Tag Archives: Stats

Captive, Amiga

Captive is a classic Tony Crowther game, published by Mindscape in 1990. It is a futuristic, first-person RPG/action game in the style of Dungeon Master.

At first I didn’t really much like the game – I thought the graphics were dated and garish and the controls finicky – BUT… after a bit more reading/research I managed to get a foothold in the game and I really started to enjoy it.

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Stonekeep, PC

Stonekeep is a strange first-person Role-Playing Game, developed and published by Interplay Productions in 1995.

I say “strange” because Stonekeep comes from a time when developers were looking for any excuse to inject some full-motion video into their games, and Stonekeep uses digitised video quite a lot, and it now looks very dated. Actually, Stonekeep uses two very dated graphical techniques to create the world you’re exploring – the second technique being Silicon Graphics-rendered graphics (the first being the aforementioned digitised video technique, a la Mortal Kombat). It’s the clash of the bad graphics techniques…

The way the digitised video has been used in the game means that a lot of the characters and monsters in it look kinda like pantomime villains… Well I felt like I was playing a pantomime fantasy game with Stonekeep… The visual style of this game reminds me of that TV show, Knightmare – the one that superimposed live actors over painted fantasy backdrops… That’s what they tried to do with this game – film people in costumes and incorporate them into a Role-Playing Game… And the end result is a bit of a weird mess!

In spite of the outdated presentation Stonekeep plays excellently. Movement is quick and simple, and is tile-based. A journal keeps track of quests, items, maps, stats and available spells (which are cast using runes inscribed on wands). Combat is real-time; similar to that seen in the mighty Dungeon Master. Quests and puzzles are fairly simple – mostly unblock a route or kill a bad guy – although there are a few surprises along the way that take Stonekeep beyond the merely ‘generic’.

I wouldn’t say that Stonekeep is a ‘solid gold classic’, but I would recommend that RPG fans give it a try. Or even better: play it to the later stages at least, because that’s where it gets more interesting. That said: if you have a low tolerance for goblins, faeries, and ice queens then maybe this game isn’t for you…

Stonekeep is a game that doesn’t deserve to be forgotten and does have its moments, even though the story and setting are a little trite. Don’t let me put you off though – Stonekeep plays nicely in DOSBox and is cheap on GOG.com and is well worth adding to the collection.

More: Stonekeep on Wikipedia
GOG.com: Stonekeep on GOG.com

Fallout 2, PC

Released in 1998, Fallout 2 is a sequel developed by Black Isle Studios, for Interplay, and using mostly the same post-apocalypse setting, graphical style, and game mechanics, of the first game.

Which is no bad thing – the first game being as good as it was – although Fallout 2 was criticised at the time for not being much of an “improvement” over the first game. Which I think is hogwash – Fallout 2 is better than Fallout [one], because it’s more detailed and complex. And more refined. Of course it doesn’t have the “wow” factor of the first game, but from a storytelling point of view it continues the series brilliantly. It’s darkly humorous (again); it’s scary as hell in places (again); and it expands the Fallout mythology even further, while at the same time giving turn-based combat-lovers even more weapons and armour to fetishise over.

In Fallout 2 you play a direct descendant of The Vault Dweller, called “The Chosen One”, and who is asked by a local village elder to help find a mystical device called the Garden of Eden Creation Kit (the GECK), which in turn he hopes will end a severe drought.

To find the GECK, The Chosen One must find and enter Vault 13, its supposed location. Armed only with a spear, a small amount of money, and a Pip Boy 2000 (a cool wrist-mounted computer that appears in all the Fallout games), he must investigate and see where the story takes him (hopefully not to an early death).

Fallout 2 has lots of interesting characters; quests and side-quests; items and places; moral dilemmas; darkly-humorous conversations and relationships; radiation; imaginative tech; statistics screens; not to mention a very detailed levelling system with lots of cool, imaginative character perks.

More: Fallout 2 on Wikipedia
Steam: Fallout 2 on Steam
GOG.com: Fallout 2 on GOG.com

Fallout, PC

Interplay‘s 1997 release, Fallout, began its existence as a post-apocalyptic Role-Playing Game based on the Steve Jackson “GURPs” ruleset, and also as the ‘spiritual successor’ to the classic 8-bit RPG, Wasteland. When Jackson objected to the levels of violence and gore in the game, Interplay decided to change the game’s “back end” to use their own internally-developed system, called “S.P.E.C.I.A.L” (an acronym for “Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck”). This move turned out to be a good thing, because Fallout – as we all know – has gone on to great heights over the decades, and a lot of that success could be attributed to the RPG mechanics of the “back end” working so well.

This first Fallout game is set on an alternate planet Earth, where history advanced differently after World War II. In 2077 a nuclear war breaks out forcing many inhabitants underground, to shelter in so-called “Vaults”. The game begins in 2161, 84 years after the war, and sees you playing as “The Vault-Dweller” – a man thrust out into the irradiated landscape looking to try to save his underground home. You can recruit up to four companions at the same time, to help you even the odds in battles.

The engine for Fallout was designed and coded by the game’s lead designer, Tim Cain, and features atmospheric, isometric landscapes, and suitably “eroded” inventories and menus. Combat is turn-based, highly tactical, and highly-detailed (and somewhat reminiscent of the X-COM games, which the developers have admitted they were big fans of). The combat in Fallout, though, does take tactical, turn-based combat to another level. When you’re good you can decimate anything set in front of you, but when you’re bad you can blow not only yourself up, but also the building that you’re standing in. What this first Fallout game did was set the standard by which all other post-apocalyptic sandboxes should live by. It also created much of the lore that the Fallout series adheres to, to this day.

Fallout‘s quests featured a backbone that had to be completed in order to progress, as well as hundreds of optional side missions that could be bypassed. That said: missing the experience granted by completing the side quests ensured that you weren’t strong enough to complete the game when you reached the final battle. So their description as “optional” is somewhat arguable.

Designer Tim Cain resisted internal pressure by Interplay to make the Fallout series real-time and multiplayer, and kept the sequel ‘hardcore’ and single-player, like this first game. Which I (and most of the gaming world) should be glad of, because it later led to the Bethesda series of Fallout games, which are excellent re-imaginings of these classic isometric RPGs.

Still available to buy and play now, Fallout is well worth the time and effort, in spite of its age.

More: Fallout on Wikipedia
Steam: Fallout on Steam
GOG.com: Fallout on GOG.com

Crystals of Arborea, Amiga

Trees, trees, and more trees! That’s what you get when you explore the ancient island kingdom of Arborea. And with a name like that it is no surprise.

Crystals of Arborea is a real-time, first-person, tile-based, party-driven RPG with combat, exploration, and day/night scenes where the colours cycle to give you a nice atmospheric setting.

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Crystals of Arborea, PC

Crystals of Arborea is the predecessor to the Ishar series of games. It’s a first-person, tile-based RPG, with a character-based party system and turn-based combat.

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Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition, PC

Planescape: Torment is a highly regarded – if somewhat bizarre – Infinity Engine-driven level-grinder that was first released in 1999.

This new remake – released in 2017 – was developed by Beamdog, using the same enhanced engine as developed for their Baldur’s Gate remakes. Which is great in my opinion because the new engine is brilliant.

Unlike the Baldur’s Gate games, Planescape: Torment‘s gameplay is more structured around conversations, and working out solutions to problems via diplomacy, rather than by force (although there is plenty of combat in the game, if you want some). So the game has a lot of ‘hidden’, experience-awarding conversation options that you can find to boost your levelling. Without a walkthrough, though, you might struggle to find some of it the first time around and may miss it.

Playing as the “Nameless One”, with a floating skull sidekick (called Morte), you must escape the confines of a large and creepy-looking mortuary in order to regain your memory. A group of pseudo-religious cultists dressed in robes (called Dustmen) appear to be running the show and a long and involving mystery involving many quests and side-quests must be unravelled in order to get anywhere near completing the game.

Rather than feature bows and arrows, in this you get to attack your enemies from afar with ‘charms’ that unleash various nasties on them, like corpse flies. You also find many and varied magic items embedded inside bodies (including your own), that are acquired (usually) through conversation. You can also upgrade yourself by stitching yourself up… Planescape: Torment has a dark and humorous – and quite gory – setting, with death and dead bodies being a major part of the plotline. It’s all very light-hearted, though, and not at all distasteful (in the context of the story), or gratuitous. It is definitely quite an ‘adult’ game though. I can’t see many young kids having the patience to play it.

And this new enhanced edition gives Planescape: Torment a new lease of life, which it really deserves. It’s arguably the best Infinity Engine game out there, although it won’t appeal to everyone. Special mention must go to the music, which is haunting, atmospheric and beautifully produced.

Without a doubt Planescape: Torment is an imaginative masterpiece of fantasy weirdness – well worth playing by anyone who loves RPGs.

Click: Original Planescape: Torment on The King of Grabs.

More: Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition on Wikipedia
Steam: Planescape: Torment Enhanced Edition on Steam
GOG.com: Planescape: Torment Enhanced Edition on GOG.com

Icewind Dale II, PC

Icewind Dale II is an Infinity Engine-based RPG released by Interplay in 2002. This sequel was developed by Black Isle Studios and was the final game to be developed for the Infinity Engine.

Unlike the first Icewind Dale – and all the other Baldur’s Gate games – Icewind Dale II uses the Wizards of the Coast 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons ruleset (not the 2nd Edition AD&D ruleset, as the others do), and the Infinity Engine has been reprogrammed to allow for this (note: with some limits. The programmers were apparently forced to drop some of the 3rd Edition’s rules because of the engine’s “outdated nature”). This employment of a new ruleset does make the game feel different to play than the previous Infinity Engine games. And, as this was the last Infinity Engine game, you would have to ask if this ruleset change ultimately contributed to the series’ demise. It could be argued that it did.

Thankfully the interface has been cleaned-up a bit and feels easier to use than the first game. A lot of the character portraits and graphic styles have been carried over, though, mostly because they are canon to the Forgotten Realms campaign setting that Icewind Dale II is based upon.

Icewind Dale II begins with a goblin raid and leads on to other quests as you explore. After the initial excitement you’re then assigned to much more menial tasks before the game will let you move on. Which is a little frustrating. The main ‘meat’ of the story revolves around a group of mercenaries who are caught in a war between the Ten Towns of Icewind Dale and a coalition of persecuted races and religions.

Combat is beautifully simple once you’ve gotten the hang of it, and the game is challenging from the outset, but rewarding in a miserly way. It takes a while to get a real foothold.

Otherwise: this is a decent isometric role-player and a fitting end to the Infinity Engine reign. Not sure why it’s currently not on Steam, but it’s available on GOG.com. An enhanced remake by Overhaul Games has not yet emerged, at the time of writing (May 2019), due to the whereabouts of the original source code being unknown.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icewind_Dale_II
GOG.com: https://www.gog.com/game/icewind_dale_2