Alternate Lives: RPG Novels

Desslock at

Desslock puts on his reading glasses and sinks into his Lazyboy for our monthly Alternate Lives column, letting us in on some impressive game based fiction. This month, Desslock flips through the pages of the newest novels based in the fantasy world of The Elder Scrolls and The Witcher.

In early RPGs, exchanges with NPCs generally consisted of being told where to go to dispatch the evil wizard mastermind. Thataway, Avatar. These days, however, NPCs have become downright loquacious, and you’re just as likely to hear characters spout deep philosophical musings or attempt to seduce you as you are to get quest directions. BioWare’s RPGs, in particular, have effectively evolved into interactive novels that feature some first-rate writing and storytelling.

Crap Shoot: Callahan's Crosstime Saloon

Richard Cobbett at

Richard Cobbett takes a break from bad adventure games in favour of a trip to the bar where everyone knows your name... because they're telepaths, aliens, and crazy people from the future.

Finding a nice surprise in a bargain bin is always a mixed experience. Good, for the obvious reason: hurrah! This is terrific! Bad, because it ended up there at all. If the game doesn't suck, that only leaves one option: it just didn't sell. In the case of Callahan's Crosstime Saloon, the jewel case was beaten up, cracked, and came from a flea market somewhere in America. It was the game equivalent of the bedraggled cat at the back of the animal rescue shelter, with the big hopeful eyes, moulting fur, and cage right next to the room where they keep the nighty-night needles. I picked it up mostly out of sympathy, and I actually got it for free, because the guy on the stall couldn't be bothered to make change for a note.

It deserved better than that. After carefully disinfecting the CD case and discarding it in the hope of stopping the faint but lingering smell of second-hand underpants and unidentifable juices getting into the sofa, I put the disc into my PC with no idea of what to expect. I'd never heard of the books it's based on. I didn't know what type of game it was. It didn't have even have a cardboard box with some hints (which would have both made it sound cool, and immediately caught my attention with the words "Written by Josh Mandel" - one of Sierra's most underrated writers/designers). It could have been anything.

It turned out to be the second-best thing I ever bought from a man who smelled of rotten eggs and liked noisily snacking on long, sloppily scooped up strings of his own glistening snot between sales.