Dark Sun. Ravenloft. Krynn. All Dungeons & Dragons worlds, and all names I know so well from roleplaying games I never played. In my earliest years of PC gaming, I was limited to games I could beg, borrow or steal from classmates, but I pored through enough magazines to be aware of what was out there and what I didn’t have. I can see the Dark Sun advertisement in my mind even today – and my eyes haven’t seen it for at least 20 years. Lavish, lurid art suggesting fantastical, impossible adventures; adventures I could not have. I read the news that Dark Sun – plus the equally alluring, gothic-themed Ravenloft and the Dragonlance-set Krynn series – is now available digitally (via GOG) for the first time, and I genuinely started as memories of old hunger surged into my forebrain. “It’s there. Now it’s possible. A missing piece of my own history.”
Then I look at screenshots, and oh God. Crashed back to Earth. But that’s just the discombobulation of witnessing images unseen since the early 1990s with these technologically-spoiled 2015 eyes, memory and reality colliding hard.
Of the quality of the games themselves I can say nothing. I want to go in, but I’m held back by this fear that I will pointlessly destroy decades-old aspiration in the name of empty nostalgia. It is precious to believe that there is something Better out there, just waiting for me when the time is absolutely right.
That said, it’s fascinating to now see how comparatively experimental this triptych of Dungeons & Dragons-licensed PC games were, even if they are at the same quite basic. The rules of RPGs were not written then, so they find their own ways of showing stats and dealing with parties.