3. Progress Quest
The game: An ambitious opus of a game, Progress Quest presents itself as the logical alternative to bloated, choice-heavy RPGs both online and single-player. Visionary programmer Eric Fredricksen's game provides a vision of the evolution of the RPG as we know it. One day, all games will be like Progress Quest.
Above: Progress Quest generates realistic character portraits on the greatest rendering engine of all: your imagination
What could you do? Name your character and choose their race and class. No other input is demanded of the busy gamer-on-the-go.
Above: Things are heating up!
What did the game do for you? Progress Quest automates the player's search for battles, removing the tiresome “talking to villagers about their lives” element everyone pretends to find charming in traditional RPGs. It also automates the battles themselves, because who has time for all that attack-selecting and dice roll-watching? It then automates the leveling-up process, enabling battles with bigger and more exciting monsters… all of which are also automated.
Above: Bask in the glory of Progress well Quested
Seriously, this is less interactive than... Working out how long you'll need to “play” to get to the next level. Is Progress Quest a brutal streamlining of the traditional RPG structure, or cheeky commentary on how much agency players are ever really given? Download the game yourself and get back to us on that.
The game: “Is it a movie packed with furiously addictive gameplay, or a game with visuals to match anything Hollywood can produce?” asked the packaging. Creators Psygnosis also billed Microcosm as “the ultimate CD-ROM game,” which would suggest they'd sewn that one up fairly quickly. Not so fast, guys. Are you sure we can't call this a movie as well?
Above: Yeah, let's stick with “game”
What could you do? Man the guns on your blood-cell-sized spacecraft, injected into a billionaire's bloodstream, charged with eradicating the artificial virus implanted therein by his corporate rivals, all while listening to an original soundtrack by caped prog-rocker Rick Wakeman. Let nobody say Microcosm wasn't high-concept.
What did the game do for you? The manual provided not only a War and Peace-rivaling swath of backstory propelling your craft, but also a working guide to the human body through which you would be moving. Through FMV sequences and CGI overload, the space-shooter play offered by Microcosm was elevated to epic proportions. Stripped of its fancy trappings, however, you had a game so bereft of choice or user input that you could get halfway through it without looking at the screen.
Above: Look away? And miss these lunch-relinquishing vistas?
Seriously, this is less interactive than… Watching Fantastic Voyage and Innerspace back to back while playing Galaxian.