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Lora's Classic CRPG and Adventure Game Reviews

This spinoff of my Computer Game Reviews site was born of the headache I gave myself trying to decide whether or not to review the old Ultima games on my site or not. Could I really, with a straight face, review Ultima III on the same site as Shadows of Amn? My brain rebelled against ranking beloved classics higher than mediocre modern games, and my heart rebelled against ranking them lower. Even my heart has to agree that Wizardry I just isn't as cool when you're not playing it on your seventh-grade boyfriend's at-the-time-impressive Apple IIE, and even my brain must acknowledge that judging a 15-year-old game by today's standards is something like kicking a straw man down the stairs.



So here they are: reviews of the computer RPG's and adventure games of yesteryear. If you're not already a fan of classic computer games, you don't want to read this page! Go back to my main page of Computer Game Reviews, where I do critique those classic PC games close enough to modernity that a contemporary gamer might think about picking one up. All the games on this page are more than twelve years old and/or run only on DOS or a DOS emulator; many aren't compatible with Windows XP or with modern sound cards, and most of them don't look very good. If you're willing to look past their appearance and wrestle the old software into submission, though, there's something enjoyable in each and every one, and something downright magical in some of them. Those magic moments don't appear in just any game coming down the pike, and so it's a shame to toss out ones that have them just because computer technology gets obsolete every few years.

And besides, I still kinda think fondly of my seventh-grade boyfriend. Don't you?

Classic Computer Games (A Very Unfinished List)

I use a different rating system here than I do on my main page, in a (probably futile) attempt to avoid confusion. Here's the rough guide:

Games that are enjoyable even to people who aren't fans of the classics
Games worth buying, or spending effort to get working
Games worth playing
Games that made their mark at the time, but are tough to get through now
Games that aren't really worth your time anymore
I can't believe I was actually once entertained by this stuff

Most of the games on this page are going to rank 2 and up for obvious enough reasons--my crates of 5-1/2 inch floppies full of unmemorable C64 games like "Search For The Most Amazing Thing" and "Temple of Apshai" and "something my 12-year-old sister wrote in BASIC" got tossed ages ago, and the games that made it to CD and/or impressed me enough to get me actively searching for them are the only ones I've played in the last decade. If any of you have recommendations for classic old games I might like, feel free to email them to me--preferably along with detailed instructions about where to find them and how hard it is to get them working on XP, since my gaming time is limited these days. ;-) Also, if anyone knows how to take screenshots of old DOS games under Windows XP, please let me know; there are a whole bunch of old games I've been unable to put up here because I simply cannot get my machine to take a screenshot!

Oh, and so you know, I loosely define a "classic" game as one that's more than 12 years old, runs under DOS, and/or isn't available on CD. You know, the kind of stuff that would make a modern gamer look askance at them, but doesn't necessarily deter the nostalgic among us. If you're just looking for old-school fun be sure to check out my main computer game reviews, because there've been a lot of good neoclassic games in the last several years and they're often more fun and easier to play than the originals.

Happy gaming!



Ultima VII (Release Date: 1992)
Style: Party-based fantasy CRPG (Ultima series).
Highlights: Vibrant and detailed cities, interesting characters, rich plot, many side quests.
Hurdles: Awkward interface, low customizability, technical problems.
Technical Difficulties: Not compatible with XP, Win2000, modern sound cards, or much of anything else either. Requires a DOS emulator like DOSBox to play.
Nostalgia Factor: Moderate. The feel of this game is surprisingly modern.
Replayability: Very good. There are many subplots and more than one way to complete some of them.
Lora's Verdict: (5/5) If you can get the darn thing to work, Ultima VII is one of the great CRPG's of all time.
Read The Full Review Hints and Walkthrough Buy This Game

Shadows Over Riva (Release Date: 1997)
Style: Six-person fantasy CRPG (Realms of Arkania series).
Highlights: Original dungeons, quirky humor, detailed character development.
Hurdles: Frustrating combat grid, slow movement, mundane inventory micromanagement.
Technical Difficulties: Not compatible with XP, may not be compatible with modern sound cards.
Nostalgia Factor: Moderate. The feel is actually relatively modern, in that early-3D kind of way.
Replayability: Good. The game contains enough detail that you won't remember every step you took ten years ago.
Lora's Verdict: (5/5) Shadows Over Riva is more fun than many games created almost a decade later.
Read The Full Review Hints and Walkthrough Buy This Game

Myst (Release Date: 1993)
Style: First-person puzzle adventure.
Highlights: Absorbing mood, compelling gameworld, clever puzzles.
Hurdles: Awkward slideshow interface, repetitive gameplay, audio puzzles.
Technical Difficulties: None with the DVD re-release. Older versions are crankier.
Nostalgia Factor: Very high. This is one of the most evocative games I've ever played in terms of mood and setting.
Replayability: So-so. Very linear, and you'll remember many of the puzzle solutions. The set design is detailed and the ambience is worth experiencing again, though.
Lora's Verdict: (5/5) Myst shows its age, but still feels more immersive than most games on the market today.
Read The Full Review Hints and Walkthrough Buy This Game

Star Trail (Release Date: 1994)
Style: Six-person fantasy CRPG (Realms of Arkania series).
Highlights: Original dungeons, quirky humor, detailed character development.
Hurdles: Frustrating combat grid, poor translation, annoying emphasis on mundane tasks like replacing worn-out boot soles.
Technical Difficulties: Mouse malfunctions on newer systems, forcing you to use the keyboard for all tasks.
Nostalgia Factor: High. Replaying it gave me flashbacks in a few places.
Replayability: Good. Detail and flexibility in gameplay kept me interested a second time.
Lora's Verdict: (4/5) Anyone who likes old-school CRPG's will have no trouble overlooking the interface irritations of Star Trail.
Read The Full Review Hints and Walkthrough Buy This Game

Ultima 4, 5, and 6 (Release Date: 1985-1990)
Style: Party-based fantasy CRPG (Ultima series).
Highlights: Excellent outside-the-box plots, detailed and immersive gameworld, interactive NPCs.
Hurdles: Extremely time-consuming tactical combat, awkward interface, very dated graphics.
Technical Difficulties: The recent CD collection works pretty well on XP, otherwise you'll need DOSBox.
Nostalgia Factor: Very high. Parts of it still sent tingles up my spine.
Replayability: So-so. The plot is linear and so compelling that I still remembered every twist and turn in it fifteen years later.
Lora's Verdict: (4/5) If you're a fan of classic computer games and you've never played these old-school masterpieces, you owe it to yourself to get
ahold of them ASAP.
Read The Full Review Hints and Walkthrough Buy This Game

Worlds of Xeen Trilogy (Release Date: 1994)
Style: Six-person fantasy CRPG (Might and Magic series).
Highlights: Tons of quests, fun dungeons, smooth combat, you can build your own castle.
Hurdles: Constantly repairing broken equipment, repetitive gameplay.
Technical Difficulties: Music and voice don't work with most newer systems, otherwise fine.
Nostalgia Factor: Very high. This is the definition of old-school gaming; chunky isometric graphics, lawnmown automap, and all.
Replayability: Pretty good. The dungeons have a lot of little tricks, traps and details that you'll have forgotten by now.
Lora's Verdict: (4/5) Worlds of Xeen isn't a very exciting game, but it's takes you right back to the good old days, and it's still fun to play.
(My children enjoy it, scarily enough...!)
Read The Full Review Hints and Walkthrough Buy These Games

Wizardry VII/Wizardry Gold (Release Date: 1992/1996)
Style: Six-person fantasy CRPG (Wizardry series).
Highlights: Smooth interface, good character development, interactive plot, customizable.
Hurdles: Long, tedious combats with weak wandering monsters; super-cheesy.
Technical Difficulties: Glitchy on XP; try this patch.
Nostalgia Factor: High. Proudly promoting fighter to samurai is as satisfying as it was ten years ago.
Replayability: Pretty good. There are a few forking paths in the plot, and you can choose a different ending this time around.
Lora's Verdict: (4/5) An oldie but a goodie--if you're impatient with the dragging Wizardry combats, you may want to hex-edit yourself
a high-powered combat spell to speed things up.

Read The Full Review Hints and Walkthrough Buy This Game

Blade of Destiny (Release Date: 1993)
Style: Six-person fantasy CRPG (Realms of Arkania series).
Highlights: Original dungeons, detailed character development.
Hurdles: Frustrating combat grid, poor translation, aggravating interface, too much mundane gameplay micromanagement.
Technical Difficulties: Mouse malfunctions on newer systems, forcing you to use the keyboard for all tasks. A couple of serious but avoidable bugs.
Nostalgia Factor: High. Memories came flooding back to me as I played this one again.
Replayability: Good. This is a very detailed game with lots of optional areas. I found some locations I'm pretty sure I completely missed last time I played.
Lora's Verdict: (3.5/5) Bare-bones but evocative old-school gaming goodness. Patience is required.
Read The Full Review Hints and Walkthrough Buy These Games

Riven (Release Date: 1997)
Style: First-person puzzle adventure (Myst series).
Highlights: Original and very challenging puzzles, astonishingly detailed gameworld, pretty graphics
Hurdles: Awkward slideshow interface, very slow pace, tedious gameplay.
Technical Difficulties: None with the DVD re-release. Older versions may be crankier.
Nostalgia Factor: Moderate. The gameworld is extremely detailed and evocative, the plot and characters totally forgettable.
Replayability: Poor. If you've solved this game once, you probably won't want to go through it again.
Lora's Verdict: (3/5) If you can stay awake through Riven's brutally boring gameplay, it will reward you with some of the best puzzles ever.
Read The Full Review Hints and Walkthrough Buy The Myst Trilogy

Phantasmagoria (Release Date: 1995)
Style: Third-person graphic adventure, horror genre.
Highlights: Long and involved plot, adult themes, creepy setting.
Hurdles: Slow pace, distracting graphics, more disgusting than scary, lousy realtime sequences.
Technical Difficulties: A number of serious bugs, but the game developers put out a good patch.
Nostalgia Factor: Low. I'm afraid the only memories replaying this brought back were of me and my friends making fun of the heroine.
Replayability: Poor. The game is entirely linear, and knowing the plot twists in advance kills what little suspense there is.
Lora's Verdict: (2.5/5) Phantasmagoria played an important role in adventure gaming history, but there are dozens of superior games out there today.
Read The Full Review Buy This Game

7th Guest (Release Date: 1993)
Style: First-person puzzle adventure.
Highlights: Good variety of nifty puzzles.
Hurdles: Clunky navigation, glaringly stupid plot.
Technical Difficulties: Can be played on Windows XP, but it's not easy. DOSBox helps.
Nostalgia Factor: Low. There really isn't anything in here but the puzzles.
Replayability: Poor. This game is completely linear, and if you've solved it already, you probably won't have forgotten the solution.
Lora's Verdict:(2.5/5) 7th Guest opened the way to a lot of great puzzle games, but it's probably not worth revisiting itself unless you're a very avid puzzler.
Read The Full Review Buy This Game

Alone In The Dark (Release Date: 1992)
Style: Third-person graphic adventure, horror genre.
Highlights: Spooky, suspenseful, can avoid monsters in more than one way.
Hurdles: Poor movement controls, frequent reloads, very dated look.
Technical Difficulties: Requires a DOS emulator like DOSBox to play.
Nostalgia Factor: High. If you played this game when it first came out, you'll surely remember some of its scarier moments fondly.
Replayability: Poor. This game is completely linear, and the gameplay is off-puttingly ancient.
Lora's Verdict:(2/5) Alone in the Dark was a great game for its day and is considered the grandfather of the "survival horror" genre, but unless you have a nostalgic yearning to flee from that giant worm thing again, there's not much in here to interest a modern gamer.
Read The Full Review Buy This Game

Daggerfall (Release Date: 1996)
Style: First-person action CRPG.
Highlights: Highly customizable character, cool wardrobe, open-ended play.
Hurdles: Bugs, badly controlled realtime combat, long boring dungeons, very repetitive.
Technical Difficulties: Oppressively, often critically buggy on any system.
Nostalgia Factor: Moderate. The excessive computer-generation hurts the old-school feel slightly.
Replayability: So-so. Daggerfall has very little plot in the first place (most of the game is computer-generated). If that didn't bore you the first time, it won't bore you this time either.
Lora's Verdict: (2/5) Not worth the hassle; you're better off with its sequel, Morrowind.
Read The Full Review Buy This Game



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