As we've seen, the earliest CRPGs were text-based. Later, there were CRPGs that had graphics that, while they were nowhere near the capabilities of modern graphics engines, were "good enough" to not distract you from the game.
In between these two stages was a transitory stage, mercifully brief, in which the graphics, sound, and inputs are so bad that you wish the designers had just gone with text. The games from this era are virtually unplayable today, except has historical curios, because you can't stop retching at them. Ultima II falls into this category. So, regrettably, does StarQuest: Rescue at Rigel.
StarQuest is an early "roguelike" game. I am indebted entirely to Mobygames's description of the plot, as I can't seem to find a manual anywhere.
In Rescue at Rigel, you take the part of Sudden Smith, a human adventurer teleported down by transporter beam inside a six-floor, sixty-room complex inhabited by an alien race, the Tollah. Scattered throughout the base, which has been hollowed out of an asteroid orbiting Rigel, ten humans are held captive, one in each of ten different rooms. While you can adjust the difficulty of the task, the object in all cases is the same: to search the complex, find and release as many of the prisoners as possible (by activating the transporter beam, which will teleport them back up to the ship), and get out alive-in an hour or less.
In this blog so far, I have played a number of games that I thought were pointless or goofy (my worst venom remains for Ultima II; I can't believe that was part of such an otherwise excellent series), but I've never played any as painful as StarQuest. I'm not knocking it--I'm sure it was a joy at the time. But unlike just about any CRPG I've reviewed in this blog, there is no way on heaven or earth that this game could be remotely "fun" to modern players. Movement is extraordinarily cumbersome (you hit "L" or "R" until you're facing the right direction and then type the number of steps you want to move) and the controls are often nonresponsive. The quest is extremely basic--you wander around until you find 10 humans and hit "T" to transport them home.
You encounter a series of creatures--aliens, monsters, robots--that you simply blast by hitting "F" or "B" on the keyboard--no skill about it. As far as I can tell, there's hardly any reason to fight them because you can just wander out of the room. There's nothing to find but hostages and monsters, your character never gets any better and...you know what? This isn't even a CRPG, really. Forget what I said about it being a "roguelike"--it just looks like a roguelike. It has none of the elements that make up a true CRPG. I'm going to have to look at Mobygames's classifications with a jaundiced eye from now on.