Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Top 10...Home Stretch!

I just spend fifteen minutes playing a game which actually *credited* Bryce 3D as the tool used to create the graphics. That's "Kwality" there. I guess I can give the game a little break because the game was dev'ed by one person...but COME ON. BRYCE?!! And he used the Bryce default materials, too. Dude. I know you're a n00b, but could we have a little effort, please? Might play it again and see if the puzzles are actually fun. But it's certainly not going to be on the list of
5) The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (2002)
There are many reasons I flunked second semester organic chemistry, but Morrowind is my favourite. RPGs will never be the same for me. I lament the lack of unchecked ganking inWoW. The lack of moving clouds and water in just about every other game. Morrowind has not aged terribly well, it's true. The character models are pretty bad, and the textures
are fugly. But the gameplay is still loads of fun. The mythos surrounding the world of Morrowind is lovingly developed through the books in every house which you can read, and each locale in the game has its own culture and flavour. It's a totally free play fantasy game where you are on a quest to uncover some prophecy or messiah or something, but screw that, you can wander around the world, and rob tombs and free slaves, and collect neat swords, and gank any NPC who looks at you funny. And you can take their awesome loot, too! And you can comandeer their houses! This is a game about stealing and killing, and it does stealing and killing better than just about any game out there.
4) Uru: Ages Beyond Myst (2002)
This is the most breathtakingly beautiful and atmospheric game I've ever played. Unlike Morrowind, it has aged extremely well, mostly due to the high res textures. It is the only Myst game built on a 3D FPS engine. (I think it was the original Half Life engine, but I'm not sure) and the series benefits immensely from it. The puzzles are diabolically hard, especially in one world, where all of the puzzles are number games, and the story is a trifle melodramatic at times, but this game is amazingly absorbing, and the addition of unique puzzles involving movement and jumping make it even more so. And the water and skies move. Ooooh. It handles the Myst mythos far more consistently and delicately than any of the outsourced Myst games do, (Myst III: Exile, Myst IV: Revelation) creating and experience of sheer wonder uninterrupted by incredulity.
3)Vagrant Story (2000)
I like this game because the main character wears assless chaps.
2) ...
Vagrant Story was the first RPG where I felt a real attachment to the characters. I wanted to know what happened to Sydney and Ashley, and I really wanted to smack down the SOB who was the main villain. It has a fighting system which I found very innovative and intuitive. Unlike the Final Fantasy games, Vagrant Story allows free movement of the character during a fight, pausing to let you select your moves. From this evolved the fight system in Final Fantasy XII. The game has plenty of replay value with areas hidden behind locked doors only openable when you obtain the key. Once you beat the game, you can go back and replay the game with a new set of bosses and new weapons to develop. The weapon development system is fun as well. You build your own weapons by combining parts of weapons you find and jewels which confer upon the weapons special powers. As you play, you will discover that your weapons become acclimated to certain enemy types, so you will have to develop your weapons to play to their strengths. Vagrant Story is a complicated, detailed, absorbing game, which will engage you like no other hack 'n slash RPG.
2) Obsidian (1997)
This won Games Magazine's Game of the Year in 1997, and there's a good reason why. Obsidian plays like Myst or 7th Guest with the user exploring a surrealistic world, and solving puzzles. Unlike those games, though, the puzzles in Obsidian fit perfectly into the premise of the game: You are an engineer named Lilah who has pursued her partner Max into a mysterious monolith growing near their mountain campsite. Lilah and Max have developed a satellite which repairs the Earth's atmosphere molecule by molecule via nanotechnology. Lilah's brilliant AI programming makes the satellite autonomous, but what happens when a machine that is written to reprogram itself actually develops consciousness? Religion? Curiosity about the subconscious of its creators in an effort to develop its own? The worlds in which the game takes place are Lilah and Max's dreams, created molecule by molecule by The Conductor: the "self" of Ceres the satellite. The first world is a beaurocracy built on the inside of a cube in which the gravity is constantly changing, allowing the player to walk on the walls.
The only complaint I have about Obsidian is that it's too short. I'd happily play a masterwork like Obsidian for much, much longer.
1) The 7th Guest (1993)
This game gets dumped on a lot. It was a showcase for people with their snazzy new CD drives. It's a badly acted FMV game with a hammy plot. It's linear. The puzzles aren't really integrated into the game play. Blah blah blah.
This game still amuses the hell out of me, just as it did when I first played it at a friend's house in 6th grade. The 7th Guest takes place in the haunted mansion of an evil toymaker, Henry Stauf. Stauf made a deal with demonic forces which enabled him to make toys highly coveted by which eventually cost them their lives as a mysterious virus scourged the village where Stauf had set up shop. Long after Stauf had retired as a toymaker, he invited six guests to a dinner party at his mansion; a party which Stauf himself did not attend. He instead left his guests a note with a promise of supernatural rewards to the man or woman who can solve the puzzles with which he has littered the house. As each puzzle is solved, a new room opens in the house until the player reaches the attic and learns about Stauf's evil designs on the mysterious 7th Guest.
One of the things I love about the 7th guest is the sense of reward it gives the player as they solve the puzzles. A new room is unlocked. A video plays, revealing more of the personalities of the houseguests. Spooky animations are unlocked. For a game built to run on a 386, the graphics in the 7th guest are still beautifully rendered. You have to scrutinize the screen to realize you are looking at a 256 colour picture. There is no graininess in sight. The soundtrack is also top notch, having some of the most memorable video game tunes I've encountered. The puzzles are not too easy and not too hard. I was able to play all the way through the game feeling challenged but not stumped, which is a great acheivement for a game of this genre.
Lastly, Stauf taunts you as you try and fail to solve his puzzles. Some of his one-liners are hilarious. I got to the point where I was yelling right back at him.
The 7th Guest isn't for everyone. Definitely not for people looking for non-linear gameplay and things to shoot. Or for people who can't enjoy a good bad horror story. But it's a great game for what it is, and executed brilliantly well in just about every area from gameplay to music.

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