Sunday, February 18, 2018

1991/1992

            
1991 was, on balance, a depressing year. It took me nearly 3 years and 1,201 hours to get through its 37 games, nearly a quarter of that spent on Fate: Gates of Dawn. When it was all over, Ultima V from 1988 still stood at the top of the list and only four games had broken a rating of 50 all year, three of them sequels to games that had higher scores. The average rating was 2 points lower than 1990 and 3 points lower than 1989.

Games in 1991 got longer but not better.
        
Even the highlights had asterisks. There were four Gold Box games this year--Pools of Darkness, Death Knights of Krynn, Gateway to the Savage Frontier, and Neverwinter Nights--but still none of them managed to exceed Pool of Radiance, and for the first time I began to wish SSI had better balanced quality with quantity. Might and Magic III was good but not as good as I remembered. Fate was memorable but lasted more than 200 hours beyond the point I should have stopped playing.
          
This screen was not worth the equivalent of 7 full-time work weeks.
      
I did continue to appreciate the growing geographic diversity of our developers. There were more countries represented this year than in any previous year, including Canada (Ancients 1: Death Watch), Switzerland (Antares), Denmark (Chaos in Andromeda), Germany (Die Drachen von Laas, Fate: Gates of Dawn, The Ormus Saga, Dungeons of Avalon, Spirit of Adventure), Australia (Dungeon of Nadroj), Japan (Knights of Xentar), the UK (Moonstone, Heimdall, HeroQuest, Knightmare), and Italy (Time Horn). What's more, none of these games totally blew it. In fact, they all had moments of innovation and brilliance, even if they didn't always achieve high final scores.

I'm also satisfied with my "won" rate for the year. I only gave up on Antares, The Ormus Saga, Dungeons of Avalon, and the sample game with The Bard's Tale Construction Set, and I took both Ormus and Avalon as far as I could. They both still bother me.

The only major theme I can draw out of the year is the surprising persistence of low-quality Ultima clones. Between Quest for Tanda, The Rescue of Lorri in Lorrintron, The Ormus Saga, and Legend of Lothian, I've really had my fill of independent game with iconographic interfaces.

Game of the Year Nominees

Part of me wants to reach down to mid-list for "Game of the Year." Knights of Xentar--at least was different. The limited but satisfying Shadow Keep. Twilight: 2000, because no other RPG has let me drive a tank through Poland. But no, I can't nominate any of them with a straight face. So instead, here's my half-hearted list of nominees for "Game of the Year":

1. Disciples of Steel. The clear victor if I chose based on rating alone. It was the top-rated game of the year and the one I authentically enjoyed the most, despite its many flaws. In a year of blah, this one-hit wonder managed to anticipate dozens of future trends, including multiple interweaving quest threads, multiple modes of gameplay, and lots of player choice. Its character development and tactical combat systems, adapted from Wizard's Crown, are near-unsurpassed, and it gave solid attention to other mechanics of quality RPGs, including a tight economy and a diverse set of equipment. I was sorely tempted to replay it at the end of the year, favoring a completely different approach this time, seizing cities by force and maximizing the use of the optional strategy game hiding beneath the surface. My biggest quibble: it sold about 12 copies and left no mark on the future.
           
Despite hundreds of battles, I never got bored with Disciples of Steel's tactical combat system.
         
2. Pools of Darkness. Technically, as Gold Box sequels went, Death Knights of Krynn ranked higher. But Pools of Darkness took the Gold Box to new levels, maxing out spell capabilities and allowing characters to rise to god-like levels. It told a compelling story, featured one of the most memorable maps of the series (Moander's corpse), and concluded everything with a truly-epic final combat. While not the Omega of the Gold Box games, it's close, and it makes a worthy bookend with Pool of Radiance.
       
The final battle of Pools of Darkness is legendarily difficult.
         
3. Might and Magic III. I don't think it's the best of the Mights and Magics even among the first three, but it demonstrates New World's commitment to pushing the envelope and updating its interface with new technologies. The mechanics often feel unbalanced, and the game world is sometimes a little goofy, but it's still loads of fun. Between its million side quests, the dozen items of equipment that every character can strap on, and its constant sense of character development, no one else was offering anything exactly like it. The Might and Magic series has always, in my opinion, exceeded its sources (principally Wizardry) and competitors (principally The Bard's Tale), but this was the first year that it truly left them in the dust.
         
Combat in Might and Magic III is turn-based, but through sound and graphics manages to evoke a real-time feel.
          
4. Fate: Gates of Dawn. The game that embodies "go big or go home." Out of nowhere, developer Olaf Patzenhauer took an Alternate Reality base and made the largest physical RPG seen so far, with more monsters, more spells, more character classes, more items, more everything than any of his competitors. More isn't always better, of course, and in the end, Fate is ludicrously, unconscionably, almost maliciously long, with only the thinnest plot and an absurd ending, but it's hard to beat the mechanics of the first 50 hours. As whole, Fate re-defines "epic" and paves the way for Germany's ascension in the RPG world in the 1990s.
         
I managed to map most of the 640 x 400 game world.
            
5. Eye of the Beholder. It's easy to forget that up to this point, the Gold Box series has offered the only truly successful adaptation of the most famous tabletop RPG system. Every other attempt at the D&D license has resulted in something forgettable at best and execrable at worst. Eye of the Beholder comes along and, though flawed, shows that there is another way to do it. It kept Dungeon Master-style gameplay alive and managed to produce its own sequel during the same year.

Honorable mentions: Technically, Death Knights of Krynn rated higher than Pools of Darkness, but who gives GOTY to the middle game in a three-part series? Spirit of Adventure was a surprisingly effective improvement on its Bard's Tale template but didn't really leave a legacy. I had a ball with Conan: The Cimmerian despite it lacking in several core RPG areas. MegaTraveller 2: Quest for the Ancients was a poor game overall, but it was an important step to truly open worlds and lots of player choice in how to achieve objectives.

1992 Preview

While we let those percolate, let's look ahead to 1992. If 1991 was a disappointing year, 1992 promises to be the absolute opposite. I'm practically giddy at the list before me. Every franchise had a release this year. We get the final D&D Gold Box title (aside from the Unlimited Adventures construction set) with The Dark Queen of Krynn. The Ishar series begins. The Realms of Arkania series begins. We get the second Interplay Lord of the Rings title. We get the third Magic Candle title. We get a Might and Magic, a Wizardry, a Quest for Glory, and two Ultimas! And in between these surefire hits are a ton of titles that I feel like I've heard good things about, among them Amberstar, Black Crypt, Darklands, Four Crystals of Trazere, and Spelljammer: Pirates of Realmspace. Surely, one of these games is destined to unseat Ultima V at the top of the list.

Here's the bad news: there are 65 games. This is, in fact, the peak year for RPGs.
         
      
The following year, 1993, has one game fewer, and after that the number drops back to the 30s and 40s for most years, averaging 43 between 1994 and 2009. But 1992 is a definite hump, and I can only be glad that so many of the titles look promising. Given the sheer number, you'll need to understand when I'm relentless with my definitions. I'm tempted to start right now by axing B.A.T. II; the first one was hardly an RPG at all.

Despite the sheer number, there's not a lot of new geographic diversity with the 1992 titles. The USA and Germany remain strong. Canada and the U.K. contribute a few. A few more leak to the west from Japan. Hungary contributes its first RPG with Abandoned Places: A Time for Heroes, and Finland offers its first RPG since SpurguX (UnReal World). In terms of platforms, I'm going to be able to abandon most of my emulators. There are four Amiga-only games (Antepenult, Black Crypt, Dungeons of Avalon 2, and Warriors of Releyne), two Macintosh-only games (Darkwood and Minotaur: The Labyrinths of Crete), and a lone C64 game (Telnyr II). The other 58 have a DOS port.

We're going to be entering 1992 slowly, because I've decided to double up on 1988 and 1989 games until I clear the "old" list and can work off of 1992 exclusively. There are 38 games remaining on that "old" list, although I can tell a lot of them are destined to be cut.

Year-End Superlatives

Total games played: 37 (from an original list of 45)

Highest-rated games: Disciples of Steel (57), Death Knights of Krynn (54), Pools of Darkness (52), Might and Magic III: Isles of Terra (52), Gateway to the Savage Frontier (49).

Longest played (hours): Fate: Gates of Dawn, at 272. It's hard to write that without feeling like I need therapy. The average was 31 hours per game and the total was 1,201 hours.

Longest played (start to finish): Martian Dreams, which was on my mind between October 2015 and March 2017 despite only taking 35 hours.

Percentage won: 89%

Hardest game: Knightmare, the only game to which I've given a full 5/5 for difficulty.  I question whether it's possible to win without a hint guide. Even then, it takes more than 400 hits to kill the final enemy, who can kill you instantly if he hits once.

Highest category score: The 8 awarded to Disciples of Steel in "gameplay" for its nonlinear approach and replayability. It was a little too hard at the beginning for a perfect 10.

Best game with a bad category: The damned Gold Box games still can't get the economy right. Death Knights of Krynn and Pools of Darkness came in at 2 and 1, respectively, in that category despite breaking 50 in general.

Worst game with a good category: Playing Neverwinter Nights offline, I could enjoy all of the strengths of the Gold Box engine with none of the content. Knightmare was a beautiful-looking game that was absolutely enraging.


Game of the Year
          
          
In a year where I'm lukewarm about all my choices, I've chosen Might and Magic III: Isles of Terra less for the specific title and more as a representative of the overall series. If I don't give it here, you can imagine what will happen: IV will lose to one of the Ultimas, or Darklands, or one of the other awesome 1992 titles. V will fall to something like Betrayal at Krondor. VI, perhaps my favorite of the series, had the misfortune of being released the same year as Baldur's Gate and Fallout 2; VII came out the same year as Planescape: Torment. No way is VIII or IX getting it.

I liked Terra less than its predecessors, but I still liked it quite a bit. It continues to exemplify an approach that hardly no one else is taking: an open world that may reward or punish you for exploring in a non-obvious order; lots of side-quests (seriously, when do these become standard?); a heavy dose of lore attached to individual maps and areas ("Corak's notes" were particularly brilliant); and copious methods of character development. I love its contrast with development in, say, D&D, where a character's attributes remain (mostly) fixed his entire life and his reward for slaughtering a thousand orcs is four extra hit points and one new spell slot. A Might and Magic III character, in a fifth of the time that it took that D&D character to go from Level 5 to 6, will stumble upon a fountain that raises his strength 5 points, upgrade 6 items of equipment, gain 8 new spells, come across an amulet that doubles his hit points, and turn in a quest item for 3 levels' worth of experience points. I hasten to add that Might and Magic's approach isn't universally the better one--there's something to be said for more spartan character rewards--but it sure feels more rewarding when playing.

You also have to admire the engine, which manages to feel fast and action-oriented despite being turn-based and tactical. It offers a nice halfway point between Dungeon Master and Wizardry.
       
There are problems, of course--see my "Cabbage Theory" in my final entry. The rest of the game has long outgrown 16 x 16 maps. And the creators' inability to craft a plot with any gravitas remains a significant liability. But more than most developers of the era, you sense that New World has the capacity to learn from these mistakes and grow. We will soon see the results. Well, not soon--in like 100 more games. It is highly likely that I'll end 1992 and start 1993 with the IV/V pair. Whether I try them independently or combined remains to be Xeen.


Let's jump right in to 1992. In choosing the play order for the year, I often think of John Cusack's advice on making mix tapes in High Fidelity: "You got to kick it off with a killer, to grab attention," but it can't be the best, because you have to leave room to "kick it up a notch." Thus, I've chosen Ultima Underworld. It's a groundbreaking game that makes us feel that we've stepped into a new era, but parts of it haven't aged well, and I thus doubt it will be the highest-rated game of a very competitive year.

108 comments:

  1. From what I can find (and based on my memory of the play order as well), Treasures of the Savage Frontier was released 6 months after Dark Queen of Krynn--both in 1992. In terms of epic-ness, it would have been better to be the other way around, in my opinion.

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    1. I completely forgot about TotSF. Well, that's another one that might be disappointing but won't completely suck.

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    2. Just finished it not an hour ago. Can confirm Treasures does not suck.

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    3. Treasures was definitely an improvement upon Gateway, IMO.
      Gateway had a better finale, but that's all.

      But overall the Savage Frontier games are rather anemic compared to the Pools and Krynn series.

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    4. I actually liked Gateway quite a bit, but I also liked Treasures better. It is not too challenging, and it doesn't overstay its welcome. Should be enjoyable enough, I think. No way will it make top 5 of the year though (even top 10 is probably not on the table).

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    5. While I still have to play the Krynn games (which I started last night), I'd say that Treasures definitely does some stuff better than the Pool Quadrology did.

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  2. Congratulations! It's been a long year, and the next one may be even longer, but let's hope it'll be more enjoyable.

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  3. 1992 promises to be interesting, if only for the fact that I know far more games than from 1991. Around that time (or probably a year later), I upgraded from Atari to a PC and suddenly had access to far more games.

    I'm especially curios for Black Crypt, since I never played it, but know it as one of the best DM-clones. Also Amberstar will get interesting for me, I personally value it very high and completed it like 10-15 times, but I also know it has some flaws and it gained my liking against basically no competition - Ultima 6 just never stuck with me, all this party management and fiddling with dialogues was too annoying.

    I think Might&Magic is a good choice, especially since you can play it without a loss still today, it aged really well. I has few (no?) bugs, a clear interface, good balancing with lots of upgrades and simply good gameplay.

    By the way, I'd totally make a case against spartan character rewards. More is always better, unless you fail the balancing. Of course we play to make progress and to get rewarded, otherwise none of us would have been hooked to computer games in the first place.

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    1. I actually prefer a flatter character progression because, paradoxically, it gives you more freedom. If you have an open world, but the power level of enemies varies greatly, it effectively becomes linear because you are kept from entering certain zones by enemies being to powerful to survive at your current level. By having a flat power curve you're assuring that the player has both freedom of movement and that no enemy type becomes trivial at high enough level.
      That said, even with its meagre rewards DnD still has too much power bloat to my taste.

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    2. I generally agree with VK, but I do like it even when an open-world game offers some areas that are deadly to new characters, especially if they're well marked in the game's lore. The Glowing Sea in Fallout 4 and the Ghost Fence in Morrowind come to mind.

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    3. In the latest edition, D&D too has moved toward flatter character progression. (Third edition in particular, while I enjoyed it, got way out hand with character power levels.) And, probably at least partly because this makes it possible, the big adventures that Wizards of the Coast releases have mostly been more open world sandboxy affairs than the linear, somewhat railroaded adventures that were more common in the past.

      Personally, I think that's a big change for the better. I really didn't like the fourth edition of D&D and despite having played since first edition I was gravitating toward Pathfinder, a third-party game heavily based on D&D third edition (for better and for worse), but fifth edition won me back.

      So yes, anyway, I'm chiming in here in agreement with VK and the Addict in favor of flatter character progression, for pencil-and-paper games as well as computer games.

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    4. I'm not really into open world games, exploration feels kind of pointless to me if there isn't some kind of unlocking new areas. I especially dislike it when monsters grow with the player. That renders every progress to fake and basically it's not even a CRPG anymore. Trashing the rats (or bandits) in starter town to feel your grown power is an important trope. ;)

      On the other hand, I don't really care for freedom or exploration at all when playing, so probably that just escapes me. I like to follow the story. In a really good CRPG, I even feel bad for doing sidequests. I mean, I still do them, but I feel like I rather press on for the baddie.

      Might&Magic has a nice approach to this with all those fountains. I never bothered too much with them during my playthoughs and so probably was locked to a more linear route, but both approaches worked. Also there are so many item slots that you need several dungeons to be decked in the best gear. That doesn't really work for games where you only have weapon and armor, though.

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    5. "Open world" doesn't necessarily mean you can go everywhere from the beginning of the game; there can still be unlocking of new areas. It just means you have considerable (but not necessarily absolute) freedom in where you can go. (And when there are new areas to unlock, there's not necessarily a fixed order you have to unlock them in.) Granted, it's not an all-or-nothing matter; I guess the two extremes would be a perfect open world where you can go absolutely anywhere on the map from the beginning, and a single unbranching path where you have no choice it all in where to go. I don't think any games adhere to either extreme; they all lie somewhere in the middle, but I prefer having something closer to the open world end.

      I agree with you about not liking monsters growing with the player, but that doesn't go along with flatter character progression... just the opposite; it's a way to try to achieve an open world when there's a steep progression, by artificially ensuring that the player remains challenged (but not over his or her head) wherever the player goes, and regardless of the player's level. When the character progression is flatter, it's simpler to have an open world because monsters somewhat over the character's level can still be survivable, and there's a much broader range of enemies that can present a reasonable challenge without having to make them artificially keep pace with the character's level.

      I don't agree, though, about exploration. To me, that's a huge part of the appeal of CRPGs; I want to be able to explore and experience the world. I can get a story by reading a book; I want some semblance of immersion in the world, and to me that comes with a more open world and more choices and more optional things to do, or different ways of doing things. Again, it's a matter of degree, and most if not all games do combine both story and exploration to some degree (plus a third axis of combat and tactics, which some games focus on more than either story or exploration), but, again, I prefer something more open-ended, where the player's choices have a significant influence on the story.

      Again, I'm not saying your point of view is wrong; it's just a matter of preference; but your idea of what makes a good RPG is very, very different from mine. Interestingly, though, it seems Might & Magic managed to appeal to both playstyles, which seems like kind of an impressive feat...

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    6. Preference is different, of course, would be strange if not. ;-) Years ago, there made this Bartle-Test for roleplayers its way around, I always got ASEK (Achiever - Socializer - Explorer - Killer; ordered by preference). So of course, progress is the main factor to play CRPGs - and it's also the 1st point by which Chet categorizes games as CRPGs according to the sidebar. ;-)
      For simple exploration, any adventure will do. I had fun playing Legend of Kyrandia for example, a really interesting world to discover.
      Exploration is a matter of choice for me. There is a right number of choices to allow for a game. Not enough, and the player feels railroaded and the game narrow. Too much, and the player feels lost and decissions pointless, since you can go just along anyways. That number is different for every player, but I like to have about 3 optios for most of the time. "Collect 3 pieces of a McGuffin, one the haunted mines, one in the dark forest and one in the lost mansion" and stuff like that. Neverwinter Nights did that well for example. And a game, where I have to look longer than 10 minutes for the mainquest, is basically uninstalled. I can feel being the lost prisoner/poor farmer kid/... well enough after the intro, I don't have to play it out. I want to be dragged in instantly.

      But still, I believe we could agree over a lot of titles as good games - and that's those really good ones, which manage to appeal to different players and playstyles and offer a good amount of choice and also impact on the world.

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    7. Yeah, I may have exaggerated how different our preferences are. I've never taken the Bartle-Test you refer to, but I'm certain that if I did I'd also have Killer at the lowest preference, though I'd have a different order for the first three. And of course there are people for whom combat and slaying enemies is their favorite part of an RPG; I think they're farther from me in their RPG preferences than you are. Certainly you're right that there are no doubt many games we'd agree are good, even if there might be different aspects about them that we liked.

      (I actually have a post about aspects of RPGs and player preference half-written already for my blog on game creation systems for when I get to the Wizardry scenario editor... but it's going to be a while till I get there and can use it...)

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    8. TTRPG actually has a specific term for combat-heavy players endearingly known as "Murder Hobos". They are like locusts who goes around burning, raping and pillaging until they reach high levels before retiring them to try out other classes for more burning, raping and pillaging.

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  4. The year review entries are fabulous and unique. A great read. I wonder if you could consider rating games (ignoring graphic advantages of later ones) according to whether they "stand the test of time."

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  5. Quality post, your 'Writer' and 'Historian' skills keep going up.

    Remains to be Xeen? Nice joke, Dad =P

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  6. Really looking forward to Ultima Underworld. Friends who had it at the time loved it but I didn't play it till much later when better interfaces on other games spoiled it for me.

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    1. I had problems even installing the game. Origins had some really strange PC requirements and MS DOS configurations that specifically only runs that singular game.

      I couldn't figure it out and just sneakily repackaged it and gave it to a friend as a X'mas present.

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  7. I also am looking forward to Ultima Underworld. With a new one in that series due in the near future, it will be interesting to see your take on the first one...and the change from the standard Ultima game mechanics.

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  8. You'll be able to knock Minotaur: Labyrinths of Crete off of your list once you try it. We played a lot of it in college... it's a multi-player combat game, with no meaningful single player option.

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    1. Not an RPG, but it got Bungie off the ground, the greatest Mac game studio ever--who betrayed us for Microsoft.

      Can't blame them, though. Taking Halo to the Xbox was the right choice.

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  9. Sensible choice for game of the year. All else being equal, Might and Magic should be represented at least once. I wonder if you would have been more inclined to NOT have chosen MM3 if you had already chosen MM1 in '86?

    "[DoS] was a little too hard at the beginning for a perfect 10."

    Though to be fair, the later versions of the game fixed this, and there doesn't seem to be a reason to play the earlier versions unless you are unaware of the later patches.

    Obscure is a fair criticism for DoS, but I think it would have been a good choice for it's quality and innovation. In some alternate universe, MM1 gets picked instead of Starflight, and that leaves DoS as a better choice than picking another M&M game.

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    1. I agree with this.
      Especially since MM3 was in many ways a decline (but an incline in others) of the M&M series.

      It's a real shame Disciples of Steel was not designed to be more accessible. With a pregenerated party and a better town design, I think more people would have given in a serious try. For me it took this blog to give it a second chance.

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    2. To me, it was more surprising how can a game with this amount of effort and production values can be so obscure. This blog was literally the first time I even heard about it, and I've been a fan of RPGs since the early '90s. Zero mention in any of the magazines I've been reading at the time, not included in any top lists, nothing.

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    3. "Though to be fair, the later versions of the game fixed this." I wouldn't say they "fixed" it. Later versions gave new characters 1,000 experience points, which would have cut the difficulty a LITTLE, but that's really just the equivalent of winning about 10 combats with bats. DoS remained very hard until at least the halfway mark.

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  10. I'm a little surprised that Disciples of Steel didn't take it but I understand your criticisms, still I'm glad might and magic took it in at least one year, especially since it doesn't look like it will in the future.

    Still really looking forward to the coming year, keep up the great work.

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    1. It was a tough call--and ultimately it really was only between MM3 and DoS--and I'm already having second thoughts. Maybe I should split the categories: "Most Important" game of the year and "Best" game of the year. Then again, you can determine the latter with a quick sort of the spreadsheet.

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    2. I recall you saying that your reasoning for giving GOTY to Starflight was flawed, since you said it had more of an impact than MMI, although the reverse is true. So why not make MMI GOTY 1986 and DoS GOTY 1991? Dethroning Starflight would probably feel bad, but it would make more sense from an RPG perspective.

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    3. Your points are valid, but I don't want get into the habit of revisiting previous GOTYs. I only did it for 1987 because I had played new 1987 games and was doing a yearly retrospective.

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  11. What's really amusing is that you have three Ultimas winning Game of the Year but not the one that still ranks the highest all-time on the GIMLET even in comparison to games that came out 3 years afterwards.

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    1. Yeah, that is funny, but despite how much I liked U5, there's no way I can argue that it's a more important game for the genre than Pool of Radiance.

      Ultima was constantly re-inventing itself, which is why I don't mind it winning multiple times. Every iteration, at least through VII, brought something new and impressive.

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  12. I'm really looking to 1992, as a 12 year old it was the year I "discovered" RPGs through Ultima 7, which is thus a game that will always hold a special place in my heart. I've played 6 games in the 1992 list, compared to 6 games in your entire list preceding this (one of which, Pools of Radiance, I played only after reading your review and thinking that it needed to be played, and it was great so thank you for that).

    I'll be interested to see how the year pans out as there will be a rich choice for GOTY unlike 1991 (good riddance!). Both the Ultimas, while being fantastic games, do lack a bit in some key areas of RPGs (combat...), so I'm wondering if something else may take the prize. Two games I'm really looking forward to that you didn't mention are Star Control II, which is really Starflight 3 in all but name, and Challenge of the 5 Realms, hopefully Paragon can finally impress you without the constraints of an existing IP dragging them down.

    I hope you enjoy your blogging of the year, I know I'll continue to enjoy reading your journey, keep up the good work!

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    1. Star Control II is easily my _Game_ of the Year for 1992 -- one of the few games that is fun to replay after winning -- but I'm not sure it's the "CRPG" of the year. I think Wizardry 7 is the strongest tradtional CRPG and Ultima 7 is just an amazing milestone in the history of CRPGs severely hampered by its combat system. I predict all three of these games to be among the 1992 GoTY finalists.

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    2. Star Control II removes the character stats of Starflight, which might disqualify it (even though the character stats didn't matter after one good money run that let you max them out). The rest is still there; dialog, getting resources from planet landings, space combat (though infinitely better than Starflight's).

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    3. I'm hoping the Addict can consider upgrading your ship as "stats" and have it pass that way. If not then he should just play it like Pirates!, because it's close enough and why not.

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    4. I hope Ultima Underworld will take GotY 1992. While there are still many underdeveloped concepts (bartering, lockpicking, stealth...) in the game, the combat is not really going to appeal to the addict, and the game overall hasn't aged too well, no other game in 1992 brings this kind of innovation to the table. When we're playing Skyrim today, we're basically playing Ultima Underworld 9000 in many ways.

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    5. Underworld will get a poor score in combat and especially economy, and middling scores in a couple of other categories. As much as I love the game, I can't see it topping U5.

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    6. Going by the GIMLET, I have similar expectations. Actually, I wouldn't be much surprised if U5 still stands as the highest-rated game at the end of 1992 (the first game to really supplant it may be Baldur's Gate).

      Still, I'd consider Underworld among the favourites for GotY. It's far from polished, but it pushes the envelope in a way that few other games ever have. It's like going from Pong to Ultima all at once.

      Of course, there's a fanboy speaking here, I think I completed the game four times. :-)

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    7. Addict, let me also chime in that Star Control II is an absolute MUST play. It's not quite like a standard RPG, but as Mikrakov says, it qualifies more than Pirates! did, and it's just pure fun. It is so, so good. It's still extremely playable, relevant, and interesting today. If you play the talkie version, and overlook the low resolution graphics, it feels thoroughly modern in most respects.

      There's a fan reimplementation called "The Ur Quan Masters" that ports the 3DO version (the talkie one) back to modern Windows. That's not exactly what you'd have had in 1992 on the PC (which had no speech), but the 3DO version is such a huge upgrade that you don't want to miss it.

      It really is Starflight 3 in most respects, and if you haven't played it, you REALLY want to. It is just so much fun, even for modern gamers, that it would be a terrible shame to miss it.

      Think of the main ship as "your" character, perhaps with the ships in your (small) fleet as NPC hirelings, and it totally works as an RPG... better, in fact, than some "true" RPGs do.

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    8. How to convince someone to not try a specific game? Use "Must", "Should" & "You really want to".
      That being said the game is cool, but I'm sure Chet can make up his own mind :)

      Delete
    9. I mean, it's on the list, and as everyone points out, I've made exceptions for similar games in the past, so there's every reason to expect I'll play it.

      Delete
    10. I suspect Star Control 2--unless the Addict can't abide the arcade-style combat--may have one of the highest differentials between GIMLET and actual enjoyment. It can't possibly GIMLET well, can it?

      It may also prove some good fodder for discussing what actually makes an RPG. After all, if Star Control 2 isn't an RPG, what IS it? It sure doesn't fit neatly into any other genre. Is it unique, or does it somehow fit into a category through some less concrete attributes?

      Delete
    11. There are probably enough games to fit this and others into a space trader/exploration genre that hasn't been bothered to be defined.

      Delete
    12. I recon the Addict won’t like SC2s combat at all, but you can complete the game almost without getting into a fight, so it’s not so bad.

      Delete
  13. Lots of things I'm looking forward to for 1992. Anybody taking bets on how long it's going to take our intrepid addict to make it through this year?

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    Replies
    1. Probably quite a bit less than 1991, honestly. Looking at the list, most of the ones I'm familiar with are fairly short, and I'm not seeing anything as ludicrously long as Fate was.

      Besides that, the fairly high quality of a lot of the games is likely to compress the timeline a fair bit. As far as it appeared through the blog's filter, there was a crushing sense that the mediocrity on offer was making the project into a chore rather than something enjoyable - witness how fast (in calendar time, not hours played) the Addict flew through Might and Magic III. The Addict polished it off in something like six weeks, despite it taking a huge 68 hours (more than twice the average playtime for the year, with the average already being inflated by Fate's obscene playtime) to complete. Meanwhile, Fate took from late April 2016 to late February 2017 to complete - almost ten months. This for "only" about four times as many hours played.

      Assuming there's no Fate-like behemoth blindsiding things, I expect BY 1992 to take 18 to 24 months.

      Delete
    2. I haven't played it myself, but isn't Wizardry 7 supposed to clock in well over the 100 hours mark?

      Delete
    3. HowLongToBeat has somebody that completed the main story in 66 hours. All of the 100+ hour plays I'm seeing are completionist runs, which the Addict is only likely to do if he gets really into it.

      Having never played it myself, (I did not count it in my previous comment due to unfamiliarity), I can't be sure. Of course, even 100 hours is less than half of what was spent on Fate.

      Delete
    4. 100 hours can easily be used up playing Wiz7 – but it isn't necessary. There are some strange puzzles with very few hints in-game (the witches, the banshee in the graveyard, and the bonsai tree come to mind), but with the addict's established chops, I don't think the game will rate much above average difficulty. And yes, it's not small, and there's lots of combats, but all in all, after some 40+ hours playtime, the world is explored in large parts and you can go anywhere rather quickly. After that, there's really only some challenging dungeons/map areas left, so I'd expect the addict to make it in well under 100 hours if he keeps up the pace.

      Delete
    5. It's been about ten years since I last played it, but a complete playthrough found on Youtube clocks in at 82 hours, which feels about right. Maybe a bit shorter if he imports his party from VI? It's pretty long, but only a third or so of Fate. Turn-based combat plus random encounters do inflate gametime quite a bit.

      Delete
  14. A great post, and I totally agree with your choice and rationale. I especially liked the "future of M&M" contenders, which was especially on-point.

    I'm also looking forward to Black Crypt, being a big DM-clones fan, and it's one I've never played, being Amiga-only.

    And Ultima Underworld is a blast, and probably destined to rank quite high IMO, as it excels at all the "gameworld" & "encounters" categories the GIMLET so well.

    Anyway, looking forward to a memorable year, and thank you so much for all that work and fantastic blogging!

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  15. So looking forward to you playing Ultima 7: BG.
    This is my favorite game, ever.
    Not sure where you stand on the "purist" discussion, but I would suggest using Exult to play Ultima 7. Much neater experience, minor enhancements without changing the game.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But you can't kill Batlin in Exult!

      Delete
    2. Exult is a really good way to play Ultima VII, but I think it'd be an unfair comparison to other games at the time. Some of the benefits Exult provides just weren't feasible with contemporary hardware. Also, Exult makes a few UI tweaks (like the keyring shortcut) that smooth over some genuine issues with the original game that I think should be considered in the review. The combat is also pretty different.

      Similarly, I don't think The Ur-Quan Masters is the right way to experience Star Control II for the blog, which is a genuine shame, because it's the best version of the game by far, combining the best qualities of both the PC and 3DO versions.

      Delete
    3. It is an interesting conundrum, should Chet play the games the way any sensible modern gamer probably should play the games, or play it like it was back then. In some ways he's already playing "better" versions of most games simply by being able to use save states and have a mapping window open. In the case of Exult if he uses it he may give an extra point in the Interface part of the Gimlet but apart from that it's unchanged. And what does he do for a game like Gothic 3 where if he played it like it was at launch it would gimlet about a 5 given how buggy it was, or play the latest community patch where It would score over 70.

      Delete
    4. "...or play the latest community patch where It would score over 70"

      There's a difference between bugfixes and game enhancements.

      Delete
    5. Well the community patch has a stupid amount of bug fixes and a number of optional balancing changes from memory (and maybe an extra quest?). No normal person would play without the community patch, but the fact remains that the developers, after fixing a lot of bugs themselves, threw the game open to the community to fix it for them and it is not the original game per se. In any case, a problem for Chet in the year 2030, although I'm sure other games like it will come along.

      Delete
  16. Congratulations on reaching another landmark. Too bad 1991 was so underwhelming. 1992/1993 is going to be a real double-punch. Amberstar/Ambermoon, UU 1 + 2, MM 3 + 4. They are like the point you've been working towards. 1994 is almost like a new age and features the first Elder Scrolls game, so you're almost leaving the historical ages with the oldest still running RPG franchise (not counting those who switched publishers/developers or that experienced remakes/revivals for old time sakes).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If we're talking about long running RPG franchises, there is a new Rance game getting released this Friday by the same company and director as the first Rance.

      Delete
  17. As I said in another post, I am playing MM3 right now for the first time and enjoying it.
    It is interesting to point out that the praised (and last) Zelda game from Nintendo Switch (which I didn´t play), appears to present some similar ideas, like the open world with lots of puzzle side quest dungeons and the constant equipment breaks.

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  18. This may be the first time I've seen someone say something positive about Spelljammer: Pirates of Realmspace, even tentatively.

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    Replies
    1. Ah, Spelljammer. I was actually about to comment on that as well - strangely, of all the games for 1992, this is the playthrough I am most looking forward to. Not because it's a good game, but because it's a game I have many fond memories of, in spite of its badness. I can't imagine bringing myself to play it again, but it will be such a pleasure to read about it.

      In terms of positive things to say about Spelljammer, though, let's start by saying, it's really not a bad game. It's a very unpolished game, problematic in many ways. However, there are many things about it that are "almost" great. The setting is unique - it's the only Realmspace game, ever. I actually love paging through the Spelljammer manual, just to look at the ship designs. The large-scale battles in the AD&D system are pretty unique - where else do you get parties this huge, fighting it out with this many opponents at once? The space combat element is not greatly implemented, but a really fun novelty. All in all, I think there is a lot of positives to say about Spelljammer. It's just that the negatives are so much more prominent. It's definitely not going to be GoTY material :).

      Delete
    2. I know nothing about it. I thought I remembered someone mentioning it favorably, but maybe I was wrong or he was just crazy.

      Delete
    3. I liked the graphical perspective of Spelljammer :D But I don't remember anything else positive about the game :D

      Delete
  19. Congratulations on finishing up a taxing year. I've played a lot of the games from 1991 that you covered, but only briefly, so I realize it takes some serious dedication to actually finish a lot of them (Fate most of all). I think Might and Magic III is a good choice, though I always root for the underdog in my mind and kind of wanted Disciples to take it. From 1992 and onwards we're reaching to that time in my childhood where I will have played most of the games you'll cover and moreover, I'll have finished hell of a lot more of them as well. That probably means they're more user friendly, if nothing else, so I expect your quality of life as far as this blog is concerned to increase. Amberstar is a gem (and is the start of a deep developer history that you'll return to again and again, with Ambermoon and most importantly Albion), Dark Crypt is the best Dungeon Master clone by my estimation, Tazere is odd and interesting and kind of cool though I didn't finish it. Quest for Glory III is not the best one but it's still miles ahead of anything you've played (besides some Ultimas) in terms of heart and moral centre, as it's not a game about killing things but rather helping people. And, of course, Ultima Underworld will be a glimpse into the future.

    Thank you for embarking on this project. I realize I've been reading your blog for 8 years. I was in a different country when you started, three significant life partners back, different job, in a different decade of my life. What a thought.

    Thank you for the company.

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  20. Those graphs - really cool! This kind of thing, which you are able to do because you're playing through the games and documenting your play, is precisely what's missing in currently available books on computer RPG history. By which I really just mean Matt Barton, because hey, there isn't really anything else out there (Tresca pretty much cites Barton all the time when talking about computer RPGs). Seeing data like this, I find myself wishing - strange as it sounds - that I didn't know about this blog. I'd like to discover this blog ten years from now, so that instead of reading it piecemeal over the next decade, I'd discover it at a time when you've covered most of the 1990s. It's going to be so interesting to see the average length/rating graph then.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Realms of Arkania is really cool. I'm looking forward to seeing what you think of it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a great gem, another Guido Henkel game. Unfortunately like Ishar, the "pay gold to save the game" gimmick is a bit poor.

      Delete
    2. You pay a single experience point (50 in the English version since Sir-Tech decided to multiply all experience points by that factor) if you save outside a temple. That's only 1/100th of what you need to get from level 1 to level 2, and temples are plenty. I like to save often but I had no problem limiting myself in RoA Blade of Destiny.

      Star Trail dropped the feature since city/temple visits are much less frequent.

      Delete
  22. I think you've lost it, Chet. '91 was an awesome year and Xeen along with the Eye of the Beholder games made it a worthy year of RPGing. And Ultima Underworld not being the best RPG on '92? Well, it does have Ultima 7 to contend with, so if VII wins, I suppose that's okay, but Underworld sucked me in like no other RPG before or after. I lost an entire week in the abyss and I don't know where it went. For that alone, it is one of the greatest RPGs in history. It has also aged exceptionally well, along with its sequel. Both are awesome to play, even now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would never argue that Underworld isn't a good game, but because it was so innovative, it's easy to forget its flaws until you're playing it. I'll cover those soon enough.

      Still, I'm confusing "highest-rated" game with "game of the year" here. I suspect that UU won't be highest-rated, but in terms of influence . . .

      Delete
    2. Ever since Castle Wolfenstein 3D came out, Lori and I thought, "Someone should make an RPG with that interface!" When they released Ultima Underworld, we said, "It's here at last!"

      Incidentally, we loved the game. :-) I actually talked with one of the guys at Looking Glass Studios about licensing their engine. He said something like, "Trust me, you don't want it. It's spaghetti code." I could identify with the sentiment. :-)

      Delete
    3. I'm a huge Ultima fan & collector, and Ultima 7 is probably the best *game* of 1992.
      However, the best *RPG* surely has to be Darklands. I don't think any computer game has ever been closer to the definition of a RPG than Darklands.

      Delete
    4. By best game, do you mean within the scope of this blog?

      Cos man 1992 was a big deal for video games. Lots of franchises had major entries.

      Delete
    5. In response to Corey Cole, Ultima Underworld actually was released a couple of weeks before Wolfenstein.

      Delete
    6. 1991 was Might and Magic III: Isles of Terra. Xeen was IV and V, '92 and '93 respectively.

      Ultima Underworld is groundbreaking, but the combat is pretty rough. Same with UW2.

      Delete
  23. Actually I got bored and stopped playing Ultima Underworld after completing about 50%. Amberstar on the other hand had me on the edge of my seat from the beginning to the end.

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  24. Nothing more to add besides "thanks" - it's been a blast following all these postings. I think I've been reading this blog regularly for five years and the quality of the commentary has remained excellent all the way through. Can't wait for the upcoming Ultimas, but also can't wait for all the obscurities, roads-not-taken, and lesser entries that make your coverage as fascinating as it is.

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  25. I also want to add my voice to those thanking you for your effort. Your blog has been my constant companion since I move to Ireland about a year and a half ago and I finally caught up. It will feel weird to wait until there actually is a new post.

    You have given me a different view in crpgs, both in terms of history and, most importantly, in the mechanics. It shows how difficult it is to find the correct formula for something like leveling up or having meaningful options for your money. But, most importantly, you have created a bustling and informed community that make reading the comments a different experience than the rest of the internet.

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  26. Hey Chet, i`m too realizing now that i´m follower of your`s (albeit a silent one, which makes me feel a quite bad at the moment) since five years, since your interview in Spiegel Online. And like Helm I want to thank you for this project. It`s always a delight reading your entries. My choice for GOTY would have been Pools of Darkness. Ok, there isnt anything new, but it is the apex of the gold box games and brings them to perfection. I'm also really looking forward to 1992, with UU, and for me personally the first Realms of Arkania game, which should make up for the up to now rather awkward experience of german rpgs...
    Keep it up an thanks a lot!

    ReplyDelete
  27. I think Star Command or Sentinel Worlds brought me here, so I began reading your blog in July 2011... Damn. Doesn't feel like it's been that long. I probably comment 2 or 3 times a year on average, and it seems I somehow manage to piss you off half the time, though that's never my intention. Anyway, thanks for doing this crazy project. It makes for fun and interesting reading and it's nice to see appreciation for these old games without the mindless and often undeserved praise that they usually get. Also, while I tend to enjoy your coverage of weird and obscure games the most, it's nice to see that there are plenty of good ones in 1992, so you might aczually have a lot of fun!

    ReplyDelete
  28. Also a silent follower here, just stepping out the shadows for a second to say I check in to this blog frequently and always look forward to your newest posts. Your moving into the years where I started playing RPGs and I`m looking forward to revisiting my stomping grounds and seeing what I missed through your adventures. Thanks for the amazing journey your leading us all on!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I appreciate this comment and all of those above with the same sentiment.

      I think most readers think they need something profound to say before they comment, but I really like the occasional comment that just says, "I never heard of this game, but it looks really cool!" So don't feel like you have to stay in the shadows.

      Delete
  29. There are actually two final Gold Box games in 1992; Treasures of the Savage Frontier, which is both the sequel to Gateway to the Savage Frontier, and my introduction to the Gold Box games is also a 1992 title. It lacks the upgrades found in Dark Queen of Krynn, but is fairly solid, if unremarkable when taken into context of the Gold Box series.

    I'm a little bit but not surprised at MM3 being the GotY. I enjoy it much more than you, but I also don't know that I'd count it as best RPG of the year. I consider it among my favorites, but I'd rate Pools of Darkness and Death Knights of Krynn over it for the vastly better combat and world building alone. Probably giving the nod to DKoK, even though it's the second in the trilogy, it's a stand-alone game in it's own right, and I never really cared for extreme high level (A)D&D.

    IMO, Might and Magic: Clouds of Xeen is better by far than Darkside, and feels much much tighter and better balanced, likely due to the Level 20 cap on training (you can find a few ways to raise levels beyond that, but I think you're still limited to effectively 23 or 24 even then). Darkside seemed to progress further and further into ridiculously unbalanced areas, and the World of Xeen content was even worse. That said, I still rate the whole experience very highly, but again, I love the classic M&M formula. I do feel 3 was better than WoX, and 4 was better than 3 or 5 as a stand alone game.

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  30. Given that you broke the 4.5 barrier this year, Chet, I'm finding it slightly hard to believe that Knightmare is harder than Wizardry IV, aside from perhaps it being in real-time and thus requiring execution as well as correct choices.

    I recall that you didn't finish Wizardry IV - not something I can really fault you for - and wonder how much you stick by it being easier, though. (Also wondering if Deathlord will get the 5.0 when/if you ever finish it.)

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    Replies
    1. I honestly think Wizardry IV is a little easier. When I abandoned it, I was more interested in sticking to my rules than seeing the end of a game, so I didn't want to keep playing if I had to use aids. If I had used aids to finish W4, it would have been easier than finishing Knightmare using aids.

      Delete
  31. To me 1991 is a relief with the crpg mechanics so streamlined in m&m3 and the beholders (above it all the second one, which is to me much more fluid). But this is just repeating discussions. You are a fantastic reviewer and explained why you considered some games better or more influential than others, saying what satisfies you more, giving them context AND judging by today's standards.

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  32. Might & Magic VII and its brilliant replayable value should beat Planescape "I'm an adventure disguised as a RPG" Torment. At least I'm hoping so. :)

    In 1992 we will also have Ishar, which I have big hopes for. Probably the best version to play would be the AGA enhanced version for the Amiga 1200 :)

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    Replies
    1. Is Ishar trilogy worth buying?

      Delete
    2. For the price it usually goes for? Sure. I mean, just as long as you expect to have the time to play it. But any game is only worth buying if you're planning on playing it ;).

      The Ishar trilogy is very interesting, as one of several games (the above-mentioend Wizardry, Fate and Legends of Valour being some others) that signal a transition from the FPP dungeon-crawler to the FPP open-world game.

      To put that into more context, I think if you look at computer RPGs more broadly, you'll see that the late 1980s are a time where the genre splits into two. You've got the FPP dungeon-crawler, which is increasingly focussed on immediacy, action, audiovisual immersion, but typically constrained to small spaces, combat, and relatively little role-playing. Then you've got the typically top-down, turn-based, open-world games, which aren't much for immersion and immediacy, but which have more and more sophisticated NPCs and world interactions. Obviously, there are various games that take features from both sub-genres, but in each case, one of the sub-genres still dominates.

      Then, when you hit the 1990s, the two sub-genres re-converge. Turn-based open-world RPGs start experimenting with action, while the dungeon-crawler starts moving outdoors. Space is becoming less of an issue with the possibility of HD installation and then with the advent of the CD-ROM, so graphics-intensive games can afford to be bigger and more open-worldish. They start doing more with NPCs and world interactions. But games like Ishar or Fate are not quite open-world games still - they're still dungeon-crawlers, heading outdoors for the first time and awkwardly blinking while their eyes get used to the sunlight.

      In short, if you have an interest in RPG history, and like to examine awkward transitional objects, Ishar is absolutely unmissable. Also: it has a really cool system of interactions between the characters *in* your party. Surely, there has never been any other RPG series where you would recruit new people in a tavern, then head outdoors and persuade the rest of your party to kill them, just to loot their gold? :)

      Delete
    3. Thanks for the kind answer!

      Delete
    4. Planescape would get GotY even if something beat it in the Gimlet. Mechanically it's a serviceable but not outstanding RPG. But the game took the genre to a level it had never been close to as a work of interactive fiction.

      Delete
    5. Ishar really rubbed me in the wrong way. In the first game you have to pay in-game money to save game. Or resort to save-states. I just dropped it after two hours.

      In the second game, saving game is free, but pointless, outside of safe locations, because all enemies re-spawn on loading. So you have to complete all dungeons in one go or resort to save-states. I don't mind a game being difficult, but I hate then a game arbitrary resets my progress. Dropped it after about 8 hours.

      Haven't bothered with the third game at all. I think, it is just as the second, but with a time limit to boot. I don't like time limits in CRPGs, outside of some side-quests.

      Delete
    6. If you're fast, Ishar 1-3 is just on sale at gog.com. As cheap as it is, I bought it even though I'm not likely to play it. It's on sale repeatedly, though, so if you miss it just check the usual sites occasionally.

      Delete
    7. I bought it on sale, just don´t know when I will play it though...

      Delete
  33. Really looking forward to 1992 and your thoughts on Amberstar, Might and Magic IV, Ultima VII, Ultima Underworld, Star Control II (provided it doesn't get rejected immediately), Ishar, Shadowlands/Shadoworld, and Wizardry VII.

    Honestly, though, I keep coming back for the obscurities that you keep plucking out of the ether, and learning just how limited my knowledge of this genre truly is. I know next to nothing about a significant proportion of those 65 CRPGs from 1992, and that's exciting. (Not to mention all the curios coming from the 1988/89 revisits. Glad you're ramping those up: the end is in sight!)

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    Replies
    1. Shadowlands was another french game with an uncommon (bad?) interface. I never got the hang of the game, but the light-based puzzles were so original for the time!

      Delete
  34. Interesting how the highest rated game of 1991 didn't get game of the year. Though I guess considering how obscure the game is and how it seems to have been undeservedly forgotten, I guess putting Might and Magic 3 in that spot makes the most sense. Perhaps you could make a list of hidden RPG gems that most people don't know about and should really be given a chance. MetalJesusRocks on Youtube does that with games on various systems, so why not CRPGs? Might be fun to do. Hey, did you know on the site Home of the Underdogs, they gave Disciples of Steel a "real dog" rating? That rating means the game is terrible. Oh well, different opinions I guess. Will be fun to see your take on the game that is basically responsible for the creation of the Elder Scrolls series.

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  35. Congrats for finishing 1991, and congrats for your excellent blog! I've been following it for many years now and it remains one of my favorite reads (on the net at least).

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  36. Besides Ultima 7 and Star Control 2, I am also looking forward to minor gems like Planet's Edge and Legend (aka Four Crystals of Trazere). 1992 is going to be very busy.

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  37. Yay Might and Magic III. Might and Magic, just like Ultima essentially came up with the "formula" for the game in the first entry and then refined and refined it with every sequel (well Ultima did more refinement than M&M). I mean the gameplay in M&M3 is essentially the same as M&M1 but with VGA graphics, mouse support, music, etc. Same with the Ultimas. They all play essentially the same in that they are open world scavenger hunts but in each game the graphics, music, depth, etc. gets better and better.

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  38. Considering all the good feelings going around, I would say this is a pretty big turning point- congratulations!!

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  39. Yet another silent reader chiming in to thank and congratulate! I've been reading since about 2014, when I spent a few months chewing through the archives to catch up. When reading your work, the feeling is "you know what, this guy gets it." Chet has mentioned it numerous times, but there's a moving sense of progressing wisdom regarding CRPGs as the blog rolls on. Folks who aren't reading are missing out.

    Thanks for the countless bus rides and lunch breaks well spent, and teaching us all such a complete history of this thing we love.

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  40. It is quite an accomplishment and testament to the nature of exploration in Might & Magic when most of the series has as powerful & useful spells utilities like "Fly", "Town Portal", "Walk on Water", and "Lloyd's Beacon" (teleport points). In most other RPGs, the utility spells are of much less...well..utility, but in the Might & Magic series, they consistently not only hold their own, but in many people's minds are even more powerful than some of the AoE, direct damage, or direct healing spells!

    All that said, the importance of the spell selection for utilities is not achieved by making combat less relevant (that is combat is still extremely important in the entire series), and the importance is also not achieved by making quests less relevant (they are still integral to the game and there are still several).

    Excellent choice, and I agree the series needs to be represented.

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