I don't have an update on Orthanc this week. In addition to NaNoWriMo, I've developed an unhealthy obsession with the Legend of Zelda series. Playing Orthanc has taken a back seat to all of that, and I haven't made a lot of progress since my last post. I've mapped out the remainder of level two, and lost a few characters along the way, but it hardly merits a full post.
So instead of that, I'm going to break out the hoariest of chestnuts that a gaming blogger can break out: a list of my top ten games. It might not be the most original thing, but I actually think it's beneficial to what I'm doing here. If I'm going to give my opinions about a bunch of RPGs and adventure games and expect anyone to listen, it probably helps to lay out my all-time favourites so you can get a grip on my tastes.
So here goes, in no particular order.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
I could very easily have chosen Ocarina of Time, but I had to give the edge to the SNES classic. I just finished playing through it again for the umpteenth time, and even though I know it back-to-front it still reeled me in. This is the Zelda franchise at its best, with the perfect balance between non-linear exploration and plot progression. It's not as obscure as the earlier games, and it doesn't railroad like the later games can. It just has one great big world to dive into, with more areas opening up as you progress and gain new items. It's a masterpiece, as close to flawless as a game can get.
Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny
There had to be an Ultima on this list, and I went with this one over Ultima IV. It was a close call, but I'm trying not to let one series dominate the list. As much as I loved Ultima IV, I don't think a game has ever sucked me in as hard as Warriors of Destiny. I was physically shaking with anger at certain parts of this game, and I don't think I've ever wanted to kill a video game antagonist as much as Lord Blackthorn. It's another game with a large, open world to explore, and that always wins points with me. One of the best RPGs ever made.
I fell in love with this game as soon as I loaded it into my SNES and that menacing, eerie music crept in. Super Metroid just oozes atmosphere, and once again it has a large world to explore that opens up as you gain new items and abilities. I spent countless hours combing this game for secrets, bombing walls and floors, and scanning everywhere. I had to find everything, and eventually I did. Man, just writing about this game makes me want to go back to it. It's been a long time.
Pool of Radiance
There was inevitably going to be a Gold Box game on here, and despite its flaws I went with the original. You might be noticing a pattern here, but it's the non-linearity of it that swayed me. At first there are only a few areas to explore, but eventually the whole of the city of Phlan is open to you, and there's nothing stopping you from trying your luck in Valhingen Graveyard, or any other place too deadly for your party. This is the best implementation of D&D yet done as a PC game, especially when it comes to the combat engine: they got it right the first time, and it's never been bettered.
Bard's Tale 3: The Thief of Fate
It could have been Bard's Tale I, but it took me while to warm up to that game's steep difficulty. It was the third installment in the series that first grabbed my attention, as possibly the very first RPG I was utterly obsessed with. Most of my high school years were spent playing this game, with coke and chips on one side and pen and graph paper on the other. I still have those maps, and to this day I never quite feel right when I'm not mapping an RPG myself. I never got all that far as a kid, but I roamed around those dungeons killing monsters for hours, making maps and amassing XP. I eventually finished it, some 20 years later, and it was a hell of a satisfying experience.
Wonder Boy 3: The Dragon's Trap
The best reason to own a Sega Master System. Wonder Boy 3 was a break from its platforming predecessors, presenting (let's say it again) an open world ripe for exploration. You start the game being cursed into the form of a dragon, and must cycle through a number of forms during your quest before becoming a boy again. It's a cracking good game that doesn't get enough love.
The SNES original. It's my favourite racing game of all time, and my favourite multi-player game of all time. It still holds up, and Nintendo have yet to outdo it.
Quest for Glory
I had to include a Sierra game, and I agonised over the choice. It could have been a King's Quest, or a Space Quest, but... I went with Quest for Glory. Or, to be more accurate, Hero's Quest, as I'm writing about the EGA original and not the VGA remake. It's just a perfect adventure game. The humour works, the puzzles are pitched at the right difficulty, and the skill system is integrated really well, providing a number of solutions to every problem.
Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss
I'm kind of breaking my own rule here by including another Ultima, but this game is just too good. If I'm being honest, the sequel is better, but there's something about the first one I just like more. It gets points for innovation, being one of the earliest 1st-person 3D games (it beat Wolfenstein 3D by a few weeks, I believe, and with a much more advanced engine). I love the dungeon setting, and the ability to interact with the environment. I especially love the beginning, where you are thrown into the Abyss with nothing, forced to scrounge for weapons and food before being killed, or starving to death. So good.
The Last Ninja
I was an 80s kid, and the 80s there was one thing cooler than anything else: ninjas. The Last Ninja was the best ninja-based computer game out there. The soundtrack was killer. Fighting past samurai, jumping from stone to stone over raging rivers, running from giant spiders in the prison, running past the samurai so that they commit seppuku... The Last Ninja was rad!