As we enter the final act of 1998, I wonder if lightning can strike twice. One game has already come from out of nowhere this year to rock the gaming landscape. Sure, Half-Life carried the time-worn Sierra pedigree, but these new cats called "Valve" may have just been lucky. Is it possible that yet another complete unknown -- in this case a company known as "BioWare," whose pedigree to date is the completely forgettable Shattered Steel -- can come to the rescue of the ailing CRPG genre in the same way that Half-Life seems to have breathed new life into the largely dull landscape of FPS games (see: Sin)?
The likely answer is: definitely not.
Maybe it's just the lingering memory of the X Files movie, but I Want to Believe that this week's Baldur's Gate is a harbinger of things to come. Tragically, I'm having trouble imagining that suddenly D&D and computers are going to get all chocolate and peanut butter with each other after such a long, depressing drought, particularly in the hands of this upstart BioWare. The most I can manage to hope for at this point is that Baldur's Gate is an entertaining distraction. I don't expect Gold Box quality, but it'll be nice to dabble with Magic Missiles and saving throws on my computer again.
Either way, I don't want close out what's been an amazing year with skepticism or pessimism. I could comfortably hang my hat on any year that provides games like Half-Life, Unreal, Grim Fandango and Fallout 2. I know there are a number of you who will add StarCraft to that list, and so for you it's a pretty good week with the release of the Brood War expansion pack. I don't count myself among your cult, ever the Warcraft 2 purist that I am, but I recognize that it's something of a big-deal release. Add to that an inventive shooter called Thief that also releases this week, and there's a lot of possibility hitting the shelves, if not so much certainty.
Going back to my desire to end on a positive theme, I'm going to give the nod for Game of the Week to Baldur's Gate. Hopefully years down the road we'll be talking about this moment as the year when role playing games became popular again. Hell, living in a state that just elected Jesse Ventura, I gotta believe anything is possible.