Ranking The Origin Games (40-31)

Without further introduction, here is part two of my countdown of Origin games in order of how much I personally enjoyed playing them:-

40.Ring Quest

This was a Dallas Snell adventure game originally published by Penguinsoft before he brought it with him to Origin and they republished it in a new box. Adventure games are my favourite genre which was always going to make me like the game to some extent. The big innovation with Ring Quest was the huge amount of graphics packed in for each location of the game. Looking at it with a modern sensibility, this is more of a hindrance when comparing it to the Infocom games of the same era which eschewed the graphics for a more sophisticated parser. It’s above average for the time but there have been countless better adventure games since.

39.Times Of Lore

The game that brought Chris Roberts to Origin, Times Of Lore was an action RPG with far more action than RPG. Unlike any other game at Origin, it was coded to be playable from cassette on a C64 since disk drives were way out the reach of all us Europeans back in the mid 80’s. As such its quite an impressive game for the platform and I do love Martin Galway’s intro music (sadly lacking during the game itself). There isn’t enough variety to make it close to being any sort of classic but it’s a decent game within it’s limits.

38.Ultima 1

Since this is a list of Origin games, I’m going for the remake here rather than the original Apple II/Atari 8 bit version of Ultima 1. Ultima 1 as a game hangs together a little better than Ultima 2, presumably as Garriott knew what he was doing with BASIC and could concentrate on the design. The fantasy element is still mixed together with space travel but it’s more of a modern RPG in some ways since it’s basically about completing a series of quests. The space section is more fun than Ultima 2 also. I find this game strangely playable for such an ancient relic and must have finished nearly every version of it at this point.

37.Knights Of Legend

Anyone who read my blog at the time would probably expect me to have put this way further down the list. Knights of Legend was yet another RPG from Origin but with a heavy emphasis on strategic combat. It’s a game that could have been designed to put a roadblock in the way of someone trying to blog their way through every Origin game by taking many months on its own to complete. The combat system was extremely slow and complex and the distance between save points enormous. I basically gave in on the game after losing 2-3 hours of gameplay several times in a row. This is not a game to play if you don’t have a lot of time on your hands.

If you do have the time to spend with it, there is a lot of depth and many things to like. This sort of game really is a relic of another era in the dedication it requires but I would imagine highly rewarding if you put that effort in. As such I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt. This would be one of my desert island games, purely on the basis that would be the only way I’d ever have the time to play it properly.

36.Caverns Of Callisto

This game was my holy grail of collecting for more years than I care to recall. Once I finally got a copy, I then got the opportunity to buy 3 more within the next 6 months including a sealed copy and none of them were that expensive. This sort of experience is fairly typical as a collector, the moral being not to pay crazy money on the first copy you see.

Caverns of Callisto is an enjoyable arcade shooter and a whole lot more playable than plenty of other similarly rare games I could mention. The full version included a map of the caverns and so the gameplay becomes as much about mapping out the location of all the items and then figuring out the best route through the game. It’s eminently beatable with some practice and actually worth the effort.

35.Strike Commander

Strike Commander’s visuals and presentation were like nothing before it. The game was so large it wouldn’t fit on most people’s hard drives at the time over here. Outside of those visuals, it was never entirely my cup of tea with dogfights involving far too much endless weaving around and bombing runs being something of a hit and mass affair. I tend to agree with Warren Spector’s comments that it’s something of a waste having such a great engine when you never get near enough to see the enemy planes. I’d have preferred another Wing Commander at the time this came out but for those more inclined to real world flight sims there is plenty to enjoy.

34. Runes Of Virtue

It’s hard to regard the Runes Of Virtue games as having anything much to do with the rest of the Ultima series given their whimsical nature but as simple puzzle/arcade games they are always entertaining and were very well suited to the Gameboy. Outside of the puzzles, there isn’t a whole lot of meat on this gaming bone but they were ideal for a quick game on the move.

33. Runes Of Virtue 2

There isn’t much to pick between Runes Of Virtue 1 & 2 so I’ll put the second directly ahead of it for the increased plot + the fact that it got a SNES port. Gameplay was largely identical to the first game.

32. Ultima 3

This was Origin’s first release and it’s the game where the Ultima series really got going. It still wasn’t Britannia but Ultima 3 introduced the Underworld for the first time and was just a far better crafted game than it’s older brothers. The world is much more coherent with the space sections dropped completely along with all the futuristic technology like phasers and air cars. I do particularly like the manuals for Ultima 3 also, especially the individual cleric and wizard spellbooks. Ultima 3 is this far down the list because later Ultima games would improve so much on the formula established here. The main element missing as far as I’m concerned is the conversation system introduced in Ultima 4 that would add real character to the population of Britannia.

31.Tangled Tales

Tangled Tales was a quirky RPG-lite released at the end of the 80’s. It had some adventure game like elements with first person views of certain locations and items to collect. It was quite an odd game really with a strange interface and didn’t take itself too seriously. It certainly doesn’t have the depth of an Ultima but I took to it at the time and it’s just something a little different in a world of similar fantasy RPG’s.

It either says something for the quality of Origin’s output or my own levels of fanboy-ism just how much I liked the games I’m already up to on this list. Something I have noticed compiling this is that I do have a tendency to like the more unusual games. When I was effectively forcing myself to play through all these titles, something a little different was often welcome. As such, you can definitely expect to see some of Origin’s more outlandish titles as I work down to #21 next time.

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