This is the fourth entry of the [2019 with DOS games] column, a mini-compendium of the mandatory MS-DOS games ever released. For a big part of my life I’ve been a PC games player and I had tons of old games to play with back in the 90s. This is my homage to them.
The rules are simple. MS-DOS has been created in 1981 and was still available in computer until the early Noughties. However the release of Windows 95 acted as a break and everything before immediately becaome. So I can fairly tell that the DOS era goes from 1981 until 1985. [2019 with DOS games] will feature every two weeks a selection of three games, one for every five-year period (1981-1985, 1986-1990 and 1991-1995) in alphabetic order that I consider either important, ground-breaking or simply fun and easy to play. I’ll try to consider only DOS-exclusive games or in case games spread on different platforms that have the PC version as a flagship. No claim of completeness, I’m not a human encyclopedia (unfortunately…). Let’s go with letter D.
- Developer: Trillium
- Publisher: Trillium
- Genre: Adventure
Dragonworld is one of the best adventures released by Trillium (known also as Telarium) and it’s part of the vast wordl of interactive fiction, the genre that rules the mid-80s. In the plot, you and your companion Hawking are tasked to save the last dragon, who has been kidnapped.
The game made use of the engine SAL (Spinnaker Adventure Language), used in others Telarium adventures and fortunately doesn’t suffer of one of the biggest problems of the parsers of the time – guessing the right verb.
The game is rather easy and the puzzles are quite straightforward, plus you can keep asking your companion Hawking for clues and infos, making the game even easier. So if you’re a fan of diffucult adventures or you’re expert of the genre, you may find Dragonworld a bit boring but if you don’t like spending hours in games like Zork, this is the game for you.
Dangerous Dave (1988)
- Developer: John Romero
- Publisher: Softdisk
- Genre: Platform, Puzzle
Dangerous Dave is one of the many, many games developed by that sacred monster that is John Romero. He coded it by himself and it’s the “classic” platfortmer with fixed screen in which you have to collect gold cups in order to switch to the next screen. Romero got the inspiration from Super Mario and this is visible in some game mechanics. The game gained a great popularity and a lot of sequels were released, not all of them under the supervision of Romero
A fun “experiment” was 1990 Dangerous Dave in Copyright Infringment, a demo created by John Carmack and Tom Hall that’s basically a “classic” Dangerous Dave with fluid scrolling levels. The demo was a clone of the first level of Super Mario Bros. 3 but with Dave protagonist and, although it was rejecteb by Nintendo, laid the foundations for one of id Software first success, Commander Keen.
- Developer: id Software
- Publisher: id Software
- Genre: FPS
What can I same about Doom that has never been said before? I guess this question needs no answer. Doom is a games that doesn’t need any introduction. A massive success that created a genre (back then simply defined as “Doom Clone”, later FPS), a legacy that still continues today and the first big success for id Software. The sales figures tell us that 1,15 millions shareware copies of Doom have been sold, each one sold for 9$. So if you do the math we have 10 millions $ of income.
Doom is still now one of the most important games in history and has been the reference point for a whole genre. The revolutionary 3D environment and a great amount of gome made it one of the most discussed games of the period. Doom was an evolution of Wolfenstein 3D with which shared the core concept but with some important improvements (non-orthogonal rooms, possibnility of different lightning effects, planes with various heights etc…). The plot of the game, based on the winnin idea of John Carmack was “technology agains demons” and was a blend between Evil Dead and Aliens. Of course if you’ve never played Doom , shame on you, go get it and play it NOW.
As always here are some honorable mentions:
- Dark Castle (1986)
- Defender of the Crown (1986)
- Dejà vu (1987)
- Demon Stalkers (1987)
- Dragon Wars (1989)
- Dragons of Flame (1989)
- Drakkhen (1990)
- DragonStrike (1990)
- Dark Ages (1991)
- D/Generation (1991)
- Dusk of the Gods (1991)
- Darklands (1992)
- The Dark Queen of Krynn (1992)
- Dark Seed (1992)
- Daughter of Serpents (1992)
- Desert Strike (1992)
- Dune II (1992)
- Day of the Tentacle (1993)
- Dracula Unleashed (1993)
- Detroit (1994)
- Doom II (1994)
- Dreamweb (1994)
- Descent (1995)
- Druid: Daemons of the Mind (1995)
- The Dig (1995)
- Discworld (1995)
- Duke Nukem 3D (1996)
Even this time I had an hard time to pick a game for the last 5 years period. It could be a suprprise that I left out some favourite games of mine, like Duke Nukem (one of the games that earned a 100/100 score) and Day of the Tentacle (95/100), but as it happened in the last entry of this column, since I’ve already covered these games I decided to opt for another one. And is not a game like all the others, since it’s Doom, one of the greatest games of all time. Even this time there are so many games released in the early 90s, that is hard for me to choose. The fact is that probably not all of them are considered major hits, but since they were the ones I’ve played the most (thanks to my *cough* absolutely legal *cough* compilation, the Dutch Flyer) and they mean a lot to me. For example did some of you ever heard the game Detroit?
Well, it was one of the games I’ve played the most on my first PC but I will swallow a sword if it has sold more than 100k copies… (gosh I haven’t checked, I almost hope it bombed…). It’s curious how two out of three games in the top-three list have something to do with John Romero: Dangerous Dave is a platformer pre-Apogee developed by him, while Doom is a fine piece of art developed by Romero itself, Adrian Carmack, Kevin Cloud and Tom Hall: if there were a videogames religion, they would be the Four Apostles who wrote the Holy Book for it.
There are other great games in the honorable mentions that deserve a bit of coverage. One of them is surely The Dig, another great graphic adventure from LucasArts, one of the many I’ve played in my youth, along with Maniac Mansion, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Beneath a Steel Sky and Sam & Max Hit the Road.
A game that back in the day had some problems with the censorship is Dreamweb (another game on my Dutch Flyer). It’s an top-down adventure with a cyberpunk setting and with quite a lot violence and nudity even though the images are so pixellated that I doubt someone could find them disturbing.
A game that surely hasn’t got problems is Descent, a fully 3D FPS that can cause a serious motion sickness (I’m serious). In 1995 the freedom of movement and the possibility to rotate in all of the axes made the game quite a hit that went on to sell more than a million copies (between Descent and Descent 2). I guest what would be like playing it with a VR…
Druid: Daemons of the Mind is an isometric adventure with RPG elements and, you know, give me something isometric and I’m happy 😉 It can be defined as an entry-level RPG or an entry-level adventure with the result that displeases hardcore fans but intrigues the newcomers. As I was back then 🙂 Another adventure I’ve intensely played (guess why? Yes, its one of the Dutch Flyer games) is Daughter of Serpents, based on Cthulhu Mythos but less impressive that Shadow of the Comet.
Last but not least (definitley not least) is Dune II, the first and one of the greatest RTS games ever released. the lovers of strategy/simulation games like Age of Empires, Simcity, Imperialism or Cossacks will probably love it since it’s their grandfather and it’s one of those game that aged pretty well and it’s still fun to go back to.
Previous entries in this column:
- [2019 with DOS games] The Ancient Art of War / Altered Destiny / Alone in the Dark
- [2019 with DOS games] The Bard’s Tale / Barbarian / Betrayal at Krondor
- [2019 with DOS games] Castle Wolfenstein / Cadaver / The Chaos Engine