Thursday, July 30, 2015

First Impressions - AntharioN

Don't ask him about his little red book.

Just like Interstellaria, AntharioN happens to be another game I managed to back via Kickstarter yet not remembering how I originally found out about it. The first Kickstarter funding campaign was unsuccessful but the second one happened to successfully raise $22,508 (of a $10,000 goal) thanks to me (and 729 other backers ;)). AntharioN advertised itself as an old-school, turn-based, party-based RPG so it definitely piqued my interest (I love turn-based games).

The game was released only recently so now that I’ve managed to clock a few hours into the completed product I’m ready to give my first impressions on it:

What I like:

  • Tribute to classic RPGs: Despite the isometric viewpoint and cute graphics, the game actually reminds me of games like Ultima VI. Exploring the world is "tick-based" (i.e. NPCs only move one step when you move one step) and in combat you revert to turn-based mode. The game also allows you to build a custom party which reminds me of games like Wizardry or Icewind Dale.
  • Music: The game has excellent music thanks to Eric J. Gallardo. His work on AntharioN actually sounds very similar to Jeremy Soule's work in the Elder Scrolls games. No mean feat!
  • Turn-based: As already mentioned, the game is turn and tick based, so you can play the game at your own pace!
  • Not overly complicated: Unlike a lot of D&D CRPGs, the game isn't that complicated and has a fairly intuitive interface. You'll be able to figure out how 90% of the game works without needing to search for help. There are also preset classes you can choose from when creating characters for your party.

What I don’t like:

  • No real explanation on how classes work: While you've got the typical classes you'd expect in RPGs sometimes it's dangerous in assuming they work the same way as RPGs you've played before. For example, I have a thief in my party and he seems to be pretty useless except for being able to pick locks. Apparently he's got some skill in pickpocketing but I'm not quite sure how you're meant to do this. Also can thieves sneak? Can they backstab? Or are they meant to be a ranged character? Some questions I don't have the answers to, yet.
  • No manual: For many games nowadays, manuals aren’t really required but you still can’t really get away from it with RPGs, simulation or strategy games. Apparently one is in the works thankfully.
  • Derivative plot: I haven't got far enough yet but seems to be your typical fantasy plot where an ancient evil is awakening and your intrepid party needs to stop it!
  • Cumbersome trading interface: You can't at a glance tell what you can afford and what you can't. You also can't sort items in price or category order (they're all displayed in the shopkeeper's inventory) and there's no way to distinguish the stuff you just sold and other items.
  • Game can be quite difficult at start: ... but persevere! It does get better and easier as you continue - or at least where I'm up to anyway (probably because my characters have levelled). You need food to rest which means you can't just rest ad infinitum to restore your health and energy. One saving grace is that at least there isn't permadeath if one of your party members is still alive at the end of a battle...


While the plot seems rather barebones at the moment and I haven't come across any memorable characters yet I am keen to explore the world of AntharioN and the turn-based, custom party RPG combat is a blast from the past which will keep me coming back for more. The developer is also continually updating the game to make it more user friendly (e.g. better explanations on what are ingredients and what are not, how difficult particular locks are, etc.) so that's always a good thing.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Where are they now? - Wendell Hicken

Whoa! What just happened? Did I fire an Ion Cannon or something?

Today's "Where are they now?" post is going to be a relatively short one, mainly because there isn't really that much information out there for the creator of one of the most addictive little shareware games of the 1990s - an artillery game called Scorched Earth. Developed in Borland C++ and Turbo Assembler by a chap named Wendell Hicken, I wasted many hours playing this game during my school years. The game was released as shareware in 1991 (although I played it much later when Worms, another artillery game, had already surfaced). Like Worms, you're able to pick from a long list of weapons but only if you have enough money to purchase them in between rounds (you earn money by defeating enemies). Despite its primitive graphics, the game was quite addictive and obviously a blast when it came to hotseat multiplayer (artillery games tend to be :)). The last version of Scorched Earth, 1.5 was released in 1995 and you can still grab the shareware version of this from Hicken's official Scorched Earth webpage, 20 years later! You can also pay what you want to get the official registered version.

So what happened to Mr. Hicken after Scorched Earth? Where is he now?

Well, Mr. Hicken's online presence is rather limited, or more to the point, out-of-date - so while he was relatively active online during the 2000s, there hasn't been much since then. He did run a personal blog between 2006 - 2011 and is apparently still running it but he hasn't posted anything since 2011. He also has a Twitter feed but hasn't really tweeted anything regularly since 2012. The most recent bit of information I can find is that he developed a mobile phone app called Dark Prevailer for a miniatures game called Dark Age and that was in 2013.

Hicken has apparently been working at what used to be known as Yellow Pages (it's now simply known as "yp" in the United States) since 2014 as Vice President for the Ad Platform so while it's great to hear he's still in the business of developing software it's too bad it doesn't happen to be a new game :). Will he ever develop another game or even another Scorched Earth? Who knows but whatever happens, I'd like to thank Mr. Hicken for developing one of the classic DOS games of the 1990s.

[ Wikipedia: Scorched Earth (video game) ]
[ MobyGames: Wendell Hicken]
[ Wendell Hicken's Official Website ]

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

First Impressions - Interstellaria

We come in peace. Shoot to kill - shoot to kill - shoot to kill. We come in peace...

I can't quite remember how I originally heard about Interstellaria but I most likely heard about it from a Kickstarter project I backed. Anyway, Interstellaria originally went to Kickstarter for funding in 2013 and successfully raised $28,805 USD from 1,773 backers (and I was one of them, of course). So why did I back it?

Interstellaria advertised itself as being similar to old school space games like Star Control 2 yet with modern mechanics. You're able to explore a galaxy filled with alien cultures so I was totally down with that especially considering the very affordable $10 USD price for admission :).

Fast forward to one and a half years later, and Interstellaria is now a reality. I've managed to clock a few hours so far and here are my first impressions:

What I like:

  • Tribute to sci-fi classics: Interstellaria is based on games that are considered sci-fi classics with the game being mostly influenced by the classic Star Control 2. In Star Control 2 you got to explore worlds, gather resources, meet alien races and fight hostile ships; Interstellaria has sought to do the same although it has also been influenced by more recent sci-fi classics, such as Mass Effect 2 with respect to its plot, and FTL: Faster than Light with respect to the ship combat.
  • Music: A game that pays tribute to classics of yesteryear like Star Control 2 wouldn't be complete without an appropriately retro soundtrack. Chipzel does a fantastic job in this regard managing to inject some groovy chiptune dance tracks whenever exploring planets and fighting other ships. Remember when you used to dance to the Mortal Kombat-like dance music that would play every time you fought ships in Star Control 2 (No? That was just me? Whatever)? The music in Interstellaria is that good you'll probably be doing the same.
  • Mouse-driven controls: I love games that can be controlled exclusively using a mouse and Interstellaria is one of those games. You can use shortcuts on the keyboard if you so desire although the only one I tend to use is the spacebar (which is used for pausing the game).

What I don't like:

  • Grind: When you're collecting resources on a planet it can sometimes take quite a while to gather all the resources. It feels like an eternity but it's probably close to 5 minutes I guess and it involves automating your crew to pick up things and then clicking the Fast Forward button. To be fair, Star Control 2 and Mass Effect 2 were kind of guilty in this regard too but it's a feature the game could've definitely done without.
  • Confusing gameplay: I still don't completely understand how to play the game such as how to select one crew member once they're all standing on top of each other (I usually use the arrow keys on the top but it's time consuming to cycle through crew members... hold the train! A most recent update to the game now gives you a crew member selection panel which is a welcome addition. Unfortunately you can't seem to scroll left while it's open though). I also have no idea how combat works since sometimes your crew members fire on hostile fauna but other times they don't do anything.
  • Lack of variety: While each of the planets I've landed on so far seem to differ enough space stations are often pretty bland and the differences between crew members is hardly noticeable (at least among the Humans). I guess it doesn't help that the game is animated using pixelated retro graphics either.
  • Primitive, linear conversation tree: Conversations are similar to games like Diablo, i.e. your input doesn't really matter and it's mainly for information purposes. Don't expect to find complex conversations trees that you often get in point ‘n' click adventures or RPGs
  • Lots of micromanagement: The game requires a lot of micromanagement so Thank God they've got the pause button since it'd be otherwise impossible. Imagine the combat in FTL: Faster than Light except with five ships! That's right, five ships. That's a lot of crew members scurrying around to their respective stations, putting out fires, sealing holes in the hull and fending off intruders. Oh, and unlike FTL you can move the ships around in combat too adding even greater difficulty!
  • Some extra polish needed: The game has a few typos and you're also able to die in the tutorial (without the game letting you know it): one time my entire crew died except a “dronecopter" so the game thought I still had crew left when realistically I didn't since the dronecopter is unable to man the navigation station meaning I was destined to drift in space forever!


There's still many more worlds left for me to explore so I'm going to continue giving Interstellaria a go for the immediate future. Hopefully it can keep my interest long enough to even finish the main storyline, but that will be dependent on how difficult the remainder of the game is and how much grind I'll have to endure. At least the music is good… too bad I didn't back at that level in the original Kickstarter!

[ LINK: Official Interstellaria Website ]

Monday, July 27, 2015

Choicest Games Top 100: Honourable Mentions and Analysis

Honourable Mentions

There were truly too many games to choose from when it came to the Top 100 so there are no doubt some classics that are missing. Some of the games below are held in very high regard but usually by only one judge and were hence pushed further down the list. Honourable mentions go to:

  • Age of Empires
  • Battlefield 3
  • Borderlands
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2
  • Call of Duty: World at War
  • Call to Power 2
  • Civilization III
  • Commander Keen
  • Doom 3
  • Fahrenheit (aka Indigo Prophecy)
  • Fallout
  • Fallout 3
  • Far Cry 2
  • Homeworld
  • Hotline Miami
  • Lemmings
  • Little Big Adventure (aka Relentless: Twinsen's Adventure)
  • Loom
  • Mafia II
  • Max Payne
  • Neverwinter Nights 2
  • Planetside 2
  • Privateer 2: The Darkening
  • Rome: Total War
  • Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory
  • Sid Meier's Colonization
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  • Star Control 2
  • Starcraft II
  • Syndicate (1993)
  • System Shock 2
  • The Walking Dead
  • Tomb Raider (2013)
  • Tropico 3
  • Ultima Online
  • Unreal Tournament
  • Wacky Wheels
  • Wing Commander: Privateer
  • Worms 2


Also, since I love analysing data I thought I'd pick some interesting stats I noticed with respect to the games we picked for the Choicest Games Top 100.

Oldest Game on the List
The oldest game on the list is 1985's Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? . Other old games include 1986's Tetris and 1988's Battle Chess.

Newest Game on the List
The newest game on the list is 2014's Civilization: Beyond Earth. Other recent games include 2013's The Wolf Among Us and Battlefield 4.

Year with most Top 100 Games
The year with the most Top 100 games is 1999 with 8 games:

  • Age of Empires II
  • Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri
  • Counter-Strike
  • The Longest Journey
  • Planescape: Torment
  • Quake III
  • SimCity 3000
  • Team Fortress Classic

1996 (6 games), 2004 (7 games) and 2005 (6 games) were also years with many Top 100 games.

Decade with most Top 100 Games
The 2000s had the most Top 100 games with 45 games in total. This was followed by the 1990s (39 games) then the 2010s (11 games). There were 5 games on the list from the 1980s.

Developer with most Top 100 Games
The developer with most Top 100 Games was Valve with 10 games on the list being developed by them. Bioware came second with 8 Top 100 Games and Maxis came third with 6 Top 100 Games.

Publisher with most Top 100 Games
The publisher with most Top 100 Games was Electronic Arts or EA with a whopping 18 games on the list. Second on the list is the now defunct Lucasfilm/Lucasarts with 9 games and third is Valve with 8 games.

The most represented genre in the Choicest Games Top 100
More than one fifth of the games on the Choicest Games Top 100 are First-Person Shooters (22 games) although the list is also dominated by RPGs (18 games) and Real-Time Strategy (RTS) games (15 games).

Highest ranked FPS on the list
Wolfenstein 3D

Highest ranked RPG on the list
Diablo II

Highest ranked RTS on the list

Highest ranked Point 'n' Click Adventure on the list
The Secret of Monkey Island

Highest ranked Turn-based Strategy on the list
Civilization II

Highest ranked City Builder on the list

Highest ranked Business Simulation on the list
Theme Hospital


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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Choicest Games Top 100: 1-10

10 – Mass Effect 2

Release Year: 2010

Mass Effect 2 is the highest ranked Mass Effect game on this list and with good reason. Mass Effect 2 took what was great about the first Mass Effect and refined the formula while adding more characters, more story and more endings; Crewmates now had loyalty missions which helped you connect and care for them. You were also able to see how the choices you made in the original game impacted the galaxy in its sequel.

In terms of the end-game, Mass Effect 2's is one of the most refreshing and exhilarating I've ever experienced offering a huge number of potential endings that are dependent on the choices you make there and then as well as how well you prepared beforehand. Jack Wall and Sam Hulick also return to score the soundtrack and it's even better the second time around.

9 – Civilization II

Release Year: 1996

The Civilization games have featured many times on this list but Civilization II is ranked the highest of them all, voted as one of the best games of all time by three out of the four judges on the panel. This was probably the first Civilization game that started to get serious, well except for the silly FMV Council with gems like below from the Luxuries Adviser:

"I don't mean to be stepping on your blue suede shoes sir, but a land without luxuries, it's like a hound dog without a bone, it's not happy..."

Compared to the original Civilziation, the game had improved higher resolution, isometric graphics, improved sound effects, improvements to the AI and the addition of firepower and hit points to combat (combat was live-or-die in the original Civilization with no such thing as injured units). The game also had some funky FMV wonder videos that they never revisited in the following games.

Another reason this version of Civilization was so great was because it was easy to mod – so easy that I could even do it as soon as they released the Fantastic Worlds expansion. All of these factors contributed to Civilization II's success and its place at #9 on the Choicest Games Top 100 list!

8 – Battlefield 2

Release Year: 2005

This is my favourite Battlefield game of all time but HOW COME IT'S NOT HIGHER UP THE LIST??!? :@ Well that's democracy for you ;) (one judge has never played the game). Anyway, it's still in the top 10 which I'm happy about and out of all the Battlefield games, this is the one that encouraged a great deal of cooperation and teamwork, probably more than any other title in the franchise, all thanks to Commander Mode. In Battlefield 2, the Commander is responsible for providing intelligence and raising the team's situational awareness by marking targets on the battlefield and providing UAV support. They can also provide artillery strikes, supply drops and vehicle drops to the team. Voice comms follows the chain of command with squaddies only able to talk to their squad leader and the Commander only being able to talk squad leaders. It's beautiful when it works well and fosters a sense of camaraderie amongst the team.

The game also has more classes than recent iterations of Battlefield meaning greater dependency on teammates to do their roles. Another reason I believe this Battlefield requires greater cooperation than its contemporaries.

Finally, for better or worse, Battlefield 2 was also the first Battlefield game to be set in the modern era which Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4 would also be set in.

Overall, Battlefield 2 is a very important and revolutionary title in the Battlefield series which further cemented D.I.C.E.'s reputation as the one stop shop for immersive, large-scale multiplayer shooters.

7 – Diablo II

Release Year: 2000

While the first Diablo laid the foundations of what would become a best-selling franchise for Blizzard, it was Diablo II which would become the favourite of the series only because it was a bigger and better version of Diablo; instead of just visiting one town and its dungeon (Tristram) you're able to visit many locales over multiple acts. Instead of just three classes to pick from, you could pick five in Diablo II. Besides that though, the game is mostly the same bringing back the gorgeous cinematics Blizzard are well known for and a creepy, adrenaline-pumping soundtrack thanks to the return of composer Matt Uelmen.

6 – Call of Duty

Release Year: 2003

The Call of Duty franchise has seen better days but it all started back in 2003 when a relatively unknown studio known as Infinity Ward released a WWII-shooter (in a market already dominated by WWII shooters). What made Call of Duty stand out from the rest of the crowd was how immersive the game was for its day. Thanks to a combination of excellent visual effects, sound effects and scripted sequences, you felt like you were really there. What also helped was that unlike other FPSs of the day, such as Medal of Honor, most of the time you fought as an army in Call of Duty instead of playing as a lone wolf. This definitely helped with the immersion factor as if you're fighting a war as a frontline soldier, that's what you'd expect right?

Cinematic quality shooters that are short in length has become the hallmark of Infinity Ward games but the beginning of this formula started with the original Call of Duty which takes the #6 spot on our list.

5 – Counter-Strike

Release Year: 1999

Counter-Strike is one of the most popular Half-Life mods ever made (if not the most popular) and as a result has made Valve a lot of moolah (the Counter-Strike franchise has sold over 25 million units). Developed in 1999, the game was probably the first experience, for many, of an online, team-based multiplayer game (despite it being basically Team Deathmatch). It was also one of the earliest online multiplayer FPSs to feature real guns instead of fictional weapons which no doubt helped with its popularity. The game has become the de facto FPS for e-sports and has spawned two sequels: Counter-Strike: Source and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Its impact on professional gaming and multiplayer shooters in general means it deserves its place at #5 on our list.

4 – Doom

Release Year: 1993

Doom represented a milestone in PC gaming and the First-Person Shooter (FPS) genre (although ultimate honour for that goes to Wolfenstein 3D). Thanks to spectacular 3D graphics (for its day), rudimentary network gameplay and a shareware model that enabled 10 million people to have played the game within two years after its release, Doom was extremely influential in making the FPS genre a popular one. In fact, it wasn't until the late 1990s that the term "FPS" became more popular than "Doom clone" – that's how important it was to the genre. The game spawned many sequels including one that is currently in development and is so popular that it has migrated to other media such as comic books, board games and even film.

3 – Tetris

Release Year: 1986

You can't have a top 100 games list without Tetris. Despite the game being originally developed in 1984 in what used to be the Soviet Union, the game was eventually exported to the U.S. (and was the first ever computer game to do so) and was an instant hit. Since its early days on the PC, the game is now found on almost anything that runs on electricity; Tetris can be found on PCs, consoles, mobile phones, PDAs, media players, graphics calculators and even on oscilloscopes! The game has even been played on the side of buildings! The game continues to be popular to this day having sold more than 170 million copies on smartphones- so it's now even the best-selling paid download game of all time (and we're still not talking about the many other platforms it's on).

The game is addictive, ageless and anyone can play which is why it's in at #3 for our Top 100 list.

2 – Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Release Year: 2010

While I think Battlefield 2 should've been ranked higher, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 comes a close second (IMHO) and is one of the franchise fan favourites (nice bit of alliteration there if I do say so myself). This is the only Battlefield game that all of the judges on the panel have played and enjoyed immensely and was probably the last "true" Battlefield game where "less was more" (this was before the pandering to Call of Duty players by opening the floodgates on the number of guns and attachments you could equip). Bad Company 2 marked the return of the Battlefield series back to the PC and it did so with a bang. The game had great level design, excellent Rush mode maps, beautiful visuals, destructible buildings, an entertaining single-player campaign that never took itself too seriously and the lack of jets helped make the game feel more balanced. The game was critically acclaimed and sold over 12 million copies. It's definitely the best Battlefield game in recent years and hence it's #2 spot on our list.

1 – Wolfenstein 3D

Release Year: 1992

Here it is. The moment you've all been waiting for: the #1 game on the Choicest Games Top 100 list! This is a game that all judges have played and all rated it as one of the best games of the 1990s if not one of the best PC games of all time. The game helped put id Software on the map and who doesn't like shooting a few Nazis right? Inspired by an early 1980s game called Castle Wolfenstein (made by Muse Software), id were allowed to use the name since the copyright had lapsed. The game was originally going to have gameplay similar to the original Wolfenstein which relied a lot on stealth but this was eventually dropped as it would have complicated development. Secret walls were added though at the request of John Romero and Tom Hall which John Carmack finally agreed to implement late in development. The game also looked pretty spectacular for the day thanks to the adoption of 3D graphics in VGA (256 colours) and its support for digital sound cards like Adlib and Sound Blaster.

The game was critically acclaimed and was a commercial success for the small 6-person studio selling 100,000 units by the end of 1993. Its success demonstrated the effectiveness of the shareware model (which id would continue to employ) and the popularity of 3D shooters. Up to that point, many shooters were side-scrolling affairs on the PC and Wolf 3D helped to move the market to first person shooters. No wonder many consider the game as the grandfather of 3D shooters and Wolf 3D would become the start of a franchise consisting of many reboots including the most recent one, Wolfenstein: The Old Blood.


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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Choicest Games Top 100: 11-20

20 – SimCity 2000

Release Year: 1993

We're now at the business end of the Top 100 list as we enter the Top 20 and at 20th place we have the classic city building game SimCity 2000. While the very first SimCity was responsible for laying the groundwork it was SimCity 2000 that added greater complexity to the franchise as well as an attractive isometric viewpoint instead of the old top-down view of the original. Players could now earn rewards at certain population milestones (including arcologies at very high populations) and zone land into different shapes and sizes instead of simply plonking down square-shaped zones like the original. SimCity 2000 also allows for connections to neighbouring cities as well as the building of underground infrastructure such as water pipes and subways. You also have more freedom when it comes to budgeting as you're able to enact ordinances and even tax specific industries at different tax rates. It's no wonder the game was used as an educational tool for geography classes across the globe.

19 – Starcraft

Release Year: 1998

Coming in at 19th place is what I believe one of the best RTSs of all time. While I bet some Warcraft fans will disagree with how high Starcraft is on the list, Artanis begs to differ:

"What do I look like? An Orc? This is not Warcaft in space! It's much more sophisticated! I know it's not 3D!"

Starcraft took what was good about Warcraft and then not only applied it to just any sci-fi setting but a Space Western sci-fi setting where redneck humans living on the frontier worlds of the Koprulu Sector have to wage war against the nightmarish Zerg (a Hive-mind race similar to the Arachnids in Starship Troopers) and the honourable Protoss (an advanced, telepathic race of aliens with a strict honour code). Each side not only looked quite different from each other but played differently too meaning each side suited a different play style. The game became immensely popular (especially in South Korea) selling millions of copies and is even responsible for adding the term "zerg rush" to the gaming lexicon.

18 – Portal

Release Year: 2007

If you take a game like Half-Life 2 and then got rid of all the combat segments and just focused on environmental and physics puzzles you'd end up with something that looks a lot like Portal. The game's main feature is the "portal gun" which grants the player the ability to generate entry and exit portals on particular walls of each map. While at first the puzzles are quite simple they start to become more complex as the game progresses, such as generating horizontal force through the use of gravity. The game has loads of humour too and one of the best villains in a computer game in the form of the brilliant yet dysfunctional AI, GLaDOS. Add one of the best credits songs ever and you've got yourself one of the best games of all time – two of the judges on the panel definitely think so.

17 – Mass Effect

Release Year: 2008

Bioware was no stranger to sci-fi RPGs by the early 2000s thanks to the release of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic but they decided to go one step further and develop their own IP; in 2008, that game would be Mass Effect. The game had everything a sci-fi RPG fan could wish for: a huge galaxy to explore, a cool spaceship, crewmates you actually care about, quality voice acting, multiple endings and a soundtrack inspired by sci-fi films of yesteryear such as Blade Runner and Dune. While some aspects of the interface are clunky and on release it had terrible activation-based DRM, there's no denying the game's greatness and without it, we'd never be able to enjoy the exploits of Commander Shepard.

16 – Deus Ex

Release Year: 2000

This cyberpunk FPS/RPG is often considered one of the best PC games ever made. It also happens to be the only game me and two mates can all agree upon as being an awesome game, despite having different gaming tastes. It's probably because it has something for everyone: it's a First Person Shooter but you don't need to go in guns blazing (in fact you might be penalised for doing so) and sometimes the stealthy, non-lethal approach is the best option. The game also has role-playing elements where you're able to invest points in augmenting your body with superhuman traits which again allows you to approach problems in a different manner. The game is ultimately every nerd's dream with just about every conspiracy theory you can think of becoming a reality, so much so that not even the X-Files could compete. No wonder the game has sold millions of copies, won several awards and an entire franchise.

15 – Diablo

Release Year: 1996

While hack ‘n' slash RPGs, action RPGs and MUDs have been around for a long time, these elements wouldn't work together so perfectly until 1996 when Blizzard released a point ‘n' click, dark fantasy action RPG called Diablo. The game had 16 levels that you and up to three of your friends could descend vanquishing legions of monsters on the way. While this is by no means revolutionary, up to that point it had never been done with such high-resolution graphics and with such a memorable soundtrack composed by Matt Uelmen (the "Tristram" theme has survived in one form or another in every Diablo game). Two of the judges on the panel invested many hours in the game, probably because the game was so addictive; you're always on the lookout for high value loot, a better weapon or better armour. The game was a huge success for Blizzard and resulted in two sequels as well as a whole bunch of imitators such as Sacred, Titan Quest, Dungeon Siege and Torchlight (just to name a few).

14 – SimCity

Release Year: 1989

Almost every SimCity has made this top 100 list (with the exception of 2013's SimCity) but the highest ranking one at #14 is the 1989 original that started it all. While it seems very basic by modern standards the impact that SimCity would have on the gaming industry was profound. SimCity was one of the first games that didn't have any defined objectives, no win or lose conditions and as such was defined as a "software toy" by creator Will Wright. Most publishers didn't think the game would work if it didn't have any goals or scenarios to beat (and eventually scenarios did creep into the game) but the resounding success of the game proved them wrong. Not only that, but Will Wright's fledgling company Maxis would continue to make sandbox games like SimCity for a couple of decades with one of them becoming the best-selling PC game franchise of all time. All of this would not have been possible if it weren't for SimCity and consequently we owe a lot to Will Wright and his original creation.

13 – Civilization V

Release Year: 2010

Civilization V is the first game on this Top 100 list to have been rated as one of the best games in recent years by all judges and one of the best games of all time by one judge. While Civilization V probably isn't the most revolutionary of all the Civilization games, it did incorporate some interesting changes such as a hexagonal grid and the inability to create "stacks of doom". As is normally the case with Civilization games, the vanilla version was okay but it only starts to really shine once the expansion packs are released, especially the latest one, Brave New World (BNW). With BNW you get a whole bunch of crazy civilizations (e.g. Venice which doesn't even get settlers) along with revamps to how trade, culture and diplomacy work. All the judges have enjoyed many fun multiplayer games of Civ V (when it works) and still continue to play the game to this day.

12 – Freelancer

Release Year: 2003

Freelancer is the first game on this Top 100 list to be rated as one of the best games of all time by three out of the four judges on the panel and it makes perfect sense when you consider Star Citizen a game that is being developed by the same designer has managed to generate more than $85 million in crowdfunding. There are hundreds of thousands of fans out there that were so impressed with Freelancer that they want a spiritual successor to it and are willing to pay good money for it too. So why is Freelancer that good? It's because it's an updated Privateer with better graphics, multiplayer and a stirring soundtrack by James Hannigan. Everybody likes a space trading simulator with high production values and that's exactly what Freelancer is. The game also has the ability to be played quite easily with a mouse and keyboard which helps make the game more accessible to those who wouldn't normally venture into the realm of space sims.

11 – Guild Wars

Release Year: 2005

If the Choicest Games Top 100 list were comprised of games purely based on playtime, Guild Wars well and truly deserves its place. I have sunk many hours over several years into this game, even forming a guild that has survived to this day (albeit quite a bit smaller than it used to be, as well as becoming game agnostic). While the game has been labelled as an MMORPG it's actually more like Diablo with respect to instanced combat areas. The game also has MMORPG-style social features with towns acting like in-game chat rooms. This is not entirely surprising due to many ex-Blizzard employees making up ArenaNet, the developer of Guild Wars. Other things that were great about this game were the fully fleshed out PvP features such as Guild versus Guild (you could even win real money playing in global tournaments), rewarding gameplay thanks to a "Magic: the Gathering" style system where you had to pick a deck of eight skills prior to combat and a top notch soundtrack thanks to Jeremy Soule.

Due to the game having so much content and not requiring a subscription fee (like many traditional MMORPGs) the game was a hit selling several million copies and winning many awards. In fact, the game was a breakthrough for the MMORPG market since it demonstrated that you didn't need to have a traditional subscription model in order to provide a AAA game due to its clever mix of instancing and persistent areas which most likely kept maintenance costs to a minimum.


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Friday, July 24, 2015

Choicest Games Top 100: 21-30

30 – Command & Conquer: Red Alert

Release Year: 1996

What may come as a shock for some is that Red Alert is the highest ranking Command & Conquer game on the Choicest Games Top 100 list! It even beat the original! Why? Well, while Command & Conquer was excellent in its own right I always felt that the Red Alert games were better refined versions of the Command & Conquer games that preceded them. They were also always a blast to play on multiplayer and I think the first Red Alert coincided with my first experience of playing games on Westwood Chat/Online, Westwood Studios's game matchmaking service. Red Alert also has the whole alternate history thing going with the Allies (including Germany) fighting against a Soviet invasion of Europe led by Josef Stalin himself. The game boasts an excellent soundtrack too with "Hell March" in particular being a fan favourite.

29 – Theme Hospital

Release Year: 1997

Theme Hospital is by no means innovative as it basically copied the formula set forth by 1994's Theme Park and applied it to a hospital setting. However, the game is slightly more recent and that's probably why it's scored higher (thanks to one particular judge having fond memories playing this game). There have been a few clones based off Theme Hospital's formula but none can trump the original in terms of its trademark British humour, its easy-to-learn yet challenging gameplay and a MIDI soundtrack that's actually very memorable.

28 – Minecraft

Release Year: 2009

This may come as blasphemy but I never really got into Minecraft. I tried my best to have a go at it, even played with a couple of friends but I just couldn't have any fun with it. Mind you, I played the game in its very early days (when it was still a relatively unknown indie game with Markus Persson asking for donations via Paypal). I have played the game recently and it seems to be slightly better for newbies. Despite my lack of interest in the game though, I can at least appreciate its importance. The success of sandbox indie game Minecraft helped sparked a renaissance in PC gaming and indie game development in general. Many budding developers thought if some guy in Sweden could make millions of dollars for what was essentially virtual Lego, what was stopping them mimicking that success? Obviously, it's not that easy but with it came the flood of indie games that are clogging up our backlogs today. And we've all got Minecraft to thank for that.

27 – Half-Life 2

Release Year: 2004

A Top 100 PC Games list wouldn't be complete without Half-Life 2 and it was rated as one of the best games of all time by two of the judges – so why is it not in the top 10 like it is in many other lists? Mainly because out of the other two judges one thinks it's overrated and another hasn't even played it. But we're here to talk about why the game deserves to be in this list, right? Well, besides staples of the Half-Life franchise which includes a gripping sci-fi plot and environmental puzzles interspersed with frantic firefights, the game also has spectacular graphics for 2004 thanks to the Source Engine. Another of the game's touted features is the Gravity Gun which allows you to use any scattered debris as a weapon. The game was a commercial and critical success for Valve having sold millions of copies, achieving an aggregate score of over 90% across many publications and winning 39 Game of the Year awards. The game would also spawn two episodes that followed the events from the first game. While there are plans for a third episode or indeed a sequel to Half-Life 2, none have eventuated over the past decade leading to the deciphering of seemingly unrelated clues as confirmation of its development, turning into a popular Internet meme.

26 – Morrowind

Release Year: 2002

The second Elder Scrolls game to make the list happens to be the first of what I deem to be the "modern era" of Elder Scrolls games. From Morrowind onwards, the games were quite similar to each other in that they were all in hand-crafted 3D worlds (as opposed to the procedural generation of dungeons used in previous games) and they all had Jeremy Soule as the composer. Since procedural generation wasn't used, the development of Morrowind turned out to be a huge undertaking; one estimate claims the game required 100 man-years of effort to produce and with an island as huge as the Dunmer (Dark Elf) island of Vvardenfell along with over 3000 characters you could potentially interact with, it's not hard to see why. The end result was spectacular though and exploring the province of Morrowind was truly a magical experience. The game sold more than 4 million copies and won over 60 awards, no doubt paving the way for more Elder Scrolls games.

25 – Half-Life

Release Year: 1998

Once again a Half-Life game makes the Top 100 list and this time it's the one that started it all. Often called "a thinking man's shooter" (hey your character, Gordon Freeman, is a theoretical physicist after all…) Half-Life revolutionised the way we played First Person Shooters by creating an immersive, realistic experience where winning the game wasn't all about how good you could fire a gun but how you approached environmental hazards (sometimes going in guns blazing wasn't the key to survival). Valve managed to hire top notch talent which no doubt contributed to Half-Life's success such as science-fiction writer, Marc Laidlaw (who worked on the characters and level design) and Kelly Bailey (who composed the high quality Red Book Audio soundtrack). All of this resulted in a game that was hugely popular, selling millions of copies and winning over 50 Game of the Year awards. Half-Life would make Valve a (gamer) household name and would also spawn many successful mods including Team Fortress Classic, Counter-Strike, Day of Defeat and Natural Selection.

24 – Mass Effect 3

Release Year: 2012

Another controversial choice to make the Choicest Games Top 100 is Mass Effect 3. Most of the controversy arose around the sloppy, Deus Ex style ending where decisions you made earlier in series had zero impact on the outcome. I believe some of the criticism was a bit harsh, especially after the Extended Cut fixed some of the plot holes in the epilogue, as Mass Effect 3 is the final game in a trilogy and needs to be treated as an epilogue in itself. All the loose ends have to be sorted out and a customised ending (which are features of the first two games) can't really be explored if it's meant to be the end of the Commander Shepard era. The criticism also tends to ignore the other 95% of the game which is fantastic thanks to reunions with characters from previous games and several epic space battles. The only things that ended up annoying me about Mass Effect 3 was its insistence of multiplayer performance affecting the outcomes of your single player campaign (which they thankfully fixed later on) and the fact that the Citadel DLC was a DLC and not part of the base game.

23 – Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2

Release Year: 2004

Only a year after the release of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, fledgling development house, Obsidian Entertainment developed a sequel called Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords (KotoR 2). While this was the development house's first game, the company consisted of veteran RPG developers from Black Isle Studios and this showed in the final product. KotoR 2 had an arguably more mature and darker plot than the original KotoR making you question whether it was actually worth being on the Light Side after all. The game was filled with scenarios that highlighted the futility in helping or abstaining to help innocents showing that morality was more like shades of grey instead of a simple black and white dichotomy. KotoR 2 is actually superior to the original game in many regards but it unfortunately fell short thanks to being given only a year to complete the game by publisher Lucasarts. Many sections were cut out of the game and the ending in particular was very sloppy. Despite its drawbacks though, the game is rated as one of the best games of all time by two judges on the panel and one of the best RPGs of the 2000s by another.

22 – Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Release Year: 2003

Oh look! Another game by Bioware. This is the 6th Bioware game to feature on the Choicest Games Top 100 list and it won't be the last! Knights of the Old Republic marked a new direction for Bioware in that it was their first game based on the Star Wars franchise, their first RPG to be set in a sci-fi universe and the first to use their Odyssey Engine (which would also be used in Jade Empire). Set 4,000 years before the events in the films, author Drew Karpyshyn (who would go on to develop the Mass Effect lore) does an impressive job in creating a galaxy that is alien yet familiar. The game also has one of the biggest plot twists in gaming history but you'll just have to enjoy the game to find out ;). The soundtrack was truly impressive too with Jeremy Soule being an excellent choice as composer considering he is the John Williams of Computer Games (at least IMHO). It's no wonder then that this winning combination of a famous franchise, great plot, memorable characters and exquisite music resulted in the game being critically acclaimed and winning several awards.

21 – Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri

Release Year: 1999

When I think of Civilization in space, there are generally two games I think of: one of them we've already covered on this list is Master of Orion but the other is of course Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri (SMAC). Released in 1999, this game came after 1996's Civilization II and before 2001's Civilization III. SMAC isn't just a simple reskin of Civilization however (which some reckon the recent Beyond Earth is); quite a bit of the game was revamped. SMAC is the first Civ-like game to have civilizations with unique bonuses whereas in previous Civilization games, all Civs were functionally the same. You also have a greater ability to mould the terrain in SMAC thanks to terraforming machines called "formers" – you're even able to lower or raise the terrain! Finally, similar to the Master of Orion games, you have the freedom to design your own units. I always liked to adopt the "glass cannon" approach, arming my soldiers with the biggest gun they could carry and giving them the appropriate unit name of "Choice Fanatic". "Do it for the cause my brothers! Do it for the Choicest One!"

The game remains a fan favourite and won several awards despite the game not selling as well as the Civilization series. Its legacy is one that's very difficult to match which is probably why Beyond Earth was a disappointment to many fans on release due to them naturally drawing parallels between SMAC and Beyond Earth.


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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Choicest Games Top 100: 31-40

40 – Day of the Tentacle

Release Year: 1993

Classic Lucasarts point ‘n' click adventures seem to be a recurring theme on this Top 100 list so of course we had to have Day of the Tentacle on it. This game is a sequel to Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick's 1987 hit Maniac Mansion but thankfully you don't need to play the original game in order to appreciate the humour. The game is set at a mad scientist's mansion but in different time periods (200 years in the past, 200 years in the future and the present) and you're able to control three characters: a nerd called Bernard, a roadie called Hoagie and an eccentric medical student called Laverne. The time travel related puzzles are definitely a highlight of the game along with the multitude of goofy characters and humourous dialogue. In fact, it's probably one of the only games I could almost recite the entire dialogue.

The good news for fans is that Double Fine are working on remastering the game for modern audiences so everyone can once again experience one of the best point ‘n' click adventure games in history.

39 – Civilization

Release Year: 1991

The original Civilization manages to make it onto the list thanks to two of the judges rating it as one of the best PC games of all time. This is the game that started the "Just-one-more-turn" syndrome courtesy of Sid Meier and although it seems quite primitive by today's standards, as Tears for Fears say, "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" right? The original Civilization laid the groundwork for the entire Civilization series (which is still going strong more than two decades later) and catapulted Sid Meier into the limelight as the developer of quality Turn-Based Strategy games.

38 – The Secret of Monkey Island

Release Year: 1990

Here we have another game that was the beginning of a much-loved franchise: Monkey Island. The Secret of Monkey Island, heavily influenced by the fantasy pirate novel "On Stranger Tides" by Tim Powers, is a swashbuckling adventure where you get to play a character with the very silly name of "Guybrush Threepwood" who wants nothing more than becoming a pirate. Eventually he falls in love with the governor of the island he's visiting and when she's kidnapped by the zombie pirate LeChuck, it's up to you to help Guybrush purchase a ship, gather a crew and set sail to Monkey Island on a daring rescue. What makes the game stand out is Ron Gilbert's trademark humour, memorable characters and a Caribbean inspired soundtrack thanks to Michael Land. Four sequels were eventually developed with the most recent one, Tales of Monkey Island, being released 6 years ago.

The game also received a high-definition remaster in 2009 which allows gamers to experience the game with sharper graphics, music played with real instruments and voice acting.

37 – Fable

Release Year: 2004

Fable was rated as one of the best action RPGs of the mid 2000s by two of the judges on the panel and one of the best games of all time by another. Sure the game was hyped like there was no tomorrow, thanks to the overzealous Peter Molyneux, but despite it not being the ultimate RPG that everyone was expecting, it was still a pretty damn good game. The fact your hero ages and changes appearance depending on your alignment (a bit like the Knights of the Old Republic games) along with the very British humour are stand-out features, not to mention that stirring main theme by Danny Elfman.

36 – Battle Chess

Release Year: 1988

This game is a surprise addition to the list thanks to it being rated one of the best PC games of all time by one judge on the panel and another rating it as one of the best of the late 1980s. Battle Chess took the simple concept of animating chess pieces as they crossed the board or whenever they attacked each other; one neat feature that is that the battles turned out to be quite different depending on which piece was taking another. By adding animations it gave a new lease on life for the very old board game of Chess and for the late 1980s, the graphics were actually quite advanced; the game even won an award for "Best Graphics Achievement in a Non-Graphics Product" from the Software Publishers Association. I also wonder if Wizard's Chess in the Harry Potter novels would ever have existed if it wasn't for Battle Chess. You never know...

35 – Need for Speed: Underground 2

Release Year: 2004

There have been a lot of Need for Speed games over the years and it's one of EA's biggest franchises. They even made a $66 million movie called "Need for Speed" last year which was panned by critics but made over $200 million at the box office worldwide (it did especially well in China of all places). Despite there being over 20 games in the franchise, there was only one that our judges deemed worthy of the Top 100 list and that game is Need for Speed: Underground 2 (NFSU2). NFSU2 has the right combination of open world racing, a focus on affordable "tuner" cars (instead of unattainable "exotics" – hey they even have the humble Honda Civic in there) and lots of customisation options for your car. You even have side missions where you can take photos of your ride for car magazines! The game remains a fan favourite and they're still waiting for EA to finally get around to making an Underground 3, although apparently the Need for Speed game coming out this year is meant to share much in common...

34 – Alien Swarm

Release Year: 2010

The original Alien Swarm was a mod for Unreal Tournament 2004 and was released in 2004. I fondly remember playing the original and Valve, always on the lookout for choicest mods, decided to remake the game using the Source engine and released it on Steam for free in 2010. The remake is pretty faithful to the original and the game remains one of the best co-op experiences in recent years, especially if you like the movie Aliens. The game involves a squad of up to four players making their way from the start of a level to the end, surpassing obstacles (like locked doors) and killing as many alien "bugs" on the way with the limited ammo on hand. One of my favourite features in this game is whenever a tech expert has to unlock doors: unlocking a door triggers a Pipe Dream like minigame and the more proficient you are with the minigame, the quicker it takes to unlock – which is crucial since while you're doing that your teammates have to fend off hordes of aliens! These situations are especially tense and make for great anecdotes. Alien Swarm is also important for another reason since without it, I doubt very similar games like Left 4 Dead or indeed Evolve would've seen the light of day.

33 – Jade Empire

Release Year: 2005

What do you get when you mix Chinese mythology, Wuxia-style martial arts and Knights of the Old Republic? Jade Empire of course! After the success of Knights of the Old Republic, Bioware took their winning formula and applied it to a different setting, one with an obvious Chinese influence. You still had your Light and Dark Side (renamed to Way of the Open Palm and Way of the Closed Fist respectively) but combat is more frenetic in Jade Empire thanks to its focus on martial arts. Bioware went all out to bring the world to life even hiring a linguist to develop a made-up language called "Tho Fan" (although it ends up that only a few phrases of Tho Fan are spoken and then recycled). The game's audio was top notch too, with an Asian themed soundtrack courtesy of Jack Wall (who would go on to compose the soundtrack for Mass Effect) and a professional voice cast including a hilarious cameo by John Cleese. Two judges believe it's one of the best CRPGs of all time, it's just a pity they never made a sequel... yet.

32 – Sid Meier's Pirates!

Release Year: 2004

The original Sid Meier's Pirates! was released yonks ago in 1987 and that was followed by a remake in 1993. So the 2004 remake of the game is in fact its second but even then it's over a decade old now! In Pirates! you play the role of a man who has come to the Caribbean to rescue his family who has been kidnapped by the evil Marquis de la Montalban. You can either achieve your goal through trading or piracy but in the meantime there are several other goals to serve as distractions such as finding buried treasure or even marrying the most beautiful Governor's daughter in the Caribbean. Be aware that your character does age in this game and as you get older your reflexes aren't quite what they used to be meaning retirement is inevitable.

Despite the game's age, it's probably still the best pirate game I've ever played thanks to it incorporating many aspects of pirate life and making it into an open world role-playing game of sorts. It rates as one of the best games of all time with one Choicest Games judge and as one of the best in the mid-2000s for two others.

31 – Serious Sam

Release Year: 2001

Why is this even on the list? Are you serious? No, but Sam is (huehuehuehue). Okay, while I liked Serious Sam since it was a game that hearkened back to the good ol' days of Doom (where you fought hordes of enemies while carrying a ridiculous amount of weaponry) and it is a blast to play at a LAN, does it deserve a spot on the Top 100? Apparently the answer is "yes", thanks to two Choicest Games judges voting this game as one of the best of all time. It's probably the only game from Croatia to make the list too...


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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Choicest Games Top 100: 41-50

50 – Civilization IV

Release Year: 2005

As you read this Choicest Games Top 100 list you'll start to realise there are a lot of Civilization games on it - in fact every Civilization game from the main series features except for Civilization III (I have to apologise to my friend Danno in advance, but rest assured it does feature in the Honourable Mentions). So this is the first game from the main series to feature in the list and also the first Civilization game to use a 3D map - in fact you could zoom out and see the entire globe in this iteration of Civ. The game also has the best title track in the entire series - good enough for Christopher Tin (the track's composer) to win a Grammy award in 2011 (making it the first piece of music composed for a computer game to win one).

Civilization IV is the favourite Civilization game for one of the judges and is rated highly by two of the other judges.

49 – Worms

Release Year: 1995

The Worms series has been around for a long time now with over 20 games in the main series not to mention several spin-off titles as well. However, the one that started it all is the one that has made our Top 100: the original 1995 Worms by Team 17. While on the surface the game just seems like any other game from the artillery genre (lending a lot to Wendell Hicken's Scorched Earth) it does have a distinct brand of British humour along with quite a bit of customisation in terms of the terrain, worm names and voice packs. The game also boasted local multiplayer so it was a great game to pass the time with a couple of friends. The game also features a very catchy theme song by Bjørn Lynne.

The game is rated as one of the best games of the mid-1990s by three of the judges on the panel.

48 – Quake III

Release Year: 1999

While I still have a soft spot for the original Quake, it's Quake III that has managed to rate higher on our Top 100 list, probably because it's actually been experienced by more of the judges. Quake III took what was best about the original Quake, i.e. multiplayer and made the game into the definitive deathmatch shooter. Fans of Unreal Tournament would no doubt disagree but for fast-paced rocket-jumping action, you couldn't go past Quake III. The engine used for Quake III, id tech 3, was also an important development for PC gaming in general as famous games such as Call of Duty, Medal of Honor – Allied Assault and Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory would use modified builds of it.

47 – Command & Conquer: Generals

Release Year: 2003

Here we are at the first Command & Conquer title to make the Top 100 list: C&C: Generals. Generals was quite a bit different to previous Command & Conquer titles; for example, like Starcraft, you now had three sides that played quite differently from each other and unlike previous games, the factions were based on recent “superpowers" such as the USA and China (the Global Liberation Army was a faction to represent terrorists in general – the game did come out during the start of the so-called “War on Terror" after all). The game has an entertaining single player campaign but its true strength lies with its multiplayer capabilities the game becoming a favourite of competitive gaming tournaments during the 2000s. Fans of the series are still awaiting a proper sequel as EA's last attempt went through development hell before being cancelled at the end of 2013.

The game also boasts an exceptional soundtrack that wouldn't sound out of place in the film Black Hawk Down, thanks to the efforts of Bill Brown and Mikael Sandgren.

46 – Left 4 Dead

Release Year: 2008

During the mid-2000s there seemed to be a drought of good co-operative multiplayer games but this all changed when in 2008 Left 4 Dead was released. Built to be a co-operative game from the ground up, developer Turtle Rock Studios showed everyone else how it was done. Left 4 Dead is a survival horror first person shooter where you and a group of “Survivors" has to make your way to a safehouse at the end of the level fighting hordes of zombies along the way. Simple right? What makes things interesting however is that the spawning of zombies changes each time you play and not only that but the game has a “Director AI" which calculates the “stress" levels of each character in the party. So just when you think it's safe, don't be surprised to find a zombie jumping out of the shadows to get you! The game still remains one of the best co-operative FPSs I've ever played and if you're not satisfied with just co-operative play, there's also a Versus mode where you get to play as the zombies.

45 – Dragon Age: Origins

Release Year: 2009

Dragon Age: Origins was Bioware's first fantasy RPG to be set in their own universe. Okay that's not technically true since you could say 2005's Jade Empire fits that description although Jade Empire was more of an action RPG and it was set in a Far Eastern setting not a traditional fantasy one. Prior to Dragon Age, Bioware were most famous for Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights (both based off Dungeons & Dragons) when it came to fantasy RPGs but in 2009 they were going to set off on their own path. The game was a critical and commercial success thanks to a combination of epic story, likeable characters, multiple “Origin" stories and endings, and a return to more tactical gameplay seen in earlier Bioware RPGs. The game also has a superb soundtrack thanks to Inon Zur.

44 – Day of Defeat

Release Year: 2000

One of the best side effects of the game Half-Life was the fact so many well-loved mods were developed using its engine. Just about everyone has heard about Counter-Strike but there was another mod which was developed around the same time to (what I believe) capitalise on the renewed interest of World War II films such as 1998's Saving Private Ryan. Day of Defeat is a WWII mod which unlike the team deathmatch that was Counter-Strike, focused on teams working together to capture objectives. The game also has class-based gameplay meaning a greater need for teammates to cooperate in order to attack and hold objectives. I invested way too much time with the game and I still think it's one of the best close-quarters WWII multiplayer shooters ever (for large maps with WWII vehicles however, you can't really go past Battlefield 1942).

43 – Grim Fandango

Release Year: 1998

Ah, Grim Fandango. Developed during the final years of what I consider the Golden Age of Lucasarts point 'n' click adventure games, this game had a really strange setting, but with Tim Schafer at the helm, it's not entirely surprising. You play the role of a travel agent named Manny Calavera, but not just any travel agent: you play a dead one, living in a Mexican-inspired afterlife. The game spans over several years in an Art Deco world inhabited by many wonderful characters with a jazzy soundtrack courtesy of Peter McConnell. It rates as one of the best games of all time with two of the judges on the panel and Tim Schafer thought it was worth remastering, the remastered edition being released just earlier this year.

42 – Full Throttle

Release Year: 1995

Yet another classic Lucasarts point 'n' click adventure game makes the list – yet another one by Tim Schafer. Full Throttle is a game set in the near future in a harsh, desolate place that looks similar to the South-Western United States. Bikie gangs dominate the area including one that your character Ben leads called “The Polecats". An old man called Malcolm Corley is the CEO of the last motorcycle manufacturer in the country, Corley Motors (which develops cruiser motorcycles similar to Harley Davidson) and on the way to a shareholders meeting bumps into Ben and his gang. Little does Ben or Malcolm realise what the rest of the day has in store for them all thanks to Adrian Ripburger (voiced by Mark Hamill), Malcolm's VP.

Full Throttle has it all: Gorgeous cartoon-style animation, an action-packed story, memorable characters, superb voice acting and a rockin' soundtrack courtesy of American rock band, Gone Jackals. The only things you could criticise are the game's length and the Road Rash-like fighting segments (although I personally enjoyed them). The game rates as one of the best point 'n' click adventure games ever with two of the judges on the panel.

41 – Command & Conquer

Release Year: 1995

This is the game that got me into RTSs. While Dune II did come out earlier than Command & Conquer this near-future RTS where you have to extract a fictional resource called “Tiberium" had me hooked (and I was a Westwood Studios fan ever since). This game would be the first Westwood Studios RTS to start the tradition of Full Motion Video (FMV) cutscenes and each faction, the Global Defense Initiative (or GDI) and the Brotherhood of Nod, had cutscenes recorded specifically for each of their campaigns. While they look very primitive now especially with the hammy acting, it was quite revolutionary back in 1995. The game also had an excellent soundtrack thanks to in-house composer Frank Klepacki and unlike previous games was the first to employ streaming music instead of MIDIs or MODs. Klepacki states that several musicians influenced the soundtrack including Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel and Nine Inch Nails.


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