GOG are still capable of serving up a dangerous dose of nostalgia from time to time. Three releases yesterday all gave me reason to reflect on sometimes misspent and sometimes well-spent youth. The game I remember as Stronghold has been released as D&D Stronghold: Kingdom Simulator, presumably to avoid Firefly-related confusion. Then there’s Al-Qadim: The Genie’s Curse, a D&D-inflected Arabian Nights puzzle-adventure. And, last but not least, Starship Titanic, the game wot Douglas Adams did.
Let’s tackle these one by one.
I loved Stronghold but it’s worth remembering that I played it at a time in my life when I pretty much had to love every game I owned, because I had to save up for months to buy the next one. It was the perfect game for that time though because it didn’t have a story with a beginning, middle and (most dreadful of all) an end. It’s a real-time strategy game, though more Civ than Command and Conquer, and I thought it was the bee’s knees. Even so, I remember the interface being almost indecipherable and the graphics being a bit cack. No idea how it holds up but it’s a fairly unique entry in the D&D world.
Al-Qadim is a mystery to me.
I’m fairly sure I bought it as part of the same Masterpiece Collection. Wikipedia says not, which means it must have been a different collection – I think I had two, one containing some of the Gold Box games and one with Stronghold, the Dark Sun games and Al-Qadim. Any idea what I’m talking about? Al-Qadim was in the AD&D Masterpiece Collection but Stronghold was not. If anyone knows which collection Stronghold cropped up in, we might get to the bottom of this mystery. Whatever the case, I know I either enjoyed Al-Qadim or persevered with it because I completed it and that was a rare thing.
And then there’s Starship Titanic, which is the second Douglas Adams’ game I played, the first being Infocom’s Hitchhiker’s Guide text adventure.
“Douglas Adams told a very brief story once, it took up one standard page at most, depending on whatever font was selected for the exact copy you might have stumbled upon at the library, your aunt’s place or wherever it is that you browse through assorted bookshelves. This was just one of his very many stories, and while some were told before and some after, it was this particular one that just happened to inspire the proper person who just happened to be born at the right time, the right place, and was presently in the right kind of mood to make a video game.
“This is the tale of a glorious, flying monument to humanity’s rather presumptuous dominance over life, the universe, and everything.”
The raising of the Starship Titanic is one of GOG’s archaeological undertakings, the likes of which we covered in detail recently. I had a copy at one point – somebody bought it from a charity shop as a birthday present when I was in my mid-twenties. It was a time in my life when everyone else was buying me very serious books about literary theory and Starship Titanic, in a battered old box, stood out somewhat. I was chuffed to bits with it but didn’t expect I’d be writing about the game ten years down the line rather than about very serious literary theory.
Sadly, I don’t think it’s a particularly good old game. Interesting, yes, and a lovely piece of history, but stubbornly difficult and not as funny as you might expect. I’m glad it’s back though. I’m glad all of them are back because recognising the importance of preservation doesn’t have to go hand-in-hand with celebrating every piece of the past as if it’s a marvel.