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Have You Played... The Legacy: Realm Of Terror?

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Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

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I’ve written at greater length about the old, proto-3D Microprose survivalish-horror RPG before, but it returned to my mind recently when I reasoned that latter-day games are arguably picking up the baton it dropped (and, truth be told, slightly bungled). The cruelty and misery of Darkest Dungeon, the uncertainty and danger of Eldritch, the haunted house inversion of Gone Home, the, er, stupefying stumpers of Legend of Grimrock: none of them would claim this little-remembered Lovecrafty haunted house as an inspiration (though the likes of Realms of the Haunting and the Seventh Guest would prompt more recognition), but I think they’re exploring values that were abandoned abruptly at a time when the first-person shooter first became dominant.

The Legacy was about being afraid, being punished for recklessness, getting killed abruptly and going mad – this latter the case outside the game as well as within it.

It was not a good game, I discovered when I revisted it a few years ago, but in the 1990s I was absolutely determined that it must be a good game, because I loved the pictures and the outrageous, lurid promises on the back of the box.

I bought it despite middling reviews, convinced that they must be wrong or written by an idiot: I suppose that is the mindset of the furious Xbox fan attacking a site which gave Halo 5 8 rather than 9/10, despite not having yet played it themselves.

I digress. Have you played The Legacy: Realm Of Terror? A horrendous cocktail of archaic controls and miserably unfair difficulty means you have my greatest respect if you manage to stick with it for long today. It is maddening, although its cacophony of ideas and fealty to discomfort means it will forever hold some glimmer of appeal to me. I’d love to be able to tackle it with non-awful controls; learning it the way people now learn Dark Souls. That’s what I wanted to do at the time: figure out how to survive its apparently insta-death monsters rather than simpyl proclaim it impossible and give up. I tried and tried until the disks stopped working, and that was that. There’s still a part of me that wants to go back and, somehow, finish it.

But I’d be better off with Darkest Dungeon or Eldritch, games which are no less cruel but aren’t such a drag to start over when it all goes wrong. That’s what time has taught sadistic games: give people a reason to go back after they’ve been ground into the dirt.

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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