The video game mode RPG, or Role-Playing game, has been around since the creation of the tabletop game, with PLAT0 creating DnD in the 1970s. However due to consoles taking over the market, the idea of gaming on a PC was reduced to a minor hobby.
For those that did enjoy RPGs in the 80s and 90s, there was a lot more challenge as, due to disk space, the ideas of auto-journals and maps were not included. Instead, players had to keep their own journals and map out their own maps on graph paper. However, this added to the fun of adventuring and immersion.
Another thing was that the stories were basic and confined to the instruction books; some even came with an adventurer journal, in which you read a passage from the book when the game instructed you to.
So, without further ado, this is what I consider to be the best three old school RPG franchises, so grab your notebook and squared paper, sharpen your broadsword, charge your staff and fill your chalice with your favourite beverage: it’s time to adventure.
Created in 1985 as a trilogy, Bards tale had you create a party of six adventurers from fighters to wizard – and, of course, a Bard. The Bards ability was to sing songs that had numerous magical effects, which they could only restore by drinking beer at a tavern. The game was a bit of a grind fest with characters being dropped into town at level 1 with a handful of gold pieces and had to equip themselves and then fight beginning monsters before even exploring further.
Originally started as Akalabeth by Richard Garriott as a school project, this series has seen nine games, although eight and nine were buggy and missing key stuff due to EA buying Origin systems. The Ultima series is, however, still a classic today.
The first three games are your basic ‘kill the bad guy’ type as you arrive in a new land as a stranger prophesised to defeat them.
Ultima IV – Quest of the Avatar is where the game really shines as there is no end boss to defeat and instead the player goes on a quest of enlightenment and self-fulfilment, which was the first game to do so in any game series. Every subsequent game has your characters ideals and virtues tested in new and exciting ways.
Might and Magic:
No Retro game list would be complete without mentioning Might and Magic, a fantasy medieval game that introduces Sci-Fi elements. If you includeFour and Five in the series, they combine to form a new game, of one of the first forms of ‘DLC’s.
It does, unfortunately, lose its way after Might and Magic Six – mandate of heaven, but nevertheless a bunch of great games that give you some fun. Also, again, no end bosses, just a few puzzles to solve courtesy of the game’s antagonist. Oh, did I mention that the Antagonist of the first five games, the android Sheltem is a delight and thwarting him by solving his puzzles was a delight.
Realms of Arcania
A rare gaming experience as this game collection was based on the German tabletop game, ‘Der Schwarze Auge’, or ‘The Dark Eye’.
It has, however, been released on modern game systems and is a classic to play; there is no hand-holding and the games even have a time limit. Take too much time and the game is over. It takes a few tries and maybe some research before attempting to conquer this collection. Just remember you have a main quest and very few leads to chase down.
AD&D Forgotten Realms Gold Box Collection
Using the AD&D 2nd edition ruleset, these games are a set of immersive adventures in the Forgotten Realms. These games came with an adventurer’s log which, despite the graphics showing their age, the booklet had you immersed. In the game it would say turn to page 4 for example. You would then read page four and learn the story. It takes a Might and Magic approach to the point that when you level up, you must receive training, to gain the benefits.
Again, a bit of research into 2nd edition AD&D may be needed to understand some of the mechanics of this game. Also, if you can get past the experience differences such as the fighter needing 2000 experience to level, whereas a wizard needs only 2500 experience, you will have a good time. You just need to experiment with different parties and you will have a gaming experience in which you will learn that force isn’t required for every encounter.
With many games out there, especially classic ones, this article could have been about ten pages long, so here are five good game collections. This should provide a start into the realm of classic gaming.