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12/15/2020

Top 111 PC Games, #70-61

70. The Curse of Monkey Island (LucasArts, 1997)

The Monkey Island series is a beloved classic among adventure game fans; following the exploits of the bumbling wannabe-pirate Guybrush Threepwood, he seeks to win the affections of Elaine Marley and frequently clashes with his nemesis, the evil undead pirate LeChuck.  Curse took the series in a bold new direction with a fresh visual style, plenty of animated cutscenes and perfectly cast voiceover complementing the humor throughout.  The scenarios are as absurd as ever - this time with Guybrush trying to reverse a voodoo curse he's unintentionally afflicted Elaine with - and that of course lends itself to plenty of laughs.  The interface was newly reworked too, using a simpler "verb coin" with three general commands instead of the array of commands from earlier SCUMM games.  The puzzles definitely didn't suffer for it, though - you're still in for a challenge, especially in "Mega Monkey" mode.

69. Loom (LucasArts, 1990)

Another excellent point-and-click adventure from LucasArts, Loom takes the player on a trip through a wonderfully-realized dark fantasy world full of striking visuals, dense lore and an unforgettable cast of characters.  Some surprisingly unique mechanics, too, as you don't really follow the usual pick-up-an-item-and-use-it-elsewhere format seen in most games of this type.  Instead, you utilize Bobbin's distaff and play magical 'drafts' with a variety of effects; turning straw into gold, opening things, dyeing objects, and so forth, and often you can play them backwards to get the opposite effect (though some are palindromic and thus cannot be used this way).  Some inspired voiceover and detailed VGA visuals (for the later versions) completed the package and made it a delightful experience.

68. Wildermyth (Worldwalker Games, 2021)

Plenty of games have tried for a heavily randomized RPG experience; usually plot-light roguelikes or just having randomly generated dungeons, equipment parameters, and so forth with the same basic story as a backdrop.  Wildermyth goes a step further, attempting to emulate tabletop gaming by generating a new narrative each time you play.  Player input does influence the proceedings, though - you can take risks to get rewards or be punished with penalties for failure, form rivalries or romances between characters, and even mid-battle this doesn't stop - if a character's HP drops to zero, they can sacrifice themselves to the enemy for one last strike, to boost all allies' stats or even survive to fight another day, albeit with a permanent injury like losing a limb.  The underlying gameplay itself is also quite solid (and a bit reminiscent of XCOM), having the player explore territory, gather resources and forage (or forge) new equipment to counter a constantly-escalating enemy force.

67. Carmageddon (Stainless Games, 1997)

A game which blends all things late-90s together into one - charmingly blocky 3D engines (BRender, the same technology behind 3D Movie Maker), metal music, gratuitous violence and pure action.  Case in point, Carmageddon is a combination of an arcade racer, an open-world game and a demolition derby with three win conditions - go through all the checkpoints before time expires, demolish all of your opponents' cars, or kill every pedestrian on the map.  Impacts, checkpoints and dead pedestrians earn you extra time and points which can be used to unlock new vehicles and tracks, purchase upgrades or just repair damage to your car and get you back in the action mid-stage.  You'll also find a variety of hazards and various power-ups and power-downs like Jelly Suspension, Blind Pedestrians, Solid Granite Cars, Damage Multipliers and Free Repairs, all of which only add more chaos to the proceedings.  Gruesome, twisted and incredibly fun, Carmageddon is a blast.  Just steer clear of that godawful Nintendo 64 version and you're golden.

66. Sid Meier's Civilization IV (Firaxis Games, 2005)

The Sid Meier's Civilization franchise has always been a popular one, and many fans consider IV to be the height of the series.  I don't personally agree but it isn't hard to see why as it takes everything great about its predecessors and polishes it to perfection, adding in a few new mechanics without disrupting the balance.  It's also highly customizable, with the player able to tweak just about every element of the game to their liking with easily-editable XML files and a publicly available SDK.  But beneath it all, it's still good ol' classic Civ - build cities and armies, research new technologies, build world wonders, and strive to reach one of the win conditions before your opponents do.  Plus, it has Leonard Nimoy doing the narration; you just can't argue with that kind of awesome.

65. Kingsway (Andrew Morrish, 2017)

Roguelikes are definitely a hallmark of PC gaming, bringing a unique brand of challenge and staggering replayability that few other genres can even hope to match.  I'm not the biggest fan, that said - they generally have to have a pretty unique hook to hold my attention for very long.  Kingsway is one that certainly has a unique presentation, putting you at the helm of a Windows-95-esque operating system to travel about the world, manage your inventory and stats, accept quests (via a messaging app) and even play background music on a Winamp look-alike.  Combat similarly has enemies pop up in windows that constantly move about the screen, with you having to hit buttons to attack, defend and use abilities, as well as evade their attacks (in the form of a popup that flies across the screen or arcs, simulating things like firing arrows or thrown bombs).  A clever idea that's executed well, and the end result is some good tongue-in-cheek entertainment.

64. Castle of the Winds (Saadasoft, 1993)

Dungeon crawlers have always been a pretty PC-centric genre; various attempts at creating them on consoles have usually been met with relatively lukewarm reception or relegation to cult classic status at best (Atlus's Etrian Odyssey being one of the more well-known examples).  Out of all of the games in this vast genre, though, Castle of the Winds has to be one of my favorites, in no small part because it manages to be relatively easy to pick up and play while retaining the challenge the genre is known for.  Simplistic yet charming sprites for visuals, a windows-based interface and a relatively bare-bones yet still captivating story also make it an enjoyable experience, and let's be honest, it's always fun carving your way through an entire swath of ogres or giants and emerging victorious with enough loot to buy a luxurious mansion, only to spend it on some better equipment instead.

63. Against the Storm (Eremite Games, 2022)

Described as a city-builder crossed with a roguelike, and it's definitely a strange combination, though once you start playing the game you find it works shockingly well.  You're given a selection of several randomly-generated goals to meet, and from there it's down to managing your workforce, keeping their morale up, keeping the forest itself from becoming too hostile toward you, and harvesting and utilizing resources while facing adverse weather and hazards in the stretch of forest you're mining your way through.  It does kind of suck when you spend over an hour on a stage only to fall short at the last minute, but you do at least gain experience for the effort so the next attempt can (hopefully) go better!

62. Slay the Spire (Megacrit, 2019)

A relatively novel blend of elements, Slay the Spire is one part deck-building card game and one part roguelike, melded together quite expertly.  Building your deck, thinning out your less-useful cards and acquiring various Relics to bolster your abilities (doing everything from restoring HP after battle to damaging enemies every few cards you play) become just as much of a focus as clearing out foes.  As you proceed up floors, defeating progressively tougher enemies, you also get a slew of randomized events - campfires to rest and regain HP or upgrade a single card in your deck, shops, and all manner of random events that can help or hinder you.  Tough and unpredictable as any good roguelike, but with enough of a strategic bent that encourages experimentation and gives it a ton of replayability.

61. Ion Fury (Voidpoint, 2019)

The prequel to the 2016 flop "Bombshell" but thankfully it succeeds in every way its predecessor failed, bringing back the Build Engine with all the panache and clever design that made games like Duke Nukem and Blood great in the first place.  Fast-paced action in surprisingly realistic environments (well, as much as a twenty-four year old engine can muster, at least) with a huge number of interactive objects, secrets to find, clever enemy designs, tons of references to old 3D Realms games and a cool wisecracking protagonist, as well as some new features for the engine like climbable ladders and alt-fire for almost every weapon.  It may not be the modern era's prettiest shooter, but I was having too much fun with it to care.  Ion Fury is the long-lost cousin of all the classic '90s shooters.