Hilarious Misadventures in DOSland. Redux.

Yeah. I'm doing another one of these. Sure, as my Alpha Protocol blog shows, people are far more likely to comment on something modern than old crap, but everyone's always talking about modern stuff. Old stuff is my wheelhouse. Anyways, thanks to DOSbox's internal video codec, I can show you people exactly the kind of obscure crap that I run into in my quest to play old games and blog about them. You know the drill.  
Prior Installments:
(Blog 1) 
(Blog 2)
 

The Elder Scrolls: Arena

 
I've already covered Daggerfall in one of my earliest blogs, and have since been torn on whether I like it genuinely or ironically (as well as having been chewed out by some crazy person who signed up just to chew me out. And then replied to my comments 6 months later. Dick. No seriously, check the comments out). However, one thing's for sure, and that is that Arena (the first Elder Scrolls game, released in '94) is not good. Certainly, it's open, as all non-spinoff Elder Scrolls games are, but it lacks a lot of other TES mainstays, such as custom classes, skills that progress as you use them, and enjoyment. It's rough. Admittedly, so are all the other TES games. But this game doesn't have anything to make up for it. Whatever. Just watch. You'll see. You'll all see.   
    
  
Yeah. A double dose. The main reason it had to be two videos was because I had to consult the password sheet and I didn't want anything to crash. Will probably never genuinely play again. 
 

Ishar: Legend of the Fortress

 
No. Just no. Of all the purchases I have made on GOG, this is one of the less smart ones.  If you want a more concise and detailed description, check out my friend Ahoodedfigure's blogs on the subject. To be fair, Ishar 3 seems playable. This, does not. I blame the french. And I accidentally set the language to french. So it works out. 
  
  1000 gold to save? What kind of fucked up shit is that? WILL NOT PLAY AGAIN
 

Betrayal at Krondor

 
What's this? Do I see competence? Why yes, I do. Unfortunately, I also see DOSbox screwing up when I try to record this game. So the video isn't by me. Anyways, BAK interests me for several reasons: 1. It doesn't seem agonizingly alienating. 2. It's based on a series of novels (albeit a fairly pulpy series. The Riftwar saga by Raymond E. Feist, if anyone is familiar). 3. It has a seemingly well written story in an era where Final Fantasy IV (or II, I guess if we are calling it by it's original US title) is the high watermark for stories in Video Games. 4. It uses digitized photographs of actors wearing absolutley hilarious costumes. 5. At the very least, the battle system isn't broken, archaic, or stupid. Here, just take a look.   (remember. Not my video)
  Sure? I mean, if I would want any overwrought pulpy series of fantasy novels to be adapted to a game, I would rather have The Wheel of Time (that game would be a billion hours long and totally awesome. But they already made one, oddly enough. An FPS that doubles as a prequel). Will probably play again. The music is good too. 
 

Master of Orion 1

 
Yeah, I already did Master of Orion 2. It was pretty awesome. Perhaps up there with X-COM in terms of "Oh, this is what you guys were talking about" territory. But what about the first game? Well, much like how MOO3 is denied much the same way anti semites deny the holocaust, it's pretty clear that when people say "Master of Orion" they mean the second one. To be fair, the first game came out in 1993, which means around the same time as Civilization 1. But by today's standards, it's pretty simple. That's not to say simplicity is bad. Some of the old games that actually hold up the best are fairly simple in design (Compare Wizardry 7 to World of Xeen. Both aren't for the average peasant, but I could finish the second one had I enough time and perhaps a walkthrough). But when there is a sequel that so dramatically improves everything (See: Heroes of Might and Magic 1 compared to HOMM 2), I can't see anyone playing MOO1 for anything except novelty's sake.   
  Will probably play the sequel again. 
 
In any case, I'm probably still not going to play any sort of old game seriously for a while. Black Ops, Fallout NV and (weirdly enough) Puzzle Quest 2 are all occupying my time.  We'll see.
19 Comments
20 Comments
Posted by ArbitraryWater

Yeah. I'm doing another one of these. Sure, as my Alpha Protocol blog shows, people are far more likely to comment on something modern than old crap, but everyone's always talking about modern stuff. Old stuff is my wheelhouse. Anyways, thanks to DOSbox's internal video codec, I can show you people exactly the kind of obscure crap that I run into in my quest to play old games and blog about them. You know the drill.  
Prior Installments:
(Blog 1) 
(Blog 2)
 

The Elder Scrolls: Arena

 
I've already covered Daggerfall in one of my earliest blogs, and have since been torn on whether I like it genuinely or ironically (as well as having been chewed out by some crazy person who signed up just to chew me out. And then replied to my comments 6 months later. Dick. No seriously, check the comments out). However, one thing's for sure, and that is that Arena (the first Elder Scrolls game, released in '94) is not good. Certainly, it's open, as all non-spinoff Elder Scrolls games are, but it lacks a lot of other TES mainstays, such as custom classes, skills that progress as you use them, and enjoyment. It's rough. Admittedly, so are all the other TES games. But this game doesn't have anything to make up for it. Whatever. Just watch. You'll see. You'll all see.   
    
  
Yeah. A double dose. The main reason it had to be two videos was because I had to consult the password sheet and I didn't want anything to crash. Will probably never genuinely play again. 
 

Ishar: Legend of the Fortress

 
No. Just no. Of all the purchases I have made on GOG, this is one of the less smart ones.  If you want a more concise and detailed description, check out my friend Ahoodedfigure's blogs on the subject. To be fair, Ishar 3 seems playable. This, does not. I blame the french. And I accidentally set the language to french. So it works out. 
  
  1000 gold to save? What kind of fucked up shit is that? WILL NOT PLAY AGAIN
 

Betrayal at Krondor

 
What's this? Do I see competence? Why yes, I do. Unfortunately, I also see DOSbox screwing up when I try to record this game. So the video isn't by me. Anyways, BAK interests me for several reasons: 1. It doesn't seem agonizingly alienating. 2. It's based on a series of novels (albeit a fairly pulpy series. The Riftwar saga by Raymond E. Feist, if anyone is familiar). 3. It has a seemingly well written story in an era where Final Fantasy IV (or II, I guess if we are calling it by it's original US title) is the high watermark for stories in Video Games. 4. It uses digitized photographs of actors wearing absolutley hilarious costumes. 5. At the very least, the battle system isn't broken, archaic, or stupid. Here, just take a look.   (remember. Not my video)
  Sure? I mean, if I would want any overwrought pulpy series of fantasy novels to be adapted to a game, I would rather have The Wheel of Time (that game would be a billion hours long and totally awesome. But they already made one, oddly enough. An FPS that doubles as a prequel). Will probably play again. The music is good too. 
 

Master of Orion 1

 
Yeah, I already did Master of Orion 2. It was pretty awesome. Perhaps up there with X-COM in terms of "Oh, this is what you guys were talking about" territory. But what about the first game? Well, much like how MOO3 is denied much the same way anti semites deny the holocaust, it's pretty clear that when people say "Master of Orion" they mean the second one. To be fair, the first game came out in 1993, which means around the same time as Civilization 1. But by today's standards, it's pretty simple. That's not to say simplicity is bad. Some of the old games that actually hold up the best are fairly simple in design (Compare Wizardry 7 to World of Xeen. Both aren't for the average peasant, but I could finish the second one had I enough time and perhaps a walkthrough). But when there is a sequel that so dramatically improves everything (See: Heroes of Might and Magic 1 compared to HOMM 2), I can't see anyone playing MOO1 for anything except novelty's sake.   
  Will probably play the sequel again. 
 
In any case, I'm probably still not going to play any sort of old game seriously for a while. Black Ops, Fallout NV and (weirdly enough) Puzzle Quest 2 are all occupying my time.  We'll see.
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Posted by Video_Game_King

Je connais français, mais je ne comprends pas Ishar. C'est très bizarre. Aussi, j'ai vu plus mal....save systems. OK, no more French, but I've seen worse save systems, like the original Fire Emblem not having one, or Dudes with Attitude having one.

Posted by ArbitraryWater
@Video_Game_King:  Los Savesystemos en el Ishar son no bueno y stupido. No me gusta nada. Los Realms of Arkania juegos muchos interesantes tan Ishar .. So anyways, I figure that people were just way crazier back then, or maybe the developers were too lazy to add in a battery save. In either case, the first Fire Emblem really isn't much to write home about anyways. The series only starts getting good (as opposed to merely competent) with Genealogy of the Holy War. 
Online
Posted by Video_Game_King
@ArbitraryWater: 
 
But the weird thing is that it was Nintendo who made Fire Emblem. Aren't they the same guys who invented battery saves? And had passwords for games too big for battery saves?
Edited by pekoe212

That is the most gigantic tavern I have ever seen.
 
Thanks for these videos. It's fun to see some of the games I've never played. Every time I see early 3D games a fresh wave of shock and revulsion washes over me; easy to forget how terrible things looked. I'm glad GOG is around, whenever I messed with DOSbox I felt rather humiliated that my 7 year old self knew more DOS commands than I do now, and back then all I wanted was to play Battle Chess so I could see all the death animations.

Posted by owl_of_minerva

Of those, I only played Betrayal at Krondor. It's too long ago for me to remember fully, but I think I had some issues that prevented me from progressing, whether bugs or mechanical problems.
Given that my RPGing days started in earnest with the Infinity Engine, I'm resigned to the fact that it requires substantial effort and patience to play anything that came out before the mid-90s.
 
Also, lol@ the Daggerfall comments. Anyone who thinks that game is not absurdly huge needs to get their head checked. It's the most freakishly large expanse in gaming history.

Posted by keyhunter
@ArbitraryWater:  Is that the CD version of Betrayal At KrondorÉ It`s got even BETTER music, or so says the box.
Also in case you aren`t already aware, Wheel of Time game already came out. It`s pretty good!
Posted by ArbitraryWater
@Video_Game_King:  Yep. And thus my second hypothesis. Fire Emblem is a niche series that (probably) makes it's money off a dedicated fanbase. Back then, there were no such things as Strategy RPGs and FE was an unproven property. Maybe they wanted to save a few bucks on production? 
 
@pekoe212: Yep. As someone who's computer is incapable of reliably running anything that came out after 2004, I've stopped caring about graphics in old games like these unless they are really jarringly bad. But the DOS era is great. I wish I could have actually experienced it in it's heyday, rather than messing with what people enjoyed while I was still very young. However, as these features prove, not everything I encounter can be XCOM or even Daggerfall. 
 
@owl_of_minerva: Well, technically my first RPG was Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, so I'm used to going backwards to see the best that the genre has to offer. And I have my limits. Might and Magic III is perhaps the earliest game I could see myself playing, but to me RPGs really only become playable straight (as in, without any sort of help) by 1997, when the original Fallout was released. And yeah. That Daggerfall guy. Ugh.
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Posted by Video_Game_King
@ArbitraryWater: 
 
Of course it's niche; that's the whole point of strategy RPGs. Don't believe me? How many people have played a strategy RPG beyond Final Fantasy Tactics or Disgaea? Exactly.
Posted by TheJohn

I feel I should state, for the record, that the Daggerfall guy (ugh, indeed) is merely a john, not TheJohn. A lot of us "oldschool" RPG players hated that shit with a passion. Size alone does not a good RPG make.
 
And keep up the good work. I enjoy reading your stuff.

Edited by ahoodedfigure

Oh, and thanks for the mention!  :)
 
I still have a desire to play Ishar, but I feel like I met too many characters for hire at one point (making me wonder if I wasn't optimizing my party), and got very far without saving another time (and lost my main character)... it'll take me a while to get back on that old Ishar horse (she purty, but she get tired too fast).
 
I noticed in that Ishar video that you seemed to have learned a French word, though, so, you know, educational.
 
What I saw in Arena didn't convince me it was bad.  I saw a more primitive Daggerfall with a better map.  It might help if you told me a bit more about why it was bad.  Just jankier and less detailed than old Daggerfall, maybe?   Buggier?  I guess if it's less refined than Daggerfall, then maybe that should be sufficient to never look back (considering my struggles with Daggerfall).  I do like the scale of it, though.  I wish they'd, you know, find a better balance between detail and scale.  I know I'm in the minority on this, but I feel like in addition to making a character my own, I like to have them tromp through an area that I feel like I've discovered on my own that I can actually make "mine" in a sense.  But I guess it's going to take some high level design to make things feel like more than a boring set of variables being added together. 
 
Holy shit!  You're a member of the media?  Congratulations!  I thought you were just some guy who played games in his spare time.  (I feel a bit ill).

Posted by ArbitraryWater
@TheJohn:  Thanks. It's nice to know not all Johns are total pricks (The one John I know in real life? Kind of a moron.). And, as I said before, my opinion on Daggerfall is mixed. It's just so... inefficient at what it tries to do.
 
@ahoodedfigure: First off, I'm not a member of the media (My quest to blog about old games? Totally personal). I'm still in High School. In any case, I figured that you had plugged me enough times on your blogs for me to return the favor. The thing is, as far as I can tell, the sidequests in Arena mostly consist of taking a package from one inn to another, with the occasional actual legitimate dungeon crawl. Much like Daggerfall, I'm not entirely sure what the purpose of the game's scale truly is. It's not so much inherently bad as it is entirely outdated in every possible way. I'm sure in 1994 it was totally crazy, when you consider that the last game similar to it was the far more constrained Ultima Underworld 2 (a game that I think probably holds up better).
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Posted by ahoodedfigure
@ArbitraryWater: Well, I loved UU2 for its dimension travel.  It didn't need to be big because it managed to have a lot of atmosphere packed into each of the places you visited.  I mean, I know that a lot of the time you compare mechanics of current games to these old ones, which is pretty much a losing battle for the old game, but at the time it was pretty damned awesome to be able to chuck just about any item in the game at something, to figure out puzzles in different ways, to explore a fantasy setting non-linearly.   
 
But...  it IS hard to go back to a 3D interface without mouselook for me now.  Some old games, like Might and Magic II, don't really faze me because there are keyboard shortcuts and the like.  But there's this uncomfortable middle at the start of 3D experimentation where the novelty has worn off and I just wish for some sort of remake.  Doesn't have to show the sweat on people's foreheads or anything, but clearer things at a distance, proper scaling.  Then again, I can still enjoy Doom (as long as someone's coded some sort of mouselook).
 

Edited by Informant

I think you might be a bit too dismissive of MOO1, MOO2 from what I played was a micromanagement hell (having to consistently visit tons of planets and build on them over and over) whilst certain races had either bad racial bonuses or godly ones (creative and psionic domination). Plus then there's broken setups, many players have managed to speedrun the game, mostly abusing Elerian in less than 10 minutes (one guy somewhere did it in 39 seconds).  MOO1 had a good balance of simplicity and interesting features, plus I seem to have some sort of notion that the diplomacy between alien races and you in MOO1 seemed better and slightly more interactive.
MOO2 also introduced a bunch of stuff that seemed irrelevant also like having to build freighters to throw foodstuffs around your empire, and then the Antarans as some sort of uber pirate entity who come along later on and eat one of your hive worlds alive, which is primarily based on luck if they go after you or not.

Posted by ArbitraryWater
@Informant:  Yeah, I covered my gripes with that game in my blog about it. Certainly, MOO2 goes off the deep end in terms of micromanagement (a problem that every game in the genre has, but this one especially), and has some serious balance issues (Creativity is a game breaker) but I just think it's a far more interesting game than its predecessor, by leaps and bounds. (I would try out MOO3, but considering that game is akin to the plague for people who like the second game, and it costs $4 more than I would pay for it, I've decided to pass)  It's not so much an issue of quality as it is an issue of comparative quality.
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Posted by Claude

Man, you're right about the music for Betrayal of Krondor, really catchy tunes. Of course, I had never heard of that game until just now. Thanks.
 
Oh and that dude Locklear from Betrayal of Krondor looks just like Ron Burgundy of Anchorman.

Posted by ArbitraryWater
@Claude: Believe me. For as much as I seem like a vast gulf of knowledge on obscure 90s RPGs, I usually stumble into these games fairly blindly. Might and Magic and Elder Scrolls are really the series that I actually know a bunch about (perhaps too much. If you want me to rattle on about every single dungeon in Might and Magic VII, I could probably do it. Self experience combined with the internet combined with my fairly good information retention skills can do that for you). The rest is pretty much out of my league. 
 
And yeah, for the 90 or so minutes that I have messed with BAK, the music seems really good. The GOG version is actually the CD version, so the music is higher quality than that LP video. Generally, I'm a sucker for digitized actors (as well as low quality FMV, a la Sega CD and like... Phantasmagoria), because it reminds me of an era of games that never got off the ground and has become ironic because of it.
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Posted by Raven10

You know I haven't played the first Heroes since the mid 90's but at the time I loved it. I wonder how I would feel about it these days? I still play 3 and enjoy it. I actually have a mint condition copy of Daggerfall that I picked up at a used book store for like $20. Never tried to make it run but honestly, why risk scratching the disk of a mint condition game worth over $100. 
 
And since I didn't get a chance to comment on your other Dos blogs, I'll just say that if you decide to play Ultima Underworld anymore (Which you should) be sure to have a guide with you. I've played the game several times, and even with a guide I've never actually beaten it correctly. But the atmosphere is worth the effort. Also, Arx does make a bad impression, but it gets better. I have played maybe four or five hours of it and enjoyed it, but moved on after that. It was supposed to be Underworld 3 but EA wouldn't agree to publish it and they held the rights.

Posted by Gamer_152

Ishar: Legend of the Fortress looked mind-numbingly bad... Damn.

Moderator
Posted by Ragdrazi
@ArbitraryWater: Betrayal At Krondor? Woah. That's taking me back. I recall not liking it, for reasons that probably had more to do with the fact that I was too young to really handle the gameplay than anything else.
 
Thanks for the wander back to my kiddyhood.