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Ten Computer RPGs You’ve Never Heard Of

Infinitron

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Nice post from the Rampant Coyote:

Ten Computer RPGs You’ve Never Heard Of*

I struggle with the obscurity of my own indie RPG, Frayed Knights, every day. That’s a common problem with indie games, in spite of our best efforts. But compared to the average indie release,Frayed Knights is doing pretty well. It’s been in some bundles, made it onto Steam, gotten some good reviews and even won some awards that I’m very proud of. But it’s hard to even judge the “average” indie game because… shock… you’ve never heard of it. And what about the games that even more unknown than “average?”

The indie revolution has brought a whole new meaning to the concept of “obscure.” I love reading theCRPG Addict’s blog, and he relishes in discovering these old, obscure computer RPGs. And admittedly, even as a guy who thought he knew his stuff, I am astonished by some of his finds. But he’s still working in the pre-World Wide Web days right now. Things kinda exploded a few years ago, and keep exploding. About twice as many CRPGs released last year than in any year he’s covered so far, and he’s now knee-deep in the “golden age” of the game genre, circa 1990. However, the closer we get to the present day, the more opportunities also arise for… I dunno, call it “micro-publicity” or something. There’s always a tiny website that might mention or review a game (like this one), or some kind of bundle which might include your game.

Even so, a lot of these indie games release with nary a splash, sell little or bupkis, abandon the field, leave the website to be devoured by Asian vultures when the registration lapses, and are remembered by almost none. And… admittedly, these games are not usually the diamonds in the rough their creators probably believed. But in many cases, they weren’t bad, and even if they were, sometimes they contained some interesting seeds of good ideas.

I know a little bit about the challenge of making an RPG**, so I wanted to offer some celebration of the effort that went into making these titles, if nothing else. I fully admit that even as I try to pretend I’ve got my ear to the ground here, I’m unfocused enough to realize that if I’ve heard of it (let alone played it), it’s probably not really that obscure. But in celebration of these nearly-forgotten titles, I wanted to share ten of the most obscure CRPGs I have ever played. If you can still find them, they may be worth checking out – in fact, some of them I heartily recommend. But here’s a word of warning: Because these games are little-known outside of certain circles, there’s not often a lot of help or walkthroughs available online. If you play them, prepare to solve them the old-fashioned way, with very little assistance.




#1 – Dungeons of Death / Dungeons of Magdarr (1983, Commodore 64): This title was only available as a mail-order from a regular multi-game ad in magazines like Compute! I remember digging through the BASIC code and discovering the dungeon maps defined as character strings, and thinking that was a pretty clever way to store it. It was a 3D first-person perspective title… and not a very good one. The odd thing is that I ordered it from this ad to the right. But I understand this game (Dungeons of Death) was a 2D, top-down game on the VIC-20 and other systems. Yet the game I received was a 3D, three-level dungeon (I remember it had 3 levels because, again, I spent about as much time looking through the code as I did playing it.)

I wish I still had the original packaging with the (Tape? Floppy? I can’t remember) and the manual (was it a single page?) Anyway, it was my very first computer RPG, and while it wasn’t the greatest experience evar, it was a taste of things to come.






#2 – Vampyr: Talisman of Invocation (1989, DOS): One day in 1991, on a library computer at my university, I discovered Shareware. I had no money, so this was a wonderful thing. On that day, I copied a whole bunch of these shareware / public domain games onto a couple of floppy drives and took them home. Among them was an Ultima III-like CRPG called Vampyr: Talisman of Invocation. It wasn’t that great of an Ultima clone, to be honest, but it was really impressive that just a couple of guys managed to put this thing together. That was perhaps my first glimpse at to what would one day become the exciting world of indie CRPGs.



#3 – The Devil Whiskey (2003, DOS): This one is hard to label as “obscure.” If hardcore CRPG fans were hipsters, this would be one of the hipster games out there, that the “in” crowd all know about, but nobody else does. It came out in an era where very few indie RPGs were being released, so it gained some momentum by being unique. It is very strongly influenced by The Bard’s Tale, to a fault in my opinion (including an extremely hard first area – a town that is as hard as an old-school dungeon). It’s a first-person dungeon crawler with 3D graphics and quality artwork, now (finally) available via Gamersgate.






#4 – Parhedros: Tunnels of Sethir (2007, Windows): An “old-school, dungeon-crawling, fantasy role-playing adventure, packed full of action, magic and mayhem” which only erred on the side of authenticity when it came to determining whether certain humanoid creatures wore clothes. The answer was, “No,” although the effort was not (at least not in the demo that I played) an attempt to titillate – not that the low-poly 3D graphics could really do much of that if that had been their actual intention. As far as I could see, there was nothing more provocative than the illustrations in the old 1st edition AD&D manuals. The site is still available, though, and is still NSFW: Parhedros




#5 – The Omega Syndrome (2005?, Windows): Inspired by the original Fallout games, this RPG was set in something of an alternate-history 1950s involving alien conspiracies. Yep, a non-fantasy indie RPG! Complete with comic-book style narratives and isometric, turn-based combat and pretty decent graphics, this was a sadly overlooked title. Eventually, in frustration, the developer removed the game entirely from sale, although you can still find various versions of the free demo out on the web.





#6 – The Three Musketeers – The Game (2009, Windows and Mac): An unusual title by Dingo Games based on the classic novel, The Three Musketeers. Again, non-fantasy! And with some very unusual opportunities (like playing Tennis – the sport of kings). And… hey, I am actually an affiliate for this relatively unknown game, and you can get it here. Okay, shameless plug over. It’s hard for me to gauge its relative obscurity, but it seemed like it fell off every radar almost immediately after release.






#7 – Swords & Sorcery: Underworld (2010/2012, Windows): This game has been released a couple of times in progressively better quality, with a new version coming “soon” that promises to be even better. This is another game that I have trouble thinking of as being “obscure” because I’m personal friends of the developer, and it has received rave reviews from the little places on the Internet that I follow. And of course, *I* have played it, so how obscure can it be? But as a game that’s not on any major distribution sites, and has never (to my knowledge) been in any bundle, and rarely mentioned outside of a small circle of diehard western RPG-fans, I guess it qualifies. Swords & Sorcery: Underworld is heavily influenced by the early Might & Magic series, and offers considerable depth and length of gameplay, and lots and lots of dungeons and monsters, and not a small number of interesting puzzles to resolve. What it does borrow from the classics is put to good use, offering the same addictive properties. As the author has kept refining it (even while laboring on the sequel), it speaks highly of his dedication to the game long after its initial release. You can grab yourself a copy at the Olderbytes official website.






#8 – Inaria (2011, Windows): Created by another friend of mine, Anthony Salter, Inaria has finally been part of a (modest) bundle, so it’s no longer quite as obscure as it once was. Inaria is an old-school-esque game of the Ultima III-V style that started as a “game in 40 hours” project that gradually blossomed into a full-fledged (if relatively short), playable, entertaining game. The author updated the game since its original release, adding a major randomized dungeon (called “The Infinite”) and other features. You can help make this game less obscure by getting it here.






#9 – Darklight Dungeon / Darklight Dungeon Eternity (2010 / 2012, Windows): This was actually the game that inspired this post. The website is gone, the game is no longer supported (and I’m not sure if it can even be purchased anymore), but you know… it was actually a pretty cool title that I had a bit of fun playing. The sequel – Darklight Dungeon Eternity – included FIFTY LEVELS of hand-built dungeon. The graphics were pretty programmer-art-y built from stock tools, and after a certain point the combat emphasis could get wearying, but it did seem like the game regularly provided some surprises. And… I have to ask… has ANYBODY other than Jesse Zoeller (the creator) actually played this bad boy to completion? Holy cow.






#10 – Axe and Fate Rebirth (2013, Windows & Android): While the game doesn’t advertise itself as an Android port, it’s pretty obvious when you play it. While that in itself would be a recommendation against it (and it is), the game sports some pretty interesting features: It is a 3D free-moving turn-based tactical RPG with first-person perspective and up to two characters in the party. You can play with a solo character (with double the starting points) if you want, but it’s much harder that way. It’s available on Desura.





Now, as I said before, I doubt I even come close to being having played the most obscure computer RPGs ever (although I think Dungeons of Magdarr is up there). There are several more I could have listed, but these are my favorite (at least in terms of being unusual, really obscure, or really fun) I’m sure the community here knows plenty more. What CRPGs have you played that were theoretically publicly released (and may still be), yet very few people have ever heard of?

* Unless you read this blog, in which case you’ve probably heard of half of ’em.

** At least without something like RPG Maker, which makes it pretty dang easy to throw together a crappy RPG, and I know many of them were “released” by way of some forum post lost in antiquity. There’s no bottom to how obscure those theoretically “public” distributions can become, so I left RPG Maker games off this list. HOWEVER – Putting together a high-quality title is still insanely difficult, regardless of tools, and so I do not want anybody to take this as some kind of knock against RPG Maker titles. Many of my favorite indie RPGs were made with that tool, and I know dang well how much sweat and blood went into ’em!
 

Scroo

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Thanks for copying this. I know Devil Whiskey and Swords and Sorcery but the rest is new to me. Inaria and The Three Musketeers look particularly interesting, I will check them out (meaning I will put them on my endless backlog of games I'll never manage to play before I die :negative:)
 

A user named cat

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I played Devil Whiskey once and it was pretty shit, very grindy from what I recall. The rest on the list don't seem to be of any interest.
 

JarlFrank

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I remember the Omega Syndrome, it was a game people discussed here on the Codex back in 2007. The developer seemed to have a "crazy modder" mentality as in not listening to feedback and just doing the thing he thinks is the proper way to play, and then just removing his game from sale when he got fed up with people NOT UNDERSTANDING.

At least that's how I remember it. My memory is hazy because it's so long ago.
The game was supposed to have a structure like classic late 90s RPGs, such as Baldur's Gate and Fallout. And it was ironman. And people got annoyed by a game where you have a plot structure and semi-linear progression... and permadeath. It meant failing once forced you to restart and do all the shit you did before yet again. Imagine starting out at Candlekeep again because Sarevok just killed you in the final fight. HAHAHA RAGEQUIT FOREVER

Of course, the dev claimed the people crying over permadeath being a horribly shit decision were just not hardcore enough for his game.
 

Infinitron

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I remember the Omega Syndrome, it was a game people discussed here on the Codex back in 2007. The developer seemed to have a "crazy modder" mentality as in not listening to feedback and just doing the thing he thinks is the proper way to play, and then just removing his game from sale when he got fed up with people NOT UNDERSTANDING.

At least that's how I remember it. My memory is hazy because it's so long ago.
The game was supposed to have a structure like classic late 90s RPGs, such as Baldur's Gate and Fallout. And it was ironman. And people got annoyed by a game where you have a plot structure and semi-linear progression... and permadeath. It meant failing once forced you to restart and do all the shit you did before yet again. Imagine starting out at Candlekeep again because Sarevok just killed you in the final fight. HAHAHA RAGEQUIT FOREVER

Of course, the dev claimed the people crying over permadeath being a horribly shit decision were just not hardcore enough for his game.

Sounds dramalicious. Links to old threads, anybody?
 

mindx2

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Putting Devil Whiskey on that list is a bit dubious or at the least the most "known" of those "unknown" titles. I knew of half of those (Devil, Omega, Underworld, Anaria and Vampyr) but not the others so it might be fun to dig them up. However, I imagine some are obscure for a very simple reason... they weren't very good to begin with.
 

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However, I imagine some are obscure for a very simple reason... they weren't very good to begin with.

Yeah, a list of good obscure RPGs would be better. (Personally I think there are quite a few, depending on what you enjoy in an RPG.)
 

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Lhynn

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Parhedros looks lulzy, sadly it also looks really fucking overpriced.
The omega syndrome looks good too, not gonna play a demo tho, ill see if i can find the full game.
Guess ill try inaria, unless any of you can recommend any of these games.
 

Deuce Traveler

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Grab the Codex by the pussy Divinity: Original Sin Torment: Tides of Numenera Shadorwun: Hong Kong Pathfinder: Kingmaker Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag. Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture
I've played and completed Swords and Sorcery: Underworld and the author's own Frayed Knights; and found them to be above average games, which is pretty good for indie efforts. I've heard of, but never played Dungeons of Death, Vampyr, Inaria, and Omega Syndrome but no very little about them. Out of the rest, I never heard of them at all before but the Devil Whiskey seems the most interesting to me. I'm also very curious whether or not the hive mind would give any of these a recommend.

I do plan to at least try Parhedros... for research, of course.
 

Zetor

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There's an LP (abandoned, of course) of Devil Whiskey here, with quite a bit of info... it seems like a decent BT clone (with good production values for an indie... also, 8-character parties!), but janky as hell.

edit: lol

Also, we me this guy:


So hbe ranks below Brazilian Spider Clown on the "I am terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought" scale. But fuck, who says "what my game needs is really creepy looking furries"? I mean, he has the beedy eyes of a man who has, at best, killed and eaten children. Except these eyes are set in the face of a bunny. A man-bunny with a well sculpted physique. I just. . . fuck. We're fortunate that I don't find all life to be inherently precious. I'm not clear on what my next move is, in-game (story wise, I mean). But I think my personal goal is to eradicate this species.
 
Last edited:

JarlFrank

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Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag.
I remember the Omega Syndrome, it was a game people discussed here on the Codex back in 2007. The developer seemed to have a "crazy modder" mentality as in not listening to feedback and just doing the thing he thinks is the proper way to play, and then just removing his game from sale when he got fed up with people NOT UNDERSTANDING.

At least that's how I remember it. My memory is hazy because it's so long ago.
The game was supposed to have a structure like classic late 90s RPGs, such as Baldur's Gate and Fallout. And it was ironman. And people got annoyed by a game where you have a plot structure and semi-linear progression... and permadeath. It meant failing once forced you to restart and do all the shit you did before yet again. Imagine starting out at Candlekeep again because Sarevok just killed you in the final fight. HAHAHA RAGEQUIT FOREVER

Of course, the dev claimed the people crying over permadeath being a horribly shit decision were just not hardcore enough for his game.

Sounds dramalicious. Links to old threads, anybody?

Alright, I googled it, and I guess I remember it a bit wrongly and the "OMG YOU ARE NON-HARDCORE FAGGOTS FOR COMPLAINING ABOUT FORCED IRONMAN" guys were only some Codexers.

Anyway, this is what I found:
http://www.rpgcodex.net/forums/index.php?threads/omega-syndrome.22090/
Apparently, the dev just lost interest and took the game down because he couldn't be bothered updating it anymore. He's hard to track down and contact, but some RPG Watch thread apparently explains how you could still buy it. I haven't checked it out and have no idea if it still works today. If the game has truly been entirely abandoned by the creator - I think it would be a good idea if a Codexer in possession of the full version could "leak" it to the Codex or something.

http://www.rpgcodex.net/forums/inde...game-the-omega-syndrome-now-part-three.64239/
Awor Szurkrarz apparently made an LP of the game in hard mode, which implies there is also a non iron-man mode that the dev implemented after recieving a lot of criticism because of ironman.

So, apparently, the creator just lost interest and took the game down. Now it is almost impossible to find. It should be the Codex's mission to preserve this thing for the future by tracking down a full version copy.
 

Mortmal

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Heard of them before too, and you should have too ! Number 7 come on .. you dont remember of it, we gave the dev so much abuse and you dont even remember it, the new version with improved art was released , this blog is not up to date . Charles-cgr would roll over in his grave if he could hear you .It was rumored he was working on sovereign a sequel with a bigger open world before his house was seized over some debts , and dying of cold in the gutter.

As for the other games of the list, not so obscure and not so worth playing. Devil whiskey if you like bard's tale , its pretty much the same 2 steps one encounter, door treasure. It gets extremely fast very easy with no challenge although.I don't think anyone here would enjoy them, even old fags like me .
 

Modron

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Parhedros looks lulzy, sadly it also looks really fucking overpriced.
The omega syndrome looks good too, not gonna play a demo tho, ill see if i can find the full game.
Guess ill try inaria, unless any of you can recommend any of these games.

Don't get your hopes up when looking for omega syndrome the game was too obscure, even in it's heyday, to ever really get cracked. Even a few years ago there were still places that sold some outdated versions but who knows if those are even still around, I grabbed the 3.42 patch but never actually got around to buying it.

Some years back, the developer said he was reworking it to re-release it but he hasn't really said nary a peep since and he could have been poised to jump onto kickstarter at its' height but did not, so those stars will probably never align.
 

ColCol

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Doesn't the developer of the Omega Syndrome still post here? Davaris, or some shit.
 

Surf Solar

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That's a weak codex lore stat you have there Infinitron. Even I knew that.

Shame about his game. It looks pretty cool. I think Awor played it extensively.
 

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