The fighter is too slow and clunky. The mage brittle and lacking. But the rogue feels just right. Rocketcat Games’ pixelated roguelike dungeon crawler Wayward Souls didn’t click with me until I stepped into the shoes of Renee the Rogue.
Renee has only a single ability aside from her basic dagger attack: the all-important dash. With a reliable way to avoid attacks I finally reached some level of success as I plunged deeper into the randomly generated dungeons… until I was devoured by a horde of angry boars.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Heroes of Might and Magic 3 is not only one of the best PC strategy games ever made, but one of the best games period, perfectly capturing the magic of building castles and battling fantasy armies. Unfortunately 3DO filed for bankruptcy soon after producing the disappointing fourth entry in the series in the early 2000s, taking New World Computing, the developers of Might and Magic, with them. Ubisoft swooped in to take over, and would then go on to produce increasingly mediocre sequels.
But fortunately for us, in 2008 King’s Bounty: The Legend came from Russia, with love.
This article ran as part of PC Gamer’s Class of 2008 series of retrospectives.
“We wanted to make a beer game,” says Michael Austin, creative director and co-founder of Hidden Path Entertainment. “That’s a game you can play with one hand while holding a beer.”
Though Austin and his fellow veterans at Hidden Path had previously worked on several games, Defense Grid: The Awakening was their first self-published title. They released it in 2008, when the tower defense genre was still mostly mods for games like Warcraft 3 and a few smartphone and browser games. Austin saw a fellow employee playing Desktop Tower Defense, and became inspired. “I wanted to make a AAA tower defense game, since the genre had only been in mods and flash games so far. I wanted to make Defense Grid because that’s a game I wanted to play.”
“Growing up I’d read articles and see pictures in Nintendo Power about behind-the-screen game development,” says Andrew Aversa, lead designer and programmer at Impact Gameworks, who recently released roguelike dungeon crawler Tangledeep. “I thought it was so interesting, but that fell by the wayside.” Though games were his first love, it was music, specifically game music, that captured his attention in his formative years.
Aversa is best known as Zircon, one of the most prolific video game remixers and professional game-focused composers in the industry. “In 2002 a friend introduced me to Music Maker 2000 Deluxe,” he says. “I had taken piano lessons as a kid and liked it, but once I could make music on a computer I got really into it. Being able to adjust knobs and sliders to create different sounds—I couldn’t get enough of it.”
Things were going well until the escort mission. My regular tactic of hiding behind towers and traps didn’t work when I had to safeguard a caravan across a level full of monsters, trying to keep things moving while also juggling multiple characters and opening pathways for them. After several failures I recruited a co-op partner, and the challenge suddenly went from frustrating to exciting. Aegis Defenders can be an enjoyable cooperative mix of tower defense and platforming, but playing solo did test my patience.
Every religion starts with a prophet. Ours was about to fall to a pack of unbelieving citizens before even getting a decent following. “Just a second!” says Mateusz Pilski, co-founder and lead programmer at Ice Code Games, demoing the recently announced RTS Re-Legion at PAX South. While he was busy explaining the initial set-up of the demo our starting forces fell, and now our prophet’s in danger of being swarmed by non-believers.
Pilski micro-manages the prophet around the rabble, firing off some holy lasers of righteousness while staying ahead of their fists. The prophet is clad in purple robes and a closed helmet encircled in spikes. He cuts an imposing figure among the urban sprawl of this glitzy cyberpunk world, but some folks are less than impressed.
“Neverwinter Nights changed my life,” Tony ‘Andarian’ Donadio tells me. Donadio adapted his college Dungeons & Dragons campaign to create a module for BioWare’s 2002 D&D game, Neverwinter Nights, thanks to its dev kit being made available to players. The Aurora Toolset let players make their own modules, campaigns, and even miniature MMOs called ‘Persistent Worlds’. It’s mainly thanks to these fan-made works that Neverwinter Nights is still fondly remembered.
When Beamdog’s Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition was announced I contacted several prominent community members who all shared a passion for the 15-year-old RPG. I also spoke to Trent Oster, Beamdog CEO and the original game’s designer and producer, who is well aware of Neverwinter Nights’ unique position as a game carried by its fans.