On Skeletons And CRPGs
I was far too poor to have a computer as a kid. My earliest experiences with PC games came during sleepovers at friends' houses, crowded around the keyboard in appropriated dining room chairs for hours on end. We took turns at Doom, Scorched Earth, and (when the parents were asleep) the Leisure Suit Larry game that was set in a resort. I'm pretty sure 90% of that game was about asking people for towels, and 0% about the sweet pixel boobs we were hoping to see.
When I finally got my hands on a shitty Packard Bell in the late 90s, I was fascinated by PC RPGs. Didn't actually play any, though. They were far too intimidating.
In my head they were crazy things. NPCs had fully simulated lives, and anyone could be talked into joining up with your party. Every object could be interacted with, picked up, and thrown. Stories lasted hundreds of hours, each moment as rich as a good book. It was all too much for me to handle.
So I mostly just stuck with the Sim City, Civilization, and Rainbow Six series. You know, uncomplicated games.
In an effort to round out my knowledge, I've been playing all the notable PC RPGs that I missed out on, from Fallout to Baldur's Gate to Planescape and Arcanum. It's been an eye-opening experience.
The UI in these games tends to range from "miserable" to "designed for a life form with no senses". The content, however, is pretty amazing. Even the overhead perspective is important, allowing you to take in all the possibilities in a scene at a glance, giving you a greater sense of agency.
I've learned a lot from my time with these classics, but so far one lesson has stood out more than others: Skeletons are great.
They really are. We tend to get caught up with flavor of the month bad guys. Nazis. Zombies. Robots. Non-white people in deserts. From the very beginning, though, the unassuming skeleton man has been there for us.
There's the standard skeleton. Think Daggerfall, Diablo, Baldur's Gate. The guy that knows he's just a skeleton in a dark place, has nothing better to do, and embraces his situation. "Fuck it, I'll pick up a chipped weapon. Maybe a helmet with broken horns, and the top of an old barrel for a shield. If any living dudes come through here I'll just run right at them."
Then, the Skeleton Lord, making his lordly presence known in Divine Divinity and the conclusion of the Diablo 3 beta. This is a guy that knows how to skeleton it up. He takes charge. He takes a seat. He gets all the cool tattered clothes and maybe a crown. This guy's a badass.
A skeleton can also be a protagonist. Grim Fandango's Manny Calavera can not be topped. As a matter of fact, that game is chock full of skeletons. If you consider yourself a skeleton aficionado you should play it.
Skeletons can be sidekicks. Morte from Planescape Torment is just a floating skull, and he's more helpful and interesting than any sassy computer specialist that comes standard in most modern games.
Sometimes skeletons can be sort of dumb, but helpful rather than evil. I don't even want to guess how many skeletons I've summoned in Diablo 2, Everquest, and King's Bounty.
In their many roles, skeletons have proven themselves to be the workhorse of the video game industry.
Granted, they aren't as plentiful as rats or spiders. They do, however, make a funky clattering noise when they die, and fall to the ground in a comedic pile. That has to count for something.
Legend Of Grimrock
Think more than you're accustomed to, throw as many torches as you can carry, lose your life to a snail. 9/10
Kinect Star Wars
If this protracted console generation has been a statement scrawled across my forehead then Kinect Star Wars is the period, in the form of a merciful gunshot. 2/10