It’s always a good idea for any gamer to check out foreign games. Different cultures influence the creative process in different ways for results that can be very original and innovative. Let’s take a look at a region that very rarely comes to mind as far as video games go.
Developer: Alexei Pajitnov (USSR)
Original release: June 6 1984
This entry doesn’t need any introduction or much of a write-up. The granddaddy of all puzzle games is just as much a part of most gamers’ childhood as Sonic and Mario. Ever since its birth in 1984, this classic has been redone numerous times on various consoles and still remains a popular way to kill time
Developer: Nival Interactive (Russia)
Original release: October 2000
The Allods franchise (known as Rage of Mages in the west) focused on a unique blend of hack/slash and strategy, with characters that possess various strengths and weaknesses teaming up to slay hordes of monsters. Evil Islands, the third installment in the franchise, took it to 3D with bright colors and cheesy dialogue for a very light-hearted cartoony feel. It added a lot of customization by completely doing away with character classes. Each character is a clean slate that can learn any ability and level up any attribute to specialize in any given task, whether it’s meele combat, archery, pickpocketing or three types of magic. Something you won’t see in most traditional RPGs is the stone age setting at the beginning of the game – your characters start off wearing animal skins and using stone weapons, advancing to metal equipment a little later in the game. Another thing is the element of stealth – it’s not just a personal choice, but very often a necessity, especially when playing on the normal difficulty in the earlier stages of the game, at least until your party has 3 people. Evil Islands didn’t really bring anything groundbreaking, but did an awesome job of putting together elements of other games and adding some little things very rarely seen in other games, especially during its time
Developer: Bohemia Interactive (Czech Republic)
Original release: June 22 2001
Platforms: PC, X-Box
Operation Flashpoint was much more than just a first-person shooter, it was a tactical simulator that delivered a very immersive and realistic depiction of war. The sheer fun of shooting tons of Nazis/terrorists is replaced by the thrill of knowing you can get shot dead at any point in time, which tests your tactical skill as much as your aim. It may not be as fast paced or action-packed as Call of Duty, but the feeling of being in a mass battle with both infantry and vehicles present is communicated very accurately through having to follow orders as a grunt and issuing them as an officer. It’s very easy to end up dead without even knowing what hit you, which can be very frustrating, but it’s how the game keeps you on your toes. The Resistance expansion is much more than new maps, weapons and campaign – it introduces the same simulator elements to guerilla warfare, with heavy emphasis on stashing looted equipment. Needless to say, Operation Flashpoint and its successor Armed Assault are the exact opposite of the mainstream FPSes like Halo and Call of Duty.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Call of Pripyat/Clear Sky/Shadow of Chernobyl
Developer: GSC Game World (Ukraine)
Platforms: Windows Original Release: March 20 2007 (Shadow of Chernobyl), August 22 2008 (Clear Sky), October 2 2009 (Call of Pripyat)
If you were disappointed with Bethesda’s Fallouts due to too much RPG and not enough FPS, S.T.A.L.K.E.R is definitely a franchise worth checking out. The combination of a post-Chernobyl disaster open world, the survival horror elements (scarce ammo, bleeding after roughly 70% of attacks) and the trade system (where patrolling squads pay much more for ammo and medical supplies) amounts for a very immersive atmosphere. The mutated enemies that Scar (CS), Strelok (SoC) and Major Degtarjev (CoP) fight are every bit as diverse as Chris Redfield and Leon Kennedy’s adversaries – in addition to armed zombies and two types of mutated dogs you also have zombies with telepathy (Controllers), dwarves with telekinesis (Burers in CoP) and the iconic cloaking Bloodsuckers that pop out right in front of you and suck the blood right out of your face with their tentacles. Speaking of Chris Redfield, the English voice acting is almost as campy as the original Resident Evil, but here it looks like it was done on purpose to inject some humor when you’re not fighting for your life. The original Russian dialogue is much more realistic, especially with the Bandits’ liberal use of slang and heavy Ukranian accents. You don’t need to be a Russophile to enjoy S.T.A.L.K.E.R – the creativity is very hard to ignore. In fact, the setting was so well thought out that the franchise inspired two novels – S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Southern Comfort and S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Northern Passage, which is ironic because the games themselves were losely based on Roadside Picnic by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky.
Developer: CD Projekt RED (Poland)
Platfotm: Windows, Mac, X360
First release: May 17 2011
The most critically and commercially successful title to come out of Eastern Europe in recent times. The game often gets compared to BioWare’s titles, which is a huge compliment for a relatively obscure developer like CD Projekt. Every bit of praise is deserved by the polish developer – the game has a combat system which is challenging without being annoying, immersive storytelling, beautiful graphics and of course very liberal use of nudity. The latter is far from the most important factor in what makes a game great, but you just have to admire the courage on CD Projekt’s part. The game has received numerous accolades from various gaming publications for its graphics, storytelling and difficulty.