Gordo’s Gaming Blog

My adventures in the many worlds of gaming.

Archive for the ‘The Classics’ Category

The Classics: Abe’s Exoddus

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AbeAs promised, this is the next installment in my ‘The Classics’ series. Abe’s Exoddus. It’s a game I spoke about briefly before, when talking about the revival of Oddworld Inhabitants (though it seems that they’re not, in fact working on an Oddworld game – Boo, hiss!). Anyway, I recently replayed through Abe’s Exoddus, with the intention of reviewing it.

I’ll start with the gameplay. Gameplay in this game is amazing. I’ve never played such a responsive, inventive and all-round fun platformer. It brings brilliant additions to the genre, combining the great elements of Abe’s Oddysee (the predecessor) and at the same time bringing in additions. Some of the great features I liked about the game were…

  • As I said before, the responsive gameplay.
  • Possession – it allowed you to play the game as all sorts of different characters and creatures.
  • GameSpeak, and saving Mudokons.
  • Secret levels!
  • Semi-related – the level design.
  • The introduction of Quicksave.
  • … to name but a few. It really is the most fun I’ve had playing a platformer. I guess the original 2D Mario Games were before my time, and I’ve never like 3D platformers, they always feel strange to me.

    Next up is graphics. Now, they say that things you enjoyed as a kid you will invariably enjoy as you grow older. Maybe that’s the case, because I still look at Oddworld in the Abe games and go ‘Wow!’. It truly looks amazing. It’s both desolate and industrial, and at the same time, satirical and funny (a difficult feat to pull off – many games that attempt satire come off as ‘preachy’, and many that try to be funny are, but only on a shallow and superficial level). Oddworld Inhabitants created a freaky and edgy world of greed and corruption, but underneath that horrible layer lies true heroism and good. Wait a minute, that’s not graphics! I know, but I truly believe that all that is represented through the graphics, and brililantly so. For a game 10 years old, it has aged beautifully. Note though that I played it on a CRT monitor, as I think it runs as 640×480. At that resolution on a CRT it does look great, but when that’s only like a quarter of your screen on an LCD it mighn’t look so good. If you do want to play on an LCD, it might be possible to get mods that allow higher resolution, if not, get yourself a pair of reading glasses!

    Sound – Oddworld sounds great! The atmospheric bird calls, voices, and most of all music – it’s probably the best dynamic music I’ve experienced. As the action intensifies, so does the music. It’s so slick it’s as though you’ve got a composer sitting inside your PC, causing the music to escalate as the excitement does. I guess the best testament to the quality of the sound in this game is that it passes through most of the game virtually unnoticed. By that I mean, it fits so seamlessly in with the graphics, gameplay and the whole rest of the game, it doesn’t stick out at all. It’s perfectly smooth. And voice acting, while a tad over-done in some places, is hilarious. And what game about greed isn’t complete without some good ol’ French-Canadian stereotypes?

    But I guess theAbe true genius of Exoddus is the atmosphere. Whilst the graphics and the sound represent it, it truly is the vision of the designers that make it. It is amazing, from the first time Abe says ‘Hey-low’ when you start up the game, to the mad cackling of ‘But… We had twize zee flaver!!!’ as you finish it, Oddworld is immersive, hilarious, serious and gritty throughout. And for that reason I trust that whatever Oddworld Inhabitants do next, I think it’ll succeed. The jump to 3D just doesn’t work for Oddworld, but maybe a totally new project will. This game, however, provokes serious thought about the state of our world at the moment, and I guess the themes will be relevent for hundreds of years. The themes of exploitation, capitalism, greed, heroism and valour ring true through every era of civilisation, and yet you can laugh at this game, really laugh out loud. It’s a game that’s one of a kind. When you see screenshots you see a 2D side-scroller, but when you play you find yourself in this amazing, crazy, illogical world that just makes sense. Lorne Lanning, I salute you.

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    Written by Gordo

    June 26, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    The Classics: Morrowind

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    This is the first of a series of posts I’ve planned about some of my all-time favourite games from years gone by. I’m gonna kick it off with Morrowind.

    How can I describe Morrowind? I guess, it’s the closest thing to the perfect RPG I’ve experienced. Yes, I liked it. A lot. Before I played Morrowind, I was definetly a console gamer. I remember a friend let me borrow it, and the PC I played it on I hadn’t played a game on since The Sims. It struggled. I hMorrowindad to play it on 640 by 480 minimum detail. And still, every 200 yards or so a loading box would pop up. Did I care? Not in the slightest. This world gripped me immediately. After a couple of days playing it on my friend’s CDs, I bought my own copy. I pored over the manual and map that came included for hours. The island of Vvardenfell was so massive and so rich. So much to do; every little settlement had its story. I remember, I’d been given a quest to collect some eggs from a mine (yes, in Morrowind, they have egg mines!) when I took a wrong turning, and ended up at the wrong mine. But I spoke to someone outside, and they explained to me that someone had been stealing their eggs. He asked me to investiage so I did. I came across a shady looking figure, and when I confronted him, he attacked me. I killed him, looted and took the egg back to the man outside. My point? It was so easy to go off the beaten track, and get caught up in a whole different storyline.

    It’s strange. Before I played Morrowind, if you asked me to name my perfect RPG setting, I’d immediately think of a Tolkien-esque medieval England setting. Yet Morrowind was so different. This was a volanic island, with huge barren areas, and the majority of foliage consisting of giant mushrooms and moss or lichen. A land where humans weren’t the dominant race. This was the land of the Dark Elf, the Dunmer.

    I got hooked on Morrowind from the start. Seyda Neen, the first town you visit was enough for me. It was a ‘damp little squat’ as one of the locals called it. Still, I spent an hour or two simply exploring, doing little tasks that people gave me. I fetched a ring for someone, only to find he owed money to someone else, so, after spying on him at night-time I saw he’d hidden something in a treestump. I inspected the treestump and found some money, and a lockpick. Then I had the choice – did I keep the money, or do the honest thing and return it to its rightful owner? From there, I never looked back.

    See, that’s the true beauty of Morrowind. You choose. I’ve played so many games that claim to be open-ended. Oblivion, Morrowind’s sequel is a prime example. Yet Oblivion pushed me in the direction it wanted to be played, Morrowind just gave me the choices. Throughout the whole game, there were so many choices. I remember stumbling across a traveller; I had the choice to help him, or kill him (he possessed some very nice boots that increased runspeed). And yet Morrowind didn’t judge you. Where some games tally up your moral decisions, and hold them against you when you complete the game, Morrowind didn’t do that. There’s no karma in Vvardenfell. If someone saw you robbing them, you got punished. Unless you decided to kill them. But if you were seen killing, you’d be in even more trouble. You could spend the rest of the game avoiding guards – sneaking into towns only at night time, and lurking in the shadows. Or you could do your time, or pay a fine.

    The main quest was so long and rich, it was 10 times the amount of content some full RPGs have; and yet that was only the very tip of the iceberg in Morrowind. Each town had dozens of quests for you to do, as well as the dozens more found in the wilderness, and of course, you could spend time in other ways. With such a beautiful world, I could spend hours just exploring, tracking creatures, plants and people. There were hundreds of dungeons to brave, camps to explore, and ruins to loot (or simple explore, if you’re playing a priest or something!). It even contained storylines that allowed you to become a vampire, and then back into a human again, and with an expansion, a werewolf too!

    The music in Morrowind was haunting, and fitted oh so well. I never got tired of it, as wherever it was, it seemed appropriate. The sound effects weren’t the best, but I didn’t care!

    MorrowindIt contained readable books. The amount of fiction put in those books is more than 6 whole novels I read somewhere. Some you can pick up anywhere, some are extremely rare, and you have to search for them to complete your collection.

    It was the height of immersion for me. This was partly due to the fact that it forced you to decide what to do in quests, it forced you to find out where to go, and go there yourself, so you always remained in the game (bar the few fast travel routes between major cities). The world was beautifully crafted, the story was top-class, and while it had its flaws (combat system and some models), I doubt I’ll see such a good game again.

    If you’ve not tried it, go and pick it up. I just checked Amazon and you can pick up a second hand copy of the GOTY edition (including the 2 expansions) for under a fiver including postage. Honestly, if you’ve not tried it before, I really recommend it. If you have the patience to put up with some bad models (which, to an extent can be upgraded – try Planet Elder Scrolls for mods – there are literally thousands) and what might be an alien world, you will enjoy it. It may take some perseverence for the modern gamer, to whom the game is an instant hit. It’s not an instant hit, but a definite slow burner. It kept me enticed for months.

    Written by Gordo

    May 31, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    Posted in The Classics

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