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Posts Tagged ‘computer games’

I spent more time as a teenager than I’d care to admit tracking down DOS games based on Tolkien’s work (many released before I was born), including Mike Singleton’s attractive-looking-but-not-particularly-good War in Middle Earth (1988). The failure of that game seems odd now, since a couple of years earlier the same guy put together perhaps the best “Tolkien with the serial numbers filed off” game of all time, the justly famous Lords of Midnight.

I decided to give Lords of Midnight a whirl after reading an article about its creation on The Digital Antiquarian. The original game came out in 1984 for the Sinclair Spectrum and ran on a mere 48 K from a cassette tape. It was revolutionary for the time, letting you take first-person control of multiple characters and walk them around a dynamically shifting fantasy landscape trapped in a long winter A Song of Ice and Fire-style. Though I have to express my scepticism over how people who write about old software characterize computer graphics in the 80s as looking impressive at the time. I’m pretty sure people who regularly saw photographs and paintings could see the shortcomings of pixel art like this:

midnight_000

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SPAG – The Interactive Fiction Magazine is back, putting out its 62nd issue at the beginning of this month after a seriously long hiatus. I assumed it died with issue 60 in 2011, which is why I only became aware of its resurrection today (the one-issue reappearance in 2013 notwithstanding). I loved reading this online magazine back in its heyday, and that love is rooted in a fascination with the mechanics of writing text-adventures that followed me out of high school.

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It’s revealing that while I own a copy of Crusader Kings II (Paradox Entertainment), I barely ever play it, instead favouring 1991’s Medieval Lords: Soldier Kings of Europe (SSI). This isn’t knocking Crusader Kings II, which deserves all the praise it gets; I just have a fondness for older games from the DOS era that goes back to when I was a teenager (full story here). I’m also a great fan of turn-based strategy games with historical settings. I bring up Crusader Kings II because Medieval Lords covers much the same territory–you play as an advisor to a dynasty of your choosing and guide the various kingdoms of medieval Europe and the Middle East as kings, caliphs and sultans fight and die, nations rise and fall, and plague wipes out vast swathes of the population. Since the advisors have names and pass from heir to heir, and if you select the right options you can play against various AI-controlled advisors (or other people if they’re into crowding around the computer), I like to think of them as immortal vampires vying with each other for supremacy. A medieval secret vampire vizier cabal, if you will.

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I’m resigned to the fact that post-2001, computer games based on The Lord of the Rings will look to the films for inspiration. I recently watched the game trailer for Guardians of Middle Earth with a touch of sadness at this state of affairs. I like seeing different visual interpretations of Tolkien’s books, and now they’ve become a homogenous blend of John Howe and Allen Lee. More to the point, I have a kind of fascination with older Tolkien-based games and the wildly different styles between them.

When I was 12 I bought my first computer, and I didn’t have an internet connection until I was 17. However, I would drop by the school library at lunch with a floppy disk and download abandonware off Home of the Underdogs to play at home. I also had something of a Tolkien obsession, so when 13 year-old me stumbled across the Tolkien Computer Games page I ended up trying to get my hands on all of the games listed. Thus began my DOS-based adventures in Middle Earth.

I often at least attempted to play these games straight to the end, even the bad ones, and if I didn’t finish it usually had to do with glitches caused by running DOS games on a Windows machine. Why? I’m not sure, now, but rather than let all those hours spent playing go to waste I thought I’d review them all here.

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