As the title might suggest I’ve decided to do a post on some computer games that I consider to be awesome. This topic might sprawl over a couple of posts as I talk about various games, I’m going to start by talking about ‘Retro’ games that I have enjoyed. These games will be presented with no regard for the chronological order of release, the order I played them in or how well they were reviewed, this remains (as always) my opinion and your mileage may vary.
This idea was brought on by events of last night. I was looking for something to play, having completed all the games in my recent stack, so I browsed to the PlayStation Store to see if any new content was available for favourite games of mine (the answer being no). I did however find the original Deus Ex on download for £7.99 which I immediately downloaded and started to play, so that’s where we’re going to start.
Please note – There may be spoilers in this post for these games, I take no responsibility for this as they are old games and I subscribe to the Penny Arcade idea of spoiler expiration dates, if you’ve not played them then either don’t read or suck it up.
Published in 2000 on PC , a couple of years later on PS2 and even ported to Mac & Linux (something that remains unusual even today) Deus Ex is a hybrid of both traditional FPS & RPG Gameplay styles and is the game that opened the way this style of gameplay.
You play as agent J.C. Denton a newly commissioned agent for UNATCO (United Nations Anti-Terrorist Coalition) and second of a new wave of Nanotech enhanced UNATCO agents (the first being your brother), the game starts out with a fairly basic premise of ‘Terrorists’ are doing bad things and you must stop them. From there it takes turn into crazy conspiracy land with some really awesome betrayals and revelations, predictably the UNATCO group turns out to be a bunch of bad guys but (and I believe this may be a first for the genre) there are numerous conflicting groups trying to take control of the situation and your choices about who you help, who you kill and who you leave alive shapes the story the game follows.
Along the way you earn skill points for completing objectives that can be spent to upgrade various skills (allowing you to customise your skillset for your approach) and Augmentation Canisters which allow you to choose how your nanotech upgrades. The combination of these two things gives huge flexibility in how you approach the game.
Why this game?
Easy, this was the first game I’d played that really did something new, the setting was (and remains) awesomely detailed, you had a feeling of really interacting with the world and of your choices having a huge effect. The skill trees and nanotech as well as the huge choice of lethal and non-lethal weapons gives you a variety of approaches.
X-Wing was published in 1993 & Tie Fighter the next year in 1994, both of these games were (in my opinion) the start of the golden age of Star Wars games and I played them avidly. This was back when Joysticks were a must have PC Accessory and space combat simulators were a genre people still produced games for. The premise is simple in both games, you are a fighter pilot for the Rebel Alliance/Galactic Empire and as such you are tasked with a number of missions from simple ‘Stay here, defend this’ to more involved convoy interdiction, patrol and base assault objectives. You are provided with a number of different ships and they are assigned to you depending on the mission type, scout/intercept missions tend towards A-Wings and Tie Interceptors, heavy attack Y-Wings and Tie Bombers etc. Each game also had its ‘secret’ craft, the Rebels had the T-Wing and the Empire the Tie Advanced, TIE Defender & Missile Boat, each of which had distinct advantages.
The games also involved an element of tactics, you had wingmen you could command for example and you had to pay constant attention to the balance of power between your engines, shields, lasers and ion weapons. Most craft also came equipped with a launcher weapon of some kind that you would use to rain death upon your foes from a great distance but with limited ammo.
Why these games?
I have many excellent memories of playing these games on my 486 PC with friends and on my own, they were atmospheric (helped by the inclusion of MIDI versions of the movie scores), had great plots and attention to detail in the story, you actually felt that you were fighting for something. Technically these games were excellent examples of a genre that doesn’t really exist anymore, they were immensely playable and for the time the graphics were cutting edge stuff.
This is not a conspiracy where Apple attempts to take over the world via global conflict (although I wouldn’t put it past them), the I in I-War refers to Independence. This is another example of the Space Combat Simulator games of the 90’s (1997 to be exact) that do not seem to exist as a genre anymore, however it is very different to the previously discussed X-Wing & Tie Fighter games, they we fairly simple re-skinned fighter games with some extra space stuff thrown in (like shields), I-War on the other hand was a proper full on Space Combat Sim that implemented Newtonian physics and put you in command of a corvette scale craft rather than the traditional fighter.
You could move your PoV between 4 workstations allowing you to swap between Command, Weapons, Engineering & Navigation, each workstation allowed you to do specific things; for example the Weapons station gave you a 3D wireframe view of the ship with a PoV locked to your current target and allowed you to access the ripple fire fast fire mode.
The story was a fairly basic corporate overlords versus plucky rebels but was well enough executed and fun, the game used full CGI Cut Scenes for a lot of story advancement, which were (for their time) amazing.
Why this game?
I love space combat sim games and lament their loss greatly, I-War was (for me) the greatest example of the genre, the ship felt like a big ass space ship, the different flight modes and full Newtonian physics model added a huge amount of fun to the game. Plus it was hugely satisfying to blow things up with your array of missile and particle cannon. 🙂
That brings us to the end of this blog post, next post on this topic will cover off more of the RPG games I loved, expect to hear about Baldurs Gate, Icewind Dale, Planescape Tormet & Final Fantasy VII….
For anyone who may be interested there is a website at http://www.gog.com who specialise in making old games available for a reasonable fee, they include all patches and if emulation is needed to run them on newer systems they include that as well.