I love Civilization-type games, and Minecraft is pretty great, too. but recently I discovered The Unreal World (UrW), a low-fantasy Iron Age wilderness survival roguelike from Enormous Elk Software that's been in development for over twenty years and recently went free/donation-based.
the point of the game is to build your own wilderness settlement and survive independently. sure, there are villages with pre-built resources you can use, and wandering NPCs, but they're not overly friendly, and even if you want to trade, there's no currency, so you have to make things to trade anyway. there's a lot of making things in order to make things so you can make other things. the developer lives in the woods of Finland and actually does a lot of the farming, fishing, and animal husbandry that you do in the game.
it's absurdly deep and detailed from the moment you start a new game, but there's a quick character generator alongside the painstaking point-based one, along with an extensive built-in tutorial scenario, which is good, because the interface isn't at all intuitive, and you'll need to learn the game's intricacies intimately if you want to survive the coming winter. you learn very quickly how to build a shelter, how to chop wood and start fires, how to fish and how to cook, and soon, how to track, trap, and hunt.
this is the kind of thing that can happen in UrW:
while ranging the wilderness and practicing my hunting skills, I came across the one thing I didn't expect: a hostile human! turns out there's a culture called the Njerpez that has steel weapons and, at least at this point in the game's development, is uncommunicative and murderously hostile by default. so the instant I saw him, he rushed towards me, howling incomprehensibly (I imagine) and brandishing a steel sword, a weapon far superior to anything I was carrying, but my spear and my wits won me the day over the savage.
I stripped his carcass of his flimsy linen clothes, far too thin for the climate. but out of which I made cords and bandages to bind my wounds, and claimed his precious steel weaponry for my own. then I reflexively -- accidentally? perhaps -- entered the commands to skin and dress his body, like I would any animal I'd hunted, and the next thing I knew I had a pile of human meat in front of me. (strangely, there was no skin -- you can murder a human being and eat them in UrW, but you can't make man-leather, that would just be immoral or something.)
up to this point, I'd survived entirely on small fish and river water, and this was the most meat I'd seen in several game-weeks of play. having nearly starved myself before over the course of a few unlucky days, I didn't debate much before hauling the pile back to camp and cooking it. I ate about half the meat over the course of the next game-week, and the rest spoiled, but by that time I'd already successfully hunted an elk and had that noble beast's meat smoking at the sauna back at the village to the north, his skin tanning at the riverside not ten strides from my camp.
so here's the point of this: when I first got into videogames, I mean really got into them, I was interested in the stories they told, because I was using them as a substitute for tabletop rpgs, which for all my accrual and collection I basically stopped playing as soon as my friends left for college. but over time I've lost interest in games that tell you their stories, and more interested in games that you tell stories about. if I want a pre-defined narrative, I'll read a book or watch something. but from the games I play, I want to be able to tell stories about what happened.
This entry was originally posted at http://mark-argent.dreamwidth.org/73941