I didn’t get chance to play Thief 2 last night so I thought I’d do a slightly off-topic post today. JCC mentioned Thief 2 being in his shortlist of top games and I thought it might be fun to draw up a list of my top 10. This is surprisingly difficult and I’ve had to miss out games I love to get the numbers down. In reverse order here they are:-
10. Magic Carpet (Bullfrog)
I wanted to include a Bullfrog game somewhere in my list but I had trouble deciding which one to go for. Every game they released was always extremely polished, inventive and above all fun. I’ve never enjoyed purely strategic games like X-Com but Bullfrog always managed to mix action and strategy together in a way that no one else was doing.
I could easily have picked Dungeon Keeper or Syndicate either but I went for Magic Carpet as it was the game that impressed me most at the time. The graphics engine was amazing if you had a good enough computer to run it with everything turned on. I especially liked the way the landscape morphed when you built your city.
9. Fate Of Atlantis (Lucasarts)
It’s hard to believe it these days but there was a time where Lucasarts could do no wrong and they released one fantastic adventure game after another. Picking one of these wasn’t easy. I could easily have gone for Monkey Island 2, Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, etc…
One of the things I always loved about these games was the conversation system where you had several options at each stage in a conversation all of which might hide a funny response but you could only see all of these with multiple playthroughs of the game. To add to this Fate of Atlantis had multiple paths through the game where you could play half the game using either action, team or puzzle paths.
Above all else the writing in this game was superb. This should have been the 4th Indiana Jones film and is far better than the film we eventually got.
8. Martian Dreams (Origin)
This is the first of 4 games from this blog that make the list. I was originally going to pick Ultima 6 as my favourite Ultima game from the main series but I decided that i actually prefer this spinoff.
It took the excellent Ultima 6 engine and wove a strange and original tale with it. This is one of the best designed games that I’ve ever played. Despite the large cast of characters and the big open world, the story always keeps moving forward to a very satisfying ending.
7. Wing Commander 4 (Origin)
This is the first of 3 interactive movies to make my list. Again I could have picked an earlier game from the series quite easily or gone for Privateer for that matter. I decided against Privateer as it did have the tendency to get a little repetitive.
Wing Commander 4 is a game that if I stick the DVD in and start playing it, I’ll still be there until I get dragged away from my PC or I finish the game. It was much criticised for the lack of gameplay but as far as I’m concerned this is just reviewers that can’t cope with sitting through a few minutes of movies. Every aspect of the game is extremely polished and the missions more varied than any other Wing Commander game.
It is the movie and plot that drive you through the game. It’s such a fun and satisfying game to play and the nearest we ever got to playing a Hollywood movie.
6. Gabriel Knight 2 (Sierra)
I always enjoyed the Sierra adventure games but for the most part they were lagging slightly behind Lucasart’s offerings. The exception to this was the Gabriel Knight series. I could have picked either of the first two games but my liking of interactive movies draws me to the second game. The third game deserves an honourable mention for the Serpent Rouge puzzle which was possibly the best puzzle in an adventure game but the clunky control system for the 3D engine held the game back for me.
It’s GK2’s atmosphere and plot that make it stand out above other adventure games. The way that fact and fiction are melded together lend the werewolf plot credibility and despite using the Phantasmagoria engine GK2 still has some decent puzzles.
5. The Longest Journey (Funcom)
This is the newest game on my list. My favourite genre has always been adventure games but the genre more or less died out as soon as 3D came along. Every publisher needed all their games to be in 3D and we got travesties like Simon the Sorcerer 3 which hid a decent game behind an inappropriate and out of date engine. Lucasarts fell fowl of this also. Grim Fandango was a great game but the control system is awful.
TLJ used a similar engine to Frim Fandango but instead of the ridiculous AITD style controls we were back where we should be with a point and click control system. The visuals of the game were always striking, the puzzles well designed and the plot moving between the two worlds of science and magic was totally compelling. The game was full of interesting well developed characters that you came to care about. It’s sequel Dreamfall was by far the best 3D adventure game I’ve played if disappointingly short. I’m looking forward to the next game in the series more than any other game at the moment.
4. The Pandora Directive (Access)
I love the whole Tex Murphy series but this was an easy choice as the best game of the lot. I remember buying Under a Killing Moon when it first came out. It got slated in the reviews for the system specs required and the lack of gameplay but far from being lacking on the gameplay front, the 3D engine actually worked extremely well and you really did feel like a PI scouring each location for clues.
The Pandora Directive raised this to a new level with a detailed plot, many branching paths throughout the game, more locations and better acting. Chris Jones plays Tex so well it’s easy to forget that he’s the MD of access and not a professional actor. The tongue in cheek feel he brings keeps the game light hearted despite the serious plot. I’m reminded now that I’ve not checked in on his latest company in months – hopefully the new Tex game is somewhere near completion.
3. System Shock (Origin)
There are no great surprises about this game being on the list. It’s a near perfect blend of horror, sci-fi, FPS and RPG that only suffers for it’s hideous control system. Like any control system you can get used to it with practice and this is more than worth it to play one of the all time greats.
2. X-Wing (Lucasarts)
I’ve always liked space-sims and for all of Wing Commanders graphical splendour and storyline, I think it’s X-Wing that still holds the top spot for me. It doesn’t hurt that this was the first game I played on my 486 when I bought it. The difference between a 386SX with an ISA graphics card to a local bus 486 was like night and day.
The thing about X-Wing was that it really did play like a simulation rather than an arcade game. It rewarded practice and you needed to be able to make every shot in an X-wing count making adjustments for which of your 4 lasers was firing.
The game had the ultimate reward of the Death Star battle which was what kept you playing as well as the fantastic use of iMuse which is sadly lacking from the collectors edition. It was a tough game requiring many hours to beat but easily worth the effort.
1. Ultima Underworld (Origin)
Underworld 2 is the better game but I’ve gone for the game that did it first. I love everything about UW from the intro music, the gloomy atmosphere, right the way through to the fantastic end sequence running from the Slasher of Veils in the ethereal void. This game captivated me when I played this back in 1992 and I don’t think I’ve ever been drawn into any game world to that extent since. This was also the first Origin game I played and ultimately what led me to doing this blog years later.
A few games that nearly made the list are Ultima 4, Final Fantasy 7, Bioshock, Psychonauts and Grand Theft Auto 3. On a different day I may well have picked any of these. I notice that most of the games I’m going for are from a fairly narrow era around the start of the 90’s. There have been plenty since then that I’ve enjoyed but not many that I would want to go back to them again once I’d finished.
I’m not doing anything in particular tonight so I should manage a level or two more of Thief 2. While I’m posting does anyone know anything about the latest version of Freedo? I’d like to play the 3DO game Super Wing Commander. This appears to work perfectly in the latest version of Freedo that I can find (2.10) but I can’t figure out how to get the joystick working. Everything being in Russian doesn’t help.