Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Five To Conquer

When I saw the replies begin to roll in on Krikket's post about her Five Favorite Games Series I was certain I wouldn't be joining in. I wasn't sure I'd even played five games series, let alone ones I could call favorites.

As I kept reading the posts, though, names began to bubble up from the swampland of my memory. Then the topic came up on the Blapril Discord and in thinking about it some more I found myself with four, then five, titles I had at least played.

Luckily I don't have Wilhelm's scruples on what counts as a series. I agree that including expansions to MMORPGs might be stretching a point but a check on the accepted definition finds "a number of similar or related events or things, one following another" from Cambridge University Press or "a number of things or events of the same class coming one after another in spatial or temporal succession" from Merriam-Webster.

There's no stipulation as to how large that number must be. For the purposes of this excercise, I'm going to allow it to be as low as two, although I don't genuinely believe that's  what we usually mean when we talk about a "series". If it was, we probably wouldn't talk about "pairs" or "couples" instead, would we?

I have considerably fewer qualms about the question, raised again by Wilhelm, of whether we need to have played all or most of the games in a series for it to count as a "favorite". In all seriousness and entirely without irony, I don't see any reason why we should have played any of the games in a series at all to consider it a favorite. 

I could perfectly reasonably include Pokemon based on the posts I've read and enjoyed about the games or Grand Theft Auto because of its cultural significance. I have favorite bands I've barely listened to and favorite authors I've scarcely read, after all. Why should games be any different?

I'm not going to do that, if only because I think I can come up with five series from which I have played at least two games. The first is blindingly obvious, of course.


My first MMORPG. Responsible for a fundamental change in the direction of my life and for much of my last two decades. 

There are more EverQuest games in the series than you might immediately remember. I've played only two of them although I own three and wish I'd played four. I played EverQuest itself from November 1999 and EverQuest II from September 2004 (beta). I played both of them this morning.

I own a copy of Lords of EverQuest but I have yet to install, let alone play it. It's an offline RTS set in Norrath that came out in 2003 and I just discovered that it's available as a download from a website called MyAbandonware. I've downloaded it, which gets me one step closer to playing it, I guess.

There were three Pocket EverQuest games released for a forgotten device called the PocketPC. I wrote about them less than a year ago. I still haven't gotten around to trying that free trial.

Then there's the console mmorpg EverQuest Online Adventures. I regret never playing that one and hope I still might, even though it sunsetted long ago. There's an emulator project called Return Home I have bookmarked to that end.

And of course there's Landmark, once known as EQ Landmark. Or EQNext Landmark. Or something. I liked Landmark. I don't miss it, though. It was a time vampire.

Guild Wars

A series of two, so far. Speculation on a third seems to have no basis in fact.

I played Guild Wars for something like a couple of months, close to the time it came out. I wasn't all that interested when I thought it was a hardcore PvP title, which was how it was advertized prior to launch. When reviews started talking about the large amount of PvE content, though, Mrs Bhagpuss and I decided to give it a try.

I stuck with it long enough to reach Ascension on two characters. Took me about six weeks. I have the clearest memory of how frustrating some of the fights were. I remember having to stop one Sunday afternoon and go for a long walk because if I'd carried on playing I probably would either have had a stroke or thrown my PC through the window.

Mrs Bhagpuss carried on for a couple of weeks after I stopped, taking her characters into some fiery hellhole that passed for endgame back then. When she stopped too we forgot all about the game for many years, until the sequel went into open beta. At that point I bought all the expansions, nearly finished Eye of the North, messed around in the others and collected points for my Hall of Monuments in Guild Wars 2.

GW2 has been my main MMORPG, on and off but mostly on, for the last eight years.

 Baldur's Gate

Mrs Bhagpuss and I both played BG1 through to the end, including the expansion or add-on, whatever it was called. We used to watch each other playing, often, but we never played co-op. 

My memories of the game are colored by the voice and image pack I downloaded right at the start. I made a custom bard and gave her the character portrait and voice of Daria from the eponymous animated tv show. I wrote about it here.

Mrs Bhagpuss played Icewind Dale, which kind of counts as part of the series. I tried it but didn't like it. Too hack and slash. I bought Baldur's Gate 2, played it and finished it. Mrs Bhagpuss was deep into MMORPGs by then and didn't have any interest in making time for offline games.

I'm currently playing (actually on a break from playing but I'm close to the end) Divinity:Original Sin 2, whose creators are working on Baldur's Gate 3 as we speak. I will buy that and play it. I hope it's better than D:OS2.

Broken Sword

Mrs Bhagpuss and I played the first Broken Sword together when were still a one computer household. When the sequel arrived we played it the same way even though, by then, we already had a computer each. Back in the early eighties, when I was married to my first wife, the two of us played text adventures that way on the ZX Spectrum. I still think it's the best way to play adventure games. 

I've owned Broken Sword 5 for several years but I still haven't played it. Well, I've played a little on my own but I'm waiting for a suitable opportunity for us to play it together. The fact that it requires a Steam account has put a block on that, simply because it adds a level of irritation too many when it comes to setting it up so we can both play. I wanted to install it on a handheld device and take it on holiday but my Windows tablet died, which put a stop to that.

We still do impressions of Nico's fruity French accent sometimes. We're such a caution.

Might And Magic

This is the longest series on my list, with ten numbered games and a load of spin-offs. We only played two of them, VI, Mandate of Heaven and VII, For Blood and Honor. That was in 1998 and 1999, immediately before we discovered EverQuest and MMORPGs, which explains why we never bothered with the rest of the series. 

We both loved Mandate of Heaven. I wouldn't mind playing it again right now. Mrs Bhagpuss often mentions it, particularly when we're out walking and she thinks some piece of farmland looks like somewhere lizardmen might lurk.

Might and Magic seems to be one of those series where the controls and the gameplay change from game to game. We neither of us enjoyed Blood and Honor as much. 

That's always a problem with series of games. Series of novels or movies frequently all stick quite close to each other in style but games tend to careen around all over the place. I think that's why I don't feel the same kind of drive to follow them. It's often better to find a different game that plays closer to what you remember about an old favorite than it is to keep adjusting for the inevitable disappointment and confusion series insist on bringing.

I also notice this list of favorites ended up being a list of series Mrs Bhagpuss and I played together. I don't think that can be a co-incidence.


  1. I ended up refraining from comment on the 'series' definition at the time -- but the only definition I could find that specifically called out three or more was in relation to bowling.

    I did also think about the fact we have words specific to two, but when's the last time you heard anyone talk about the XCOM pair of games? I think in natural language, for whatever reason, when it comes to games we use the term series in two -- so I was happy with that.

    Then also! Even if no-one was buying that, I contemplated the likely intent behind a... *cough* ... developer of a 'pair' of games. Was it likely they intended to be a series with future releases?

    In any case, now that I've got all that out all over your comments section -- love your picks. The only series I you mention I haven't played *anything* of is Broken Sword, although I've meant to from time to time. Maybe I still will one day! ;)

    1. I think the natural way to speak of one, two, three games is

      Game One
      Game Two, sequel to Game One
      Game Three, third in the Game One series.

      I also think we may be overthinking this...

  2. Oh Broken Sword, very good games, although it seems they've been rather sporadically released and no new one for quite a while now. That'd actually have taken my list to five ;-)

  3. You missed the actually excellent Champions of Norrath and it's sequel, Champions: Return to Arms. They were ARPGs for the PS2 and are still well regarded today.

    But probably not regarded well enough to actually go back and play. I just wanted to be a stickler.

    1. There was also Legends of Norrath card game which I'd consider a part of Everqeust series.


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