Monday, 2 February 2009

Darklands - PC *Masterpiece*

Heroic Role-Playing Adventures in Medieval Germany

The computer RPG has become a rather different sort of animal to the pen and paper progenitors of the genre. The computer was originally expected to take the role of dungeon master: encouraging the player to engage imaginatively with the source material: however this attitude gave way very quickly to the computer acting as automated taskmaster, reducing the player (by way of exp, new weapons, magic etc) to an beleaguered dogsbody; grinding characters, amassing trinkets and killing the proverbial foozle. I am not saying this style of play isn't fun and it can be integrated with the more imaginative style of cRPG: but it should be considered of secondary importance if you want a game with substance.

Darklands is made of such wondrous substance and is amongst the handful of computer RPG's that grasped the potential of the medium. The only RPG ever released by legendary software house Microprose (developed by MPSLabs), it offers the player an experience unique in the computer gaming canon. The game world exists as a fantastical palimpsest of the real medieval Germany, where the myths, legends and superstitions of the time are layered over the deep historical reality of the period: encounters play out more like vignettes while beautifully illustrated story boards explain your current predicament. Characters age, grow old and die, skills are learnt and then forgotten, equipment rusts, your fame waxes and wanes and the game world is persistent, evolving and never ends...

Should modern games come bundled with a GPS?
No...probably not.

Another night on bald mountain.

"Well lets see...I can use flails, poleaxes and have a virtue of 99"
"You've got the job...but can you toss burgers?!"

Premier Darklands Fansite
Darklands Yahoo Discussion Group
Download from Abandonia
Intro at Youtube
History of cRPG at Gamasutra

...if you are looking for a game to play that will actually provide an enriching experience rather than a banal glorification of positive feedback then Darklands is the answer: it has had the answer since 1992 and almost nobody wants to know...