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Psychotic Reviews: Shadowrun Returns

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When it comes to my collection list of wants I have two RPGs for the major 16 bit systems up very high on this list. Shadowrun for the SNES and the completely different game of the same name for the Sega Genesis. These games are examples of the very few Western developed RPGs released for these systems, at least ones that weren’t ported from the PC that is. Both versions are considered good games, with the SNES game widely being considered ahead of its time with its noir style narrative and tactical gameplay. It was a critical darling when it released, but commercially flopped.

Fast forward two decades and we have Kickstarter. This is one of the best tools for a small team to completely fund and develop a game from the ground up. I’m sure most of us are aware of what it is and does for developers. They basically pitch their game to their final customers while development is either very early, or still in the planning stages. Customers then throw money at the project, if the developers make their goal then they can start development. If they surpass their goal then they implement ‘stretch goals’ which basically add ideas or staff to the process of development. The Kings of Kickstarter, at least in the video game world, are Tim Schafer and Brian Fargo, the latter of which has two massively successful projects.

Good ol’ Jake Armitage even returns for the Ripper investigation!

Harebrained Schemes also had a very successful Kickstarter with their project, Shadowrun Returns. This project ended with over $1.8 million of funding. So now the game has been out for awhile and I picked it up while it was on sale. Shadowrun is one of my absolute favorite tabletop settings. It takes our real world and completely flips it upside down with an event called the ‘Awakening’. Earth is now covered with humans, elves, dwarves, orks, and trolls in various quantities. At its heart it is cyberpunk with the ability to use technological enhancements as well as magic to build stronger characters, and the Deckers’ ability to physically jack into the internet (or as the game calls it, The Matrix).

Anyway, as of this review there are two different official campaigns to choose from, the original one Dead Man’s Switch, and the latest one released as DLC, Dragonfall. Dead Man’s Switch takes place in the Free City of Seattle, while Dragonfall takes place in Berlin. The game is presented in an isometric perspective reminiscent of the SNES Shadowrun as well as Interplay and Bioware RPGs around the turn of the century.

The game is easy to control, click where you want to go and who you want to talk to. Combat is actually more in the style of XCOM than other RPGs. There are various items and decorations to use as cover, there’s even Overwatch in the game. To keep with its RPG roots your stats influence your chance to hit as a percentage, get close to the enemy and the percentage increases, use buffs to get that even higher. I rolled as a shaman with Eagle Totem, so I could buff everybody’s chance to hit in a small radius, as well as cast Haste on my various party members. By the end of the game this meant that at any one time half the party had double the Action Points, and could easily have over 85% chance to hit as long as they were close to my PC. Combine all this with a spirit that shamans can summon for an extra party member and its easy to see why this support class is completely awesome.

I have beaten Dead Man’s Switch, and its set up as a murder mystery. You get a message from one of your fellow Shadowrunners Sam Watts, your main character is down on his/her luck at this moment but this message promises a huge payout for you to find your friend’s killer. He’s already dead by the time the message gets to you, hence the name Dead Man’s Switch. You go on a long journey through the city of Seattle’s underbelly in the 2050’s. This story ends up tying in with the events that lead to the downfall of Chicago in the novel Burning Bright and sourcebook Bug City. You also get to have the completely awesome immortal elf Harlequin in your group during the end game, as well as meet a representative of the Dragon Lofwyr who hails from Berlin, tying Dead Man’s Switch into Dragonfall.

While the game is simple to play and fun when it works I did run into crippling, near game breaking problems. There were times when my main character would just get frozen in combat. She couldn’t move, but she could still cast spells, heal, and control her spirit. When I tried to move the game completely froze for a few minutes. I could still control the rest of my team though. I ran into this problem in 2nd half of this campaign, even the final battle. But, with Harlequin and Coyote I managed to win and brought justice to Sam’s killer.

Dead Man’s Switch was not long, even with this problem I managed to beat it in about 16 hours. It was just incredibly annoying to have the game lock up, freeze, and then have to find workarounds to still win said game. If you decide to try this game and do not run into the problem I did (which a majority seem to not run into) then you might be able to shave an hour or two off of my completion time. I also missed a couple side quests when I went back to check walkthroughs for what I missed.

If you’re interested in science fiction and want a different, near future take on the genre, mixed with heaping doses of fantasy and warped reality then Shadowrun might scratch that itch. Your chances of running into the problems I had are quite low after all the forum research I did to find a solution. If you’re already familiar with some of the lore from Shadowrun this should fit in quite nicely, especially if you’re familiar with the tie ins I already mentioned. If you’re skeptical then you might want to wait until it goes on sale again.

Psychotic Reviews: South Park: The Stick of Truth

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The Stick of Truth was probably one of the most anticipated RPGs of the year. Its based on the popular Comedy Central show known for its crude animation style, rude characters, profanity, and insightful satire. Matt Stone and Trey Parker are two of the best writers in the show business today, including their smash hit musical The Book of Mormon, South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, and the beloved classic BASEketball on their resumes its easy to see how the legions of South Park fans would flock to a game written by the show’s actual creators and lead writers.

The game was developed by Obsidian Entertainment, themselves known for being excellent writers and world designers. They also have a nasty reputation for releasing broken and buggy games. Is this true with The Stick of Truth? There are some bugs I experienced, but they didn’t really hinder gameplay. A few design decisions hurt the overall experience more than a graphics bug and the one crash I experienced.

The graphics bug involves alt-tabbing without pressing Escape first. It could lead to the characters bugging in and out of existence and was fixed by quitting the game and restarting. It was rather annoying, but didn’t completely break the game. The save design hurts the game more than anything. It seems to be a save anywhere type of system when it is really a checkpoint based system. So, saving right after a cutscene was usually fine, but saving halfway down the street would mean the reload would put you back at the beginning of the street.

The actual game itself is quite beautiful. The art makes it feel like you’re playing through a short season of different episodes. You play through different days, with all the kids having to go to bed once the sun goes down. These days are built around plot events, not the passage of real time, which flows well with the way the game is written. The world is open, but feels more like a side scroller since you can only cross streets at crosswalks. South Park is not a large town though, its always been referred to as a little mountain town somewhere in Colorado. Some areas seem to be left out, but every building has something to do in it. Well, except the bank. And you can probably figure out what happens there if you’re a fan of the show.

The game’s writing is spectacular, and the RPG design leaves even more room for references namely in gray junk items. Everything from Alabama Man to Space Cash is there to be found somewhere. The characters are just as they are on the show, with attacks based on their history. For example, Kyle has an Elemental Summon attack which is nothing more than Kick the Baby.

Or the most feared attack of all, Mr. Slave’s ass.

The timing attacks and defenses in battle will remind long time gamers of RPGs like Super Mario RPG, Mario & Luigi, Paper Mario, and some more real time battle systems like the Tales and Star Ocean series. Combat is rather easy though. I played on the hardest difficulty and still found myself rolling through the game by spamming armor lowering attacks. I played as Jew, so my main attack against bosses and defense heavy enemies was Circum-Scythe, it was quite satisfying to use that attack against enemies such Pedophile and Meth Head.

As a whole, The Stick of Truth is a very well done game. If you’re not a fan I would still recommend it as the writing is absolutely hilarious and vile at times. I found myself laughing hysterically at certain events, and smiling through most of the game as a fan. This game should go down in history as one of the best licensed games out there. Stiff competition in that category I know, but it really is that good and probably the best overall game in terms of technical issues, writing and story, and overall gameplay polish that Obsidian has released so far.

Unexpectedly Spooky! Thief: The Dark Project

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[Originally posted: October 30th, 2013]

Greetings Ghouls ‘n Ghosts! I am back and bringing you a spooktacular with a game that at first glance, should not be an experience that delivers goosebumps and stiff hairs. So, why does a game remembered as a stealth/action game have such a creepy atmosphere?

Thief: The Dark Project is a game that spent such a long time in development that it is rather surprising it came out to be such a great game and experience. Other games which spent so long in development include such well remembered classics like Daikatana, Duke Nukem Forever, and Aliens: Colonial Marines.

Thief stars who else than a master thief by the name of Garrett in an unnamed medieval/magical/steampunk metropolis simply called ‘The City.’ Garrett is a former Keeper, masters of stealth and the keepers of ancient tomes and knowledge. But, now he’s a freelance thief who finds himself caught up in a supernatural plot.

So, what makes this game spooky? As a result of its long development it went through many early builds and re-writes before the game was really built. The Dark Project was its final working title, and at times could have become a first person swords and sorcery action RPG involving communist zombies. The developers added stealth elements and realized that sneaking by the enemies was more fun than trying to fight everybody.

True story: the design team was inspired towards the stealth model by everybody’s favorite submarine simulation, Silent Service. In the final game Garrett is an unstoppable force of sticky fingers while hidden or in the shadows, when exposed you must be a master of the combat system or face certain death.

Some of the inspiration from the early zombie idea was left in the final product, these are known as the Monster Levels. The game goes through a cycle every two or three levels, one type of level being a human based level, the other being one of the monster levels. The monster levels include useless zombies and quite a few more original monster designs.

Most of the creepy feelings and moments come not from the actual encounter of the monsters though, but the suspense built up by Eric Brosius’ sound design and music compositions.

Sadly, Thief’s sequels broke away from the horror inspired monster levels, being all but non-existent in Thief II: The Metal Age. There is a throwback towards The Dark Project’s horror levels in the third Thief game, Deadly Shadows. It may just be one of the single greatest levels in the history of level based gaming. The Shalebridge Cradle…

So, the next time you’re itching for a midnight gaming experience to enjoy in the dark, fire up Thief Gold, the total expanded version of the main game, turn out the lights, put your headphones on and immerse yourself in The City.

Psychotic Reviews: Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse

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I could consider my freshman year of high school the time in which I really blossomed socially. I lost over 70 pounds which swelled my confidence and lead to my first, real, fun girlfriend. It was also a time where it was easy to go to anybody’s house to play any of the 3 big systems of that time. Ah yes, I remember fondly my experiences with my own Playstation 2, and I had a few Xbox friends, and a couple of Gamecube friends.

One gaming experience that dates back to this time of my life is our game today. One of my football and wrestling teammates had this game for his Xbox and bought it when it was still fairly new. I was at his house when he opened the game and we both got to experience it for the first time with each other. Mainly because this game has split screen, hell yes! It does not make full use of the Xbox though and only allows 2 players at maximum. For my current playthrough I’m flying solo, I started on Normal difficulty but it was too easy for me, so I bumped it up to Tough (Hard).

This is one of the few examples of a game that is almost entirely unique and should be experienced by anybody looking to have a diverse gaming resume. About the only things that are not completely new and awesome in Stubbs is the literal Halo 1 ripoff driving, and loading screens. It says right on the box art that the game was built with the Halo engine. Stubbs changes the perspective from first person to third person, letting you watch our main zombie hero shuffle along his way. Stubbs does move fairly slow being a zombie and all, but compared to the zombie horde that he can control Stubbs has the ability to do a sort of sprint after shuffling in a direction long enough for a speed boost.


I can’t even complain about the loading screens.

This game’s title is no lie, this game takes the normal idea of the zombie game, that of being a survivor trying to escape having your brains munched on by the living dead, and instead lets you be the living dead and build zombie hordes by gorging on warm, delicious human brains. Stubbs also has quite a few nasty, gory, but effective weapons at his disposal. In the order that they are introduced to the player these weapons are Unholy Flatulence, Gut Grenades, Hand Possession, and Sputum Head. So you get an area of effect stun fart, a lethal grenade from Stubbs’ giant shotgun wound, the ability to control an enemy, and can use Stubbs’ head as an exploding bowling ball.


They may be undead, but they’re still Americans dammit!

For style and plot, as you can see from the clip above this game runs with tongue in cheek B-horror movie inspired parodies, along with witty writing and dialogue that you’ll hear coming from those pesky not undead people of the fine, futuristic city of Punchbowl, Pennsylvania circa 1959. Punchbowl is made in the style of those old 50’s “City of the Future” specials that are infamous for their insane optimism and wild technology speculation.


Like robots and Star Trek technobabble.

In terms of enemies in the game there is a wonderful variety. There are 6 basic enemy types, 5 of these types have 3-5 specific enemies. The unvaried enemy type is just the easy, usually unarmed, but still delicious common citizen. These enemy types are scattered intelligently throughout the game, so you are constantly adapting to new enemies not only at the beginning of a new level, but throughout the level, and later in the game as well.

For my current playthrough of the game I’m able to experience it through an official Xbox component box and through my TV’s component jack, and despite its age it looks fantastic in 1080i. The sound design is also stellar for this game. There is not much music that plays in the game outside of vehicles and areas where there are radios or TV screens in sight, or the mall. What really stands out is the quality of the sound effects, and since there is a general lack of music these needed to be high quality. The sound effects more than deliver, you’ll come to love some of the pleas of Punchbowl’s citizens and defenders while listening to Stubbs or one of the horde crunch down through a fresh skull and chew the softer, delicate brains.


Being asleep underground for so long leads to the most epic leak taking of all time.

Overall Stubbs is an incredibly well designed game and it is obvious to see why this game has become a cult classic, even if the game is quite short. If you have an Xbox still laying around you owe it to the system to hunt this game down and give it a nice playthrough. I got mine complete for $3 at one of my thrift stores, current online prices hover between $20 and $30 for the Xbox version. The PC and MAC versions are considerably cheaper, but the Xbox version is plentiful enough that you should hopefully not have too much trouble finding a copy for a decent price.

Psychotic Reviews: Terry Pratchett’s Discworld

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Right then, we’ve all had our fun with the ol’ point ‘n click right? Well we’re not going to monkey around ‘ere and take a good, wholesome look at Discworld, released for almost everyfin’ out in ’95. You can find this ol’ game for DOS, Mac, Playstation, and the Sega Saturn (if you live in Europe or Japan).

Ok, I’ve had my fun trying to act like I have an unspecified English accent, my fake accent is better in person I swear, you twat! Since the game is based on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series of novels you can expect the same writing from the books. The plot is mostly based on the novel Guards! Guards! but Rincewind is the main protagonist of the game. No complaints in the writing and story department.

Already puzzling just to leave the room!

I recently found the Playstation version, which was only ever pressed and released in the old longbox form in the USA. This is an incredibly early game in the Playstation’s lifecycle, but it was primarily developed for DOS. Even though the game is 2D the optimization for the PS1 is not smooth, and slowdown occurs seemingly whenever anything of note happens, even if it repeats constantly.

Saving and loading is annoying in this game, to save the game you have to reformat the save seemingly randomly, which erases the file, just so you can save another file. Its strange and just too many steps to save a game to a memory card. Loading is also stupid, you have to let a new game start, open the menu, then load the game from there. This just shows how poorly optimized the game is, but since its one of the first PS1 games ever can it really be blamed? I say yes.

I will say that the voice acting in Discworld is amazing. The game was developed by British companies Teeny Weeny Games and Perfect 10 Productions, and published by future Sony studio Psygnosis (RIP). The British is strong with this one, and the cast shows its brilliance throughout the game. Rincewind is (mostly) voiced by Monty Python alum Eric Idle, who is a great fit for the humor of Pratchett’s writing style.

He was not at all afraid to be killed in nasty ways.

Like any point and click adventure you will be charged with solving many puzzles, both large and small. Some of these puzzles are insanely easy, the item to use will be glaringly obvious, other times you’ll have to really sit down and go through your entire inventory to exhaust all your options before you come across the correct answer. If you’re a fan of Pratchett’s work you may enjoy this game if you have any bit of love for point and clicks, if you can’t stand the genre at all then this game could become quite the nuisance and annoy you.

I have good news and bad news. The good news is that despite its technical problems I still find the PS1 version to be quite playable. The bad news is the price. If you’re going online to buy this the cheapest and easiest option is to buy the Playstation release. The price could still run you $30+ though if you’re wanting the box and manual, and its sequel is not far behind. If you luck out like me and find it in nice shape, and complete, for $5 at a thrift store then take that sucker home!

Now I’m really in the mood to watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Happy 2013 to my followers! Here is my gift to you while I go watch the full movie.

PC RPG Renaissance Part 5: Rise of the Mods

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The year 2000 did not slow down this new machine, the Renaissance had barely begun and there would soon be a flood of games from newer studios, and overall quality across the board seemed to have the highest average in over a decade. What better way to begin the new millenium and raise the middle finger to the Y2K scare than go back to Baldur’s Gate in a sequel straight from Bioware.

Bioware continued its string of gold plated releases with Neverwinter Nights in 2002, developing the game for Atari. While the single player story was nothing to write home about, the new 3D Aurora engine was a huge step forward for video game technology. What kept this game selling for so long after its release could very easily be attributed to the Aurora toolset and Bioware’s support of fan made content. Anybody could essentially use the toolset to make an entire D&D campaign and could hook up with friends online to play through it with your own characters.

Edit the zombies!

 

By now it was apparent that Bioware could be trusted with virtually any license and expertly craft a game in that universe based on d20 rules. So in 2003 Bioware did just that with one of the most beloved sci-fi franchises in existence. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) released on PC and Microsoft’s Xbox to immediate critical and commercial acclaim. Bioware’s use of the Star Wars license to create a completely unique story set thousands of years before the first trilogy let them have incredible creative freedom and it shows. The cinematic angles in dialogue scenes would lead to a revolution in storytelling that still resonates this day. This is many longtime Bioware fans’ favorite release from them, and it is incredibly easy to see why with my own personal experience and playing this game near release.

This type of cinematic view changed everything.

Black Isle finally joined Bioware in the Forgotten Realms in more than just a publishing role, bringing a more action oriented adventure to the fold much further to the north in Icewind Dale. The game however is not connected to R. A. Salvatore’s Icewind Dale trilogy of novels. Quite sad, but that let Black Isle have the same creative freedom as Bioware for KOTOR.

A bit of turmoil had temporarily shaken up the blooming Black Isle while they were working on Fallout 2. A few key members left and founded Troika Games, which finally showed their first signs of their short life. Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura came in 2001. Temple of Elemental Evil in 2003. Finally the studio released Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines in 2004 before finally folding in 2005. Every one of Troika’s games was critically praised for their stories, but criticized for the huge amoung of bugs present and spotty post release support.

Bleeding out like Troika’s bank account.

Bethesda had helped to continue the evolution of first person RPGs during the down years between the Golden Age and the Renaissance, but had been silent since then. Being a small developer they found it more difficult to secure funding and investors after a couple of failed games set in their own Elder Scrolls universe. 1997’s An Elder Scroll’s Legend: Battlespire was a very buggy action RPG that was not well received. A year later The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard was a slow paced action RPG that received similar treatment on release, and with graphics that were heavily lacking even on release it was no surprise that Redguard floundered.

A small, core team of developers stayed around and kept planning during the down years between 1999 and 2002 for Bethesda. The third true installment of the Elder Scrolls would make or break the company, in a story a bit different, yet still similar to console RPG favorite Squaresoft’s rise to the mainstream. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind released in 2002, and would show the first signs of a coming trend, consolization. Morrowind released for PC and Microsoft’s Xbox to critical praise and commercial success, and saved Bethesda from its financial turmoil and helped to allow them to become a force to be reckoned with.

Or will you believe M’aiq and his silly hat?

Not all companies would escape their financial woes, and beginning a trend does not always mean you will see it to the end, or perhaps it could be a sign of the end? The end of a book? The end of a chapter? Interplay, crushed under the weight of all the studios they financially supported, dwindling sales, and whoring out their successful franchises all were desperate efforts to stay afloat. Fallout received a horrific tactical strategy game Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel in 2001. And, just to confuse gamers even more, released Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel onto the PS2 and Xbox in 2004, leaving me to ask the question ‘Why would you essentially name a game the exact same as a game you released a few years ago that everybody said was terrible?’ That certainly didn’t help Interplay sell copies of the game, but it could be argued that the 2004 Brotherhood of Steel is not completely terrible.

Black Isle would naturally participate in this brand whoring as well, working on dungeon crawling spinoffs to the main Baldur’s Gate series. Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance released in 2001 and its sequel in 2004, the last game bearing the Black Isle logo before Interplay ‘folded’.

So that covers the American and Canadian developers, but what of the Europeans? Well, a German developer did throw their hat into the ring by introducing the Gothic series in 2001. Gothic showed the gaming world how to build a persistent world right, each NPC had a daily schedule, sleep at night, work during the day, gossip from time to time, drink and smoke hookah at night. Every location has NPCs on different schedules, so traveling back and forth ends up giving the player an illusion of change. Despite control problems and a messy inventory, Gothic and its sequel Gothic 2 showed a different way to execute an open world experience.

What’s a Paladin?

While the days would brighten for Bethesda, the sun would set for Interplay, but rise new studios from those ashes. The day of Troika was short but memorable, and Piranha Bytes would keep creating deep worlds despite drama from the people above them.

PC RPG Renaissance Part 4: Rebirth

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To begin the Renaissance we must finally look at what is perhaps our oldest friend in the business, and the only company to receive a mention in every single part of this series so far, Origin Systems. Many longtime fans would agree that they had their last gas in 1997 before completely falling victim to EA’s business practices. Ultima Online would release just one week before Fallout to critical and commercial success, instantly becoming the largest MMORPG to date, before being dethroned by Everquest and Lineage near the turn of the century. The last two single player experiences in the Ultima franchise, 1994’s Ultima VIII and 1999’s Ultima IX were viewed as rushed, low quality, and highly messy, so Richard Garriott left the company he founded to pursue new interests for the new millenium.

Interplay would release Fallout and bring back the glory days of single player RPG experiences, using the ideas that the company itself pioneered in the mid 80’s with Wasteland. Along with Ultima Online and Diablo, Fallout would popularize the top down detailed 2D isometric perspective that would be the staple for years to come, and set a new benchmark for expectations of a single player world. Open world exploration was back with a vengeance, not in its purest form like the old Ultima games or the newer Elder Scrolls series, but with a map where the player can choose where to go and explore the wasteland to find where locations are. The turn based combat system would also come back with a fury. Originally Fallout was designed and based on Steve Jackson’s GURPS tabletop rules system, but due to licensing disputes as the game was about to release, the team at Interplay created the now iconic SPECIAL system of character building that defines the Fallout series. The team that created Fallout would soon change their name to Black Isle Studios, and they would bear the torch that Origin once held firmly when it comes to innovation in storytelling.

Fallout 2 was released the following year, the first game to bear the Black Isle logo as developer. Fallout 2 would continue the unique feel of its predecessor, the writing based around Cold War hysteria, Mad Max, and propaganda, making heavy use of dark comedy to build up the setting and characters. But while the first game could be seen as a hopeful revival of pre-war culture with a large helping of grittiness, Fallout 2 would be built to be more like a true wild west post nuclear adventure where nothing is safe. The series takes a much darker tone than the first game, and fans loved it, claiming Fallout 2 as one of, if not the greatest, RPG experience to date nearly as soon as it released, an honor it holds to this day.

While Black Isle did incredible work on the first two Fallout games they would produce what is in my, and many other gamers’, opinion their Magnum Opus in 1999. Interplay had gotten hold of the D&D license and were already making heavy use of it, but Black Isle took a lesser known campaign setting, Planescape, and built an instant classic around it. Planescape: Torment is the definition of a cult classic, the game was critically lauded on release, but with little to no marketing from Interplay, which was now showing sizable cracks in its armor as a company, lead the game to rest in the minds of a small amount of gamers until modern digital re-releases came about and word of mouth spread like wildfire.

Black Isle’s goal with Torment was specifically to break every conceivable trope and cliche that the RPG genre had found itself wrapped around since its inception, and with the meteoric rise of Japanese console RPGs that were dominant at this time, the team had plenty to work with outside of its own largely Western PC based community.

Torment puts the player in charge of a nameless character, there are reasons behind the lack of a name, it is learned fairly quickly that The Nameless One is immortal. He can ‘die’ but all that does is lead to him going unconscious for awhile before waking up later, albeit with his memories erased. So he does not remember his name, how long he’s been alive, or what he’s done and who he’s met through his many years. Because of his long life he is gnarled, heavily scarred, and ugly, which is in stark contrast to console RPGs at the time usually starring a young, charismatic, bright eyed young pretty boy. The Nameless One is supported by an equally unique cast of characters including a floating skull, celibate succubus, a man who is cursed to constantly be on fire, a malfunctioning android, and a possessed suit of justice dealing armor among others.

For the first time since Ultima IV the entire focus on a game was given to self discovery. Torment is built around the phisosophy surrounding immortality (more as a curse than the typical belief of it being a blessing). Because of The Nameless One’s loss of memories it instantly gives the player an incredible amount of questions to ask. Who is TNO really? What has he done? How long has he lived? What impact has he had on the city of Sigil and the planes which surround it? What relationship does he have with his current team? How did he become immortal in the first place? Most of these questions and others are given some form of elaboration, but the expert writing of the game does not explicitly answer all of them. Sadly, the gameplay was not as polished as the story and could have been the major reason for its status as a cult classic.

While Black Isle was Interplay’s internal studio they found a new talent of external developers that would help to firmly plant Interplay as the new leader of PC RPGs. Bioware. I’m sure we all know the name and have played at least one of their games. The second game Bioware ever made was set in the Forgotten Realms D&D setting, and centered around the city of Baldur’s Gate, pretty easy to figure out just by looking at the title, Baldur’s Gate. It was released in 1998 and instantly received critical and commercial success. While Black Isle was initially focused on the world surrounding the player, Bioware was focused on the party members surrounding the player. This writing choice would even influence Black Isle with its own games, most notably Fallout 2 and Torment.

While the main story of Baldur’s Gate was nothing new and largely cliched and predictable to long time players it came out at a time where RPGs in general were attracting newer, younger gamers in the direct wake of Final Fantasy VII’s immense success. So for many, Fallout and Baldur’s Gate became the de facto benchmark for PC RPGs, which is a well deserved title to be honest given the differences between the two developers.

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