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Ten overlooked computer games that deserve attention - Part 1/2

Monday, 9 April 2012

These ten computer games deserve more attention than they originally got (in my opinion anyway). Whether it be a great game that was only rated for average, or a decent game which was not perfect by any means, but isn't known literally by anyone thus at least deserving a run. Part 1/2 includes "Overlooked Games" position 6-10.

Read Also Part 2/2 at here - positions 1-5 (Coming soon):
5. Grim Fandango
4. Anachronox
3. Knights of Honor
2. See only at the article!
1. See only at the article!
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10. HardWar (:The Future is Greedy, 1998)


(Mayday mayday! I'm sorry I shot down your twin brother)



“There is a war going out out there – WAR – and it ain’t easy – HARD – HardWar” – so ends the introduction movie to the game, which itself is quite promising clip. Fine acting and cheesy as hell rant by main character about surrounding world. Reminds me of Kyle Reese’s rant about Terminator-800 to Sarah in The Terminator “It can’t be bargained with – it does not feel the pain!” and so on. Anyways, to the point.

HardWar is totally unknown sci-fi space flight simulator released in 1998 by Gremlin Interactive/Interplay. It was developed however by The Software Refinery. Can’t say I know anything else about them. And to be honest I don’t think many others do either. I hardly hear this game mentioned anywhere, and it’s slightly shame as it was a flight simulator that should be eventually matched with several alike, that actually are known several times better.

This game has share of it’s similarities between likes of Elite and Freelancer, or even Privateer. You play a freelance pilot, a “moth pilot” to be precise as the space ships are called as such. You start the game by selecting your past from few options, which defines mostly your starting gear and ship – as well as who hate you. The game takes place on city of Misplaced Optimism, a space colony located on Saturn’s Moon Titan.

That’s also main difference between Elite and Privateer, instead of flying in space, you fly on planet’s surface, in sort of “craters” connected together by tunnels. Bounty hunt, scavenge, rob (although different factions will not be to pleased if you shoot down their cargo ships..) or buy and sell materials. Whatever you wish. Despite the nice intro video, the story might never quite take off and the game is not perfect by any means, but definitely deserves a glance by those who enjoy this type of games.



9. One Must Fall 2097 (1994)



One of the better, and obscure fighting games for computer, with one static screen viewed from side in every battle - screen that doesn't scroll. It was developed by Diversions Entertainment and released by Epic MegaGames in 1994. This game plays out pretty much like any Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter or Killer Instinct – as for a broad statement.

What you can do is select out of ten fighters, with each having their own Story mode and background, as well is different amount out of the three stats: Power, Agility and Endurance. The next pick is your robot, of which you can choose out of ten different ones – each with their own moves and attacks. That makes 10 x 10 possible character and robot combinations (or do I suck in math?), which is pretty cool.

The arenas have “hazards”, meaning that there are varying elements that can kill you other than the enemy: spikes pushing out of back-wall will pierce you if you’re not careful and observe the right timing when they extend. Or you may throw your enemy into an electric wall to give him nice warm shock.

Graphically this game is quite nice, and still looks allright. Nothing spectacular, it’s just it’s artistic style that has aged well in my opinion. Game music (main theme) is also quite kick ass, and reminds me of good old times when game soundtracks were made out of steel instead of tin. Criminally unknown. This game was released as "freeware" by the game developer in late 90's and can be thus downloaded legally for free now for example at DosGamesArchive.

(Nostalgic menu theme)


8. X-Com: Apocalypse (1997)


(X-Com Apoc happened in single city instead of full Earth)


Developed by Mythos game, who also developed original UFO: Enemy Unknown in 1994. This game caused some controversy by both press and fans. X-Com Apocalypse came out 1997 and it was rated 92/100 with “Good Game” award in finnish Pelit-magazine (surprisingly) while there were many opinions from the lower rating end also. We at The Gamers Dungeon rated it 87/100, read full review here. Why was this game hated by some?

Well for starters Mythos decided to dump down the game’s scale (geographically thinking) by limiting the game world from whole Earth to only one city Mega-Primus. While it may sound limiting, that may not be the whole truth. In Earth mode of two previous games, you couldn’t actually play the whole earth, just specific spots where events happen. While in previous X-Coms in world map screen (equal to Apocalypse’s city view screen), the events involved mostly only seeing flying ufo’s and such. In Apocalypse Mythos tried to create one, decently large, living and breathing city – instead of static looking Earth view with only thing to see really to be different U.F.O’s flying around. Did they succeed?

I’m not saying that Apocalypses city view works better than in previous X-Com games equal – Earth screen. They are just widely different – and I like them both different ways. But limiting the game area from Earth to single city may sound less interesting idea. It’s like being demoted from Earth Police to City Sheriff. The city however worked quite nicely as a platform for X-Com world. Not perfect, but managed to hold it’s own. In my opinion at least.

Another thing was to change game from turn-based combat to either turn- or real-time based, depending of your choice. “The game lost it’s roots!” someone might yell, but I don’t personally see what’s the problem here, since you can play either one, and they both work okay. Why adding another way of playing is bad, when you can actually still play it turn-based also if you wish?

Well Apocalypse sure had toy’ish looks on it’s graphics. Enemies, the city, pretty much everything looks quite crappy – quite, but not totally. Not perhaps pleasing the eyesight the most, one can still ignore it as graphics are not totally bad. Soundtrack is quite haunting also and this game has atmosphere quite high.

The game plays nice, offers very lengthy run before you’re finished. And you get to visit alien dimension even at the end. Other than changing games world setting and adding real-time as an option, it stayed true to X-Com’s roots – and is unfairly bashed in my opinion. Hunting down the UFO’s in the city is not actually that bad, and once you enter the combat screen invading UFO – as an old fan of the franchise you should feel pretty much home. If you hated this when it came out for it’s idea, perhaps giving it another go wouldn’t be so bad idea?

(Combat was true to it's roots, in addition with optional real-time)


7 The Temple of Elemental Evil (2003)





Developed by Troika Games (who also did Arcanum) and published by Atari in 2003, Temple of Elemental Evil stands as one of the rare role-playing games for computer using AD&D 3.5 edition rules – and was praised for implementing them well into the game. At same time the game was criticized for lack of a good story and being released totally unfinished and buggy. As it stands for now, Metacritic score for the game is 71 - which is way low for patched up and modded version.

Troika then patched the game later on, when wide audience didn’t give rats ass anymore. The game still holds quite faithful fanbase, who have also came out with great mod called Circle Of Eight Mod Pack. The game has reached the stage where it’s now well playable and polished by patches and the fan mod, and any AD&D game fan should definitely give it a go.

Story shortly: Six miles from Hommlet a group of hovels formed a center for evil activity – they built a small chapel dedicated to an evil god. Locals ignored this as the temple was located in marsh – a mistake right there. For three years these evil forces robbed and pillaged lands around Hommlet – but they got too power-hungry and were eventually defeated in an open combat after challenging kingdoms of the north. The evil forces were slain and their temple – destroyed – sealed with magic and spells. Temple served as a mecca for adventurers who used to visit it, but over time they stopped coming and the village went on to continue it’s life normally. Until now..

This is one of those large freely explorable top-down party-based AD&D cRPGs where you control a party of five, free of your creation character by character from the scratch. The game’s graphics hold well even today, with only menus looking bit bland, but the environments themselves look very nice. This game was unfinished back then and thus overlooked greatly - but has now been hugely fixed, and once it’s now totally playable and cheap –one could get it for cheap (for example GOG.com sells it as all patched up download with extras, manuals, for $5,99), add Circle Of Eight mod pack (instructions and links here) and enjoy the ride.

(Circle of Eight mod patched the game and added tons of new content)


6 Arx Fatalis (2002)







Arx Fatalis is a computer role-playing game developed by small studio Arkane Studios (who also are about to released Disnohored this year, read preview here), which was released in 2002 for PC and later ported for Xbox (if I remember correctly this was the order). Arx Fatalis stands for “fatal fortress”

The game was hugely influenced by dungeon crawlers, especially those with bit more open world, if that’s even possible in case of pure dungeon crawlers.. well actually it is, because it’s biggest influences came from Ultima Underworld I and II, which succeeded creating dungeon crawler with open world – sort of. In Arx Fatalis you create one character with varying skills and stats, which mostly involve spell and combat skills, and then you’re off to go for adventure viewed in first-person.

The Fortress consists of various levels such as in Ultima, which has Trolls, Goblins, Dwarves and Humans, and such, as inhabitants – which you will be encountering when adventuring on. At the beginning of the game you start by waking up in a prison cell, which you will eventually escape from – and discover that your main quest is to imprison the God of Destruction, Akbaa, who’s trying to manifest himself in Arx Fatalis.

Arx Fatalis involves authentic spellcasting system, but I’m not going to go on explaining it here – I’ll just say that this game’s very overlooked and don’t get mentioned too often. Metacritic score of 77 might not do it full justice in the eyes of dungeoncrawler type of games fan – so if you feel like being one, then this game is one to be checked out for sure!

To be found downloadable at GOG.com for $5,99.

-www.thegamersdungeon.com




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