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By Mark H. Walker
Less is More
Fallout, Mission Critical, Shadow Watch, Parasite Eve, Odium, Diablo,
Final Fantasy Tactics ĖI can count the games Iíve finished (work aside)
on a pair of hands. Killing Diablo with my gaming buddy Brian Boyle, running
through a guided missile destroyer -ĖParasite Eve in tow, discovering Cloud
in an obscure corner of the Tactics world map Ėthese are my most precious
These games are not, however, the most innovative software Iíve booted,
not the flashiest Iíve seen, not even the best Iíve played, but they all
have one thing in common. I took the time to learn the game, become the
game, and finish the game.
Hold that thought.
A couple issues back Computer Gaming World seriously slammed the not-quite-ready-for-prime-time
release of Strategy Firstís World War II Online. I donít blame CGW, WWIIís
early release violated the most basic trust between consumer and producer.
To wit, ďIf I buy a product, it will perform as advertised.Ē
Unfortunately, CGW blamed the wrong people. The fault lies not with
Strategy First, but ourselves. Chew on this... the same issue of
CGW ranked World War II Online as one of the ten best selling games in
computerdom. Obviously, we donít care how bad a game is. In fact, we canít
even wait to read the game reviews. If itís new we MUST have it.
The sales recorded in CGW were bought and paid for long before consumers
were warned by reviewers to stay away. You have to think that Strategy
First was counting on that. Counting on a culture that tells us we need
the newest, the shiniest, the most.
Recall the thought.
What if we played each game to conclusion? Enjoyed every nuance, took
our time, worried not about being the first to post, ďIím done!Ē on the
message boards. Worried not about having the newest, but rather enjoying
what we have. What if there was no rush to buy the latest console, game,
or gadget. Wouldnít that make publishers make sure they got it right, right
out of the box? Wouldnít it give us the quality products we want?
Who Needs the Game Boy?
I bought a Game Boy Color in 2000. Like everyone else, I had to see
what this Pokemon thing was all about. No doubt itís a clever game, but
I soon bequeathed the purple gadget to my kids. They loved playing it on
trips to the relatives, and it kept them quiet. At first I considered it
a blessing, but grew uneasy as the silence lengthened and the spring dogwoods
drifted unnoticed by my Luminaís windows. It made me think --a dangerous
occupation for sure.
We donít need to live life with our noses buried in a Game Boy (or Game
Boy Advance), eyes drilling into our PDAs, or an ear stuck on our cell
phone. Iím afraid Iíll miss seeing the girl in the black mini-skirt, hearing
a friendís joke, or feeling the summer sun on my skin. We donít need gaming
on the go, thereís time enough for that at our computers and consoles.
Like it or not, thereís a bigger game to play. They call it reality, and
itís more fun than leveling up Pikachu.
Etherlords plays like a cross between Heroes of Might and Magic (HoMM)
and Magic the Gathering (MtG). Heroes explore the HoMM-type strategic map
looking for resources and such. When they meet other heroes or unfriendly
creatures combat ensues. The skirmishes are like a 3-D version of MtG,
and the tactical options are richer than my mother-in-lawís fudge. The
beauty of the game stuns me. On the strategic map golems pace through smoky
stone portals, fronds bend with the wind, and tiny mine carts orbit their
mines. Once combat is joined, lavishly detailed Orc Shamans attack scantily
Folks you have to understand this is turn-based gaming. A genre that
has traditionally been a red-headed step child in the visual department.
Etherlords is the only thing Iíve witnessed that can rival a Virginia spring.
I promise Iíll play this one through.
© Mark H. Walker, LLC 2001
Mark H. Walker is a veteran interactive entertainment journalist who has written over 40 books including his recently released Video Games Almanac and The Parentís Guide to PlayStation Games.
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