Welcome to part 2 of my most influential games. If you happened to miss part 1, shame on you! You can catch up here: Part 1. I forgive you this time, but don't let it happen again! J/K Otherwise, in the immortal words of Casey Kasem, on with the countdown:
07. Caesar III, Impressions Games, 1998, PC
I've always loved history, and while other PC gamers were building modern-day skyscrapers and highways in SimCity, I was building aquaducts and the Colosseum in Caesar III; my first true city building sim. I remember loving the graphics in this game the most as citizens would walk around, gladiators would fight in the Colosseum and chariot races could be seen in the Hippodrome. Every sprite was dressed and lively animated, and the neighborhoods would physically change based on how rich or poor the area became. The game was pretty challenging as most sims are as you had to carefully balance the needs and desires of your populace by ensuring they had access to various goods and services. Religious, social, political, entertainment, healthcare and safety all played pivotal roles in maintaining another jeweled city in the crown of the Roman empire, and I spent hours trying to craft and perfect my imaginary Roman cities into something that would make Caesar proud.
*Honorable mention* SimCity 3000 Unlimited, Maxis, 2000, PC
Caesar III may have been where I chose to spend my time, but there wouldn't be a Caesar III if it weren't for SimCity. This will probably be the shortest synopsis on this list because I don't have any anecdotes or personal stories to share about SimCity other than to give credit where credit is due to the city building genre.
06. Medal of Honor, Dreamworks Interactive, 1999, PlayStation
Before there was a Halo and before Call of Duty was breaking crazy sales records, there was another FPS that reigned supreme and that was just as popular. I'm talking of course about Medal of Honor. It may sound ridiculous now compared to contemporary military games, but I remember being genuinely blown away by Medal of Honor on PlayStation. And if memory serves me correct this was the first console FPS I ever played (up until then I was mostly a PC gamer). Everything was impressive about this game: The soundtrack, the A.I., game play and, to a degree, the graphics, all sucked me in. Getting a headshot on a German wasn't a guaranteed kill as many times you would hear a metallic ping and shoot off his helmet instead. Awesome! Chucking a grenade to flush out dug in Germans ahead of you also had its share of surprises as some times they would chuck your grenade back at you. Are you friggin' kidding me?! These two mechanics may seem like standard fare today, but back then they were completely new concepts that I had never experienced before in a game and I was hooked. Although the series may have faltered later on down the line I will always hold the very first couple of games in high regard as the games that challenged me back and taught me that the days of bum rushing enemies à la Doom were, for the most part, very over.
*Honorable mention* Call of Duty, Infinity Ward, 2003, PC
When Call of Duty arrived on the scene it blew everyone's preconceived notions about what immersion should be in a military FPS game. It threw down the gauntlet and has pretty much been at the top of its genre since it first debuted on PC eight years ago. My how time flies. Call of Duty took what Medal of Honor started and completely upped the ante on all fronts. It was definitely a much more intense and visceral experience that I can personally attest to whilst playing this game on PC. During the most intense firefights I remember physically ducking and keeping my head low by my keyboard because I heard the bullets whizzing by in my speakers. The game felt so authentic that it provoked a very real reactionary response from me to actually duck as if I were actually being shot at. It was that good.
05. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, BioWare, 2003, Xbox
In 2003 a little known game you may have heard of by now released to the public. Very few people at that time could predict the impact that Knights of the Old Republic would have on the console market as well as the RPG market in general. When Knights released it changed the playing field from what many console gamers were accustomed to up until that time, and it is the game that started the shift in focus from traditional Eastern JRPGs to Western RPGs in one fell swoop. Not only was the game play solid throughout, but it didn't hurt that the richness of the source material was handled so faithfully that it helped propel this game to the forefront of how to make a good game based on an already established and very much cherished license to many people. I eagerly got lost in the deep mythology that the narrative masters at BioWare had crafted for me. It was so much fun that once it ended I played through it again, this time as a Sith Lord to see how the game changed based on my decisions. All told I easily sunk over 100+ hours into this game over the life of owning it. This game also marked one of the earliest test products to offer DLC which I bought but was mostly disappointed with. The DLC was little more than an extra merchant area (in the form of a space station) you could visit in the game to buy "new" items. Unfortunately the "new" items it contained were severely inferior to what you may have already owned if you had beaten the game which I had done twice over by the time the DLC was released. Nevertheless Knights solidified BioWare's status in a lot of gamers' minds who were not familiar with their past PC games, as a highly competent and talented developer and a welcomed new addition to developing games on consoles.
*Honorable mention* Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, Micro Forte, 2001, PC
I missed out on the first Fallout and Fallout 2 on PC. My first introduction to the series came with Brotherhood of Steel which, to me, was a great game. It wasn't till many years later I finally got to play the original Fallout. Be that as it may, the game was my first introduction to turn-based strategy games which I quickly learned you had to play more strategically or else you would die very fast. No doubt games like this had a profound effect on those that came after it, and the series itself experienced a resurgence of sorts with the release of Fallout 3 on consoles in 2008. The great thing about the PC series is they're still relevant and hella fun to play even today as everyone is bemoaning the "death" of PC gaming. Let me tell you something, folks, PC gaming is far from dead. They've been saying it's been dying going on 15 years now if not more and every year they are wrong. It may not be as widespread as it used to be but that's a long way from dead. The closer the sun gets to setting on this current generation consoles I'm seriously considering going back to the PC. If you ever get a chance to pick up any of the old school Fallout games and you consider yourself an RPG fan then it's pretty much a no-brainer.
04. Diablo, Blizzard Entertainment, 1996, PC
Another game that can be credited for single handedly inspiring a new genre and paving the way for countless imitators and clones for years to come was Diablo. Blizzard's action RPG was deeply addicting and challenging, and no matter how many times you died in its many cavernous dungeons you always came back for more. Slaying monsters was just part of its appeal next to the loot drops from said slain monsters for all manner of gold and equipment. "Just one more click! Just one more click!" I would tell myself. And six hours later, when my eyes were strained and bloodshot and my finger was cramped from the constant clicking only then would I pry myself away for some much needed rest. Finding more and more powerful equipment and weapons and being able to upgrade your weakling character in to a truly badass hero was the equivalent of gaming crack to many gamers, yours truly included. And it's still a character trait that plagues me--and a lot of other gamers--till this day.
*Honorable mention* Sacred, Ascaron Entertainment, 2004, PC
Sacred is one of those clones I was talking about above, but that's not to take away from what it offers. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. What Sacred did was expand on the popular formula that Diablo had created. I remember playing Sacred and feeling overwhelmed with the amount of quests and side-quests there was to do. Looting and leveling up were still the motivating force, but it offered more character classes and skills to choose from as well as lots of places to go and even hidden Easter eggs scattered throughout the world for gamers to find. One of my favorite and most memorable of these Easter eggs occurred while I was investigating graves in a graveyard. You could click on each headstone and read whatever the developer had written on it. Well one headstone in particular had me chuckling because the inscription that was written on it said "Clatto Verata Nicto," and any nerd worth his salt will immediately recognize those three famous words as being from the cult movie classic Army of Darkness starring Bruce Campbell. It was that personal touch that really made me appreciate the game I was playing because who would have thought randomly clicking on headstones in a video game that it would contain a reference to contemporary pop culture.
That's it for part 2. Did some of my choices shock you? The final part of this series will be posted in another two days. Until then let the anticipation rise inside of you as you sit on pins and needles waiting for their reveal.