The role-playing game is the cornerstone of PC gaming. Long before shooters or real-time strategy, the earliest PC developers replicated their tabletop RPGs on the PC, building sprawling adventures filled with orcs and wizards and foul dungeons. Those early games slowly built on their tabletop origins, and RPGs eventually became so popular, their elements spread to other genres. Here are our 25 favorites: the RPGs we’d tell anyone to play right now.
PC Gamer's classic commentaries are special interviews with the developers of some of our favorite games. Join us for an hour with a classic game and the inside stories of its creation.
Ultima Underworld is the first game from the studio that became Looking Glass Studios, and it has all of the legendary developer's trademarks: immersive design, emphasis on cutting-edge technology, and a passionate following. It was one of my most formative PC gaming experience, exploring the Stygian Abyss and discovering the civilizations that live in the pit. So it was an honor to play and discuss the game with Paul Neurath, Underworld's designer—especially since his new company is bringing Underworld back. For an hour, we revisited the Avatar's adventure in the abyss, and he told me stories of how he and his team created one of the most iconic RPGs of all time.
It's hard to overstate just how good Ultima Underworld was. Its connection to the Ultima continuity was perhaps tenuous, but as a story-driven dungeon crawl it was, and is, unparalleled. For years, it's been my go-to answer to the question, "Which old game should be remade for modern systems?" and so you can imagine just how tickled I am about the news of Ultima Ascension, a new project headed by original Underworld designer Paul Neurath.
There are two reasons to be excited for upcoming indie dungeon crawler Barony. The first is its description. On the game's TIGsource thread, creator Sheridan Kane Rathbunhe explains that it's essentially "Ultima Underworld, with multiplayer and lots of rogue-like stuff." The second reason is the trailer's use of In The Hall of the Mountain King, which is, in and of itself, a naturally exciting piece of music. Although it could have been made more exciting had the maker just learned a few lessons from AAA trailer making. Namely, dubstep.
My memories of Ultima Underworld are of an endless stream of delighted discoveries, an abject fear of what might lurk in the dim and tortuous tunnels, and of scribbling notes about which NPC wanted what item and which rune sequence created which spell.
Jumping back into the sprawling dungeons of the Stygian Abyss today is gleefully exciting. But it’s also a tiny bit depressing, because I’ll never get to play it for the very first time again.
This kind of industry news happens all the time, and it's not normally the kind of thing we'd report. This is just too good, though. Valve have confirmed that they've hired Doug Church, a games designer who worked on, amongst others, Ultima Underworld, Thief, System Shock and Deus Ex. And Flight Unlimited 2, which was totally amazing by the way.
When Tom spoke to Gabe Newell at great length last year, he discussed Valve's hiring practices. At the time, Newell mention that: "We have one guy who I think we’re finally going to get to move here that we’ve been pursuing for twelve years now, and we finally have convinced him to join the horde." PURE SPECULATION from my brain suggests Doug Church might be the guy.
There's no word on what project Church is working on - and whether it's something new or something existing - but Gamasutra received confirmation about the hire from Valve's Doug Lombardi. The imagination runs wild. Hop below for the full section about hiring practices from Tom's Gabe Newell interviews.