Richard Cobbett on The CRPG Book

The latest of Richard Cobbett's RPG Scrollbars columns succinctly summarizes Felpie Pepe's CRPG Book project, while giving a sort-of review for the book in its current state. In case you were interested in this book but wanted to know what it was all about before checking it out for yourself, this is as good place to start as any. An excerpt:

Even at that imposing size, The CRPG Book Project, managed by Felipe Pepe, can only really scratch the surface of the genre. It’s more a primer history than a deep-dive into any individual title, with most games only given a page or two on what they were, why they’re interesting, and what their place in the genre is. Articles aren’t intended as comprehensive reviews, and sequels, in particular, are on a real ‘need to cover’ basis.

This shouldn’t be too surprising. There are eight Wizardry games, ten Might and Magic games, nine Ultima games, and that’s only talking the main games in their series. Ultima also has the two Underworlds, the Worlds of Ultima games (Savage Empire and Martian Dreams), Ultima Online, and if you really want to be completionist, also two Runes of Virtue games on consoles, a couple of ports of the later games, and Ultima: Escape From Mount Drash, which has sod-all to do with Ultima, but still probably has to go in there somewhere. As much as fans of some of these long-running franchises will argue, there’s a definite split between landmark instalments that shook things up, and parts that may as well have been subtitled ‘Second Verse, Same As The First.’

The result though is a lovely book. It’s obviously possible to get much of the raw information in other places, like Wikipedia, but this is a lovingly written and laid out tribute to the genre designed to be enjoyed as much as informed by. Every game is presented in full-colour article form, with a wide range of writers – many from the Codex, but also a few familiar names like Chris Avellone, Scorpia and Tim Cain. I also threw in a couple the other year – Quest For Glory and Martian Dreams – though it’s a different RC who did most of the longer-form stuff bearing those shared initials.


For the most part, the games listed are the ones that you’d want to see, though personally one of my favourite things about this kind of book is running into the stuff I’d never heard of before. The book, for instance, features Wasteland, but not Escape From Hell or the sorta-kinda-not-really sequel Fountain of Dreams, in which you have to try and find a cure for radioactive mutations that ends up literally ten or so steps from your starting position and guarded by an army of murderous clowns. Yes. Really. Likewise, foreign-language stuff is out, as is most shareware. There are exceptions like Dink Smallwood and Castle of the Winds and some Spiderweb stuff, but don’t expect much on formative historic memories like how boring, say, Moraff’s World was. It also skips almost entirely over MMOs and most other online-focused stuff.

No book can hope to cover literally everything though, and what’s more important is that the CRPG Book Project does a great job of covering the history of the genre. It doesn’t go deep enough that the hardcore super-fan who asks their doctor for health potions instead of regular medicine is going to find too much that they don’t already know, but as a primer on the scale, the scope and the variety of the genre, you really can’t do much better than either give your scrollwheel a good work out, or personally clear a good chunk of the rainforest in the name of a print-out.