Five Great Computer RPGs I Can’t Get Back IntoGreat games I can't stand to play anymore...
When it comes to playing computer role-playing games, it can be difficult to find the time to get going, let alone play through the entire game. This is especially true for the older, grindier RPGs. While I would normally write at length about games I love and love to play, I decided that I wanted to try something a little different. These are games I love, but I have a horrible time trying to get back into today. They are all good games in their own rights, but there is something (usually interface or gameplay drudgery) that makes it difficult for me to dive back in.
5. Challenge of the Five Realms (1992)
Challenge of the Five Realms had a massive, though largely empty, world which used technology similar to Ultima VI: The False Prophet. Unfortunately, it was released just months before Ultima VII: The Black Gate which featured a much, much prettier and more detailed world. It made Challenge feel even emptier and visually ancient than it would have if it were released alongside the previous Ultima.
One of my favorite things about the beginning of the game was that it took the Ultima IV character generation system of asking questions to determine character traits and dialed it up to eleven.
This makes creating characters quite engaging, even if it is confusing during a build which stats match up with different questions and answers. In the end, it did not seem to matter very much anyway since the game is pretty straightforward with its questing and combat options. It may have had many systems going on in the background based around the stats of the party, but it did not seem to. Rather, it ended up playing more like a top-down adventure game with combat elements in between scenes. There were relatively few sidequests, which made a game in a large relatively open world seem extremely linear compared to its Ultima competition.
Still, I really dug it back in the day, but I find it a slog to play today. After going through the business of creating characters, the limited dialogue options and linear progression feels too bland to capture my interest. And yet, I remember there being more to the game, but it seems to take a lot to get to that more.
Oh, and having the Emperor join you and having to remove the crown from his inventory before he leaves or dies is despicable game design. Especially because there is no real impetus to remove it from his inventory, and when he leaves, the player assumes that they’ll meet again to get the crown. But instead, they end up in an unwinnable state, and they still have a significant portion of the game to go through, which means the player will waste many hours only to fail without explicitly understanding why.
4. Wizard’s Crown (1985)
Wizard’s Crown feels like a lot of the early/mid-1980s SSI RPGs, or at least the non-D&D ones. It is distinctly in the same RPG trappings of games like Phantasie and Questron, but is more tactical which makes sense since it was the first RPG from a strategy/wargaming company. But man, does it feel like a slog. And I love a good tactical RPG! Because it is an early one, it feels overly burdensome, like looking up rules every few seconds in Rolemaster.
And I die…a lot, which is no great feat since I’m pretty much shit at games, even older games I used to be amazing at–or at least passably alright at.
But it is a cool little game that deserves to be played and studied, even if it doesn’t hit the same way it did in 1985. I would have absolutely failed at it in 1985. I played it around 88 or 89ish. In 1985, I was more concerned with watching late night cable flicks of things I shouldn’t have been than learning strategy. I was concerned about the same things in the late 80s, but I could multitask better to figure out strategy AND gawk at boobs in movies.
It can be purchased on GOG.com.
3. Menzoberranzan (1994)
Real-talk: I never played this back in the day. I’ve only played it on GoG as part of the Gold Box games. I don’t even think I played it on the Gold Box collection I had when I had a 486 back in the day, though I can’t imagine I didn’t at least try it. But the thing that gets me in this game is that I have trouble getting the CPU speed settings right. It either plays horrendously slow or at super speed, and I can’t play it. What’s interesting is the opening cinematic plays nicely and then when I get to actually playing, it feels horrendous, stuttering so bad I can’t help but fail.
Plus, I was yesterday years old when I learned you could go from full 3D (imagine a really slow, creeping Doom with trees) to grid-based movement. Turning it to the grid made the game much more playable since it did not have to update the view angles. So I will give this one another go. It may have to be removed from this list because I actually can get into it, but I’m hedging my bets that even with that option, I’ll have difficulty.
It is part of the Forgotten Realms: The Archives – Collection Three which is available on Steam and GOG.
2. Ultima II (1982)
Like many early games inspired by tabletop RPGs, one thing that Ultima II (and I-V, actually) had that drove me crazy then as well as now was food as a stat. So, you had to constantly spend your money on food to go out adventuring. And it was a GRIND, a horrible grind, to deal with food in any of these early RPGs, but for some reason I died more often in this game from starvation than in most others. Or at least I rage-died in it from starvation.
This was the first Ultima I ever played, and I played it to death. I had maps of all the dungeons, and I didn’t care that they were completely optional. I did not write fan fiction for it, but I probably should have. I did have a complex head canon for the connections between the worlds and histories of characters you would meet along the way. My next game in the series was Ultima IV, which blew me away because it was so cohesive and actually had conversations and a deeper storyline.
It is available as part of the Ultima 1+2+3 collection on GOG.
1. Knights of Legend (1989)
Knights of Legend is another tactical RPG along similar lines to Wizard’s Crown, but coming several years later, I was ready for it. My friend got it for Christmas or his birthday or something and we played it to completion over many late night sleepovers. And we were so jacked when we made it to the end of the game because it promised us a continuation of the adventure coming soon!
It never came, and that is the reason I cannot get into this game anymore. I know that it is only a partial game with no conclusion. It’s like the season (and sadly series) end of Against the Wall where the main character opens the door to reveal who she chooses to love in the cop drama…and no one knows because the show was canceled. Knights of Legend is like that, but with basic graphics.
Knights of Legend is not available for sale on any digital storefronts. Your best bet would be to pick it up on Ebay.