Given the prominence of PC gaming these days, it is easy to see how some believe the platform is enjoying a golden age. This belief isn’t meritless. With lower-priced parts, the continued ease of building a PC, and platforms like Steam selling titles at rock bottom prices, PC gaming is more popular than ever.
Many gamers (including myself) are just now dipping their toes into PC gaming. Since many of us played almost exclusively on consoles for the past two to four decades, we missed out on a great deal of classic PC gaming experiences. In fact, a great deal of the console games we currently enjoy only exist because of what is arguably PC’s first golden age: the 1990s. This was an era rife with innovative titles that altered the course of gaming history.
Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings
Real Time Strategy titles were abundant on PC back in the 90s. Even with so much competition within the genre, Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings managed to stand out upon release. Unlike other RTS titles of the time, this one was set in a realistic Medieval Europe where players had to play through actual historical battles. The game’s audio was also ahead of its time due to the authentic voice-over work. Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings is now considered a classic of the genre.
The first Civilization introduced the concept of starting a civilization during prehistoric times and advancing it toward the modern age. Civilization II takes everything that worked before and further refined those gameplay elements. Particularly, there is a greater balance between military might and diplomacy. The game’s amusing cutscenes featuring actors portraying council members lent a certain air of levity to the otherwise serious task of expanding one’s empire.
The original Baldur’s Gate put Bioware on the map. If you enjoyed the conversations and character development of Mass Effect and Dragon Age, know that it all started with this title. Baldur’s Gate was set in the Forgotten Realms universe and used Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition rules. It set the standard for other games using these rules including: Icewind Dale and Planescape: Torment. A truly influential title.
Diablo distinguished itself in many ways back in the day. Unlike other fantasy games, the combat was in real time. The game also featured randomized dungeons with different items and enemy types. This meant players would never have the same experience twice. On top of that, Diablo even had online multiplayer; a feature that further expanded its replayability. Its sequels would add and refine elements, but the first game set a new standard for the genre that is still felt today.
Command & Conquer
The most popular RTS game of the 90s was none other than Command & Conquer. Set in a fictional modern day setting, players take on the role of either the GDI (Global Defense Initiative) or The Brotherhood of Nod. Upon release, Command & Conquerreceived praise for its user-friendly interface and its story; the latter of which was presented with Full Motion Video cutscenes. Many RTS games wouldn’t exist without the original Command & Conquer.