January 16, 2010

Flashback to 1995

Erik Kubik says Let’s roll back the clock and look at 1995 in the PC gaming world. I was a measly, pale 11-year old kid sporting a i486 PC with Windows 3.1, around 50 mhz with 4mbs of Ram. This was the year Windows 95 was released, which would spell the end for DOS-based games. PC gamers saw the release of so many amazing games that year. I distinctly remember Command and Conquer, System Shock, Dark Forces, MechWarrior 2 and Warcraft.

At the time, I was blown away by Dark Forces. It was an fps Star Wars game. MechWarrior 2 was also incredible; gamers were forced to use everything on the keyboard just to move the heavy mechs through jagged battlefields. Warcraft, well that led to many sleepless Saturdays, my memory is tainted with the noises and grunts of the orcs and the clash of metal on metal through my SoundBlaster Speakers.

System Shock was my first taste of fear in a game. I remember my parents being gone for the night and I tried to play this eccentric-cyberpunk game with the lights on. I had to leave the room, granted I was only 11 and I had seen plenty of “R” rated horror movies but this was the first time I was truly terrified by a video game.

I never did play much of Command and Conquer. I preferred to play Warcraft.

All of the games have aged terribly, but the focus here is on the four that left the biggest impression on young gamers like myself and have legacies of some sort. Command and Conquer has spawned an infinite amount of sequels and clones, and along with Warcraft, both games contributed to the creation of the modern RTS genre. I would even say these two titles were also the partial evolution of tabletop gaming. Warcraft itself lead to Starcraft and World of Warcraft, two of the biggest games in PC gaming.

System Shock gave rise to the idea of horror/suspenseful action based video games. System Shock made it cool to kill things and try to survive in a truly terrifying environment. Today’s games like Dead Space and Resident Evil 5 have System Shock to thank.

Last but not least, is Dark Forces. This game gave rise to such titles as Jedi Knight, Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy. It gave us what all of us wanted: a Star Wars game that wasn’t about dog fighting or strategy. It was a run-and-gun fps where gamers could blast Storm Troopers and droids. The game brought in the fans of games like DOOM or Duke Nukem. The sequels let us pick good or evil and enjoy the rewards of the “force” based on our decisions. Although there has not been a sequel since 2003’s Jedi Academy, games like Battlefront 2 and the new KOTR game may draw inspiration from the legacy of Dark Forces.

Looking back, 1995 was an excellent year for PC Gamers. The hardware was evolving and we were blessed with quite a few memorable games.