In the past months not many good PC role-playing games could be found in the stores. For example: Ultima 8 had nice graphics but it was mixed up with jump and run elements and the fighting engine was, to say it nicely, a little poor witted. A german product, Albion, had an epic story and lot of stuff to explore but the fights (especially the later ones) were so hard, I don´t believe anybody could win them without a little cheating (or, if you prefer it, with little help from the god before the screen and his hexeditor). Another german game, Schatten ueber Riva, was nice to play, but even shorter than Ultima 8.
Some light on the horizon is Ultima 9 (hope Lord British goes back to the roots). But in the meantime, there´s another way to gain good and complex games, you only have to wander a little bit back into time. Some of you out here in the net could surely remember a brown box with some keys on the top of it...it was named C64 and got real famous by the games developed for it. Just a small and slow beating heart (based on a 6510), a brain with little space to hold memories (just 38 Kbytes for own basic programs), but a loud voice and real stunning graphics (hardware sprites and redefinable character sets) inspired lot of programmers to create some of the best games ever.
And it´s possible to unleash the old spirit on your PC !
There exist some real good emulators and also FTP-sites with all kind of games...now you get the idea ?
OK, what to do, if you want to play some of the old but real stuff on your PC ? First you have to get an emulator. I prefer the PC64 emulator, it runs fine under MS-DOS or Win95. Just search the net for it (try http://www.altavista.digital.com, it´s a good source) or go directly to a specialized page (f.e. http://www.marathon.org/wilhelm/c64/download.htm).
If you have got the PC64 emulator, you just need the disk images containing the real game...look above for ftp sites or try ftp://arnold.hiof.no/games. The games are really small (after all a C64 has not much memory, remember ?). Make some subdirs in your emulator directory and copy the diskimages into it.
Start the emulator, choose the diskimage and press F5. The files will now be listed on the right of the screen, just double click on the wanted file and it will go... If the C64 game wants another disk inserted (most of the role-playing games where distributed on more than one disk), press F9 during the game and select the diskimage. Easy isn´t it ? You don´t have to know more about the C64, just take the emulator as a game starting shell. The PC64 emulates real good, sound will be played over a soundblaster-compatible card, the joystick is simulated in the shareware version via the numpad. Maybe you have to disable the national keyboard sets in the emulator menu, but that´s all.
Now the games I could lie to your heart...the old Ultima series (Ultima IV and above till VI). A lot of keyboard commands are used, just try every key and look what will happen, a list of all spells and hints could be found on Ultima related pages in the internet.
Here´s a typical smalltalk scene from Ultima 4:
Here´s the intro of Ultima 5:
And last a real fight from Ultima 5:
And now... just have fun (I know I will).
Pandemonium, a great jump'n'run game, has found its way to our PCs. It offers a 3D-look and beats in my opinion the previous state-of-the-art jumping game RAYMAN from Ubi-Soft. To make your life a little bit easier, try LEAAGPLE as Password. It will give you 31 lifes and seven hearts!
As I mentioned above, new role-playing games are rare... and, it seems, difficult to program. In Westwoods "Lands of Lore 2" for example are some bugs, not only the obvious type (crash boom bang), but also the f***king logical type. Two examples: at the end of the cementory level you should get a silverleaf and the silverleaf bushes should grow all around...but in my first try nothing happend at all. I had to load an earlier savegame and now it worked (I did all things the same way, honestly). Same stuff in the Huline temple...placed the body on the right area, but the game didn´t react on it. After loading an older savegame, it worked...hurray. But also one good effect: in the final battle I had just to place one (in numbers: 1) hit on Belial and he died...Am I a super-hero or just lucky?
More bugs I have detected in "Betrayal in Antara" from Sierra (german version). Crashes, missing texts (just funny chars instead) and logical faults... I wrote Sierra an EMail, wait and see what happens...