So, CRPGs. I guess I really missed the boat on these. Way back in the day I vaguely recall seeing a D&Dish game on a friend’s TRS80, and year or two later my brother & I got a Commodore 64, which meant Telengard (an effectively unbeatable game with no real ‘end’), various text-based games like Zork (I think we only ever beat Zork I), and then Ultima III,which is really the standard against which I’d always measure CRPGs. I’d have to admit that the Bard’s Tale was a little better, but Ultima IV and V were the best. From what I recall though we never actually beat IV (we had a pirated copy which lacked a whole town of clues, and a critical PC), or V (either the C64 broke down or we found better uses for the time, I guess). Somewhere in between we tried out Temple of Apshai (not great), several others I can’t remember the names of, and my favorite, Phantasie III which let you assemble a party of humanoids, if you wanted. My brother was a little more into CRPGs, probably because we rarely had a decent DM other than him for real RPGs and they were his only outlet for playing until college. So he played the early AD&D games (Pool of Radiance, and others) as well as the CRPG version of Der Schwarze Auge. In college I played only tabletop games, but by grad school I needed a computer, and might have tried CRPGs except that Doom and Doom II happened. My only dalliance with CRPGs after that was Nahlakh, which was a throwback to the Ultimas and a great deal of fun, but somehow I never finished that one either. I think there might have been a bug in the game — it was shareware in an era where if you wanted to get a manual you had to send the programmer a check, which I eventually did, but I never made it any further. I also tried a few games that were pretty similar to old Commodore games but with better graphics — Dungeonmaster (which was pretty boring), Might & Magic : Darkside of Xeen, and first person dungeon crawl that was explicitly based on AD&D but I forget the title. After that, my only forays into CRPGs were Diablo and Diablo 2, which were basically graphics-intensive throwbacks, but the network games were pretty fun. Oh, and Dungeon Robber, which has some clever ideas but is an endless loot & scoot time sink.
Handy summary chart follows. First comment to explain the title of this post wins buku brownies points.
|Telengard||Simple gameplay, funny narration, tons of randomness to tricks and monsters||Repetitive with no endgame, so you need to create your own metagames (how deep can I get without resting, how much treasure can get in 15 minutes, etc.)|
|Ultima III||Interesting quest with lots to explore and lots of choices for making up a party; ability to ‘go rogue’ and loot towns||Many of the character choices are underpowered and you’re better off with a stereotypical party|
|Phantasie III||15 playable races, and fairly cool turn-based combat system||Silly pun names (J.R. Trollkin)|
|Nahlakh||Still available!; lots of races and classes; skills increase with use; dozens of weapons||Possibly fatal bug involving a tomb|
|Autoduel||It’s frikkin’ Car Wars! And set in the part of the country I grew up in!||There are missions but the endgame was kind of underwhelming|
|The Bard’s Tale (1, 2, maybe 3?)||Challenging, unique setting in the first game (a city overrun with monsters), includes half-orcs||None that I can think of|
|Might & Magic: Darkside of Xeen||Relatively short||Basically a Bard’s Tale rip-off|