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March 21, 2012 / jwaxo

Castle of the Winds (Second Tries)

Manly men don’t wear shirts.

There are a ton of reasons why we might pick a game up and put it back down. In my case, there are very few games that I’ve done this with, or at least very few that come to mind. The horrible Farcry game for Wii, definitely. And a few games that I’ve borrowed and needed to return prior to passing the finish line. But other than that, I don’t like that feeling of playing a game, a game that I’m genuinely enjoying, and not seeing it through to the end. It’s not just the fact that the story is incomplete: I feel a duty, a connection to the characters and the writers that it should be seen through to a palpable stopping point.

The same idea extends to most other forms of media: no matter how much or how little I’m enjoying it, I can’t really bring myself to stop reading/watching/playing once I’ve gotten involved past the “game demo at Fred Meyer” stage. The deed needs to be done, and I’m the only man for the job.

Sometimes, though, there are problems inherent in the system. Maybe I can’t get into the story at all, and the plotlines are all predictable and stale. Maybe I’m very distracted by an impossible control scheme, or a way in which the pages are formulated that I have trouble just turning them and reading. Or maybe I’m just not in the mood for that genre at that point in the year, so I don’t bother continuing and I put it down, promising “later”.

And that’s where the pile of games on my coffee table started; want to keep them close at hand, you know.

See, I learned pretty early on that you can’t just throw away a potentially great game just because it’s hard to get into. Elementary school, 1998, fifth grade: I was playing at my friend from school’s house, dinking around on his computer (as all awesome kids did). He told me about a certain game that he was having a lot of fun with, an old one that ran perfectly fine on his Windows 3.1 computer. He described to me all of the cool items he had found, and how totally badass his character was, and how the game automatically generated all of the maps that you explored. “Sounds cool!” I exclaimed. “Show me!”

He spun around and booted up the game, in a flash showing me the silly graphics and turn-based combat, the cool, randomly-generated loot, the dangerous corridors and wide pits of bad guys.

And I recognized the game.

“This is that stupid game that I played for about twenty minutes last summer!” I thought to myself. “I hated it! It was impossible and boring!” Being the polite guest that I was, I did not call this out to my friend’s face, and instead acted interested and excited, gearing up for a long afternoon of a game that wasn’t fun.

But I was wrong. We played it for three hours, leveled his character up massively, found a bunch of awesome armor and weapons, and left more than a small pile of goblin corpses behind us. I was totally sold.

No 32-bit graphics could be this awesome.

The problems I originally had with Castle of the Winds were numerous. The controls were difficult to get used to. The genre (a “roguelike” after the ASCII-art RPG that all of them are similar to, Rogue) was something I had never encountered before and had no idea how to deal with. The deaths were sudden and difficult to see coming if you weren’t pretty experienced. The loot drops were random and frustrating at times.

But, due to that second look, I saw that all of these pieces came together to an interesting, fun whole. The controls were difficult because of the complexity of the game. The genre was neat and refreshing, unlike any other game I had played. The sudden deaths made surviving them all the more satisfying. And the random loot actually made it a more realistic experience, and made finding something rare and powerful so much cooler.

I went home from my friend’s house, turned on the marathon of Smart Guy, and forced myself to start up a new game and get a handle on this massive, simple-yet-strange beast. And I became a better person for it.

Sometimes if we put something down, just a small suggestion can make us pick it back up and give it a second glance, and we should take these opportunities when they present themselves. You never know when that discarded lunker is secretly a gem.

Third looks, however, are completely unnecessary in almost all cases.

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