The Pile of Shame.
We all have one. That ever-increasing list of games that is left abandoned, unfinished, unplayed or even uninstalled. Maybe you picked it up for a sale price that was too good to pass up, or maybe you got the game for free. Maybe you purchased it full price, but weren’t in the right headspace to enjoy it. Maybe you played it for a bit and just didn’t like it.
I made a few New Year’s resolutions this for this year. One of them was to start working on the steadily increasing pile of shame around my waistline. The other was to make some progress on the pile of shame in my game library. I’m not too sure how I’ll be able to reconcile getting fit with sitting around playing games, but I plan to give it a go.
Week 1: So many Chosen Ones…
This week, I’ve been working three classics that have been buried right at the bottom of the pile for as long as I can remember — two RPGs and one first-person shooter.
Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness (Origin Systems, 1981): The influence of the Ultima series on RPGs is absolutely massive. It is one of the longest running franchises in gaming history, beginning with the series’ precursor, 1979’s Akalabeth (often referred to as “Ultima 0”). I first encountered the Ultima series briefly in the late 90s with Ultima VII: Serpent Isle before dabbling in Ultima Online. However my first major experience with the series was the widely derided Ultima IX: Ascension (although, unlike many, I quite enjoyed it). Since then, I’ve returned to explore Ultima IV, Ultima VI and Ultima VII in greater detail, but I’m yet to complete them. So my first goal this year is to conquer this immense series, starting with the very dated Ultima I. It’s been a bit of a slog so far, and like so many games of its era, it is punishingly difficult. However, it’s a great little distraction on the couch with a laptop.
Fallout 2 (Black Isle Studios, 1998): The original Fallout (Interplay Productions, 1997) is one of my favourite RPGs of all time. The writing, world building, plot, characters and gameplay are all top-notch. Fallout 2 took all those elements to the next level, while massively expanding the world. Like so many great RPGs, it suffered from a buggy release, but that didn’t blunt its long-lasting appeal and RPG aficionados endlessly debate which is the greater of the two. I first played Fallout 2 in the early 2000s and was blown away by the deep and responsive world. Unfortunately, circumstances prevented me from ever completing the game. So I’m here to finish the job.
Heretic (Raven Software, 1994): Heretic and its sister series Hexen are cult classics that took the first person shooter to a world of gothic dark fantasy instead of the usual science fiction that was common for the first-person shooter genre. I enjoyed Heretic 2 multiplayer and my brief experience with Hexen 2, but I am yet to experience the two prequels. I’ll be making my way through these blood-soaked fantasy shooters in chronological order: Heretic, Hexen: Beyond Heretic, Hexen 2 and Heretic II.