CRPG seems to be a 1974 or 1975 game called The Dungeon by Reginald "Rusty" Rutherford, who was studying in Urbana. He titled the file "pedit5" (which some sources give as the name of the game) to keep it from being deleted as an obvious game. This didn't save it, but somehow the source code got preserved, and it's available on Cyber1 now.
The original dnd by Gary Whisenhunt and Ray Wood came out the same year, and some sources put it earlier than The Dungeon. The game underwent several versions, and this is the one that Dirk Pellett and his brother Flint Pellett are credited with contributing to. It also uses an iconographic perspective, and its random encounters with creatures and treasure show it as the obvious precursor to the DND/Telengard line of games by Daniel Lawrence that I wrote about in July 2010.
Saturday - July 16, 2011
CRPG Addict - Review Roundup (Part Five)
Sorry I haven't been updating my Review Roundup. I blame Terraria and Frayed Knights for my lack of updates. Those two games had me hooked for the past few weeks.
So let's get started with one of the best games I played as a child and still replay to this day:
Starflight (1986) - Game World. Absolutely top-notch. You have an entire galaxy to explore with a fascinating backstory that is sketched out in the manual but only fully revealed as you explore, find artifacts and messages, and talk to various races. The lore is unique and interesting, the final twist is amazing, and some mysteries persist even after you've won. Unlike almost every other game of the era, your actions measurably affect the game world and your relationships with the various alien races. I can't think of many games that do it better. Final score: 9.
Final ranking: 53. This puts it with Ultima IV but not quite as high as Might & Magic I. I don't know how well this reflects the game. Perhaps I need to add an "addictiveness" handicap to my rankings, because there's just something ineffably compelling about Starflight. From the moment I started playing it, I played it for a few hours every night.
Sword of Glass (1986) - Gameplay. If it wasn't for that damned permanent paralysis and sleep [Later edit: wrong about this; see here], I'd rate the game pretty high. Although it's "linear" in the sense of being a single-dungeon, multi-level game, it doesn't restrict where you can go in the dungeon. It seemed to have a good balance in terms of monsters, you level at a good clip, and the cooperative multiplayer is quite impressive. It's not replayable except to the extent that any roguelike is replayable. Score: 5.
Final score: 27. That puts it on par with Rings of Zilfin and some of the roguelikes for enjoyability. It's worth a rainy afternoon but not a week.
Tera: La Cité des Crânes (1986) - Look, I'm man enough for a challenge, like playing a game without any instructions, or playing a game in a foreign language. Just not together at the same time. And here's the other thing: I'm not entirely sure that Tera isn't really stupid. I mean, like Ultima II stupid.
So I'm going to move on to Wizardry IV for now, but I'll think about giving Tera another try if someone comes up with a manual (one that doesn't require telechargement, thanks, Murlock) or if any reader who has played it can give me some advice.
Wizardry 4 (1986) - The difficulty of the game is one thing, but what really killed my enthusiasm for Wizardry IV is that it doesn't include any of the elements that I like about CRPGs. Oh, it has an interesting back story, I grant you, and a very original approach. But there's virtually no character creation or development: you start off as the same Werdna every time, and you only "develop" by visiting successive pentagrams; there are no experience rewards for your eons of combat. There are no meaningful NPC encounters, no economy, only one pathological main quest, extremely linear gameplay, and an overall experience that's exasperating instead of challenging. It features some of the tactical combat intensity that I liked about the original Wizardry, but limited in that you can only control one character. The graphics and sound are an insult at this stage of CRPG development.
I'm giving it a 30 on my GIMLET scale and moving on to 2400 A.D., but I do so with some remorse. Actually finishing this game, without cheats or walkthroughs, would have felt like a real accomplishment. Unfortunately, I just don't have that kind of patience.
2400 A.D. (1987) - 2400 A.D. takes place at some unspecified point in the future on a planet technically known as XK-120 but called "Nova Athens" by the residents. Colonized by earth for its mining potential, it became a major center for learning and culture, but over the course of a few decades it was conquered--along with many other earth colonies--by an alien race called the Tzorg. To keep order among the human populace of Nova Athens, and in its capital city of Metropolis, the Tzorg staffed the planet with robot patrols. Although the planet still nominally functions, it has gone to seed, and an underground Resistance network works to find and deactivate the robot's control center.
Gameplay. Within the world, gameplay is fairly non-linear, allowing you to go wherever from the start. But the world is small and confining, so it's not as if you can use the non-linearity to really wander and explore. Overall, it is too easy (you cannot die!), too quick, and not in any way replayable. Final score: 2.
This gives us a total score for 2400 A.D. of: 34. That puts it in the range of Shard of Spring, which I once described as "meh." That's pretty much how I feel about 2400 A.D.
Monday - July 04, 2011
CRPG Addict - Review Roundup (Part Four)
Here we go with the fourth installment of the review roundup:
Backtracking: Zyll (1984) - In Zyll, you play a young warrior, wizard, or thief on a quest to recover the great treasures of your kingdom (the Land of Magic and Enchantment) from the evil wizard Zyll, who has stolen them. You also must steal Zyll's black orb--the artifact that gives him his power and has allowed him to turn your kingdom to a wasteland. There are other minor treasures to take, too, and the game isn't just about "winning" but rather achieving the highest possible score when you do.
Backtracking: Amulet of Yendor (1985) - Amulet of Yendor (this is the MobyGames name; in the game itself it seems to be called Yendor's Castle) involves a quest to retrieve the Orb of Power forged by the elven wizard Yendor. It takes place on an 8-level dungeon with 64 rooms (8x8) each. As in Wizard's Castle, the rooms contain various monsters, pools, chests, books, treasure, vendors, and other assorted items. You have to fight monsters to find an artifact called the Runestaff which teleports you to Yendor's Orb. Winning the game involves leaving the dungeon with Yendor's Orb in your possession, at which point you are given a score based on the treasure you've collected and the monsters you've slain.
Backtracking: Leygref's Castle (1986) - Leygref's Castle is essentially the same game but with much more tolerable graphics and gameplay. You are once again after an Orb of Power, this time forged by the elf wizard Leygref instead of Yendor. Other than the name change, the instructions are word-for-word identical to those in Amulet of Yendor (although this game helpfully gives you the opportunity to bypass them). Improvements include a map that remains in front of you throughout the game and more information about your status and inventory on the screen. There are few other tricks introduced by the game, including a mysterious jerk called "The Phantom" who shows up and steals your stuff and the chance of going blind (I was never able to cure this). The author of this one, a Frank Dutton of either Texas or Louisiana, deserves a lot of credit for this version, and if you're really eager to play one of the Wizard's Castle derivatives, this is the one I'd recommend.
Moebius: The Orb of Celestial Harmony (1985) - Moebius is notable in a lot of other ways. It is the first CRPG (that I know of) based on eastern philosophy and themes. Perhaps an exception is Ultima IV with its inclusion of avatarhood, but this is really just the use of a term. Moebius is set in a quasi-Asian fantasy kingdom with frequent use of Asian (or, at least, pseudo-Asian) symbology, names, weapons, and combat styles. Confucius quotes appear throughout the manual. There aren't many other games that do this. I think of Jade Empire and...any others? (Other than JRPGs, of course.)
Larn (1986) - Larn is an embellished roguelike. As with most roguelikes, the graphics are very sparse. Your character is represented by an @. Monsters are letters. Walls are pound signs (#). And so on. Interaction is through a fairly large selection of keyboard commands in which capitalization matters. You don't want to mix up (r)ead a scroll with (R)emove gems from throne, because the latter has a nasty habit of sending a gnome king to kill you.
Rings of Zilfin (1986) - Game World. Reasonably good back story about the lost Zilfins and the rise of the evil Dragos. If a bit derivative, at least offers some original elements like the inaccessible castle and the drug-addicted guardian. Generally the gameplay itself does not live up to the manual's backstory. Score: 5.
Final score: 26. The best I can say is I liked it better than Ultima II.
The Shard of Spring (1986) - Shard of Spring ends up being a pretty linear game. You know how I feel about that. As you move across the landscape, you encounter towns and dungeons in a very specific order, and while you can blow past them and jump right on to harder dungeons, it's very inadvisable to do so, because 1) you need objects that you get in previous dungeons to fully complete subsequent ones; and 2) they're too hard if you don't do them in order. There are five or six dungeons plus a bunch of little tombs, and most of them are quite small and uneventful. Once I found the towns that had training academies and allowed me to level up, I got through all but the last one (the evil sorceress Siriadne's castle) very quickly.
Final Ranking: 33. This puts it on par with Wizard's Crown, which makes sense to me.
Friday - July 01, 2011
CRPG Addict - Review Roundup (Part Three)
In this entry you'll find some of the games out of order. This is because CRPG Addict went back and played some games that were not on the wiki's list, but on Moby's list. Any game with "backtracking" in the title are those games that he found out about later. Here we go with Part Three of CRPG Addict's blog:
The basic trouble with The Bard's Tale II is that it's too much like The Bard's Tale, just bigger. So far, I'm encountering copious monsters, messages scrawled on dungeon walls, teleporters, traps, zones of darkness, anti-magic zones, magic mouths, and everything that I already experienced a couple of months ago. Since I don't even have the satisfaction of character development to go along with it, this game promises to be fairly tedious.
Gameplay. As I previously covered, game play in Might & Magic is very non-linear, which (as I also previously covered), I like a lot. Except for a handful of locked doors for which you have to find the keys, there's almost nowhere in the game world that you can't trek from the starting town--assuming you can survive the monsters (hint: you can't). I liked that the game essentially required me to explore to even figure out what the main quest was about. The difficultly of the game is well-balanced. Although you die a lot, particularly at the beginning, the pace of the gameplay is fast enough that you don't really mind (assuming you haven't been a complete idiot about saving). Just as it starts to drag a bit, you start to get a selection of spells--time warp, fly, teleport, town portal--that make traveling about the world a bit faster, and low-level monsters much easier to dispatch. It was over just when I was about ready for it to be over, which is always the mark of a good game. My only complaint: no replayability. But that's par for the course in the Silver Age. In the end, this game was exactly what it should be to earn a high score on my blog: addictive. Final score: 8.
The final tally of 60 is the highest of any CRPG so far, even higher than Ultima IV. This gives me a few pangs, but although I like Ultima IV better as a story, I admit that I probably like Might & Magic better as a game.
We needn't spend a lot of time on Wizard's Castle (1980), even though it shows enough promise to be slightly addictive if I gave it a chance. It is an entirely text-based game, similar to the earliest versions of Rogue. As Matt Barton says in Dungeons & Desktops (2008), it is notable less for what it is and more for how it was released: it was printed as 5000 lines of BASIC code in the magazine Recreational Computing. I'm not really sure who I have to thank for the DOS executable version I'm playing.
I don't know how much of this game is based on the original code and how much was added for the 1983 DOS release, but either way it's pretty [expletive] cool. I found a text-based manual on a C64 site [unfortunately, not formatted well] and I can't believe the amount of innovation they packed into a game this early--including elements we see in no other CRPG. For instance:
- You choose from eight races when creating your characters: dwarf, elf, gnoll, hobbit, human, kobold, ogre, and orc.
- There are an incredible 10 classes: hirebrand (fighter), mage, sage, priest, peasant, ninja, thief, paladin, samurai, ranger.
- The game offer D&D's set of six attributes, and like in Wizardry (in fact, I can see this game's influence on Wizardry) the attributes determine what class you can choose.
- Once you create your character, you have to choose a guild to join for your "apprenticeship." There are 19 guilds, but restricted based on class and attributes, I guess.
- There are six spell levels for both clerics and priests, with three or four spells per level.
In this blog so far, I have played a number of games that I thought were pointless or goofy (my worst venom remains for Ultima II; I can't believe that was part of such an otherwise excellent series), but I've never played any as painful as StarQuest. I'm not knocking it--I'm sure it was a joy at the time. But unlike just about any CRPG I've reviewed in this blog, there is no way on heaven or earth that this game could be remotely "fun" to modern players. Movement is extraordinarily cumbersome (you hit "L" or "R" until you're facing the right direction and then type the number of steps you want to move) and the controls are often nonresponsive. The quest is extremely basic--you wander around until you find 10 humans and hit "T" to transport them home.
In the game, you play a single character. You begin by rolling the standard six D&D attributes and choosing from fighter, magician, or cleric classes. You name your character--for some reason, the game also asks you to give a "secret name"--and boom, you're in the text-based dungeon, where you wander around, fight monsters (only two options: attack and evade), collect treasures, find random encounters like teleporters and thrones, gain experience, and--quite often--die. Almost everything I wrote previously about Telengard is true of this game, only with more primitive graphics. It's still slightly addictive, but not enough for me to linger. I got my character up to level 3 and was reasonably rich when I died for the last time.
Caverns of Zoarre was developed by a Thomas Hanlin III of Springfield, Virginia. (This is getting eerie; I have friends in both Plano and Springfield.) He wants $25 for the instructions to the game, but I largely figured them out for myself. After rolling random stats (no wisdom), you choose from a fighter or sorcerer, decide whether you want a "freen" (yeah, no idea) and head into the eponymous caverns. As in DND, as you wander you enjoy random encounters (although less often) with monsters and treasures. The graphics are a little more advanced, at least in terms of your own character and the walls, but there are no graphics for monsters and other encounters. As with DND and Telengard, it's pretty tough to survive for very long.
the gameplay is again remarkably similar to Telengard in the nature of foes you encounter, objects you find, and commands to navigate around. It even has altars that call you "pagan trash" if you gyp them with too little gold! As the first game with an actual "main quest" since I started backtracking, I'm tempted to try to finish it...but I'm more anxious to get caught up to where I was before I discovered the existence of these extra games.
Thursday - June 30, 2011
CRPG Addict - Review Roundup (Part Two)
Yesterday I started listing the games that CRPG Addict has played and commented on. I forgot to mention that CRPG Addict has a master ranking list you can download if you want. He has links to all of the games that he has played and ranked in the document. It's an xls document so you'll need excel or some way to view those documents.
Today I'll continue where I left off with The Bard's Tale:
The Bard's Tale - 10. Gameplay. In some ways, the gameplay is fairly linear--you must progress through the dungeons in a specific order. But having done so, you are free to backtrack to previous dungeons. Skara Brae itself is fully explorable at the outset; there just isn't much reason to explore. The difficulty is "pleasingly difficult," as I wrote in one point, because you can only save in the Adventurer's Inn and you have to carefully ration your spell points in dungeons. Towards the end, though, it becomes incredibly difficult, especially with the ability of certain monsters to turn your characters to stone, which you have no spell to redress. Every stoning requires a trip back out to a temple, if you're lucky to survive long enough. Monsters that drain your hard-earned levels also make you tear out your hair. There is absolutely no replayability; you'll get the same experience no matter what party you use or what decisions you make. Category score: 4.
The Bard's Tale's total score is: 38/100. On my master ranking list, that ties it with Wizardry I and suggests I liked it better than anything I've played so far except Ultima III. That feels about right.
Wizardry II - Okay, here's the essential problem with Wizardry II: you can't create characters in it. Instead, you have to import your characters from Wizardry. Now this would be okay, maybe, if during the import the game auto-leveled you to something sensible, but it doesn't. Also, when you import your characters, it permanently removes you from the original game. You can't even go back and re-import them if they die. Man, these games are harsh.
Since Wizardry II is the same game as Wizardry, I see no reason not to give it the same overall score: 37/100.
Wizardy III - Wizardry III is cheerfully indistinguishable from Wizardry or Wizardry II except for the specific dungeon. Everything else--graphics, controls, character classes and races, spells, and gameplay--are essentially the same. I say "essentially," because there do appear to be some new monsters, weapons, and armor. Instead of leather and chain mail, for instance, you have a "cuirass" and a "hauberk."
As with Wizardry II, you cannot create characters in Wizardry III; you must import them from one of the previous games. Unlike Wizardry II, when you import them, you do not keep your levels, experience and gold. Instead, the game resets you to level 1, explaining that you aren't really importing the characters so much as instilling their spirits in their descendants.
Phantasia - 1. Game World. Although mostly a standard high-fantasy world, Phantasie does a good job fleshing itself out with back story and characters. It doesn't approach the depth and detail of modern games, but it's good for its time, rivaled only by the Ultima series. Although its towns are completely interchangeable, its multiple dungeons each have their own unique character. Your quest is clear from the start, and although Nikademus himself doesn't make an appearance until the end, your progress through the game shows the affects of his tyrannical rule, and the Black Knights are a constant reminder of the main quest. The only thing I can fault the game on is my preference that your actions affect the game world. In this game, they don't, really. The dungeons continually re-set, meaning you find the same NPCs in the same perils every time you enter. In the end, you can kill Nikademus again and again. Final score: 6.
Final Total: 39. This means I liked it slightly more than Wizardry and The Bard's Tale but not as much as Ultima III. I guess that works. Next up....yes! Ultima IV.
Ultima IV - 3. NPC interaction. Again, Ultima IV is utterly unique in its method of NPC interaction, in which you type in keywords. The game is full of NPCs, and you absolutely have to talk to them--practically all of them--to advance in the game and uncover the mysteries of the land. NPC interaction is also necessary to the role-playing aspects of the game, as only by answering truthfully can you advance in honesty, and only by answering humbly can you advance in humility. Sometimes the NPCs have very little to say, and there are only a few dialog "choices," and you can't really establish relationships with any of them, but NPC interaction is still one of the game's strongest points. Final score: 7.
Total score: 53. This correctly gives the game the highest ranking of games I've played so far, although I'm surprised how close it is to Ultima III which I liked but didn't love. Frankly, I think I ranked Ultima III a little too high (rather than ranking Ultima IV too low). Ultima IV's story quest are unparalleled even today, but judging strictly in gameplay terms, it isn't a "great" CRPG, so this score feels about right.
Wizard's Crown - 9. Graphics, sound, and inputs. The graphics are mediocre, especially on the character and dialog screens which are text-only. The only sound is the occasional combat effect. Keyboard commands are intuitive enough and easy to grasp, but constantly having to specify a point man when you leave camp is annoying. Final score: 2.
10. Gameplay. The world is so constraining, and it's so hard to avoid dying, that the game feels very linear. It offers no different experiences on replay, and I found that it varied between too easy and too hard: either I won combats in a snap or I was thoroughly trounced. Final score: 2.
Final score: 32. This puts it above some of the worst games on my list, but not as high as Wizardry or The Bard's Tale, which feels right.
The next game is The Bard's Tale II and that feels like a good point to stop for today.
CRPG Addict has many posts on Ultima IV and they are a great read if you are feeling nostalgic or if you've never played it before. The tiny portion I posted here doesn't even begin to cover everything that he had to say about Ultima IV.
Wednesday - June 29, 2011
CRPG Addict - Review Roundup (Part One)
Dhruin mentioned in a previous newsbit that we don't cover CRPG Addict's blog as much as we should. I agree completely. I've enjoyed his blogs immensely. So I'm going to be playing catch-up and list all of the games he has played up until this point. This will be the first part in a series of newsbits to catalog all of the games he has played. It would be impractical to list them all in one newsbit.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with CRPG Addict, here is an introduction to his blog and here are his self-imposed rules:
1. I am following a list of CRPGs in chronological order derived from several sources--primarily Wikipedia (both regular CRPGs and roguelikes) and MobyGames.
2. Only games released for DOS or Windows.
3. I cannot use cheats.
4. I cannot look at FAQs or walkthroughs until I have finished playing.
5. I don't have to win every game, but I must play for at least six hours.
6. I can only reload a game if my entire party is wiped out or the game otherwise forces me to reload
Basically he is attempting to play every RPG ever made for the PC. He is using various lists to play them all in order from when they were published.
He hasn't always succeeded in playing them in order and has modified his rules a few times to include other lists (he started out only using Wiki's PC RPG list) and he later included text-based rpgs, but mostly CRPG Addict has succeeded in playing them in order.
I will include his thoughts about the games he's played and try to keep them mostly spoiler free. Now onto the games:
Aklebeth - I played Akalabeth more than four months ago now (the idea of a blog not having occurred to me back then), and I was surprised by how quick it went. There really isn't much to it; it's more of a demonstration project than a game. After you create your initial character and buy a few supplies (your weapons are limited to a rapier, an axe, a bow, and a magic amulet), you head over to Lord British's castle to get your first monster-killing quest, and then start plumbing the dungeons.
Rogue - The end result is that although the game would probably take only a few hours to complete if you could constantly save and reload, it took me four months to complete playing it "fair." And let's be clear: for three months and 28 days of those four months, I was playing with different characters than the one that ultimately won the game. Most of the time it takes to win Rogue involves playing, dying, screaming, and restarting at Level 1.
Temple of Apshai - Verdict: an interesting early dungeon crawl, pretty cool for its time, but without enough story or lore to tempt modern gamers.
Ultima I - Verdict: Should you play Ultima I? Absolutely, without question, if you intend to play any of the later Ultima games. It introduces you to the lore of the land and the basic mythology of what will become Britannia. The dungeon crawls are fun and the space stuff is silly but inoffensive. Finally, as you've seen, it takes a mere few hours to win.
Wizardry I - As a landmark in the history of CRPGs, it was fun and interesting to play. I'm not sorry I did. But neither am I sorry I played it only once.
Telengard - Telengard isn't really a game you play for a long time, since there's no way to "win." Instead, it's a game you blow an hour or two on here or there, perhaps competing for highest score or fastest leveling with a friend. The manual actually encourages this with several suggestions for "multi-player" games: "see which player can advance his character to the highest experience level in a given time period"; "see who can map the most dungeon spaces of a given dungeon level" (this is followed by the helpful suggestion to "use graph paper").
Ultima II - Even if you're an Ultima fan--hell, especially if you're an Ultima fan--I encourage you not to play this game. I've played many games with boring gameplay and many games with idiotic plots. It is a rare to find one that combines both.
Ultima III - My first impressions of Ultima III: Exodus are that it redeems Ultima II. It feels like a real game instead of Richard Garriott screwing around. It (at least so far) keeps the game grounded in more standard fantasy conventions without involving light swords and rocketships. Combat is more tactical and interesting (if longer), equipment and items are more varied, the magic system is more sophisticated, dungeons have a reason to exist, and the overall gameplay, to me, is a lot more satisfying.
Alternate Reality: The City - So what, in God's name, is going on in this game? What does this medieval setting have to do with aliens? Why is everyone trying to kill me? What is the goal of the game?
It turns out that the City was the first in a planned six-game series, but only the City and the Dungeon ever got made. There is no way to "win" Alternate Reality: the City, and the only reason to play really is to build up your character for the Dungeon, which never received a DOS port and thus isn't on my list. Life's too short to play just to mess around. Next game.
Autoduel - My six hours is up, and I'm tossing in the towel. I know I'm opening myself up to accusations of half-assing two games in a row, but Autoduel was about the least fun I've ever had with a CRPG--and to be honest, I'd debate applying that label to this game. In any event, I can't find any evidence that there's a main quest or a way to "win" Autoduel, so all it's doing is keeping me from The Bard's Tale.
I'm stopping here for today and will continue tomorrow starting with The Bard's Tale.
From this point forward CRPG Addict has implemented his own rating system for CRPGs. He calls it the GIMLET (Game Innovation, Merriment, Likability and Engagement Test). It's one of the only scoring system that makes any kind of sense to me. It still is highly subjective, but it beats the pants off of a numeric score based on a whim or with little to no feedback from a reviewer on how they rate the games they play.
Information aboutCRPG Addict