7. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
Morrowind is the third instalment of the Elder Scrolls series, after Arena and Daggerfall, developed and published by Bethesda Softworks in 2002. The game is an open world game, puts a big accent on exploration and is not focused on dialogues but rather on decisions made through joining different factions and helping them in the detriment of other factions changing the balance of power in the area.
The story takes place in Vvardenfell, a huge island inhabited by dunmers, which is part of the Morrowind province. The hero is held prisoner on a boat arriving to Vvardenfell and is haunted by prophetic dreams about being the incarnation of the dunmer’s hero, the Nerevarine, the one that will stand against the rising of the evil god Dagoth Ur and his followers.
The world of Morrowind is huge, and can be explored from the second you finish the first quest in the game. You have almost complete liberty in this game, you can be the greatest hero or the most evil mortal that ever stepped foot on this island. There are numerous factions in this game and joining one can upset another and this conflict can escalate to higher proportions and can even end in the destruction of the factions that oppose your own. You can become the leader of many groups, the most particular one being a vampire clan. There are many secrets hidden in this world and it can take a long time and more than one playthrough to find them all.
When it was realeased, Morrowind was one of the most beautiful looking games, taking advantage of pixel shader, but not requiring it in order to play. The game can also get user mods and this gave the game more longevity and even better graphics, some mods went as far as to give the game multiplayer.
Probably the biggest problems this title had were the lack of difficulty and the dice based combat system used even if the game is more action oriented.
Two expansions have been released for this game, Tribunal and Bloodmoon, expanding the world and the story of the original game.
For me Morrowind is the best title of this series, surpassing even the games released later, Oblivion and Skyrim. If you really want to see how Bethesda games looked in their good days you should play Morrowind.
6. Deus Ex
Developed by Ion Storm and published by Eidos Interactive in 2000, Deus Ex is an action RPG combining first person shooter, role playing elements and stealth in a cyberpunk setting.
The plot follows an augmented anti-terrorism agent named JC Denton, a character that becomes of major importance to the organizations in the game as the action unfolds. The story is set in a Dystopian world in the year 2052, a world full of conspiracy and organizations that pull the strings from the shadows and attempt to control the entire world. As Denton is tracking down those responsible for stealing a shipment with the cure for “Grey Death” virus, he finds out that the virus is man-made and Denton quickly becomes one of the most wanted men by the corporations behind this. While held captive, Denton is contacted by an A.I. who helps him escape in order to uncover the secrets behind this virus infestation and stop it. As the story develops, Denton is facing the most powerful humans on the planet and their plan to control everything, he finds the truth about himself and the choices he makes will change everything.
Deus Ex features some of the most common conspiracies known today like Area 51, Illuminati, human cloning and more.
The combination of FPS, role playing elements and stealth works really well, each system complements the others in a very natural way. The combination of these elements leads to multiple ways of solving a level, you can go through this game by destroying everything that stands in your way or you can be like a shadow, avoiding everyone. Deus Ex is one of the few games in which you can choose not to kill anyone even if the game is packed with weapons and enemies.
The game is full of choices that can lead to multiple endings, endings that combined form the base story for its sequel, Deus Ex Invisible War. The huge number of choices in the game adds to an increased level of replayability.
Deus Ex tackles some of the problems of today’s world and possibly the future, even if they are taken to an extreme level, fit for video games, the issues are intelligently put and could be an eye-opener in some regards. The combination of multiple genres and the possibility to avoid combat in totality makes it an almost unique game even today.
The game was released in 2001 by Piranha Bytes and it is the first title of the German developer.
Gothic is the definition of immersion and controlled progressive gameplay, a game that sucks you in after a few hours of gameplay and where every step forward into the story or character progression feels like a real difference.
The player takes control of an unnamed captive in a land sealed by a magical barrier which is actually a prison for men. You have to overcome the difficulties of being the new guy in a prison where the rules are made by the more powerful prisoners. You have to pay protection taxes, do dirty jobs, win fights in arena in order to earn your respect and get your chance to talk with the leaders to find more information about the lands where you are held captive and about the magical barrier. The prisoners are separated in three different camps, each with their own rules and different goals, some are trading with the king outside of the barrier, others are planning to destroy the barrier in order to escape and one of the camps is worshiping a strange God inside the area. On your adventure in each camp you will make very good friends who will be there for you when you need them, by joining the higher ups of one of the camps you will make enemies in the others. Your ultimate goal is to find a way out of these cursed lands and this will take you into the land of the orcs, powerful hostile creature who inhabit a big part of the area inside this huge prison, and deep inside their lands a powerful creature awaits you.
The gameplay is immersive and focused on interaction with the environment. In this game you can hunt for leather and meat, you can use the leather to make better armors or sell it. You can eat the raw meat to heal yourself for a small portion of your life, cook it for more effective healing or sell it to a trader. The crafting system follows a realistic pattern and you have to use the blacksmithing tools in a certain sequence in order to craft your weapons. These are just some examples of the interaction with the environment present in this game.
The combat mechanics was the most disappointing thing in this game. It is very hard to control your character and hit your opponent at the same time. When you fight a stronger opponent or more opponents at once, things become very difficult and many times you are forced to rely on game exploits and the AI failures in order to win the fights.
For the year 2001 the game looked very good, taking advantage of Piranha Bytes in-house engine, but the price for the good graphics was quite high as the game was very demanding and had long loading times.
Gothic is one of the best RPGs I have ever played and it’s first sequel is as good as the first game with the same immersive gameplay, focused on good dialogues, relationship with other characters and interaction with the world.
To be continued…