Brother None counts down his favourite games

Discussion in 'General Gaming and Hardware Forum' started by Brother None, Oct 22, 2009.

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  1. Brother None

    Brother None This ghoul has seen it all
    Staff Member Admin Orderite

    Apr 3, 2003
    So could I. But not 20 games I enjoyed more than EJ, or that left me with so many fond memories.

    Believe it or not, I still haven't played Sanitarium. It looks lovely.

    World of Goo is #1, obviously.
  2. Serge 13

    Serge 13 Pussy Virus Orderite

    Jul 20, 2006

    I think i'll keep count, so far it has been asked from you 2 times! :mrgreen:
  3. PlanHex

    PlanHex Legislative Senator oTO Moderator Orderite

    Nov 4, 2007
    And here I thought it would be that russian indie game with a plague or whatever that you always yammer on about.
  4. The Vault Dweller

    The Vault Dweller always looking for water.

    Aug 24, 2004
    I loved World of Goo and bought it just on BN's suggestion.
  5. Kilus

    Kilus Not Australian Orderite

    May 3, 2003
    Well a couple of days ago you could of bought it for 1 cent.
  6. Brother None

    Brother None This ghoul has seen it all
    Staff Member Admin Orderite

    Apr 3, 2003

    If you were a friggin' asshole.

    Who the hell paid $.01? Buncha assholes.
  7. This thread was gay/stereotypical and a little pretentious until you won my heart with Earthworm Jim.

  8. alec

    alec White heterosexual male Orderite

    May 21, 2003

    Whoopdeedoopdeedooooooooooooooooooooo! :D
  9. Brother None

    Brother None This ghoul has seen it all
    Staff Member Admin Orderite

    Apr 3, 2003
    12. Dark Sun: Shattered Lands - Strategic Simulations (DOS, 1993)

    Ok, so implied earlier I wouldn't return to the Gold Box era of cRPGs. And technically I didn't, as Dark Sun: Shattered Lands falls outside of this era. But still, this is an SSI RPG we're talking about, even if it came at a time when their popularity was waning and they would soon exit, stage left.

    Shattered Lands is a forgotten game, and given its history you can find a lot of reasons for this. Its engine and look were outdated when it was released, SSI had just released their failure of a Spelljammer turning a lot of their fans away, and - last but not least - this game was a piece of shit when released, and patches didn't really exist yet.

    Shattered Lands also came at the tail-end of SSI's exclusivity deal with TSR, who would soon decide they were better served cutting out exclusive licensing for AD&D and turning to Interplay for new opportunities, to great success. Thing is, I never enjoyed this "meeting of perfections" in SSI and AD&D as many people did, primarily because I hate AD&D. I consider it a shallow, tepid system whose basic lack of functionality is surpassed only be the uninspiredness of its most popular settings.

    So while I do like Pool of Radiance or Eye of the Beholder, that lame-ass Forgotten Realms setting gets me every time, and I soon start sweating tears of boredom.

    Not so for Shattered Lands, set in the more original Dark Sun campaign setting. Dark Sun is essentially "post-apocalyptic", but it is more about a world in a long decline. The once-blue world Athas was stripped of fertility by the Defiling, and its sun is in decay. This means the entire world is an unlivable desert, metal tools being rare commodities. Primitive societies strive to survive as corrupt absolutist governments run the city-states that dot the landscape, and life is just a struggle for survival. This is the kind of setting where hobbits are deranged forest dwellers that eat anyone that dares trespass into their lands.

    Shattered Lands does well with this setting. Right from the start you're simply tossed into an arena as a group of pitfighters, and you will have to make your own way through and escape, or likely die in the pits. The game is filled with scenarios like these, and is unforgiving in facing the player with harsh situations, back-stabbing NPCs and difficult, often ambiguous choices to make.

    I love the interface and combat in this game. The interface, mostly mouse-based, feels surprisingly intuitive even today, and a large variety of actions in and out of combat is easy to make. Combat flows naturally and has the right level of difficulty, and overall is a pretty damned solid turn-based combat system. Character creation rocks too, though it is easy to abuse the system and make the game too easy. Still, a game where you can play as a half-giant, mul (half-dwarf) or Thri-kreen (humanoid mantis warrior) can not go wrong.

    The overarching plot is...pretty asinine. The evil lord of Draj is bored so he is sending out a huge army to crush the surrounding free cities, or something. It's pretty unclear what's motivating anyone here, and simultaneously the juxtaposition of the "evil Draj" and surrounding free cities is disappointing. But when it comes to individual locations the game often easily makes up for it. The game rarely lets you get by anywhere without picking sides and making choices, and while this varies from basic "princess-in-distress" amongst the ratpeople upwards, it also often excels in "things-are-not-what-they-seem" scenarios, such as Tobrian selling you out, elven slavers eventually turning against Draj (if you take the right diplomatic path) or the complex obstacles you have to surmount to properly resolve the Darkhold conflict with the folk, including a dark entity taking over the minds of giant spiders.

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    I would list Dark Sun: Shattered Lands in any cRPG Hall of Fame, but it's not exactly top of the class. Ignoring its horrid state at release, it doesn't do much wrong, but its writing and design are not exactly extraordinary. Still, what counts here is that it hits all the right buttons for me: I love the setting, I adore the morally ambiguous situations and dig the interface & combat. It's not SSI's "greatest" accomplish, but screw that, I love it.
  10. UniversalWolf

    UniversalWolf eaten by a grue.

    Aug 28, 2005

    No other campaign setting feels more like it was designed by a marketing comittee.
  11. Mutoes

    Mutoes Mildly Dipped

    Feb 5, 2008
    Nice , keep the list rolling, im in need of new gaming experiences.

    I have played wasteland for a bit, but to be honest it seemed like a game that would take a lot of attention until i can play it effortlesly. And im not talking about the difficulty.

    Gotta take another try with more dedication some day, when i hit the right mood.
  12. Per

    Per Vault Consort Staff Member Admin

    Apr 1, 2004
    Tried to play it once, couldn't get it to run in XP or Dosbox.

    (A)D&D is a bad RPG, yes, but suitable for computer games that don't want to simulate skill use or detailed player input. Of course, this coupled with its popularity probably means it's highly responsible for dumbing down the CRPG genre during the long stretch from Wasteland (as seen further down on your list) to Fallout (presumably further up).

    Forgotten Realms as envisioned and written by Ed Greenwood actually has a unique flavour, a subtle romantic attitude rather than any obviously distinguishing high-concept elements. It's also had to change several times over the years to accommodate the needs of the game. I like it (at least in theory), but I realize it's not for everyone.

    Good thing there aren't any spoilers oh wait

    Look forward to seeing Realms of Arkania in your top 3.
  13. maximaz

    maximaz Sonny, I Watched the Vault Bein' Built!

    Apr 2, 2006
    One question. WTF is that on the 3rd pic, that says GWENDOLIN on it. Is that a dude wearing a bikini or a really buff chick? Explain that pic.
  14. Trithne

    Trithne Still Mildly Glowing

    Nov 13, 2008
    That's a half-giant. So a really buff chick that's about 12 feet tall.

    I love me some Shattered Lands. Did you try Wake of the Ravager, BN? Assuming you could get past the game-killing bugs that riddle it.
  15. Brother None

    Brother None This ghoul has seen it all
    Staff Member Admin Orderite

    Apr 3, 2003
    Couldn't get past said bugs, no.

    As Trithne said, it's a female half-giant. I always loved how they have to squat down to fit in the profile pic.

    Runs fine for me on DOSbox.

    Huh? I mean I know cRPGs got more dumby-dumby and were really floundering before Fallout showed up, but I'd consider the post-Fallout wasteland to be much more dumbed-down, and despite Baldur's Gate being a major cause for this it's hard to blame AD&D for that. Especially since AD&D is the whole reason we have cRPGs to begin with.

    's not really spoilers, it's mostly minor. Except the spiders thing.

    Well shit, I'm not going to make no spoiler-free top list.

    I don't get it.
  16. TheGM

    TheGM The voice of reason

    Aug 19, 2008
    Nice to see Earthworm Jim on there. Fun game but makes you want to punch somebody in the face sometimes.
  17. Pablosdog

    Pablosdog Where'd That 6th Toe Come From?

    Oct 30, 2007
    I absolutely loved Dark sun, and still play it from time to time, although the bugs can get a little annoying.

    I've never managed to beat it completely, but I always loved how the thri-keen had a ridiculous amount of attacks(4 i think?)

    I always had a varied array of characters and the dialogue although not "amazing" was quite good for it's time.

    Even though I dislike 4th edition, I'm actually looking forward to the new dark suncampaign setting that will be released the coming year.
  18. Brother None

    Brother None This ghoul has seen it all
    Staff Member Admin Orderite

    Apr 3, 2003
    11. Diablo - Blizzard (Windows, 1997)

    It might come as some surprise to some to see Diablo listed here, but honestly - it shouldn't. Diablo is a seminal piece, a genre-defining title that helped shape the gaming landscape as we know it now. Interestingly enough, as a bit of a cRPG snob I have absolutely no problem with the hack 'n slash genre, which is clearly differentiated from the main genre even by those who refer to them as "action RPGs". The rot that set into the RPG genre can be traced back to titles like Dungeon Master, Wizardry 6 and Baldur's Gate, but not really to the hack 'n slash hype of the late 90s.

    The hype was understandable, and not the first or last time Blizzard tuned up the hype on a certain genre by the simple quality of their product, but oddly enough did not see the genre go anywhere. Many titles tried to compete with Diablo by perfecting gameplay elements or adding new, small innovations, but none really outdid the original franchise.

    So what made Diablo so good? I don't really know, and that just makes it more engaging. There is a directness to its design that you can't help but appreciate, though. Unlike the later adaptions of the RPG genre collectively known as "action RPGs" (starting from Baldur's Gate to Fallout 3), it doesn't much about or half-arsedly adapt the RPG genre by arbitrarily selecting elements to drop or keep. Instead, Diablo is divorced from the genre because it unambiguously kept what it considered engaging but not challenging (character progression, simple quest structure, stat-based combat) and then dropped everything that would force the player to think (stats over skills, decisions to be made, consequences to choices). It's Diablo's unapologetic nature that enabled it to actually craft a new genre, and not fall into limbo like most of the action RPG genre did, a limbo that has made most of the genre blow ass.

    Now, uh, let's try actually talking about the game. Diablo is a simple-structured dungeon crawl, where you select one of three characters (warrior, rogue, sorcerer) and would go into the dungeon alone or with friends to defeat the big bad. The open nature of Diablo's class system meant you could combine different skillsets and make a spell-casting warrior, but generally specialization was the way to go, especially early on and especially when playing in groups.

    The gameplay is straightforward click-click-click combat followed by more combat and then combat some more. By being so simple, combat did not form the main draw of the game but instead presented no obstacle to the really addictive parts of gameplay; improving your character, gathering loot and the satisfaction engendered by finally being able to progress to tougher levels after a long grind.

    This draw sounds easy enough to replicate but is very hard to design. The character system had to be balanced and open, with real, noticeable progression at each level. The item system needed to be creative and unique enough to keep pulling the player on. And progression had to be noticeable by throwing up exactly the right challenges. Diablo hit the gold standard on all three of these, though arguably Diablo II would improve on this even more (platinum standard?)

    What Diablo did surprisingly well - considering it is not its focus - is set up a believable and atmospheric game world and story. If held under scrutiny, much of this design and its writing are fairly weak, but it is actually perfectly fitted to the hack 'n slash genre. It is superficial and easy enough to understand and get into to perfectly fit in the same way the combat system does; it adds something, but more importantly it does not obstruct the enjoyment of the game's key draws. In particular, the way book-text just scrolls over the screen and is read to you while you play on rather than forcing you to sit and listen is perfectly fitted to the game's intention, though it would be a stupid idea for RPGs proper. I believe this system was actually pioneered by System Shock, but leave it to Blizzard to steal an idea and perfectly implement it.

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    I think the only valid question left open here is not why I'm listing Diablo, but why - following my one game per franchise rule - I'm not listing Diablo II? Personal preference comes into play heavily here; Diablo II is a superior game in many ways, and a textbook example of how to do sequels, keeping the core design and expanding upon it. However, I consider its story more intrusive while also being less interesting and its atmosphere is markedly inferior. Neither is very important, and I might have played more Diablo II than Diablo over the years, but Diablo left the more lasting impression, which is not that surprising considering its status as a game.
  19. Per

    Per Vault Consort Staff Member Admin

    Apr 1, 2004
    The real time roguelike?
  20. Brother None

    Brother None This ghoul has seen it all
    Staff Member Admin Orderite

    Apr 3, 2003
    Sure, if you want to call it that. It's also called "point-and-click action RPG". The fact that this whole niche of genres are a gigantic cluster-fuck makes it hard to determine when something is new or not, but I consider Diablo new enough, really.
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