Posts Tagged ‘retrospective’

Darklands Retrospective: What RPGs Are Supposed To Be

By Sin Vega on December 9th, 2014.

A lesson that often eludes the games industry is how much names matter. Though it’s hardly the worst offender, Darklands is about as generic as a name gets, and its cover image (which mattered once) is even worse.

Even discounting that, it faced an uphill struggle, as its original 1992 release was marked by a plague of bugs, which Microprose’s patching never entirely expunged. It can still fritz during longer, complex sections – the ones you’ll save at most – and its occasional glitches compound cumbersome controls and an interface that’s awkward and often repetitive. Its sounds are few and its animations simplistic, with minimal feedback. On paper, it’s a bit of a mess.

It’s one of the best RPGs ever made anyway.

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Remembering Microsoft’s Finest Gaming Hour: Skifree

By Alec Meer on November 30th, 2014.

noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

Every Sunday, we reach deep into Rock, Paper, Shotgun’s 141-year history to pull out one of the best moments from the archive. This week, Alec’s 2009 retrospective of Microsoft oddity Skifree.

Why? Why does he want to eat me? What did I ever do to him?

I’m just skiing, man. I’m not a threat to him or his people. I can’t believe I taste that great, underneath this garish windcheater and plastic boots. I’m certainly not going to replace all the calories he spends chasing me down a frozen mountain slope at about 90mph. He wants to eat me because he’s just a massive bastard. There’s no other possible explanation.

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Why Far Cry 2 Is Still The Best In The Series

By Marsh Davies on November 20th, 2014.

Did you know the word barbecue is one of only a few surviving words from a lost Caribbean language (having since been filtered through Spanish)?

You shouldn’t always give people what they want. This is focus testing’s fatal flaw. It’s also the reason that Far Cry 2 – a game which doesn’t give you what you want and slaps you for asking – is the best game in the series by far.

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Why Sid Meier Is Wrong About Sid Meier’s Covert Action

By Sin Vega on November 18th, 2014.

Spies! They’re kind of dicks®. If they’re not seducing us or gambling away our taxes, they’re shoving microphones into cats or jabbing us with umbrellas. It’s hardly surprising that so many games about them veer into cartoonish James Bond territory, or cartoonish parody of cartoonish James Bond territory, or some kind of recursive humour vacuum that threatens to make Miranda Harts of us all.

But there’s a lot to be said for the more grounded approach. Sid Meier’s Covert Action, for example, steers clear of supervillains and outlandish capers, instead presenting a sort of action puzzle, with various criminal mysteries to be solved via a collection of minigames. Say “collection of minigames” in the early 90s and the responses you’d get would likely be “take this film licence dreck out the back and shoot it”, but Covert Action is a far better game than that technically accurate description lets on – and one still worth playing today. Let me explain.

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Not Fade Away: How Dragon Age Origins Got Evil Right

By Matt Lees on November 17th, 2014.

The difficulty with explaining why Dragon Age: Origins was super-duper top dog stuff is that on a surface level it was all a bit boring. Nasty creatures are coming to destroy your green, faintly damp-looking world! You’ve got to save the realm, perhaps because prophecies? Prophecies might be a thing, I suppose. Also: dwarves and elves and sometimes magic.

Thematically there’s very little going on in Ferelden that hadn’t already been flogged to oblivion by the rest of the genre, which makes Origins an even tougher sell to a culture now fixated with Game of Thrones. Decapitation makes an occasional appearance, but Origins is largely po-faced fare. What helps it succeed anyway is the one cliché it skewers beautifully, through its depiction of evil and a place called ‘the fade’.

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Eurogamer Retro: Driv3r, Also: Comments

By John Walker on July 25th, 2011.

Ah, classy.

Yesterday saw Eurogamer display my retrospective of DrivTHREEr, Atari/Reflections’ astonishingly bad sequel to their loved franchise. In it I say things like,

“Vehicles drive like angry shopping trolleys filled with cannonballs being precariously pushed along a bowling alley. But on foot is when you get to enjoy your character (I’m sure he has a name) stumbling around like a man having his first go at walking, on a trampoline covered in marbles.”

And most interesting to me have been the comments beneath.

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Brand New Colony: Alpha Centauri Retro

By Lewie Procter on April 25th, 2011.


Alpha Centauri has a special place in my heart. It’s a sort of spin-off from the Civilisation series (but don’t tell the lawyers), released way back in 1999. It’s not available to buy digitally (EDIT: Now available on GOG.com), but it had a Complete Edition reissue on the Sold Out range, available on Amazon US/UK. It’s essentially Civ in space.

Or is it?
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Retrospective: Cannon Fodder

By Kieron Gillen on November 11th, 2007.

Cannon Fodder.

I still remember a pub-based conversation around the time of its release. It involved the relative merits of Syndicate with Cannon Fodder. We loved them both, clearly. Everyone loved them both. But were we to call, we preferred Syndicate. But perversely, everyone also agreed that in the terms we were used to thinking of, Cannon Fodder was the better game. They’re an unusual pair, you see. Despite the fact they shared a central mechanic – that is, they were both mouse-driven shooters where you controlled a small group of soldiers going about their missions – and came out within a similar time-frame, I don’t recall any direct comparisons in the press. The only reason I can think of is that they felt so radically different.

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Retrospective: Ground Control

By Jim Rossignol on November 6th, 2007.


With Massive Entertainment’s spectacular World In Conflict causing some big ripples in the slow depths of the real time strategy I found myself once again contemplating its sci-fi ancestor, Ground Control. This exquisitely unassuming game first trundled onto my PC in June 2000 and ever since I’ve been waiting for a worthy successor. Playing it again in 2007 was an interesting experience. I got to see how it has aged well graphically, despite the relative lack of detail and the low-res 3D, while it hasn’t aged well in terms of pacing and production. It still has a sense of style, but it certainly lacks the high-end bombast and gameplay timing of the more recent game. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help thinking, when reviewing the World In Conflict single player campaign, that Massive had missed a trick or two from their original game.
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Retrospective: Kohan II: Kings of War

By Kieron Gillen on October 24th, 2007.

[I wrote this for PC Gamer UK much earlier this year when I found myself playing this RTS. It ended up not running for one reason or another, so I’ll immortalize it on the Electric Internet. It’s less born of obsessive love, more trying to explain why people really should give it a crack, especially as it’s only a fiver now. Kohan developers Timegate are, of course, now continuing the FEAR series for Sierra, which as far as odd change of development team directions go, is almost up to Digital Illusions moving from Pinball Dreams to Battlefield.]

Your friends are laughing at you behind your back. It happens to everyone, at least once. You’re going out with someone who no-one else can understand why you’re with. While to you, they’re all kinds of neat, to your friends it’s a clear case of WHAT ARE YOU DOING PUTTING YOUR TONGUE IN THEIR MOUTH AND WRITHING? Some wait it out politely. Others – normally the “better” friends – feel it’s in your best interest to take you to one side and question your madness. And laugh. Mainly, laugh.

I’ve been playing Kohan II: Kings of War for the last few weeks. It’s been a bit like that.

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Retrospective: Republic Commando

By Alec Meer on October 1st, 2007.

Knights of the Old Republic tends to be the only recent Star Wars game that anyone mentions with affection (yeah, I’m aware of a certain fanbase for Battlefront, but that doesn’t stop it from being absolute garbage). This is a shame. I give you Republic Commando, the lost Star Wars game.

Being bound in as it is with the boo-yucky prequel movies, RepCom is easily dismissed as just another easy cash-in. In fact, it’s the best Star Wars FPS since Jedi Knight 1 (I’d happily argue ever, in fact), and for all the sneering LucasArts is prone to from I Remember When All This Were Monkey Islands types these days, it’s strong proof that guys who really get games still work there.

This is mostly because it’s not really very much to do with Star Wars. It’s about four soldiers, not whiny farmboys with destinies or 20-something pretties moping woodenly at each other. It just so happens that those soldiers look a bit like Stormtroopers (pre-Palpatine makeover) and there are some Wookies in it. Republic Commando is free to do what it wants, and what it wants is to be a very accessible squad-based shooter. It’s even cheerfully sniffy about Star Wars, your character glancing disdainfully at a lightsaber at one point and muttering “An elegant weapon for a more civilized time, eh? Well, guess what? Times have changed.” Cue big gun action. Yeah.

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Retrospective: Planescape Torment

By Kieron Gillen on September 25th, 2007.

[I originally wrote this for the relaunch issue of PC Gamer, when they were introducing their extra-life section. The Long Play features are basically a critical essay, looking at a game a few years on and noting why it still matters. Anyway, this is my look over Black Isle’s genuinely seminal RPG. A few years old, every word then remains true now – and I sincerely doubt we’ll ever see its like again. Obviously enough, there’s some fairly heavy spoilers in here. Re-reading, it reminds me that I should do something bigger than this on the old warhorse. I’ve got Chris Avellone’s e-mail around here, somewhere…]

A corpse with irresistable sexual magnetisim, indeed.

Ignored by the gaming press upon release, only receiving warmish reviews that stopped well short of open adulation and the victim of one of the most ill-judged marketing campaigns (“A corpse with irresistible sexual charisma”) in history, Planescape Torment is the classic Underdog. Inevitably, it became the (relatively speaking) commercial runt of the Baldur’s Gate litter. In the years since, the coin of its critical worth has accumulated to the point where aficionados regularly cite it as the greatest of the PC RPGs. In fact, it’s rehabilitation has gone too far, with its name being a simple byword for narrative excellence without anyone really feeling the need to say why. There’s more here than dogmatic romantic myth.

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The Longest Journey – A Retrospective

By John Walker on August 21st, 2007.

My earlier post about story reminds me of a piece I wrote for PC Gamer a few years back, looking at The Longest Journey, and its lasting effect on me. There was never room for my full thoughts then, and the full length ‘director’s cut’ version has sat on my hard drive since. Clearly Dreamfall has been released since, telling us more about April Ryan, and another retrospective is due for that. Meanwhile, here’s the full-length version of the original piece.

“Mystery is important. To know everything, to know the whole truth, is dull. There is no magic in that. Magic is not knowing, magic is wondering about what and how and where.”

Arcadian docks.

The Longest Journey almost vanished away unnoticed, another obscurity ranted about by a few, but never reaching any acclaim. In the mire of pre-millennial adventure gaming, it could so easily have been drowned by the density of its peers, ignored by pessimism, never given the chance it so strongly deserved. How it was joyously liberated from this fate is mysterious. And in mystery, there is magic. In The Longest Journey, there is magic.

As a point and click adventure, The Longest Journey already defied conventions, ignoring the genre’s desperately floundering attempts at “catching up”. Developer and writer Ragnar Tørnquist and his team at Funcom understood that “catching up” was meaningless – they had a story to tell, and a world in which it needed to be told, and so this was the game they made. The natural instinct to say how it recaptured the adventure’s previous glory is strong, but this just simply isn’t true. Adventure gaming had never been as glorious as The Longest Journey – it hadn’t ever even come close.

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