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  1. #1
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    Old games that stand up to modern scrutiny.

    Do you know any games that were ahead of their time?

    The discussion about X Whoziwotsits got me thinking of an old PC RPG, one named Albion, which I remembered as being really rather good. I worried that this was just nostalgia, but I was tempted to give it a go, anyway. And thus far it... has been surprising me. There's this section on the ship at the beginning of the game that made me smile, there's a small 'puzzle dungeon' if you will that involves you going through service shafts to reach a room to check out the scene of someone's death (all locked up under security and considered a dangerous area).

    You find a gun there. Except your way fully back through the service shafts is blocked by an airlock thing that can only be opened from one side. And if you leave the room with the gun the security guards will take it off you. But if you look carefully in the service ducts, there's a storage unit for items, and you can actually go back through that service duct later on, after going past the guards, and open the airlock-like room from the other side to get at the gun, going back the way you came and thus not having to go past the guards. It was a clever little touch and a nice tutorial to the puzzles in the game.

    One thing I've found about Albion is that it's actually been gently leading me into the game, but that the progression isn't really stilted with the need to grind. I remember thinking when I was young that the game progressed fast, but my perception of time back then was different to what it is now, as an adult. But what I'm finding is that it's actually similar to Ultima VII in a bunch of interesting ways.

    There isn't any crafting, sadly. But you can be a kleptomaniac and steal so many things in the game, and many NPCs have long, unique dialogue trees, which also reminded me of Ultima VII. But there are parts of it which are inspired by other Ultima games. For example: In cities or in dungeons you go into a first person mode which is distinctly reminiscent of Ultima Underworld, but this is just to deal with System Shock-like puzzles, but in combat you end up in a boardgame-like scenario, similar to how Avernum handles things but not quite.

    It's all very clever, but again, what I'm finding is that the game doesn't seem to have the more painful aspects of older RPGs. I don't have to spend my time grinding endlessly through areas in order to progress. But one thing I really like about it is that it rewards me for cleverness. If I figure out a puzzle it actually gives my team experience, so perhaps that's why it works, and that's a really interesting concept. Figuring out an adventure game-style puzzle awards the player with experience.

    Now this is a concept I hadn't really seen until later games, like Obsidian's Neverwinter Nights 2, or Fallout: New Vegas. In fact, this is where Albion actually tends to one-up Fallout 3 a bit, even. That's not just hyperbole, this is just something that matters to me. See, in Fallout 3 there was a lot of areas where you could just solve everything with shooting, and puzzling didn't really matter. But to roll adventure game aspects into an RPG like that... that's something I'd always thought was a unique staple of Obsidian. At least I did until I remembered Albion.

    The game upholds a lot of old values, too: It can be funny and it can make you think, just like some of my favourite games. It deals with a lot of interesting topics, like cultural isolationism; the spiritualism of science vs. nature; quasi-immortality by binding the being of an adult with a child and the ramifications of such; the price of immortality via other means; and generally what interesting things you can do with telepathy that are rarely touched upon. Not to mention that the cultures present of the Iskai, and the Celtic folk there are really, really interesting.

    Another angle I'd like to talk about is accessibility. Generally one of the reasons I've been enjoying this is due to a really intuitive system of control. They have a context sensitive right-click system for everything, for examining, for taking objects, for talking to people, for talking to your own party, for using items in your inventory, and for various other tasks. It's handy and it's almost like they were thinking of a normal OS-style user interface when they put it together. Anyone who's ever used anything that has a desktop with right-click context menus is going to immediately figure out how to play the game, and that's genius, really. It sounds like such a simple thing, but it works so well.

    So, now that I've rambled for a bit, I'm going to open up the floor to you ladies and gents with this question: Have you recently played any games which stand up to modern scrutiny, versus just rose-tinted glasses? One thing I will add is that this topic is really inspired by Berzee's topic on how his tastes have changed, and it's interesting to see how games stand up versus our more evolved tastes. Now that we have less patience for needless clunkiness or micromanagement, or timesinks with soul-devouring grind, how many games still stand up as good games?

  2. #2
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    I don't understand some of this post. First you imply that most old RPGs are all about grinding, which is definitely not the case. You may have to grind in pure dungeon crawlers, but in almost all Ultima games are all D&D games, for example, you don't have to grind at all. In fact, in the Gold Box games you tend to reach maximum level at the half-way point in the game.

    Then you say something about Obsidian rolling adventure game elements in RPGs and that you thought it was a unique concept until you played Albion. But this is complete rubbish as almost <i>all</i> old RPGs had <i>lots</i> of adventure game elements. The Ultima games are very close to being pure adventure games. The Quest for Glory series is a true adventure/RPG hybrid. Even dungeon crawlers like Wizardry, The Bard's Tale and Might and Magic are completely littered with puzzles to solve.

    So basically you seem to be bigging up Albion for doing things that lots of old RPGs did. I'm not sure if this is due to inexperience of muddled memories. Or perhaps you only played JRPGs back then. I have no idea. But on the topic of Albion, it is a very good RPG. It's one of the few DOS era RPGs that had a substantial story together with a highly unusual setting. Plus it has turn-based combat in an era where real-time started dominating (the mid-90s).

    Have you played Amberstar and Ambermoon? They were Albion's spiritual prequels made by Thalion Software back in 1992 and 1993. Very similar games in all aspects. The Amber- trilogy was going to consist of three games but Thalion went under before the third was finished. The games were made for the Amiga, but Amberstar, the first one, had a DOS release. Ambermoon never did, though.

  3. #3
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    I had mostly games like Baldur's Gate in mind when I was talking about grinding, as that was pretty grindy if I'm remembering it right. I was also using Ultima VII as an example of a game that had stood the test of time. I also mentioned that I was talking about puzzles which are similar to point and click adventure game puzzles, more than just puzzles in general (like hidden switch puzzles), as I'm aware that dungeon crawlers had those.

    I think you're being far too touchy, Wizardry. And that touchiness is impacting your reading comprehension. But your contribution is appreciated.

    (Emphasis added in case it's necessary.)

    ---

    I'll add to this and say that when I said grinding, I perhaps should have specified 'spending hours and hours in dungeons grinding through padding instead of just being able to continue with the story,' and the reason I attributed Obsidian primarily with the whole adventure game puzzles thing is because they use it as an alternate levelling path. Whereas many dungeon crawlers did have some basic puzzles, but you still had to grind. Puzzling as an alternate path by comparison is a more modern idea.

    Maybe that'll make it all clear.
    Last edited by Wulf; 06-10-2011 at 04:42 PM.

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    Twilight 2000 is a long-forgotten action/RPG (based on the long-forgotten pen and paper game) which combined ludicrously deep character creation and quests with 3D vehicle combat and isometric turn-based infantry combat. This was 1991, and it was incredibly ahead of its time. It's set after World War 3 leads to widespread destruction in Europe, and surviving NATO and Warsaw Pact forces are forced to go native and fend for themselves in the aftermath. Your main objective is to stop the evil Baron Czarny from taking control of Poland. I last fired it up a very long time ago, and progressed quite a long way before I hit a dead end as none of my squad spoke Armenian (!!) which I needed to converse with the local villagers during a quest. The graphics are definitely of their era (the 3D bits are very crude boxy tanks and jeeps driving around a mostly flat landscape, while the isometric bit isn't as nice as X-COM's) but the gameplay was still compulsive enough to draw me in.

    Also, Transport Tycoon. Granted, OpenTTD has layered on the complexity and flexiblity by a factor of ten, but the original is still enjoyable in it unmodded state.

    Need I say it: Frontier: L33t 2. Still fantastic.

  5. #5
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    One thing you may want to clarify with your question, is how far back are you talking? Games from at least before 2005? 1995? 1990? 1980?

  6. #6
    Lesser Hivemind Node fiddlesticks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wulf View Post
    I had mostly games like Baldur's Gate in mind when I was talking about grinding, as that was pretty grindy if I'm remembering it right.
    I wouldn't say that Baldur's Gate was necessarily grindy so much as very unforgiving when it comes to exploring. A large part of the world is open to you from the very beginning, but straying too far from the intended path results in getting killed very quickly. It also suffers from never letting your character go past level 8/9, meaning combat still relies heavily on dice rolls and mages are useless for a large part of the early game.

    That being said, are we just referring to games that have stood the test of time despite clinging to older mechanics or games whose mechanics were so advanced for their time that they still hold up to this day?

  7. #7
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Drake Sigar's Avatar
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    Picked up a brand new boxed copy of Albion a couple of months ago but still haven’t got round to playing it. This needs to be rectified.

  8. #8
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus sinister agent's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by metalangel View Post
    Twilight 2000 is a long-forgotten action/RPG (based on the long-forgotten pen and paper game) which combined ludicrously deep character creation and quests with 3D vehicle combat and isometric turn-based infantry combat. This was 1991, and it was incredibly ahead of its time. It's set after World War 3 leads to widespread destruction in Europe, and surviving NATO and Warsaw Pact forces are forced to go native and fend for themselves in the aftermath. Your main objective is to stop the evil Baron Czarny from taking control of Poland. I last fired it up a very long time ago, and progressed quite a long way before I hit a dead end as none of my squad spoke Armenian (!!) which I needed to converse with the local villagers during a quest. The graphics are definitely of their era (the 3D bits are very crude boxy tanks and jeeps driving around a mostly flat landscape, while the isometric bit isn't as nice as X-COM's) but the gameplay was still compulsive enough to draw me in.
    I would spend hours setting up a squad in that (including some skills which literally had no use in the game. Nnngh), then go on a mission... then have to give up because it was 2006 and getting the vehicle sections to work was basically impossible, rendering the game unplayable. Terrible shame, as I loved the setting and ideas and detail of it.

    The closest comparison I can think of is Jagged Alliance, but Twilight was really far more advanced and complex in most ways.

  9. #9
    Network Hub Taidan's Avatar
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    Another World is over 20 years old now, and still looks and plays as well as a lot of critically acclaimed modern (indie) games. Definitely one of the all-time greats.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Taidan View Post
    Another World is over 20 years old now, and still looks and plays as well as a lot of critically acclaimed modern (indie) games. Definitely one of the all-time greats.
    You're right about AW, but I was just reminded yet again that we're in 2011 now and I can't shake the thought of "20 years ago" being the 80s at least.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by sinister agent View Post
    I would spend hours setting up a squad in that (including some skills which literally had no use in the game. Nnngh), then go on a mission... then have to give up because it was 2006 and getting the vehicle sections to work was basically impossible, rendering the game unplayable. Terrible shame, as I loved the setting and ideas and detail of it.

    The closest comparison I can think of is Jagged Alliance, but Twilight was really far more advanced and complex in most ways.
    Oh yeah. Even at the time I got really seriously into it (2000-ish, which is about eight years after my friends were all really into both it and the PnP version) I needed DosBOX and MoSlo and other tricks. Was just about playable in the 3D bits, and I suppose t'was a good thing that the enemy only ever fielded a few units against you at a time.

    It's also funny that they thought that ridiculous 'giraffe' variant of the M1 tank was going to going into production.

  12. #12
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    master

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  13. #13
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Unaco's Avatar
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    Baldur's Gate 2.
    Throne of Bhaal.
    Baldur's Gate in the Baldur's Gate 2 Engine.
    Alpha Centauri.

    I played a lot of Twilight 2000 back in the day, but it's not really playable to me these days. The character creation is interesting, and the sheer volume and complexity... but the interface is piss poor, a lot of the options are just there as window dressing, masking something shallow, or completely redundant in the game itself. It just feels awkward and unwieldy nowadays. Could really do with a modern remake.
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    I just have an opinion different to your own. Circle jerking is good for no one, be glad somebody isn't afraid to disagree with women on the internet.
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  14. #14
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus sabrage's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Taidan View Post
    Another World is over 20 years old now, and still looks and plays as well as a lot of critically acclaimed modern (indie) games. Definitely one of the all-time greats.
    Having beat Another World for the first time within the last year, I have to say that while the visuals and storytelling stand up, the unforgiving trial-and-error nature of the game does not. (though I'm a bit of a masochist when it comes to gaming; I only really put down games if I believe the part I'm at is impossible, or it becomes far too easy to be worth my time)
    Last edited by sabrage; 06-10-2011 at 10:37 PM.

  15. #15
    Lesser Hivemind Node TillEulenspiegel's Avatar
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    Quest for Glory is an excellent example of the sort of game that holds up extremely well. You want quality gameplay and a good story and oddball humor, look no further. The combat is a bit crap except for the keyboard-driven arcade combat of QFG2, but everything else is top-notch.

    They're the sort of adventure games where stuff makes sense and isn't ridiculously difficult and obtuse, unlike their pure adventure Sierra peers. A proper adventure, rather than a series of mind-boggling puzzles.

  16. #16
    Network Hub Taidan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sabrage View Post
    Having beat Another World for the first time within the last year, I have to say that while the visuals and storytelling stand up, the unforgiving trial-and-error nature of the game does not.
    Yeah, it does get tricky, but that wonderfully modern-feeling checkpoint system keeps the frustration levels down a tad. ;)

  17. #17
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus sabrage's Avatar
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    So many tears were shed over this segment...

  18. #18
    Lesser Hivemind Node DigitalSignalX's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sabrage View Post
    So many tears were shed over this segment...
    Holy hell. That would have driven me insane. No way I'd have completed it without a guide.

  19. #19
    Network Hub Taidan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sabrage View Post

    So many tears were shed over this segment...
    Ugh, I'd forgotten about that bit. Absolute bastard unless you had some help from somebody who knew.

  20. #20
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Rii's Avatar
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    Chess is still pretty coo

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