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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.