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Category: Retro Reviews

Now that Shadow Warrior has been released on gog.com, I can almost die happy. Of the big four games created using the Build Engine – the other three being Duke Nukem 3D, Blood and Redneck Rampage – Shadow Warrior is my favourite of the lot.

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For as long as he can remember, which isn’t all that long really because he’s still a teen but anyway, Gwydion has been held captive in the house of Manannan, an evil wizard and ten-year subscriber to Cat Fancy magazine. It’s a hard life for Gwydion, who must feed chickens and sweep the kitchen floor and empty chamber pots at his master’s demand, over and over, until he works out some way to free himself. Seriously, over and over.

“Gwydion, I have decided to take a journey,” said Manannan, for the seventh or eighth time in two hours. “Maybe this time, you might take the opportunity to go through my personal things – I’ve got heaps of cool stuff like a wand, and a magic map, and a secret subterranean alchemy workshop, you know, just saying.”

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Video games have come a really long way in recent years. For example, Thief: Deadly Shadows, the third game in the Thief series, came out in 2004. It was playable on the original Xbox console and has just seen its seventh birthday. By most standards it’s not old, but video game age is a lot like dog years in that a real year doesn’t accurately represent the advancements made in the industry. Still, the third title in the Thief series feels old, especially when you compare it to contemporary games that utilise the same stealth mechanics the series arguably pioneered back in 1998 with the original Thief. However, comparing today’s games with those of seven years ago is hardly fair.

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A long time ago, in a fantasy realm far, far away… there was a bit of this, and a bit of that, and then suddenly monsters and a prophecy and a Chosen One who will defeat the great and terrible tide of evil that threatens to engulf the entire world, etc.

YOU ARE [NAME HERE]! And this is where I always got stuck for about two hours, randomly generating characters over and over until I had a dark elf thief vaguely resembling Per Gessle from Roxette. What can I say – I was way into my roguelike RPGs, but I was also a teenage girl, and even when it’s just ASCII graphics, looks matter.

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In the beginning, God created a hand. God’s hand, actually. It’s kind of meta. Anyway, he saw the hand, and it was good, but not that great, so he created a humongous creature and a big heap of rocks, and realised there was still loads more to do and he was pretty knackered, so he also created a bunch of people to do stuff for him. Then he picked them up and chucked them into the sea for the lulz.

–  From the Book of the Lands Part One: The Monkey and the Lightning-Struck Crèche

Even ten years later, there’s nothing else quite like the original Black & White. Peter Molyneux might’ve cultivated a bit of a reputation for talking up a big game that seldom actually turns out that way, but there’s simply no denying that Black & White was extraordinary, and still is.

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It is a dark time for the Rebellion Resistance. Although the Death Star Vigilance Platform has been destroyed, Imperial WEC troops have driven the Rebel Resistance forces from their hidden base and pursued them across the galaxy.

Evading the dreaded Imperial Starfleet WEC spaceforce, a group of freedom fighters led by Luke Skywalker a Silencer supersoldier known only as the Captain has established a new secret base on the remote ice world of Hoth the Moon.

The evil lord Darth Vader Chairman Nathaniel Draygan, obsessed with finding young Skywalker the Captain, has dispatched thousands of remote probes into the far reaches of space…

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I was a huge fan of the idea of stealth games before Metal Gear Solid came along a legitimised the concept on a grand scale, and there were a few games that gave stealth fans their fix before it. One of the ones I remember the most was the Commandos series – and the reason I remember it is because it was so nut-bustingly hard.

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It is said that when Alexander the Great reached Babylon, he paused a moment there upon the windswept Euphrasian steppes and beheld the great Mesopotamian city across the river, its golden minarets dappled and radiant in the noonday sun. And turning to his marching host, he declared, “Here, I shall plan, construct, and coordinate a vast and expensive network of bus depots, and for no obvious reason, the people shall not deign to use them.”

Or something like that, accounts do differ a bit.

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For fans of the point-and-click adventure genre, playing through Return to Zork could be seen as a necessary pilgrimage – the game is practically one of the grandfathers of the genre and if you want to imbue some gaming time with a bit of historical appreciation, then the title is well worth looking into… if you are insane. Still, Return to Zork does show some of the earliest examples of when the genre began moving away from text-based inputs to one that utilised a GUI and mouse cursor. What’s more, the extensive voiceovers and digitised actors must have made this quite a game back in the day.

Despite Return to Zork being a veritable cradle of adventure gaming, it is quirky as hell and unnecessarily arbitrary in many instances. This, obviously, will not appeal to many gamers of today.

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An orphan. A mysterious – possibly very, very, very significant – heritage. A murder. A CONSPIRACY?! A long trip throu- GNOLLS! – through a mine, masquerading as an important plot device, but probably just a cheap way to tack anot- MORE GNOLLS! – another three hours onto the game time advertised on the box. GIANT MINIATURE SPACE HAMSTERS! A mercenary company with distinctive cloaks or hats or something. DRAGONS! A dark wizard on the payroll of the… forces of darkness (I guess), and something about a dead god trying desperately to organise a comeback tour.

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