History Lessons: Nahlakh

Other History Lessons posts can be found here. As always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

I first learned about Tom Proudfoot’s games years ago, probably around 2007 or 2008. At the time I was looking for some free, classic turn-based role-playing games, and found mentions of his work somewhere online. The first game of his I tried was Natuk, which is the more polished sequel to Nahlakh, but I eventually got bored of it. Later, I also tried a game called Helherron, which is not by Tom Proudfoot but draws heavy inspiration from his games. I eventually tired of that as well, although I was very surprised to see, when looking it up now, that its developer has resumed work on it after a decade of inactivity, which a bunch of new updates this year. Perhaps I’ll take a look at it again soon.

But I didn’t know about that when I saw a discussion of Tom Proudfoot’s games on the GOG forums, and decided to take another look at them. This time I wanted to start at the beginning, with his first game, Nahlakh.

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Outcast: Second Contact Released

One of the first History Lessons posts I wrote for this blog was about Outcast, back before I even had screenshots in my posts. Spoiler alert: I loved it. It’s a wildly ambitious game that was way ahead of its time and still feels distinct from the modern games that eventually adopted many of its ideas. Later, I posted about a Kickstarter attempt by the original developers to fund an HD remake, in the hopes of eventually making a sequel. That Kickstater campaign failed, but the team went ahead and made the HD remake anyway. Titled Outcast: Second Contact, it’s available now on Steam, as well as PS4 and Xbox One (the original was PC-only).

As usual, I’m hopelessly behind and short on free time, so I haven’t had a chance to play it yet. In fact, I’ve started playing Outcast v1.1, an earlier update that the developers made to the original game to make it play nicer with modern computers and allow higher resolutions. I’m hoping to compare it directly to Second Contact so I can report on what’s changed, and which version you might prefer. So I’ll write about that… eventually. In the meantime, I wanted to announce Second Contact’s release in case any readers are interested. Many players, myself included, missed Outcast the first time around, so this is a great chance to discover a great game.

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Infernal Medicine: Another Solium Infernum Diary (part 2)

Readers unfamiliar with Solium Infernum may wish to read my original post about the game, as well as my first, massive Solium Infernum diary, Hell Or High Water, before continuing. And you should definitely read part 1 of Infernal Medicine to get up to speed. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

Six archfiends are vying for control of Hell. Four of them are chronicling their machinations here. Last time, Baleygr had rapidly expanded his territory but feared he could not muster the resources to take advantage of his perks, which strengthen his legions as his own archfiend’s power increases. Anonymoeba spent time growing his own powers, drew his first secret objective, and was racing Baleygr for access to the high-value Place of Power known as the Pit of Tartarus. The Magistrate was biding his time, trying to accumulate as much money as possible. And Codename Duchess had established early military strength, engineered a little war against Beowulf with the hope of eventually claiming a Blood Feud, and given the order to attack.

Here is what happened.

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History Lessons: DROD: Journey To Rooted Hold

Other History Lessons posts can be found here. In this case, you may want to read the History Lesson post about DROD: King Dugan’s Dungeon in particular before proceeding. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

DROD: Journey To Rooted Hold is the second game in the DROD series, and a direct sequel to DROD: King Dugan’s Dungeon, which was the subject of its own History Lessons post on this blog. But Journey To Rooted Hold is actually the first game in the series I tried. I made two attempts to play it, eventually giving up both times. I feared that the DROD series simply wasn’t for me, until I took a crack at the first game and it finally clicked. After completing King Dugan’s Dungeon, I felt I was ready to tackle Journey To Rooted Hold (originally released in 2005) again.

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Infernal Medicine: Another Solium Infernum Diary (part 1)

Readers unfamiliar with Solium Infernum may wish to read my original post about the game. And you should probably read my first, massive Solium Infernum diary, Hell Or High Water, before continuing. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

Apparently, one absurdly long and detailed Solium Infernum diary was not enough. No, we felt the need to chronicle the game that followed, this time including the perspectives of several of the archfiends vying for control of Hell, not just my own. So I’m not going to go into the full level of detail that characterized Hell Or High Water. This account will stick to only the most important events, but by detailing the unfolding secret schemes of four archfiends in parallel, it should be a great demonstration of why Solium Infernum is so compelling. It should also, if you’ll excuse the pun, be entertaining as hell. Thanks to my erstwhile opponents and contributors Baleygr, Anonymoeba, and Codename Duchess for making this possible!

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Back To Infinity: Approaching Infinity v1.3

If you haven’t already, you should read my earlier post about Approaching Infinity first. And, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

Longtime readers may remember that I quite liked the space-faring roguelike Approaching Infinity. I’d always planned to return to it, especially after it received some major updates, but kept getting distracted by other games instead. Now I have finally returned to it, prompted by a reader comment, so I can tell you what I think of the updates and give some more publicity to a great game that I fear may disappear into obscurity.

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Demo Time: Silicon Void On Kickstarter

As always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

Silicon Void first got my attention due to its unusual premise. It presents a future where no biological life has existed in the galaxy for at least 20 billion years. Many artificial intelligences doubt that it ever existed, suggesting instead that biological organisms are nothing more than a creation myth. The constructs that populate the galaxy have more pressing concerns, regardless; after billions of years of existence, transferring themselves across galaxy-spanning networks, corruption is starting to appear. It’s a thermodynamic inevitability known as Senescence, the slow degradation of a construct’s personality and sanity. Constructs are dying out, trying to stave off the madness as long as they can, with no hope of reversing the process. The player controls an artificial intelligence diagnosed with the early stages of Senescence and accordingly exiled to the galactic rim. Once there, they uncover a mysterious message, claiming that organic life has finally been found. This discovery may hold the key to stopping Senescence and preventing extinction.

I love imaginative science fiction ideas like this. It’s a plausible crisis for a universe populated solely by computerized intelligences, and it begs questions related to other science fiction ideas. Could biological organisms have actually transformed themselves into artificial intelligence long ago? Are there some who now perceive biology as a threat, and are working to prevent its resurgence?

So, Silicon Void appealed from a narrative standpoint. In terms of game design, developer Chris Doucette — who is seeking funding on Kickstarter for the project — cites inspirations I am less familiar with: Japanese-style role-playing games (JRPGs) from the late Playstation 1 and early Playstation 2 era. He drops names like Chrono Cross, Etrian Odyssey, and Xenosaga, none of which I’ve played. My knowledge of JRPGs is mostly of earlier titles from the ’90s, and the more recent examples I’ve played, such as Ara Fell or Master of the Wind, take inspiration from those early games as well. Doucette laments that the comparatively unusual design and battle mechanics of his inspirations were never elaborated upon in more recent games, and hopes to explore these design possibilities with Silicon Void.

With those touchstones meaning little to me, I was left unsure if I would enjoy actually playing Silicon Void, despite the great premise. Fortunately, Doucette has provided a substantial playable demo along with his Kickstarter campaign, so I was able to try it out for myself.

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