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Desert Island Games: Episode 2, part 1

Welcome back to Desert Island Games. Each episode takes a member of the GRcade community and strand them on a desert island forever.

I’m not completely heartless so they’ll be able to take along their eight favourite games to play for the rest of their days. But there are a couple of rules in place. Any game with an online component is fine, but any kind of voice or text chat is banned (we can’t have you calling out for help). Also, availability of DLC is completely at my own whim.

So after Rax was the first of our castaways, who is the second person to stroll up the gangway on to our one way gaming cruise? Well, we’ve got another OG GRcade member. Most well know for their insatiable appetite for cheevos and with a gamerscore of well over 400,000 (putting him in the top 650 players in the world), this episode’s contributor is GRcade’s very own achievement whore, More Heat Than Light.

Rex: Given your history of clocking the gamerscore, was it hard to limit yourself to just eight games? Did you consider adding an easy 1,000 pointer just to keep that sweet feeling of totting up the points?
MHTL: Ha, I thought that might make the list of questions! I tried to ignore gamerscore to be honest, even though I’m a bit obsessed I don’t think it’d be a factor on a desert island. If anything I picked things that would be more challenging to keep me occupied for longer. Easy completions tend to be ‘rinse and trade’ type games, not ideally suited for this environment!

There’s an awful long time between your first choice and your last so I’m guessing you’ve been gaming for a while? Was the Spectrum your first experience of gaming?
My first gaming machine was an Atari 800XL, so yeah I’ve been gaming a while. We were bought a Speccy after that, and to be honest it was a bit of a downgrade, although there were far more games available for it. After that we had an Atari STE, and I’ve been through a lot of games consoles since then.

Although there is a decent amount of content in your list, there definitely seems an element of heart over head in your choices. Is this the case?
A bit of both I think. Obviously the first few are more ‘nostalgic’ games that remind me of home and growing up, but I tried to pick ones that would still keep me busy for a while. There are definitely a few games on my list that offer almost infinite replay value.

Great, so lets have a look at what you’re taking along.

So the first game on the list comes from acclaimed strategy game developer Julian Gollop.  Released on ZX Spectrum in 1985, the game allows the player to battle up to seven other wizards (either human or AI controlled) in a turn based manner. Players are given a variety of spells to cast with varying degrees of difficulty and also alignment. Casting spells of the same alignment can affect the environment. MHTL’s first game is Chaos: The Battle of Wizards.

This game is really one from the dark and dusty past, what are your memories of playing it?
So, I should clarify that the version of Chaos I’m most familiar of isn’t the Spectrum original. We had a copy of a remake made for the Atari ST which appeared on some pirate disc we acquired from someone at school. It’s mostly identical, save for the addition of some sound samples from the likes of Monty Python and Blackadder and a few new spells that aren’t present in the original game. Given the choice between the two, I’d probably pick that version, but I’ve asked for the Spectrum version here simply because I have no idea if that version is even still available anywhere.

Anyway, Chaos is the defining game of my childhood growing up. It was by far the most played game in our household at the time, we often had large groups of kids all taking part in epic games (the fact you could play with eight players at a time was revolutionary back then). We had an award for the ‘Chaos Champion’ in the house, once held for a long period of time by a confused uncle who had been roped in to play. It was absolutely everywhere, and we all adored it. I’ve nominated Chaos as one of my eight games here simply because it reminds me of home.

And the truth is it’s still a wonderful game to play. Basically an eight-way version of chess, it’s incredibly simple but still has plenty of depth to it. Games could be over in a matter of turns (we had an in-house rule of no killings on turn one) or could take an hour to finish. I love the idea that you are randomly assigned a list of spells to start with and had to make the best of what you were given. You could either go big from the start by casting a Gold Dragon, summon a mount to ride (the Manticore was my preference!) or maybe buff your wizard with a Magic Sword. And then there were the big plays, a Magic Wood to grant you more spells or a Gooey Blob which would gradually take over the screen.

It’s a game which works best in local multiplayer which was why I initially resisted putting the game on my list, obviously I’d have no-one there with me on my island! But there’s plenty of depth playing here with a bunch of CPU wizards, we’d often do this just to fill in the numbers and they would always prove to be worthy adversaries. Ideally someone would have come up with an internet enabled version by now, perhaps someone has, I’ve been out of PC gaming for a while now .

Are you a big fan of other Gollop games such as Rebelstar Raiders, Laser Squad, X-Com, etc?
Honestly, I’m not really that familiar with them. Back when Chaos was a thing I was too young to really understand about different game developers and things, we just played the games we were given (usually in the form of those cracked pirated discs distributed by that dodgy kid). I played the Chaos follow-up Lords of Chaos, which wasn’t nearly as good as the first game. I was kinda hoping that his new version Chaos Reborn would make it to consoles, but no luck so far.

In terms of this type of game, I’ve enjoyed similar turn based strategy titles like Advance Wars, and I recently really enjoyed Skulls of the Shogun by 17-Bit. But nothing has ever scratched that strategic arena battle itch that Chaos did.

Game two, Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun, is another very interesting choice. Is this a game you’ve played again recently or is this one looked at with rose tinted specs?
Yeah, this is another trip down memory lane I’m afraid. Our first games console was a Mega Drive, we had a few games for it but our main source of entertainment was the local video shop. We rented this particular game about 20 times, probably spending twice as much money as actually buying the game outright! Me and my brothers were big fantasy fans and this was really easy to pick up and play so it fit the bill quite nicely. Probably not the best genre of game for rental, we’d usually grab it again to find our save had been deleted and have to start again.

I picked up a Mega Drive and a bundle of games from eBay about 10 years ago (before kids, all my retro stuff has now been cleared out sadly) and had a couple of hours on this again. It was amazing how much of it came flooding back, the incredible 16-bit soundtrack, the story, even the world map had somehow ingrained itself into my memory.

I seem to remember it being relatively long (for a game of it’s time), but is there much replay value?
I’ll be honest, I picked this mainly for the memories, but I’d love to spend some serious time getting back into this. When I played it most recently it still seemed mechanically sound, and there are plenty of places on the map that I’ve still never seen. I don’t think we ever paid that much attention to the story, it was more a case of where can we explore? What’s actually past that river of fire in the north west corner of the map?. I don’t think we ever found that out.

It wasn’t particularly well received compared with other Mega Drive RPGs. What made you pick it over other games such as Phantasy Star 2 or Shining Force 2 (or the unbelievably awesome Rings of Power)?
As kids we didn’t read games magazines, we just looked at the games on the shelf and picked the ones with the pretty covers (I still have flashbacks of that time we rented Ballz :dread: ). We liked D&D, and this one seemed to jump off the shelf at us. It just has a special place in my heart. I know there are better games out there but the world in this is just one that means something to me personally. I’m not even an RPG fan to be honest, certainly nowadays I don’t have the time to invest in those kinds of games. And while there are probably all sorts of games that I could take to the island with me that would last forever, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take this one with me.