Posted by ArbitraryWater (11478 posts) -

With my current misguided playthrough of Neverwinter Nights 2 in full swing (at least, until Dragon Age 2 comes out next week and ruins everything), I thought it best to once again take a look at all the obscure shit from the DOS era that none of you (or I) really have any deep knowledge of. Chances are, these games have a poorly formatted or poorly written walkthrough on GameFAQs mentioning usenet groups and at least one LP on Youtube. With my weird facsination with these kinds of games as well as the D&D bender I've been on recently, it makes sense to do one of these blogs themed around all the weird old D&D games that predate Baldur's Gate and thus any semblance of modern game design. That, and the other games I wanted to do wouldn't record video correctly. As always, these are the most surface of opinions, because chances are I only play these games for like an hour or two before making a swift and shallow judgment on them. Let's dig in, shall we?
 

Dungeon Hack


While not quite "Snakes on a Plane" level of self explanatory titling, Dungeon Hack is exactly what you might think it is from the title. There will be no grand storytelling, nor lengthy dialog trees within Dungeon Hack. Instead, it's someone at SSI going "I understand those Eye of the Beholder games are quite popular. Why not make that, but with procedurally generated dungeons?" Thus, Dungeon Hack is a game made with the Eye of the Beholder engine that uses procedurally generated dungeons.   Duh.
  It's also only one character. Thus, it's slanted heavily in favor of multiclass characters, such as my Fighter/Mage/Thief in the video. I can't imagine one using a bard in this game. It's also kind of boring. Despite the hook of so-called "infinite replayability", without the set puzzles or encounters of something like EotB, it's just a lot of me pushing a lot of buttons and finding a lot of keys. Maybe it's less of that in lower levels or higher difficulty, but I'm going to say it right now: Procedurally generated gameplay is boringWill probably play for like another hour, and then never play again.
 

Dark Sun: Shattered Lands

 
Alright, so if we want to talk about games I had no idea existed until just around now, we can talk about this. First of all, it's in the Dark Sun campaign setting, a place I have very little knowledge about other than "Yo, maybe Deserts?" However, as far as I can tell everyone has Psionics, Half Giants and Bug people are races, and Wizards are called Preservers for some reason. But, the main advantage as far as I can see, is that the combat is pure turn based, which immediately endears me more than many of the other games I messed with (more on that next) because it also reminds me of Temple of Elemental Evil, a game that I still consider totally rad for those who care. Who knows, maybe this is the pre-Baldur's Gate D&D game I am capable of playing?
  
  BUG PEOPLE HAVE MULTIPLE ATTACKS PER ROUND. Will probably play again, but if me fumbling around is any indication, I still have a way to go to learn the interface. Nonetheless, a better first impression than either of the other games in this blog thing.
 

Menzoberranzan

 
I would like to thank fellow old game type blogger Mento for name dropping both this and dungeon hack as "Mediocre old D&D games", and since I couldn't get any of the gold box games I *ahem* acquired to work, I settled for this game. First off, I had to look several times to make sure I spelled the title correctly. Then, I found out that this game is running on the same engine that later (or maybe earlier?) powered Ravenloft: Strahd's Possession and its sequel. Thus, it's the era when it was no longer cool to have your first person dungeon crawler bound to a grid (1994! The Future!) and also when bad polygonal graphics were all in vogue. This combination makes Menzo a much harder game to look at than many of its contemporaries. As far as I can tell, it's a fairly fleshed out D&D game from that era, you wander towns aimlessly, cursing that you didn't annotate your map the first time, and occasionally you dungeon crawl. I've seen an LP of Ravenloft, and if this is anything like how that ends up, I don't think I have the patience to play it. I almost had trouble putting out that building as in this video, hot off the video compressor!   
  Hey! I can now upload videos longer than 15 minutes! With some proper video recording equipment or software, I could do an LP. Of course, if I was going to do a LP I would do it on Might and Magic VII, because that's the only game I know well enough to not stumble like a tool. Oh, where was I? Will probably something something again.
 
And for fun, here's the list of games I tried before I picked this one: Darklands, Pool of Radiance, Pools of Darkness, Champions of Krynn, King's Bounty.
 
#1 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11478 posts) -

With my current misguided playthrough of Neverwinter Nights 2 in full swing (at least, until Dragon Age 2 comes out next week and ruins everything), I thought it best to once again take a look at all the obscure shit from the DOS era that none of you (or I) really have any deep knowledge of. Chances are, these games have a poorly formatted or poorly written walkthrough on GameFAQs mentioning usenet groups and at least one LP on Youtube. With my weird facsination with these kinds of games as well as the D&D bender I've been on recently, it makes sense to do one of these blogs themed around all the weird old D&D games that predate Baldur's Gate and thus any semblance of modern game design. That, and the other games I wanted to do wouldn't record video correctly. As always, these are the most surface of opinions, because chances are I only play these games for like an hour or two before making a swift and shallow judgment on them. Let's dig in, shall we?
 

Dungeon Hack


While not quite "Snakes on a Plane" level of self explanatory titling, Dungeon Hack is exactly what you might think it is from the title. There will be no grand storytelling, nor lengthy dialog trees within Dungeon Hack. Instead, it's someone at SSI going "I understand those Eye of the Beholder games are quite popular. Why not make that, but with procedurally generated dungeons?" Thus, Dungeon Hack is a game made with the Eye of the Beholder engine that uses procedurally generated dungeons.   Duh.
  It's also only one character. Thus, it's slanted heavily in favor of multiclass characters, such as my Fighter/Mage/Thief in the video. I can't imagine one using a bard in this game. It's also kind of boring. Despite the hook of so-called "infinite replayability", without the set puzzles or encounters of something like EotB, it's just a lot of me pushing a lot of buttons and finding a lot of keys. Maybe it's less of that in lower levels or higher difficulty, but I'm going to say it right now: Procedurally generated gameplay is boringWill probably play for like another hour, and then never play again.
 

Dark Sun: Shattered Lands

 
Alright, so if we want to talk about games I had no idea existed until just around now, we can talk about this. First of all, it's in the Dark Sun campaign setting, a place I have very little knowledge about other than "Yo, maybe Deserts?" However, as far as I can tell everyone has Psionics, Half Giants and Bug people are races, and Wizards are called Preservers for some reason. But, the main advantage as far as I can see, is that the combat is pure turn based, which immediately endears me more than many of the other games I messed with (more on that next) because it also reminds me of Temple of Elemental Evil, a game that I still consider totally rad for those who care. Who knows, maybe this is the pre-Baldur's Gate D&D game I am capable of playing?
  
  BUG PEOPLE HAVE MULTIPLE ATTACKS PER ROUND. Will probably play again, but if me fumbling around is any indication, I still have a way to go to learn the interface. Nonetheless, a better first impression than either of the other games in this blog thing.
 

Menzoberranzan

 
I would like to thank fellow old game type blogger Mento for name dropping both this and dungeon hack as "Mediocre old D&D games", and since I couldn't get any of the gold box games I *ahem* acquired to work, I settled for this game. First off, I had to look several times to make sure I spelled the title correctly. Then, I found out that this game is running on the same engine that later (or maybe earlier?) powered Ravenloft: Strahd's Possession and its sequel. Thus, it's the era when it was no longer cool to have your first person dungeon crawler bound to a grid (1994! The Future!) and also when bad polygonal graphics were all in vogue. This combination makes Menzo a much harder game to look at than many of its contemporaries. As far as I can tell, it's a fairly fleshed out D&D game from that era, you wander towns aimlessly, cursing that you didn't annotate your map the first time, and occasionally you dungeon crawl. I've seen an LP of Ravenloft, and if this is anything like how that ends up, I don't think I have the patience to play it. I almost had trouble putting out that building as in this video, hot off the video compressor!   
  Hey! I can now upload videos longer than 15 minutes! With some proper video recording equipment or software, I could do an LP. Of course, if I was going to do a LP I would do it on Might and Magic VII, because that's the only game I know well enough to not stumble like a tool. Oh, where was I? Will probably something something again.
 
And for fun, here's the list of games I tried before I picked this one: Darklands, Pool of Radiance, Pools of Darkness, Champions of Krynn, King's Bounty.
 
#2 Posted by august (3827 posts) -

Man, I didn't even know they made Ravenloft games. hmmm.

#3 Posted by Mento (2442 posts) -

Whoo! A shout out! These are all games I played back before there were way better modern games to replace them, so it's halfway admirable you're giving them a shot now. I feel like I should be writing an apology.
 
Agreed on Hack's single character mode sort of limiting the enjoyment. Not sure why they went that route, since most EOTB games had four-member parties, but I guess it would've been harder to balance the game with that much versatility. I liked that you could, if so inclined, choose to eliminate all the key/door puzzles, underwater sections, pitfalls and level-draining undead: I wish every game allowed you to turn off the least fun parts (while keeping them available for hardcore runs). I still enjoy it more as a Roguelike than, say, the byzantine laws and rules of something like NetHack. After a few floors that game becomes completely incomprehensible.
 
Dark Sun I probably should've mentioned, but didn't. It's another game where I appreciate the choices it gives you: In the early game, you're given several opportunities to Spartacus your way out of gladiator enslavement, scour the desert for allies and return to topple the tyrant, which you can entirely ignore, grow grotesquely powerful fighting increasingly stronger things in the arena and simply march across the city and murder everyone. It's clear that they didn't know how to handle the overpowered thri-kreen, because those guys are brutal. Four attacks and the best psionic powers in the game? Pfft.
 
Menzoberranzan I barely recalled, beyond remembering that you eventually pick up Drizzt at some point and take on the Underdark, which didn't get many video game appearances until almost every recent Forgotten Realms game made it mandatory for high-level players. I never played the Ravenloft games, though.
 
Apparently they made a Spelljammer game at one point, so I kind of want to see how that is. Probably not so great, considering its age.

Moderator
#4 Posted by Punk1984 (549 posts) -
@ArbitraryWater: When you're ready to play a real bad one look up "Deathkeep" I bought it at the height of both my D&D infatuation and MS-DOS infatuation. It is real bad.
#5 Posted by Yummylee (21271 posts) -

I'm surprised you haven't began any ''Let's play'' with these games yet. I enjoy reading your blogs, but visually watching you play it with commentary can't be competed against.

#6 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11478 posts) -
@august: I know, right? Right? I had no idea Strahd's Posession was a thing until I stumbled upon it on the youtubes. Oddly enough, not on any of the shady abandonware sites I looked at.  They should just make it illegal to set your D&D game in the Forgotten Realms because every other official campaign setting is so much more interesting. Where's the Eberron RPG? (then again, maybe I wouldn't want a new D&D video game in its current incarnation, because then it'd pretty much just be WOW.)
 
@Mento: I've done this before. 3 times to be exact, with the most recent before this one having links to the other two. To be fair, I found what little I played of Nethack to be totally incomprehensible (putting it in the same league as Dwarf Fortress), so this game is at least a step above that. I get the general impression that D&D games in this era (Post Eye of the Beholder, Pre Baldur's Gate) are all mixed bags on some level. Nonetheless, of all of them I think Dark Sun is the one I am most likely to play more of. Menzo is about Drow, so of course you get Drizzit. I like the idea of two player characters and two NPCs as a game design because it gives you that Icewind Dale type freedom while also letting you pick up other characters that aren't quite as stat-cheesed (18/00 strength for everyone!).
#7 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11478 posts) -
@Abyssfull:  If I had a mic I would totally be down for that, even though it would be me complaining a lot. The advantage of these movies is that DOSbox has an internal video recorder so I don't have to use the trial version of FRAPS or whatever. My computer probably couldn't handle FRAPS if it tried...
#8 Posted by Skald (4367 posts) -

I should give something like this a shot. I just found a great frontend for DOSBox that makes it a real pleasure to use, but at the same time, I haven't really had much of an excuse to use it.

#9 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11478 posts) -
@extremeradical: Well, shady abandonware sites are an excellent place to find old DOS games if you are willing to accept the fact that what you are doing may or may not be strictly legal (but really, who cares? No one is making money off this, and a lot of these old games have copyright conflicts that prevent them from being re-released). If not, Arena and Daggerfall are worth a try, being totally legal freeware even though I have my own personal problems with both.
#10 Posted by Skald (4367 posts) -
@ArbitraryWater: Man, Daggerfall is probably one of the weirdest RPGs I've ever played, but I've certainly played my share of that. 

Come to think of it, I've never really tried the old Origin Systems games. Might give some of those a shot.
#11 Posted by Tordah (2471 posts) -

You're getting more and more obscure with these blogs. Respect!  
 
I'm digging the sounds in Dungeon Hack. All the swinging and hitting sounds of the sword sound like they were recorded by a dude going "SWISH! SWOOSH!"" in a recording booth. 
 
Dark Sun looks tolerable, but probably not something I would have the patience for.
 
That Menzo game sure has an ugly HUD. I like the death screams of the enemies though.

#12 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11478 posts) -
@Tordah: I dunno. I'm pretty sure Ishar and Realms of Arkania are more obscure than games holding the D&D license, but as far as D&D games go, these aren't Pool of Radiance. Dungeon Hack has a lot of the same sound effects from Eye of the Beholder, if I recall correctly. As I said, that game used the same tech. I got to about the second level in EotB before immediately getting stuck on a puzzle, so maybe this is better by merit of me being able to play it. Menzo's deep purple is definitely pretty hard on the eyes. Ravenloft's HUD changed color depending on your location, so maybe this does that?
#13 Posted by Raven10 (1728 posts) -

I haven't heard of any of these. Crazy old school D&D games.