Ranking The Origin Games (55-41)

It’s time to bring this site back to life again. The original plan was that entire month was going to be Ori-January (yes Ori-June would have worked better but I didn’t want to wait). There was going be a post of some description every day for the entire month and prior to Christmas I’d already got the first few posts drafted and plans to get a dozen or so more lined up for the new year.

Of course life doesn’t always work like that and after having had a river flowing through my house over Christmas (like thousands of others in the North of England), I’ve had far too much cleaning up and sorting out to think about anything else. It’s going to be some months before everything gets back to normal but let’s see if I can’t manage a post or two a week at any rate.

The new year seems like an appropriate time for drawing up lists so inspired by the Ultima Codex’s recent podcast ranking all the Ultima games, I thought I’d go one further and rank all of Origin’s games in order of preference. This list will of course be entirely from my perspective and I expect other people’s opinions to vary wildly from my own. Feel free to tell me why I’m wrong. It doesn’t help that I only played some of these games for an hour or two, 7 or more years back so my memory of them is getting hazy. I’ll be including the pre-Origin Ultima games in the list but not including the UO games since I never played them and I’m also not including expansion packs.

That still leaves 55 games to get through so I’m going to split this over 5 posts. First off the bottom of the heap, games 55 through to 40.

55.Metal Morph

The bottom game on this list was an extremely easy choice. Metal Morph is a justly forgotten SNES game that was half mode 7 shooter and half generic platformer. To be fair it wasn’t truly awful, just bland, poorly implemented and supremely forgettable. It plays like a cheaper version of dozens of other SNES games of the era and has nothing to recommend it.
54.Escape From Mount Drash

Not strictly an Origin game but I thought I should include it in the list. Given the rarity of an original copy, this is possibly the least game for your money in the world of retro gaming. To be fair, I can kind of enjoy playing the original VIC-20 version for what it is but the ASCII combat is just unforgivable. The hardware was limited but games like Jeff Minter’s Gridrunner show what you can do on a VIC-20.

53. Akalabeth

Playing the precursor to the Ultima games on an Apple II is a painful experience these days thanks to the speed of the game. Increasing the speed in an emulator, does make it playable to an extent but there still isn’t much game here in all honesty. It was significant in its day but it’s too primitive to be playable these days for anything other than historical interest.

52.Windwalker

This was the sequel to Greg Malone’s Moebius, both of which were RPG’s featuring real-time martial arts combat. The years since I played this have mostly wiped it from my memory but I don’t recall it improving on Moebius original formula. That formula had already gotten stale by the time I’d finished the first game and we really didn’t need this sequel.

51.Wing Commander Academy

Wing Commander Academy was brought out to satisfy fan demand for a Wing Commander mission editor sometime between Wing Commander 2 and 3. It had unique features with a couple of ships new to this game and being able to fly the Kilrathi ships but without the storyline to link the missions together I found it a hollow experience.

50-48.F-15, Longbow, Longbow 2

I’m clumping the 3 serious flight sims together as I find it hard to pick between them. Had I any interest in serious flight sims, these games would be much higher up the list as they are all well regarded in their own right. All are very good games but not for me.

47.Ogre

Ogre was an adaptation of a board game made during Origin’s brief collaboration with Steve Jackson. Their other effort would turn out far better but Ogre is much nearer to the source material. It’s main claim to fame is being one of the earlier games to support a mouse outside of the Apple Mac. It’s a faithful enough adaptation of the board game but has nothing much else to offer.
46.Moebius

Moebius was one of Origin’s first handful of released games and was more advanced than Ultima in some respects, not least of which graphically. The disembodied heads wandering around the worlds of the game did look a little strange but it certainly had a lot of character and depth. Unfortunately it ran quite slowly and was ultimately repetitive and frustrating. This is probably a game I’d remember more fondly if I’d played it at the time.

45.Ultima 8

Without a doubt my least favourite Ultima, Ultima 8 was a game stifled by its technology. The world was vastly reduced in scope with a monotonous colour palette and a much too narrow view of the world around the avatar. The horrors of jumping in the original version are remembered by anyone who experienced them but even when fixed the underlying game was a chore to grind through. It’s the only game in the series that I wouldn’t want to return to.

44.Omega

Omega is a curious title which involved programming the AI for tanks so that they could fight other AI tanks to see which came out victorious. Omega used it’s own simple programming language and came with a monstrously sized manual because of it. You could save your tanks to disks and battle your friends with them and Origin even held competitions to find the best tanks. It’s quite a neat concept actually and Omega marks the point in the list where I start to actually like the games. It’s a bit too close to my day job to be my idea of fun though and beating the single player campaign was far too easy.

43.Ultima 2

Ultima 2 was Richard Garriott’s first attempt at assembly programming and as such was much more playable than it’s predecessor. It gets a bit of unfair treatment really as it tends to get compared to the Ultima 1 remake which came out 4-5 years later. I love the game for the box and cloth map if nothing else but in terms of gameplay it was something of a sprawling mess. There were loads of elements thrown in but they didn’t connect together and large chunks of the game (dungeons, towers and most of the planets) could be ignored. With a little imagination, the game does have something of an epic feel (for 1982).

42.Bad Blood

This was the last game Chris Roberts would ever work on that wasn’t a flight sim of some description (so far at least). In essence this is Times Of Lore in a post nuclear setting. The graphics were updated but it didn’t have a whole lot more to offer as I recall despite targeting much superior hardware. Fun to play for a bit but nothing special.

41.Pacific Strike

The middle of the Strike series took the arcade flight sim back in time to WW2. This was far enough away from being a real sim to still have some appeal to me and the way the real events of WW2 could be changed depending on your performance was a nice touch. I also seem to recall some 3D terrain being used for the islands of the Pacific as opposed to the flat horizons of Strike Commander. The presentation of the story was a little sub-par making it a less enjoyable experience overall than Strike Commander even if the actual game was arguably improved. It was very much following the Wing Commander formula rather than trying too much new also.

That brings part 1 to a close and I’m already into the games I quite enjoyed. It will be just 10 games per post from here on out as I count to #31 next post.

6 thoughts on “Ranking The Origin Games (55-41)

  1. Pingback: » Pix Ranks the Origin Games

  2. “This was the last game Chris Roberts would ever work on that wasn’t a flight sim of some description (so far at least).” – the last one actually released, at least… he did plenty of pre-production work on Silverheart!

    • Fair point. That project barely got off the ground though did it? Other than it being a fantasy game with fmv, I can’t say i know anything about it.

      • It has an interesting history! There was a lot of preproduction done on it, including the entire script (which was turned into a published novel, still available!) and all the planning for the video shoot. Chris bought the rights from Origin (as part of his Wing Commander deal) and planned to continue it at Digital Anvil, then afterwards with I think Activision… and then I believe he still has them today. (There’s boxes and boxes of Silverheart stuff laying around here, too. Scripts, budgets, concept art and so on.)

        • Cool. That’s way more than I thought. I’ll have to get a copy of that novel.
          Is there anything in there about what the game part would have been like? It was planned for after WC3 originally wasn’t it? Some sort of action/adventure? I’m imagining something along the lines of Bioforge.

  3. Yes Pix is back on top form. And what a post! Let us know how it compares to UK magazines’ ones in the post-analysis.

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