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Every gamer has a shelf of dusty old CD cases, each containing some game we just couldn’t wait to buy, yet never actually played. Sometimes the hot new game got eclipsed by an even hotter newer game. Or we bought a classic that we felt we should play, but didn’t. Maybe we just grabbed a bunch of games at the Big Sale. Will we ever actually play all these things stuffed away in our drawers and bottom shelves? We here at Player Affinity chased the raccoons away from that pile of old games behind our office and dug into our backlog. Here’s what we decided to try:
TOM: STARCRAFT (BLIZZARD, 1998
There was just always something else to play besides Starcraft, specifically Dawn of War II, on which I clocked up an absurd amount of multiplayer time. Having been a fan of Games Workshops Warhammer 40,000 universe for a long time, StarCraft's universe just feels a little derivative.
Playing StarCraft now, I regret not buying it myself and playing it back in the day, as elements of it feel very dated. Without meaning to turn this piece into a StarCraft vs. Dawn of War debate, I find the tactical combat of Dawn of War 2 far more rewarding than the build-order based strategy of StarCraft. Although I do still appreciate the classic building-workers-to-gather-resources style of play, StarCraft just feels too small scale to make it worth the effort.
In terms of single-player, however, Blizzard made cinematic storylines seem effortless, and the first few missions playing as the Terrans are most certainly fun, especially the cliche “Defend your base for X minutes from multiple waves” mission. The cutscenes between missions are also very well made, and fun.
Overall, StarCraft sits somewhere in between my two favorite RTS': Dawn of War 2 and Age of Empires 2. But without the scale of Empires or the tactical combat of Dawn of War, it's a little left out. Still, I definitely plan to play to the end, especially now that StarCraft2 is out so that I'm all caught up on story, and I'll definitely give the multiplayer a go, though something tells me I may be a bit behind anyone still playing it...
BEN: THE SETTLERS: RISE OF AN EMPIRE (BLUE BYTE SOFTWARE, 2007)
I had happy memories of playing on a split screen with my dad so when I saw a copy of The Settlers: Rise of an Empire on the shelf at a store I snapped it up, only to put it on my own shelf and not play it. So with this feature I decided to crack open the box and install it to give it a go.
Having not played any of the Settlers games since the original there were some major changes for me. First and foremost were the graphics, I guess a lot has changed since 1993. The visuals are pleasing to the eye with a medieval style artwork that really ties together well. Your city looks like just that, a city. Additionally the seasons change, from spring to summer to autumn to winter. As the seasons change that map changes, with snow and flowers respectively.
From what I can remember the mechanics are similar to the original, with the majority of the game play planning on what building to build were and trying to gather resources to get your economy going. Another thing that hasn’t changed is the length of a single mission. By the third mission it takes a LONG time to complete, and not because you are slow, but because certain objectives require you to wait until an opponent does something, which can take some time. Though this can be annoying at times, improving your city will easily pass the time, be it adding walls, improving roads or finally adding an extra sheep farm (crazy fun).
One of the fun things about the original was how you went about attacking opponents. You did not directly control your Knights, massing a force then marching it over. Instead you built guard towers and forts and garrisoned them with troops that would leave your castle for their new home. These Knights then had a range on how far they could attack. Click on an enemy tower and it will ask you how many of your own troops you want to send. The amount will be limited by how many troops you have garrisoned in the area. This caused you to build cheap lightly fortified buildings to expand but when you got to borders with someone you built the bigger building. It was a fun way to play and different but unfortunately in Rise of an Empire your troops handle like a normal RTS. Maybe it’s easier, but it kind of took away some of the magic for me.
Overall, the game play is similar enough that I have enjoyed it. The way the map is split up into territories that you have to claim is pretty fun. Will I be playing it through till the end? I would like too and I hope I do, but it’s not as good as some other games out there and its cutting into my Starcraft time.
Will I Play It? I hope so
ARI: DEUS EX (ION STORM, 2000)
I have to say, I was a bit disappointed. While there is a wide array of choices, it is not made very clear as to what those choices are and how to accomplish them. This had a slight immersive side effect, but hearing an associate complain bitterly about the fact I didn't find an item when I very clearly tried and failed to find it was annoying. When you do complete an entire level your way, though, the game clicks. You feel like you can impact the world around you meaningfully, and this affects the story somewhat, though I haven't played all the way through so I can't say for sure. The voice acting doesn't lend itself any favors, with racist stereotypes, government stereotypes, criminal stereotypes, homeless stereotypes, and more. It doesn't help that every voice actor (except the stereotypes) mumbles their lines with gusto, giving every character an aura of unbelievability. The combat suffers from bullet sponge enemies and weak sounding weapons, as well as poor AI. I do love the inventory system, because I miss the old style of inventory where you had to think of the size and shape of every object. The stealth aspect of the game can be enjoyable with exploration and hacking, and the soundtrack is pretty different from anything out there.
You know, I could go on forever about why Deus Ex doesn't hold up, but that doesn't detract from its importance or status as a classic at all. It was the first RPG/ Shooter hybrid, and it's ambition for its time is incredible. Also, the fact that an experience like Deus Ex hasn't been replicated, even by its sequel is a testament to how unique it is. It's not something that can ever be duplicated, and it's better that way. Despite all this praise from a gamer standpoint though, I will never finish this game. The pacing is too stop-and-start, the gameplay isn't enjoyable enough, and the story, while having many choices, isn't that good. The game simply doesn't entertain me enough from a modern gaming standpoint to make me finish it. Here's hoping that Deus Ex: Human Revolution will be as ambitious, with more refined gameplay and production values.
CHARLES: MYTH II (BUNGIE 1998)
The Myth series is a Real Time Strategy franchise that forgoes base-building and resource harvesting, instead it focuses on battlefield tactics. It’s set in a world where humanity is losing a hopeless war against an army of walking dead. Very grim stuff, but I’m still snickering at the way the game had the option for a “Small Install”, in case my hard drive can’t hold the 500 megs of the “Full Install”. Hee hee.
Once I started playing, I was impressed at Bungie’s story-telling. A still Image accompanied by a well-written narrative, a talented voice actor, and an appropriate musical core pulled me into this world, and made me care about the missions. I recall from eleven years ago that I enjoyed the story and setting from Myth 1, and was glad to be back.
Then I actually started playing the game. It was slow and frustrating. I had dirt-dumb AI, constant friendly-fire incidents and had to micro-manage my army. Simple things like “Stop shooting your allies in the back!” or “”Fight that guy who’s killing you!” and “Don’t blow up all your friends!” were constant problems. Missions also tended to involve trial and error. I’d get wiped out by ambushes, then easily win the battle on my second try. As much as I enjoy the story-telling, there are other games I’ll enjoy more. Including a certain other franchise from Bungie.
Will I Play It? Not when Halo: Reach is so close
We’ll keep digging through our pile of old games looking for lost gems worth playing. What’s in your backlog?