X-Com, Bard’s Tale, Oregon Trail: Three Retro PC Games You Should Play

X-Com: UFO Defense – X-Com: UFO Defense (which is also known as UFO: Enemy Unknown) was released in 1994 by Mythos Games and MicroProse Software. This is the first of the series and is said to be the best. UFO Defense is a strategy game with two different types of game play: Geoscape and Battlescape. In Geoscape mode, you control where all the bases are located, what to build in the bases, what to research, recruitment, training, UFO interception, and terror alerts. In Battlescape mode, you command your players to fight off the invading aliens in an isometric turn based brawl.

X-Com or Extraterrestrial Combat Unit, is a secret organization that the player is a part of to take care of the alien invasion that is currently happening around the planet. The story starts out in 1998 where reports of abduction and alien attacks are spreading.

The music and atmosphere of this game is creepy enough to play with the lights off and is available for play via Steam. Reviews and rankings for UFO Defense are still high, even to this day and have even gotten awards for being the best PC game of all time. If you’re looking for a challenging strategic game to play, X-Com UFO Defense is your game.

The Bard’s Tale – The Bard’s Tale: Tales of the Unknown – Volume I (1985), The Bard’s Tale II: the Destiny Knight (1986) and The Bard’s Tale III: Thief of Fate (1988) was three dungeon crawler games based loosely on the Dungeons and Dragons table top games. Interplay Productions used 3D graphics to bring these three tales to life. The game is simple enough, where players can create six characters from the following classes: warrior, mage, bard, hunter, paladin, monk and sorcerer. Players could even import characters made from Ultima III or Wizardy to play in Bard’s Tale, which was unheard of at the time. These days we can import saved games and characters as seen in Dragon Age and Mass Effect.

Players had to create maps in order in order to keep track and this was commonly done on graph paper, giving it a more of a D&D feel. All actions were written out instead of seeing the action first hand.

The Bard’s Tale II won an Origins Award for Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Game in 1986 and showcased improvements from the first installment. A new class was introduced, the archmage, puzzles in the game were clearly harder and even real time puzzles were brought into play. Banks were used to store money and casinos available to play Blackjack. Players could even import a character from the first Bard’s Tale as well as from Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord.

Bard’s Tale III included 84 different dungeon levels that took the player to different lands for each quest and even brought players to ancient Rome via a time warp. Characters from the first two Bard’s Tale games could be imported as well from Ultima IV. Auto-mapping was introduced to the series as well as two new classes: geomancer and chronomancer.

Since their release, there have been several novels created and in 2004, UnXile and Vivendi released The Bard ‘s Tale for Xbox and Playstation 2.

The Bard’s Tale series is regarded as a fun, challenging classic dungeon crawler game that gave the inspiration to several games that came after.

Oregon Trail – In 1971, Bill Heinemann, Don Rawisch and Paul Dillenberger developed a game with the goal to teach children about pioneer life on the Oregon Trail in the nineteenth century. In 1974 The Oregon Trail was published by MECC and distributed to schools nationwide. These three men were student-teachers at Carleton College in Minnesota. After Rawiitsch’s term was over, he deleted the game that he had shared with his classmates but thankfully saved the code for the game. It’s a good thing that he did, since in 1974, he got a job with MECC where he improved the game and by 1995, Oregon Trail was responsible for one third of MECC’s thirty million in annual revenue.

The game is simple and intended for children. Players use number keys to choose anything from how many oxen to purchase or how long to rest. The game starts out allowing the player to choose their profession: a banker from Boston, carpenter from Ohio or a farmer from Illinois. The player is even able to name the members of their wagon, which proves to be funny when a friend comes down with dysentery. You then travel back to 1848 where you get to pick the month that you wish to start your journey in. You have to remember about different weather conditions that your wagon will face, from hot summer days to cold winter nights. Then it’s off to Matt’s General Store where you need to purchase goods for your trip. Here you must put into consideration the amount of food, bullets, spare wagon parts and how many oxen. The wagon can only hold so much, so players had to manage what to bring. Once on the trail, you have the choice of moving on, checking your supplies, looking at the map, change the pace of the wagon, change food rations, trade with other people on the trail, talk to people and to buy supplies. Along the way to Oregon, you will hunt, travel over rivers and deal with party members becoming sick and even dying. This game truly shows life on the trail.

There have been several version of The Oregon Trail but in my opinion, the first two incarnations of the game are the best.

1981 to 1985 The Oregon Trail (Apple II)
1992 The Oregon Trail Deluxe (MS-DOS)
1993-96 The Oregon Trail Ver 1.2 (Windows)
1996 The Oregon Trail II (Windows)
1997 The Oregon Trail 3rd Edition (Windows)
2001 The Oregon Trail 4th Edition (Windows)
The Oregon Trail 5th Edition (Windows)
The Oregon Trail: Mobile Edition (iPhone/iPod Touch)
The Oregon Trail for Facebook

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