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moments in gaming: fus roh dah

February 19th, 2018

Written by: Stoo

I always feel bad about displacing proper content with blog stuff, but also once I have something drafted I want it out the door so as not to gnaw at my mind. So please, valued visitor, before reading this: scroll down and read Rik’s review of Wacky Wheels. Or click this link.

Man, it makes me miss playing Apogee games. I don’t realistically think they ever caused SNES owners to envy we PC gamers. But they made a great effort to compensate for our lack of quality arcade and action games.

Okay, for my piece we’re jumping forward about 17 years. Most of the time I’ll intend to stick to games a decade or more older, but more recent stuff will show up occasionally.

I dare not look up how many hours I sunk into Skyrim. It didn’t replace its ancestor Morrowind in my heart, but I’m not sure anything ever could. Certainly Skryim is one of my top few RPGs of all time. I played through the quests for every last faction, explored at least 90% of the dungeons, and thoroughly completed all the expansions too.

I could write about evenings spent roaming the forests and tundras roaming the forests looking for adventure. Or choosing sides in the imperial vs rebels conflict, which basically was a fantasy version of Romans vs Vikings. Then there were the dragon fights. Each one was more epic, more a feat of fantasy heroism, than I would ever expect for an unscripted random encounter.

Actually though I want to talk about something just ‘cos it made me laugh. One of the new mechanics Skyrim introduced was the shouts, where the hero unleashes magical forces by voicing words from some ancient Dragon language. You may be aware of the “Unrelenting Force” shout, consisting of the words “Fus Roh Dah!”. It showed up in the game’s trailer and worked its way into popular culture, webcomics and youtube videos.

All shouts actually come in stages – you get a weak version with the first syllable, then improve it as you learn the other two parts. Some of these you pick up from side-quests or just exploring, but Unrelenting Force shout is gained as you progress though the main quest, the core story of the game. I always tend to leave the main quest till last in these games, though. This meant for about 70% of my run through, I only had “fus roh”. This just staggers enemies a bit, maybe knocks them on their ass or makes them drop their sword. Thus stopping them from attacking for a few seconds. It’s useful, for sure, but hardly impressive. In fact I was left wondering what all the fuss was about.

Then when I finally got the full-power shout, I idly tried it on a bear. And promptly blasted it off the side of a mountain. In shock I ran to the edge, to see its rapidly diminishing form tumbling towards the water far below.

Not a great pic, I reacted as fast as I could.


In all my time gaming, setting aside multiplayer (which, with the addition of human interaction, is an entirely different situation), I have never laughed so hard in my life.

It’s always great when a game grants new some power and encourages you to have fun with it. For the next few days no monster or bandit atop a cliff was safe. Spriggans and Trolls were knocked around like leaves in the wind. When tackling one of the final thieves guilds quests, I noticed the Big Bad was stood atop a statue a good 20 metres tall. So I didn’t even bother drawing swords. I just stealthily crept around behind him then yelled him to his death. A cheap move, for sure. I always thought a good sandbox lets you do these shortcuts if you think of them; let players decide for themselves how much they care about fighting honourably.

I kind of feel bad for the bear, though.

You live too close to the edge!

February 18th, 2018

Written by: Rik

Hi there.

We have DOS-based kart racing for you tonight, with Wacky Wheels from Apogee.

moments in gaming: WHIRRR

February 7th, 2018

Written by: Stoo

Today marks the start of an occasional series where I look back on particular gaming experiences that have made a strong impression on me, over the years.

Mostly I’ll write about positive memories, but they don’t have to be exclusively so. They could be moments of appreciating real excellence in game design, or frustration at terrible design. They may be triumphs against legions of foes, or rage quitting against super-tough bosses. I could write about taking a walk in Skyrim just to quietly enjoy the view. Or a time when everything went hilariously, disastrously wrong in a battle in UFO Enemy Unknown.

We’ll start with Homeworld. Relic’s seminal realtime strategy game was first brought to my attention when I came across a preview in PC Zone. I recall screenshots showed chunky, primary-coloured starships, all rendered in 3D. The article promised full three-dimensional control of entire fleets. I thought to myself, this was all rather impressive. A whole new level for the genre, a quantum leap from Starcraft and Red Alert.

My first taste of actually playing Homeworld occurred when I tried the demo, sometime around the summer of ’99. It consisted of the first few tutorial levels. So you’re shown the mothership, you’re told to build a few little fighter craft, you send them to blow up some drone targets and then some enemy fighters.

It made a good impression from the start; the movement of ships was fluid and convincing, the controls slick and intuitive. Then I was given control of a Frigate, a mid-sized gunship. I told it to go deal with those fighters still buzzing around. It slowly picked up speed and yawed to one side, and then with a WHIRRRR its four turrets all turned to track the enemies.

Somehow, that WHIRRR was the moment I was totally sold on that game. Just one modest frigate against a few buzzing interceptors, yet that minor battle is still etched into my memory all these years on. It was the attention to detail, the fact that not only was this game going to give me lots of warships to command, but the big ones had independent weapon systems. The feature gave the ship a sense of mass – the turrets existed because it was too ponderous to spin on the spot like a fighter. Also there was an mechanical urgency to the sound, a signifies that the ship was armed ready for battle, cannons prepare to spit shells into the void.

It was part of made Homeworld feel like commanding one side in a battle from one of my favourite space operas. The frigates and destroyers handled just like a Star Destroyer from Star Wars, or the warships in Babylon 5.

I purchased the game later that year. I learned that bigger ships provided even more WHIRRR, especially the monstrous heavy cruisers with oversized laser turrets that atomize a frigate in seconds. To this day it remains one of my all time favourite RTS, and I’ll most likely write about it here again.

And the bowlers have declared duck-hunting season

February 4th, 2018

Written by: Rik

Hi there everyone.

Welcome to A Force for Good, where phrases like, “we’ll cover it one day” could mean a wait of several days, weeks, months or years for a planned review to materialise.

Anyway, tonight’s game is Cricket 96.

It only takes one match

January 27th, 2018

Written by: Rik

Hi there.

Football, football, football – when will it ever end? Well, in today’s review, we do have an ending, of sorts, as far as this particular series goes.

Here’s a look back at Pro Evolution Soccer 2010.

the preservation of Angry Birds

January 15th, 2018

Written by: Stoo

When interested in playing old games, you’re faced with a couple of practical questions: where do you find copies and, how are you going to run them?

For example you might be sticking to original hardware, trawling ebay for an old 16-bit console and some cartridges. Or you might be downloading files and running them on an emulator on a modern PC.

We’re now quite familiar with the issues in running classic games for consoles, for MS-DOS, and for old microcomputers. One whole other category of device though, that I’d never thought about before is smartphones and tablets. The first iphone games were released nearly a decade ago, that’s getting pretty old now. Give it a few years and they might even be retro.

Can we actually play them, though? It’s a concern that was brought to my attention by this tweet.

With their app store, Apple brought us one centralised source and installation system for all our software needs. I do believe it was one of the really big advantages over earlier forms of mobile device (like the old PocketPCs). Yet it has a downside, in that it becomes a whole lot harder to obtain and run a game (or any other app) once it disappears from the store. A fate now suffered, apparently, by 80% of the top games of 2010.

You’ll probably have to jailbreak your phone, something immediately offputting to those who are not technically inclined. Then you have to find a download from some other source. Assuming the even runs on modern iOS. Similar problems apply for android devices, although they can at least sideload software without jailbreaking.

Many mobile games are, of course, freemium nonsense. There have however been lots of clever and inventive indie games too. I’m gladdened to see that the rather excellent Spider: Legend of Bryce Manor, is still available. I hope that in a decade’s time people can still enjoy Monument Valley.

In any case we might argue all the oldies should be made available in some form, regardless of quality. Even the mindless tapping games, the ones with barely any interaction, where your progress throttled unless you fork out $$ for some in-game currency. It’s a matter of preserving gaming history. Like ’em or not they have come to represent a major segment of gaming.

I wonder if some sort of online enthusiasts community will form, centered around old mobile games. A new counterpart to the abandonware scene of old. I just hope they are actually able to play those games.

I guess this topic has me thinking along similar lines to the when I asked “what is retro”. As time passes, and gaming progresses, so does our definition of “old game”. One day there will be 40 year olds reminiscing about stuff they played on their phone in their childhood, just as much as we here talk about Doom and Monkey Island. We all have our own little niches, but retro-gaming in general is not frozen in time.

I’m Ian Botham, and you’re not

January 14th, 2018

Written by: Rik

A recent non-existent survey of this site’s 12 readers revealed general disquiet about the amount of coverage of old football games. Well, we heard you loud and clear, imaginary reader – obviously cricket is more your thing.

When we were a bit more organised, it used to be possible to plan reviews around real life events in an attempt to be vaguely topical. So, as the real life Ashes series rolled around in November, the thought of digging out some dreadful cricket game for coverage did occur to me. Maybe even an Ashes cricket game!

And so I did dust off my copy of Ashes Cricket 2009, last played in 2009 on one of those rare occasions that I set aside my bargain basement sensibilities for a reckless new sports game purchase, and ignored forever shortly afterwards. Here’s a picture of Ian Bell.

It doesn’t look too bad there, does it? 2009-era Bell-y, sporting some blonde highlights under the helmet and a patchy-ish record, recalled once again on the basis of being better than Ravi Bopara. An Adidas bat as well, that’s right. And also you can’t really see any on-pitch action or anyone doing any cricket type movements.

When I first bought it, Ashes Cricket 2009 set a new personal record for the shortest time between installing and playing a new game and giving it up as a bad job and a waste of time and money. And now it also holds the record for the shortest amount of time spent considering a game for coverage on FFG before abandoning the idea altogether. Based on those five minutes, my review is: don’t bother.

A few years ago, I invested a lot of time in a dreadful cricket game, EA’s Cricket 2005, out of a misguided sense of commitment and fairness, a process that coincided with a summer of unrelenting migraine attacks which I now suspect must have been related. That review of Cricket 2005 could easily, I suspect, be applied to a number of other old cricket games: many of them make the same mistakes, and are seemingly made by people who think cricket is boring anyway and are honour-bound to give fans the dull action they crave.

(As a side note, things do seem to be getting better in recent years, with Big Ant Studios giving us the creditable Don Bradman Cricket games and the official Ashes tie in from this series. Apparently it’s quite good!)

There is one old cricket game that might be of interest, but kind of got away: Ian Botham’s International Cricket 96. Essentially a PC version of Super International Cricket, it was released in other places as EA Cricket 96, with one of the main differences from the SNES original being some very cheap and embarrassing FMV clips and commentary punctuating the action.

The additional twist with the Botham version was more clips featuring Beefy, in which he pretended to be in the studio doing links to the two actors from the EA version, even pretending that one of them was a real ex-player and commentator, which always struck me as a bit weird.

Sadly, I got rid of my copy some time ago and for some reason it hasn’t had a digital re-release (or indeed been a priority for, er, non legitimate purveyors of oldies). Maybe we’ll come back to it one day, but for the time being, well, maybe we could look at an adventure game or something? Or, er, football, anyone?

He’s nothing but a show-boating loser

January 1st, 2018

Written by: Rik

Hi there.

We’re back with the Need for Speed series tonight, in our review of Need for Speed: Underground 2.

10 quite bad adverts, 1996-2006

January 1st, 2018

Written by: Rik

Hi there.

Happy New Year to you! I haven’t quite decided whether we published enough reviews this year to actually bother doing a round-up [it hasn’t stopped you in the past – FFG reader] so I’ve come up with another way to cynically reheat some content from 2017.

I guess our major feature this year was a look back through the pages of PC Zone magazine. And at various points, several adverts for games and gaming products caught the eye. So, if you can’t be bothered to read through our history feature, I’ve picked out some of the ads and put them in a list here. Because we all like a good, lazy, listicle at this time of year, right?

(It’s worth pointing out at this stage that this is not intended to be an exhaustive list of dreadful adverts: I’m sure there are many others. As for the worst one I can remember, well, you would have to go some distance to beat the notorious Jo Guest/Battlecruiser ad, about which my friend and colleague has already written before).

Here we go then, and in no particular order:

10. Championship Manager 96-97, Eidos

Catering directly to a schoolboy audience already familiar with jokes about ‘lobbing Seaman’, you’d hope that such tactics were beneath the venerable Championship Manager series, but obviously, they weren’t.

10 quite bad adverts, 1996-2006 continued »

Fast. Fluent. Football. Festival.

December 23rd, 2017

Written by: Rik

Hi there.

Season’s greetings to you all. Today we’re looking at the forerunner to our much-loved footy favourite of the 90s, Puma World Football. Here’s our review of Action Soccer.