This is an RPG, which is not to be confused with an RPG.

As most avid gamers know, there has been a recent surge in RPG releases for the PC, and when I write "surge" I mean it in the same context as those Extreme Fishing kids featured in the Surge soft drink commercials, the ones who shout out "SURGE!!!" and then ride a skateboard off a bull's back while juggling bowling trophies (in an extreme fashion). There were approximately zero games released in the past eight months or so, and then all of a sudden the game truck backed up and dumped a bunch of stuff on the back porch of Electronics Boutique. Thirty or so RPGs were released within 10 minutes of each other, turning software stores across the nation into ultimate nerd magnets (even more than before). Here's a brief list of some of the more popular titles that are currently being warezed on IRC:

Morrowind
Neverwinter Nights
Dungeon Siege
Heroes of Might and Magic 4,627
Might and Magic 299,126
Jerks of Might and Magic 89
Retired Old Women of Might and Magic 162
Rejected Features From Might and Magic 234

Now before I launch ass-first into this article, let me toss up a little disclaimer: I, by default, hate RPGs. The last decent RPG I played was the Final Fantasy series for the Gameboy, and that was just because they were like really weird digital acid trips. The Gameboy Final Fantasy series had nothing to do with the Playstation ones, which have become fruitier and fruitier with each release. I'm fairly sure the plot of the newest Final Fantasy game revolves around you picking up sailors from a bar. Like all the other Final Fantasy games, you must also learn about nature and the human spirit and the evils of industrial machines or whatever the hell they babble about. The series for the Gameboy was a completely different game and centered around you traveling from a castle to the future and back to some other dimension and then a castle of the future in some other dimension. The games made absolutely no sense, much like virtually everything Japan exports, so I don't think it will surprise anybody when I mention how you could have monsters in your party who eat the meat from other monsters you battle. Eating monster meat converts your monster character into a new monster character, one seemingly chosen at random from a database of approximately 50,000 very short names. Oh, and you could have robots on your team as well. They, like the monsters, could pick up and consume robot parts that the enemy dropped when defeated. I can imagine what conversations must have been like in that group:

Main Character: "Huzzah and hooray and times well met, merry folk! We have vanquished our enemies and are victorious in this battle!"
Monster Party Character: "Mmmmmmph rrrrrlllllll urrrrrrrrrr." (Picks up chunk of corpse and begins gnawing on the ribcage, immediately transforming him into a human-sized moth with spikes on his head and fire spewing from his elbows)
Robot Party Character: "Okay, just hold on a second, one of these guys dropped a piece of metal. I need to strap that to my head or weld it into my face or something. This will make me more powerful." (Begins attaching wad of metal to his stomach with a welding machine)
Main Character: "Wilst somebody reveal to me why the hell I'm in a group with a bunch of corpse-scavenging retards?"
Robot Party Character: "Hey, shove it there, Shakespeare. Now give me a hand attaching this metal arm to my robotic tits."
Monster Party Character: "Mrrrooooooooooolllll."

These two people enjoy role playing games. Why? BECAUSE THEY'RE WEIRD.

Wow, it sounds just like any dinner conversation at my parents' house, only with a lot less yelling! Anyway, the whole point of this was to show how my taste in games is very poor and you probably shouldn't read anything I write. With that out of the way, let's tackle this RPG Roundup by first "reviewing" the games I have never bought or played:

Morrowind - Emily ran this game for about eight minutes but then we turned it off for some reason I don't remember. A lot of people really liked this game but then again there were people who enjoyed the movie "A.I.," so you definitely should not listen to them.

Heroes of Might and Magic 4,627 - One of these Might and Magic games is released every other week, so if you don't set up a tent outside your local software store, you'll probably miss a few dozen of them. This is an RPG in a first-person shooter style, much like how John Romero's Daikatana was a pile of shit in a first-person shooter style. Sorry, I had to throw in a Daikatana joke because everybody has forgotten how bad that game was.

Might and Magic 299,126 - Wait, maybe this is the FPS game and the other one is a realtime strategy. I don't remember. Anyway, I think this is the game which is like Warcraft only it's a lot more obnoxious, much like how John Romero's Daikatana was a lot more obnoxious than... oh wait, I made the Romero joke in the previous paragraph, sorry.

I'm sure there are crucial and critical aspects of these games that I failed to mention, but like every good journalist, I really don't give a shit. The main two games I want to molest on today's update are Dungeon Siege and Neverwinter Nights, mainly because they're the only games I've played and, like every good journalist, I don't care about researching them. Research is for scientists and the French.

This is not Chris Taylor but he has the same name as him ("Chris Taylor"). I assume this is what Chris Taylor would look like if he was a black gentleman.

Dungeon Siege- This game is officially titled "Chris Taylor's Dungeon Siege," so people don't mistake it for "Bobby J. Smith's Dungeon Siege," which I believe sold just about as many units. I think placing your name before your item is a really good idea and I'm going to start doing this around my apartment.

Me: "WHERE ARE RICH 'LOWTAX' KYANKA'S THUMBTACKS?!?"
Emily: "What?"
Me: "I DEMAND TO KNOW WHERE RICH 'LOWTAX' KYANKA'S THUMBTACKS ARE AT ONCE, WENCH!"
Emily: "Why are you talking in all caps and in third person?"
Me: "RICH 'LOWTAX' KYANKA DOES NOT KNOW!"

Dungeon Siege is like Diablo II only without the deep and compelling storyline. I don't even remember the plot of the game because when I was supposed to be talking to town peasants about how Lord Whoever is being attacked by killer whatevers, I was trying to kill the horses and cows. Allow me to save you all the hassle by revealing there's absolutely no way to kill the horses and cows. If you ask me, that's really crappy programming on Gas Powered Games' part.

Speaking of crappy programming, this game seems to have it in spades. Your character will randomly stop attacking creatures for no apparent reason. Summoned creatures will launch fireballs into the ground nonstop until they either die or disappear. Your character can pass through closed doors by somehow walking through the walls. The game runs like crap on my 2 GHz system that has one gig of that magic Rambus RAM and a GeForce Titanium 4 card. Yes, that's correct, it turns into a slideshow on a computer which is hypothetically powerful enough to estimate the release date of Duke Nukem: Forever. Ha ha, I am of course poking fun at Duke Nukem in order to fill up the clichéd nerd gaming joke portion of this review! Thanks for playing along!

A screenshot from Dungeon Siege. Don't bother clicking on it for a larger image because you won't get one.

The multiplayer part, which I was mostly interested in, has the depth of a shotglass. You basically just run around and kill everything until it's all dead, at which point you move along and kill everything else. However, unlike Diablo II, the game doesn't save any changes to the world once you quit, meaning that everything you do in a game will get erased once you stop playing. Sure you still have your character and all the crap he's carrying, but all the dead bad guys respawn and it's exactly like you're playing the game for the first time. I suppose it doesn't really matter though, since there's nothing to do in the multiplayer mode except kill things and learn new ways to cheat. It doesn't even have end bosses or minibosses or anything, unless you call the 829th Goblin to attack you a "boss."

On the positive side, the graphics are pretty damn polished and there's a wide selection of bad guys who want to see you more dead than you currently are. The quantity of enemies seems minuscule compared to the sheer number of weapons this game offers, all of which get sillier and sillier as you progress. For example, a level 1 character might find an object like a "rusty mace" or "short sword." When you're level 50 or so, you begin discovering weapons with names like "The Brilliant Shining Staff of Magical Retreat," "The Glowing Cape of Futile Pursuit," or "The Abominable Cracker Jack of Ace Clemmons." I'm fairly sure the computer just generates these weapon names by pulling random adjectives out of a database that contains words used by really weird English scholars. The in-game sounds are kind of crappy because each creature has like a maximum of one sound that they make over and over again at the most annoying pitch possible.

Overall, Dungeon Siege is a pretty fun game that plays like an arcade-style RPG. Unfortunately it appears as if Microsoft shoved it out the door really early just so it could be on shelves before Neverwinter Nights shipped. Everything about this game screams "rush job," from the game crashing bugs to the non-game-crashing-but-really-fucking-annoying bugs. If they could have worked on this game for about two months more, I'm sure it'd be a load better than the "80% done" version of Dungeon Siege that was released to stores.

This is a DUNGEON MASTER. Note the thing in its right hand. I believe it's doing a really scary pole dance or something.

Neverwinter Nights - Okay, let me get this right out of the way here: I really don't like this game. At all. In any facet. I'm sure this will generate a barn full of flame email from people whose fulltime occupation is producing grease from their facial pores, but luckily I don't ever read my email. That is a wonderful example of my genius brain at work.

Neverwinter Nights is apparently a Dungeon and Dragons nerd's wet dream. You can build your dorky little dungeon and put monsters and crap in it and then be THE DUNGEON MASTER while other people walk around and get killed by the stupid traps you placed everywhere. The fact that you can be an online DUNGEON MASTER really appeals to a lot of people out there, which probably explains why the national murder rate is going up again. A whole bunch of nerds really want to be THE DUNGEON MASTER because it makes them feel powerful and like god, assuming god wears a tattered 3DFX t-shirt and fails to shower weekly.

A group of Neverwinter Nights players attempt to kill a marauding 20-sided die. ROLL FOR A SAVING THROW AGAINST DUNGEON MASTERS, GUYS!

Another big feature of Neverwinter Nights is the fact that it uses the Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition Rulebook. These rulebooks explain how many 20-sided dice you should roll when your Elf thinks about pottery. Everything in every D&D game requires you to roll 20-sided dice for at least seven hours. There's also something called a "saving throw," which I think is an Olympic sport. Each rulebook released includes more banal and boring requirements to roll 20-sided dice over and over again. In fact, I think D&D games are being released as large boxes containing a bunch of dice and a note that says "have fun!" Neverwinter Nights uses the 3rd Edition Rulebook to make gameplay turn into a giant orgy of mathematics and 20-sided dice and Elves. Oh yeah, and it takes roughly three hours to simply create a character because there's a billion different traits and qualities to choose from (since being Lawful Good makes a huge difference compared to Unlawful Good Neutral Chaotic Evil Hungry Neutral Well-Done). You have a lot of time to obsess over your stupid stats when you walk through any doorway and experience the exciting roleplaying feature of "long ingame pauses to load the next map."

Although I only played the game for two hours, it felt like the equivalent of 40 hours in any other game. If you're some goober who enjoys numbers, frequently gloats in public about your Armor Class, or wants to be THE DUNGEON MASTER, this game is for you. If you're somebody who wants to play a quick game and then quit after 30 minutes, you should stay the hell away from Neverwinter Nights because it takes at least that long just to look at your spellbook.

Whew! Somehow this turned into a long and stupid update, so I'm going to end it right here because THE DUNGEON MASTER rolled a saving throw versus butter and it turns out my armor class is too low to have enough strength to wear some stupid gloves. Get out your 20-sided dice and celebrate, nerds across the globe, because your ship of RPGs has finally come in!

Break Out Your Pickax! Tuesday Brings The Goldmine!

It's Tuesday, and that means it's once again time for our newest, mildly exciting column called "The Goldmine!" We've reached into the vast archives of The Awful Forums and pulled out yet another thread we thought was worthy of your laughter! This week's topic was making wrong casting choices for movies.

So, what are you waiting for? Go there now! The only thing you have to lose is your precious, precious time!

– Rich "Lowtax" Kyanka (@lowtax)

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