Five Games From the Decade of Excess

That is to say, five games from the 80’s. I was reading Flosch’s influential games post and got to thinking I would like to put a little spin on it. And its been awhile since I’ve gotten a Five for Friday post in, so here it goes!

We got our first household computer in 1987. My Dad was learning the electronic frontier for his job and so we got one to put in the house as well. I learned DOS and all that jazz, and I don’t think any of us regret the early learning curve. I’ve tried to do the same with my kids. But of course, it wasn’t all work. A new era of games was hitting, and it was something we all enjoyed. I didn’t hit Middle School until the 90’s, so these were games that I was playing when I was 8-10 years old. And they were tremendously influential on my joys and hobbies as the years progressed. These five will always have a sort of legendary status in my memory.

1) Might and Magic 2: Gates to Another World

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The first game I bought with my own money, this was one of my first RPG’s. And it was brutally hard. The randomly generated monsters rarely had any sort of tie with your parties power level, so there was a lot of running away to do. I spend a lot of time in the first town picking the lock on the “Monster Closet” and in an encounter space down one of the alley’s. Mostly I ran, but after awhile I was able to climb on top of the curve. And before long I had decent levels and +10 long swords and the occasional +3 ray gun (Might and Magic was ever crossing fantasy and sci-fi). I never beat the game, but that didn’t bother me any. The world was large enough that adventuring occupied all my time and joy. I think this game set my predilection for Exploration and love of RPG’s and MMO’s in general.

2) Mechwarrior

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While I had played the original BattleTech: Crescent Hawk’s Inception (CHI), it never really gelled with me the way this game did. CHI felt incomplete somehow, and unless you knew the trick to getting lots of credits early, it was an incredibly difficult game. Mechwarrior on the other hand, had a great story and some fantastic gameplay, putting you in the cockpit for the first time. For someone that bought their first Technical Readout at the tender age of 7, this was like the pearly gates of heaven opening up!

While the Battlemaster was the king of the mechs in this game, I often found myself putting the rest of my squad in them while I played around with other options. The sad thing is this: I don’t think, in the multiple sequals (and definitely in this latest, really sad attempt to recreate it with Mechwarrior Online) has any of the games been able to duplicate the game balance or the storyline of the original.

3) Their Finest Hour

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Not my first flight sim (F-15 Strike Eagle) but definitely the one that laid the pattern for me, landing today in World of Warplanes. F-15 had me dealing with electronics and chaff and missiles and bleh. This one let me fly and shoot stuff down. I completed both campaigns and hundreds of missions, capped out all the achievements and rank on both the German and British sides of things. I can’t begin to count how many hours I spent on this game.

Which is probably why if you stick me in a Spitfire in World of Warplanes, sometimes this happens:

4) Maniac Mansion

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My very first Adventure Game. I think I found every possible way to die and lose in this game. And I only remember beating it once. But the quirky humor and slightly tense nature of the game held my attention. Despite this, and my later love for Monkey Island (1990, in case you were wondering), the genre never stuck with me. Outside of those two games, I never really came back to it. I’d rather have my own characters and control.

5) Kampfgruppe

This was *the* WWII strategy game back in the day. Even if you don’t know this one, you know this one. This was Gary Grigsby (Steel Panthers) first baby. And it was magnificent. My Dad and I would play hotseat back in the day. He beat me most of the time, but I didn’t care. Marshalling my forces and playing was fun. Most fun of all was “buying” my battle group with the points at the beginning of the game. Invariably I would pick a core group of tanks with some combat engineers and recon units (I loved the German recon cars). No surprise that my Flames of War miniature army follows the same paradigm!

This kicked off a lifelong love of strategy gaming. These days I mostly play Dominions 4, not having found a WWII one to take Kamfpruppe’s place in a long time (though Blitzkrieg II was the most recent one I enjoyed).

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There ya go. Hope you enjoyed the trip down memory lane to the era of classic PC gaming.

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