Ultima VII Articles RSS Feed | GameSkinny.com Ultima VII RSS Feed on GameSkinny.com https://www.gameskinny.com/ en Launch Media Network 5 Expansive CRPG Games You Can Play to Bide Your Time Until Torment: Tides of Numenera https://www.gameskinny.com/t80n1/5-expansive-crpg-games-you-can-play-to-bide-your-time-until-torment-tides-of-numenera https://www.gameskinny.com/t80n1/5-expansive-crpg-games-you-can-play-to-bide-your-time-until-torment-tides-of-numenera Thu, 19 Jan 2017 13:03:02 -0500 Rob Kershaw

There’s just over five weeks to go before we can get our hands on Torment: Tides of Numenera. We can’t wait, and we suspect we’re not alone. It might not seem long, but there’s plenty of time for you to go back through your RPG catalog and pick out some of those classics you never got around to playing -- or buy them for a bargain price online.

It’s actually incredible how many top quality CRPGs have been released over the last three decades. There are the usual go-to titles such as Mass Effect, Dragon Age and The Witcher series of course, but it’s likely that you’ll have played at least one or two of these. And it goes without saying that Planescape: Torment should be the first thing you download if you’re even considering an RPG right now.

But there are other exceptional games from the annals of history -- some older, some newer -- which all did a fantastic job of immersing you in a world. They stand out for being stellar examples of the craft, and are still incredibly playable today.

Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura

Of the three titles released by Troika Games over their relatively brief stint in the industry, Arcanum was the most successful. And rightly so -- it melded the traditional RPG landscape of Ogres and Dwarves with a Victoriana flavor. It wasn’t afraid to capitalize on a world getting to grips with steampunk technology, and the entire game was rich in atmosphere and detail.

One of Arcanum’s greatest assets, though, was its character creation. The studio was formed by ex-Interplay staff, and their work on Fallout is clearly an influence here. You can choose from a huge range of classes, skills, attributes and abilities, and humor abounded throughout. (Want to be an arsonist? Go for it!)

Better still, the character you ended up building would work to mold the game world. It gave you options, rather than forcing you down specific paths that players would have to tread in a conventional RPG, regardless of their choices. How your character looked, what deeds you’ve done previously, and even the items in your possession could all work to open or close branches of dialog or even entire quests.

In addition, an entertaining campaign let you approach it in whichever way you wanted. Steal, deceive, help, ignore -- you could tackle quests pretty much however you liked. There was so much content here that it was entirely possible to play through the game numerous times with different builds and have almost an entirely unique experience. Even by today’s standards, Arcanum took role-playing to another level.

Like Temple of Elemental Evil and Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines which followed it, Troika's first game had its share of bugs. The playing area was fairly stingy, and the graphics have definitely dated. Fifteen years on, though, a dedicated fanbase has patched up pretty much all of the biggest problems, and the game can be bought for pennies. You’ll struggle to find a truer role-playing experience.

Divinity: Original Sin

It may be the most recent release on this list, but Original Sin’s roots lie firmly in the CRPGs of old, not least Larian Studios’ own Divine Divinity and its sequel. But where those games offered enjoyable romps through familiar territory, it was this Kickstarter-backed gem which realized the studio’s vision. Free from the restraints of an external publisher, Larian created a joyously self-referential march through a campaign that kept its tongue firmly in its cheek.

While combat is often the weakest aspect of many games in this genre, Original Sin excelled at it in almost every conceivable way. Battles were strategic, interesting and fun. The environmental effects -- which had been talked about with some buzz ever since the fundraising campaign kicked off -- actually worked. You could tip over barrels of oil and set fire to them. You could bring down lightning on pools of water (or blood!) that your enemies stood in, and electrocute them. You could ignite poisonous gas clouds with a whoosh of flame. And instead of dreading encounters, you actively looked forward to them, wondering what kind of goodies would be scattered around the battlefield for you to play with.

Experimentation was key, not least because you weren’t handed everything on a plate. In truth, you were told very little indeed -- and for good reason. Larian wanted you to discover things yourself, to tinker and prod at the game’s mechanics and work out what you could do. Can’t get through a door? Find a key. No key available? Smash it down. Is your warhammer broken? Cast a fire spell at it.

This is one tiny example of the huge amount of choice available to you.

Most quests offered numerous solutions, and the game world itself was like a massive Easter egg, tempting you to try things you wouldn’t dream of in any other RPG. How about stealing from a character by distracting them with another party member first? Or trading with a guy you know you’re going to end up killing, and then looting his body afterward to get your cash back?

Even conversations were unique, thanks to an intriguing rock-paper-scissors system that made influencing a character far more involving than just having a higher stat than they do. This even worked in co-op -- which Original Sin did surprisingly well -- but you couldn't go in expecting to agree with the other people you were playing with. And you had to be prepared for the consequences of them stabbing you in the back. Metaphorically and literally.

Oh, and if you had the Pet Pal skill, you could talk to animals. Some of them would even give you quests. That alone is worth the price of admission.

Ultima VII: The Black Gate

As great as it is, Divinity: Original Sin wouldn’t have existed without Ultima VII. It might have predated Larian’s creation by 22 years, but the mechanics in The Black Gate (and its sequel, The Serpent Isle) were the precursor to many other RPGs, including the likes of Oblivion. Natural day and night cycles, where people actually went about their business like normal humans? Townsfolk opening doors rather than just passing through them? Characters actually taking note of what you were doing and commenting on it? You saw it here first.

Original Sin may have set out its stall offering freedom, but Ultima VII was the daddy. Do you want to wander around town, killing anyone you fancy? Or perhaps you’d like to hook up with some locals instead? Both options are totally on the table. Although, when you’re thrown into a story investigating a double homicide right from the very beginning, you’ll be hard-pressed to drag yourself away. The narrative was captivating, and expanded almost into a treatise on cult-worship, long before the likes of Scientology had entered mainstream consciousness.

The level of interactivity was staggering, too. You could pick up or interact with almost anything that you could see, as long as it wasn’t obvious scenery, or too big to move. Your party would need feeding and would prompt you to do so -- and the food would be exactly what you would expect, and in exactly the place you’d expect it. You’d get beef from cows, make bread from flour and find fruit in orchards. If you drank too much, you’d be sick. If you came across a grim scene, certain party members would announce their queasiness. It seems silly, but little touches like this added to the realism of the world, and are surprisingly overlooked today.

So great was its influence on the modern CRPG, that Ultima VII is continually cited as one of the best examples of the genre. Certainly, many of the elements that it contained have long since been improved upon -- not least, the inventory, which Original Sin unfortunately emulated. Yet its branching dialog trees, intriguing quests and almost limitless scope for exploration still put the majority of today’s adventures to shame.

Neverwinter Nights 2 

The original Neverwinter Nights was a great game, but served mainly as a showcase for the development tools available to build a realistic D&D campaign. For lone players, it offered a fairly unoriginal RPG experience, though not without BioWare’s usual charm.

The sequel’s reins were handed to Obsidian, who promptly assigned Chris Avellone (amongst others) to develop the story. What felt like a ponderous start soon gave way to an imaginative tale, backed solidly by a faithful representation of the 3.5 Edition ruleset. 

Fleshed-out
, controllable party members -- conspicuously absent from NWN -- were added, and the interface was given a severe facelift. In fact, almost every aspect of the original game was improved upon, aside from the inventory system which did its best to frustrate. 

Multiplayer and the editing tools were included in the overhaul, and offered a depth of creative flexibility that has rarely been bettered today. There are literally hundreds upon hundreds of hours of content here for anyone who wants to put in the time to create a campaign for their friends to play through. 

Yet, it’s the single-player campaign’s worldbuilding that draws you into Neverwinter Nights 2. There is political intrigue aplenty, mysticism and betrayals, and a sense of a palpable, living city. Your companions will respond to your actions, further cementing the game’s D&D backbone. Annoy them too much and you’ll potentially lose them, or have them turn on you. Like the best RPGs, choices which seem black-and-white are rarely so, and your ascension to hero status doesn’t feel forced. 

In fact, we’d go so far as to say that in terms of improving on the original, Neverwinter Nights 2 ranks as one of the best RPG sequels that we’ve ever seen -- well, except for the next entry in the list.

Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn 

Even by today’s impressive standards, Baldur’s Gate II towers above almost every other CRPG on the market. The first game (almost twenty years old!) was tremendous fun, encapsulating the D&D ruleset in a thoroughly entertaining manner. It kickstarted the genre from stagnation, and was responsible for the creation of the Infinity Engine which went on to be used in classics such as Planescape: Torment and the Icewind Dale series. 

But it’s with Shadows of Amn that BioWare really got to grips with their new technology. The graphics were improved immensely thanks to a bump in resolution, and the city of Athkatla became a sprawling hub of menace and wonder. Each area had oodles of side-quests, taking you to elaborate mansions, creepy mausoleums and booze-soaked taverns. Suspicion and menace lurked from every shadowy corner. Combined with the ambient music, it evoked a Middle Eastern atmosphere, albeit one with giants, dragons and a thieves’ guild. 

Players of the first game could import their party, although the introduction to Shadows of Amn brutally dispatches a couple of the first game’s characters in a shocking plot point right from the start. Thankfully, one of them was not Minsc, since the fan-favorite berserker and his giant miniature space hamster were a notable highlight. 

Where the sequel shined was in the detail. Sure, there may have been a few fetch quests, but most of the tasks you were given were both interesting and took you to exotic locations as you hunted murderers and investigated vampiric attacks. Additionally, you were often asked to take sides with no inkling of which the “right” choice was. In most cases, there wasn’t one. You had to go with your gut, and hang the consequences -- the true essence of role-playing. 

That BioWare could sustain this level of storytelling for so long is extraordinary -- in some cases, people clocked in over 200 hours. But the fact that you never got tired of discovering new areas, solving new riddles, obtaining wondrous new items or uncovering new plots? That was the real achievement. To date, we can’t think of another CRPG that kept dragging us back for more in the same addictive manner as Baldur’s Gate II.

And in some respects, we’re grateful for that. 

We have lives, you know.

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So sure, there are still five excruciating weeks until Torment: Tides of Numenera hits all of our respective desktops, but these CRPGs are bound to have one thing or another that will scratch that RPG itch until then. It never (ever) hurts to try something old to experience something new. 

What other expansive CRPGs do you love to play? Is one of your favorites one of those mentioned here? Let's us know in the comments below -- we'd love to hear what you've got to say! 

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The Most Iconic Character Deaths in Games https://www.gameskinny.com/jqv0j/the-most-iconic-character-deaths-in-games https://www.gameskinny.com/jqv0j/the-most-iconic-character-deaths-in-games Mon, 17 Aug 2015 03:59:59 -0400 The Soapbox Lord

There's nothing quite like the death of a beloved character that allows them to meet their demise in a memorable fashion. Games are no strangers to having characters die, but these are some of the most iconic and memorable deaths to date. Since we will be looking at deaths of characters in various series, consider yourself warned of spoilers.

Now then, prepare to experience ultimate sadness. 

Sarah: The Last of Us

The opening to The Last of Us remains one of the most memorable and powerful beginnings in any game. While we knew what to expect, thanks to pre-release interviews and previews, the death was no less dramatic.

After having some quality father-daughter time, Joel and Sarah meet up with Joel’s brother in order to flee their neighbors who have become homicidal. After multiple close calls and encounters with bloodthirsty humans, Joel and Sarah make it to the edge of town where they are stopped by a soldier. Despite Joel’s pleading, the soldier receives orders to open fire, wounding Joel and leading to Sarah’s death shortly thereafter.

With great voice acting and framing, the scene is powerful and deeply affecting. Even worse, for those of us who are parents, this added an additional fist of emotional gut-punching.

John Marston: Red Dead Redemption

Red Dead Redemption was a powerful story about family and the unfulfilling pointlessness of murderous revenge. Also hunting - gotta get those skins yo! John was recruited by some shady lawmen that are holding John’s family hostage to hunt down members from his old gang, who kinda shot him up and left him for dead.

After doing all that was asked of him, Marston retires to his home and is ready to spend time with his family. After some daily routines of establishing his farm, a posse of men led by the marshals shows up at Marston’s house, eager to wipe the Marstons out in an effort to hide the government’s involvement with a former outlaw.

The resulting gunfight sees Marston going down in a blaze of lead and glory, and it's forever embedded in our memories.

 

Mordin Solus: Mass Effect 3

Mordin was the embodiment of the quirky scientist. The salarian had a unique, albeit slightly broken, way of speaking, a constant desire to work, and rarely allows his conscience or personal feelings to affect his judgment. In the series you learn Mordin helped develop the genophage, a disease that affects the krogan and essentially hampers the ability of the krogan to reproduce, crippling the krogan race.

After dealing with a Reaper on the krogan homeworld of Tuchanka, you discover you can help develop a cure for the dreaded genophage disease. Once you have the cure, you try to broadcast it via the Shroud, but due to previous salarian sabotage, someone must travel to the top of the Shroud in order to override the sabotage. Whoever travels to the top will not be coming down though.

Surprisingly, Mordin volunteers to sacrifice himself in order to broadcast for the genophage disease he helped create. He seeks to make up for his involvement in the creation of the disease and other mistakes by breaking the curse of the dreaded genophage. While it is possible to stop Mordin, by killing him, or allowing him to live and participating in a form of genocide, no other outcome has the effect of watching Mordin sing “Scientist Salarian” while becoming engulfed in explosions. It’s a rather touching scene and a fitting end to a fantastic character.

 

Andrew Ryan: BioShock

BioShock remains a landmark title and an intriguing look at choice in games, among other things. Andrew Ryan is the founder of the underwater city of Rapture where there are practically no inhibitions on science or anything really. Needless to say, things go downhill rather quickly.

Your character Jack braves the horrors of Rapture in his quest to find Ryan, get some answers, and get the hell out of Dodge. Upon confronting Ryan, you learn Atlas, the person you have been communicating with the entire game and your guide, has been manipulating you and using mind control to force you to do his bidding. The resulting scene is entrenched in the minds of players everywhere as Ryan dies, adhering to his philosophy and to prove a point. Memorable indeed.

 

Sgt. Paul Jackson: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

The Call of Duty series has always been known for its grand set pieces, but nothing prepared us for this moment. Sgt. Jackson and a group of US soldiers are attacking the location of what they believe is a terrorist’s hideout. It turns out it was a decoy and is housing a nuclear weapon which is about to detonate. Jackson makes the decision to rescue a soldier who fell behind and then the fireworks happen.

To this point, deaths in games were not uncommon, but FPS games rarely featured the death of playable characters. This moment changed that. Unfortunately, it also led to the further CoD entries adding an obligatory “shock” moment and struggling to top the one before. Regardless, this moment remains effective.

 

Lee Everett: The Walking Dead: Season One

You’ve rescued a little girl from zombies and ensured her survival through countless perils and near-death situations. You deserve a break right? Well Telltale said, “Psh, whatever. Screw that noise.”

After everything that has happened and all Lee has done to ensure Clementine’s safety, Clemtine is kidnapped, and a rogue zombie bites Lee, sealing his fate. You can cut off the bitten appendage, but nothing will stop the inevitable creep of the Reaper.

Once you free Clementine from her captor, Lee and Clementine make their way through a horde of zombies and hole up in an abandoned storefront. Once here, Lee shows Clementine the bite and informs her of his impending death. You can have Clementine shoot Lee to cut his suffering short and prevent Lee from becoming a zombie, or you can choose to allow Lee to die and later turn into a zombie, presumably. This scene led to many tears shed in the real world along with Clementine’s digital tears. So many feels…

Jenny: The Darkness

The Darkness is a criminally underrated game, and you really owe it to yourself to play. Jenny is the love interest of the main character, Jackie Estacado. The two have essentially known each other their entire lives and are hopelessly in love. What’s even better is Jenny is conveyed realistically and comes across as a believable character instead of just eye candy.

There’s even a touching moment that allows you to sit on a couch with Jenny and watch To Kill a Mockingbird, among other things. It’s an intimate moment that isn’t too uncommon from what people do in real life. Of course, things end poorly.

Possessed by the titular demonic power of The Darkness, Jackie constantly resists the demonic power in an effort to keep some semblance of free will. The Darkness will have none of that and proves to Jackie his free will is no more. Jackie’s uncle is holding Jenny hostage in the orphanage where Jackie and jenny grew up.

When Jackie attempts to rescue Jenny from his homicidal uncle and a crooked police chief, The Darkness renders him helpless and forces him to do nothing but watch while the brains of the love of his life are splattered over the wall. It’s brutal. It’s gut-wrenching, and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t provide motivation to kill those crooked jerks.

 NSFW VIDEO ALERT!


Dupre: Ultima 7 Part Two

The Ultima series is one of the influential and well-regarded RPG series in gaming. While the eighth and ninth entries are held in spite by fans, they aren’t enough to blight the legacy of this franchise. Dupre is first introduced in Ultima II, which was released way back in 1982. He remains a constant companion and a series stalwart.

During the events of Ultima VII, Dupre becomes possessed and becomes the Bane of Wantoness, proceeding to slay many innocents. He was eventually cured by the Avatar, the playable character. After this, you learn in order to mend the broken pieces of the Serpents of Chaos (which keeps the entire universe in balance and from self-destructing) a human sacrifice of one who is in “balance” is required.

Only five people are candidates and straws are drawn with the Avatar drawing the short straw. When the time comes to sacrifice yourself, Dupre throws himself in the crematorium, stating he cannot take the guilt over the lives he has claimed. His last words are, “Let it be said Sir Dupre died bravely!” A noble sacrifice indeed. Start the video at the 4:50 mark.

Meryl: Metal Gear Solid and The Twin Snakes

Solid Snake is a stoic soldier who is focused only on the mission and feels nothing along the lines of love, or so you might think. In Metal Gear Solid, Snake encounters Meryl, a soldier held on the island Snake is infiltrating. Meryl assists Snake during some of his battles before they both become kidnapped.

Snake is then being tortured by Ocelot who tells Snake he must resist his torture, which is essentially pressing a single button repeatedly. If you fail, you aren’t shown the consequences until the last confrontation with Liquid Snake at the end of the game. During the confrontation, you spy Meryl, but aren’t able to get to her with Liquid around.

After temporarily getting rid of Liquid, Snake rushes over to Meryl for a happy reunion filled with smiles, laughter, and good times! And she’s dead, all because you could not resist the torture. So it’s completely your fault. I’ll be in the corner popping some anti-depressants now.

Wander: Shadow of the Colossus

It’s a story we’ve heard a thousand times before. Man’s girlfriend dies. In order to bring her back, guy proceeds to listen to strange voices and kill sixteen colossi. After slaying the final titan, man becomes possessed by evil because the colossi were guardians to ward evil away. Man dies and girlfriend is shortly resurrected after his death. All that and he never got to see the fruits of his labors.

Aeris/Aerith: Final Fantasy VII

You knew it was coming, but people still mourn to this day. While characters in games had died before, the death of Aeris was unexpected and accompanied by a beautiful score; ensuring players will never forget this scene. ‘Nuff said.

Were there any iconic deaths I missed? Should any of these entries have been left out? Sound off in the comments!

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