Wednesday, April 11, 2007

D&D Video Games

To prepare myself for the long Holy Week (stores and malls are closed for two whole days and the other two days are the busiest days even if they're open for half the day), I got two games for my PC. It was only last week that I remembered hey, my computer's not the ancient PC I was using four years ago. I could actually play games with it!

Since I was staving off my D&D addiction (I couldn't find the latest books locally!), I decided to try out two D&D PC games: Temple of Elemental Evil and Dragonshard.

The first is your straight-out RPG from the now-defunct Troika, the same people that gave you Arcanum. It uses the same engine as Arcanum albeit heavily modified to suit the 3.0/3.5 rules of D&D. While the game started slow, I soon got engrosed a few hours into the game. Honestly, Temple of Elemental Evil is based on one of the early modules of D&D. Don't expect much plot or complexity compared to Arcanum. It's a pure hack-and-slash complete with seemingly inane quests: it's an old-school game. I was surprised, however, how much the game was faithful to the original module. Oh, and the game's a great port of the pen-and-paper rules (not perfect but you're almost there).

Of course it's probably foolish of me to be playing a game that's nearly four years old. For one thing, there was a bug because of Windows XP Service Pack 2 that prevented me from picking up loot (a fan-patch fixed this). The other problem was that it kept on prompting me to insert the original CD of the game because of a Securom error. Unfortunately, despite this country of ours where pirated games are prolific, I did insert the original CD-ROM (I even argued with the salesladies at Datablitz how come the game was so expensive when it was several years old). Oh, and I wish the game had grids so that I actually knew if I was taking a five-foot step, flanking the guy, and other tactical judgments that I actually make in the pen-and-paper game without having to always use the radial menu. It's otherwise a great game.

Dragonshard, a.k.a. the RTS that was panned by critics, was the other game I played (it's available locally in two prices, P900+ and twice that amount although both are original and the latter's edge seems to be better packaging). Many D&D fans were compaining it was too modern, with gears and such--unnecessarily bells and whistles that was probably taxing the computer and a far cry from your typical D&D setting (mainly because it was using the Eberron setting which is a semi-modern/pulp take on D&D). It was a ho-hum complaint of mine--didn't love it but similarly not that big a deal (it's Eberron after all and not Greyhawk or Forgotten Realms). The other complaint was that it wasn't faithful to D&D. And I think when you're converting something like D&D into an RTS, you need some leeway. D&D after all isn't necessarily about armies fighting each other but rather small parties saving the world.

I think Dragonshard did manage to convert the party dynamic into an RTS. I mean I can't use simplified strategies of simply building just one kind of unit (i.e. the Zealot/Zergling rush in Starcraft), I actually have to use a plurality of units to succeed in the game. There were also a lot of interesting experimental game elements such as extremely finite random resources, structure enhancements and limitations, and micromanaging two minimaps at the same time. In the end, I didn't spend much time playing it. One thing bit it for me and I think is essential for an RTS game--any RTS game: user interface. Let me say this flat-out straight, each unit in the game has special abilities. However, aside from attack, stop, and control groups, the game doesn't have any other hotkeys. Which becomes a big pain in the ass when you're commanding several units, each with unique special abilities (since the game emphasizes mixed groups). It's one thing to have a bad game. It's another to have a semi-decent game but not play it because of horrible controls. This is one of them and it's honestly a problem that could have been fixed.

Oh well, more of the RPG and less of the RTS...

No comments: