Nostalgia: Might and Magic

If I was to make a list of my top ten favourite computer games of all time, I’d have to sit and really think about it for a while. I’ve played a lot of great games over the years. I can say with absolute certainty however, that one of the top five positions would be occupied by Might and Magic III: Isles of Terra. It was the first computer game I ever purchased (not including my Commodore 64), and I spent hours playing it, making my own maps along the way.

The other thing I know about my top ten list, is that the number one spot would be filled by Might and Magic VI: The Mandate of Heaven. It’s been years since I’ve played it, but no game since has absorbed me into its world as much as MM6 did. The atmosphere was tremendous, especially as your party moved further west. The land became more barren, more bleak, and the monsters more powerful. I can remember my sense of dread building as I progressed through the game.

Those are the only two Might and Magic games I’ve played. I bought Might and Magic V: Darkside of Xeen, but never got around to playing it. It was one of my famous bargain bin purchases, the kind where “I can’t believe that game is in the bargain bin, I gotta get it now!”, but then never play it.

This past weekend, Good Old Games had a sale on all Might and Magic titles. Despite knowing I’ll probably never get around to playing them, I couldn’t stop myself from making a purchase. I got Might and Magic 1 through 8 for just over $13. After downloading the games, I immediately launched Might and Magic VI and was assaulted with a blast of nostalgia as the intro movie began. When the “3DO” logo and voice-over appeared, it felt like only a week had passed since I last played, not the 12 or 13 years that it’s actually been. What a great game.

Nostalgia

Many, many years ago I used to take weekly trips to Office Depot because they had a nice little bargain bin filled with some pretty good cheap PC games.  It was always fun to go there to see if any gems had been added to the pile. Last week I noticed that Office Depot had a “store closing” sale and I popped in to check it out; not to search for games of course, as the bargain bin disappeared over a decade ago.

Browsing through stores looking for PC games has gotten fairly depressing these past few years as PC game sections have continued to shrink in size.  Best Buy and Futureshop are the best bets; they still have a decent selection, mostly comprised of newer titles. Gamestop is not an option for PC games at all, unless you’re looking for Blizzard titles.

It should be no secret to anyone that in the PC gaming world at least, the digital services are replacing (or have already replaced) the brick and mortar stores. I still prefer being able to physically stroll down the aisle of a store and checking out the backs of the game boxes, but during this past year I finally joined the rest of the world and have started to purchase more games off Steam.  I’m certainly aware of the other services out there, like Impulse, and Direct2Drive, but I’ve had my Steam account since Half-Life 2 and don’t really want to bother with another account for another service. I have a feeling however, that that’s about to change.

I checked out Good Old Games for the first time today and it immediately brought back the feeling of visiting the Office Depot bargain bin from so long ago. I managed to restrain myself today, but I’ve got my eye on a few titles which I’m sure I’ll end up getting in the not too distant future.  Titles like Planescape: Torment, The Temple of Elemental Evil, and Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura.

I’ve wanted to play Planescape for some time now; it routinely appears on “best CRPG ever” lists, so seeing it available for just $10 is pretty exciting. I almost bought it on the spot, but then I remembered the huge pile of un-played games that I already have, particularly Baldur’s Gate II, which I’ve been meaning to play for some time now.  So my new vow, proclaimed after once again installing Baldur’s Gate II, is to not purchase Planescape, or anything else off of Good Old Games, until I’ve finally finished Baldur’s Gate II.

Treasure Chest

Deep in the bowels of the storage area under our basement stairs I have three cardboard boxes that were tucked away when we moved into our house seven years ago.  Within these boxes are smaller boxes of computer games that I purchased many moons before that.  I was struck by a bit of nostalgia the other day so I burrowed my way into the storage area and dug out those boxes and found some great stuff.

Sometime around the mid nineties, the Office Depot near me had a constantly revolving bargain bin of computer games.  I visited the store almost weekly just to check out what they had.  Often there wouldn’t be much of interest, but just as often there’d be a real gem in there.  These three cardboard boxes are full of games I mostly bought on the cheap from Office Depot.

Pictured above are some of the role-playing games among this old stash of mine, some of which I’ve got some very fond memories of.  Included in the picture are:

  • Might and Magic III: Isles of Terra
  • Might and Magic V: Darkside of Xeen
  • Might and Magic VI: The Mandate of Heaven
  • Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos
  • Entomorph: Plague of the Darkfall
  • The Summoning
  • Eye of the Beholder
  • Eye of the Beholder II: The Legend of Darkmoon
  • Eye of the Beholder III: Assault on Myth Drannor
  • Daemonsgate
  • Unlimited Adventures: Fantasy Construction Kit
  • Wizardry VII: Crusaders of the Dark Savant
  • The Complete Ultima VII
  • Dungeon Hack
  • Realms of Arkania: Blade of Destiny

One thing led to another and I soon found myself installing these games on my PC with the help of DosBox.  I’m kind of curious to see if I’ll be able to bring myself to play some of these again, or if their time has long past.  I never did play Ultima VII and that’s one game that I’d definitely like to check out.

The one thing that immediately stands out for me is how awesome most of the manuals are with these games.   You definitely don’t see manuals like these any more.  They’ve got pages upon pages of lore, followed by detailed references on the game mechanics, and some even include designer’s notes, which is something I really miss in games these days.

I’m going to try and spend an hour or two with each of these games and post my impressions here over the next little while.  Should be fun.  I hope.

Blast from the Past

I was browsing the Xbox Live Arcade yesterday and noticed that R-Type Dimensions had just released.  Way back when I lived in Ottawa, The Chapel Hill Quickie Convenience Store in my neighborhood had an R-Type arcade machine into which I fed many a quarter.  The store was right at the end of my paper route and I’d stop in and play almost daily.  R-Type was the sole reason I begged and pleaded my parents for a TurboGrafx-16 which had a “near arcade-perfect” port of the game.

The TG-16 ultimately failed miserably in North America, but I loved that console.  I was big into shoot ’em up games and the TG-16 had the best library of them available.  Aside from R-Type, I can remember playing titles like Blazing Lazers, Super Star Soldier, and another of my favourites, Soldier Blade.  I was crazy-good at shooter games, and often impressed my friends with the zen-like state I entered when playing them.  The games seemed to slow down for me and I could fly through the hail of oncoming bullets like they weren’t even there.  I was Neo in a shoot ’em up Matrix.

I downloaded the R-Type Dimensions demo and smiled when the familiar sounds and music of the opening level flowed out of the speakers.  Three enemies in I flew into a bullet and blew up.  Times have changed.

Best Left A Memory

I kept a promise to myself and fought my way through to the end of Diablo II’s first act. I’m not going to lie; it was a struggle. Not because it was overly difficult or anything, but because I found it to be somewhat mind-numbingly boring.

I still consider Diablo II to be one of my all-time favourites. I’ve poured countless hours into it, which may be part of why it was so hard for me to continue playing it the other day; I can’t even begin to guess how many times I’ve been through Act I. I originally thought it most likely a case of me outgrowing its design. Click, click, click… kill monsters… click, click, click… drink a potion. Lather, rinse, repeat, ad nauseam.

Wait a second, didn’t I just describe the game play of countless other games? After all, that’s pretty much all you do in World of Warcraft. Come to think of it, I still quite enjoy Titan Quest which is the exact same game as Diablo II, just in a different candy coating. So my indifference to my old favourite has got to be that I’ve seen the content a million times before, doesn’t it?

After defeating Andariel I took my hand off the mouse and said out loud, “thank goodness that’s over”. Not, “that was cool!” like I undoubtedly said years ago the first time I killed her. There was no sense of accomplishment, no gratification, only relief. Relief that I had upheld my silly self promise to force myself to play through at least Act I.

After finishing the first act, I was going to reassess my desire to continue playing through the game. I’d still like to see the expansion content again, as I’ve only played through Lord of Destruction’s Act V once, and I’m genuinely interested in checking it out again. On the other hand, the thought of going through Acts II through IV for the billionth time appeal to me about as much as a hole in the head. I get precious little gaming time these days and I don’t want to “waste” them on a game I’m not enjoying. Fortunately, I found an answer to this most heinous dilemma.

I’m going to cheat.

I don’t know why I didn’t think of this earlier, but a quick internet search led me to a handy little program called Hero Editor. I created a new test character, a Druid named Testy, and used the editor to make him level 99 with all stats and talents maxed, along with access to all the waypoints in the first four acts.

After entering the game I teleported to the final waypoint in Hell, just outside of Chaos Sanctuary where Diablo himself lay in wait. I cast Hurricane, which creates a swirling vortex around my character, and walked forward. Every monster that touched my Hurricane died instantly. For some strange reason, I took great pleasure in my ill-gotten new powers. I activated the seals and summoned forth Diablo, who fell at my feet in about five seconds.

Next up, Act V!