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The primary distinguishing traits of many old-school RPGs were nothing more than creative workarounds for the nascent technology available at the time – text input, turn-based simulations, etc. The Kickstarter page assures us that the game will have the graphical fidelity players expect from contemporary games, but that doesn’t get us much closer to a working definition. Nor does the list of games Hall and Brathwaite hail as their personal favourite RPGs, which includes stylistically diverse titles ranging from Chrono Trigger to Diablo to The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past – all markedly different games.
Hall and Brathwaite poke light-hearted fun at games that have long cutscenes punctuated with occasional perfunctory QTEs, but this seems like more a criticism of modern action games such as Uncharted than anything else. In a mildly uncomfortable juxtaposition, Naughty Dog’s former lead designer Richard Lemarchand offers an enthusiastic plug for Old School RPG in the endorsement round-up farther down the Kickstarter page.
Brathwaite praises the tactile delights of Ultima’s cloth map and the days when you could open a game box as if it were its own kind of loot-filled treasure chest. It’s true that the majority of today’s games have ditched paper manuals, and you ought to consider yourself lucky if the case contains a download code for a unique in-game weapon. But modern collector’s editions have made a fine art of precisely the sort of keepsakes whose extinction Brathwaite and Hall appear to mourn. The box for the Skyrim collector’s edition, for example, contains an actual dragon. Well, an actual plastic dragon, but still. Some of these collectible goodies make Ultima’s cloth map look pedestrian by comparison. Game developers’ workspaces are crammed with examples of such delightful trinkets.