William Gee is known among other things for creating some pretty good maps for Duke Nukem 3D. Within the community he’d be placed up there with the likes of Pascal Rouad, hailed for his innovative Roch series in the past – and he is hands down one of the greatest DN3D mappers ever.
I’ve played several maps by both these authors, and the praise is well-deserved in most cases.
But William Gee is also known for something else, and that is WGRealms. Admittedly, I’ve heard of the first WGRealms before, but I haven’t played it yet (although I hear it’s included in the latest release – more on this just now). So when I heard that version 1.2 of WGRealms 2 had been released this month, and more importantly that it was free, I checked it out and downloaded it.
Here I was thinking that this was just yet another collection of maps for Duke Nukem 3D – but I had been warned though: 95% of the content from DN3D had been replaced, or so the help file said. This was not just some mod, or a map pack after all; this was a total conversion.
I fired it up and played through the first bit of the game. It took me a while to figure out just what the hell was going on, but when I did – once I started to get the hang of it all – I was convinced that I was playing likely one of the greatest games I’ve had the fortune to have on my hard drive.
Why I like it so much is because it combines all of my favourite elements from the best shooters from the 90’s, and maybe even early 2000’s, when FPS titles were just gory, run-and-gun, all out action – minus the soppy cutscenes, guest appearances by D-list actors, and the focus on “realism” and graphics; I loved this period of history, and still do.
There’s strong and pretty obvious hints of titles such as Doom, Heretic, Hexen, and Quake, as well as Duke Nukem 3D; maybe even a dash of Quake II, Unreal, and perhaps Clive Barker’s Undying and Serious Sam. Whether I’m completely right I don't know, but when I sense something inspired a project like this, I’m usually right.
You’re going to see enemies and weapons from these games, but perhaps with a slight makeover in some cases. Powerups and such like the famous quad damage from the Quake universe make an appearance. And the titular hero from DN3D is there too, spewing his one-liners and so on, bringing the coolness factor to this otherwise red hot concoction. This is pretty much the 5% of DN3D that is left. And indeed I noticed that some of these weapons were even incorporated into the likes of DukePlus, an all ready spectacular mod for DN3D.
But the thing is that WGRealms 2 isn’t just an FPS. It also has some RPG elements in there too, borrowed from the likes of Diablo. It’s like one big stew of gaming goodness, and I can’t help but just feel that its main aim is to bring back something old, but put a twist on it; altering the recipe and being adventurous so that it’s immensely enjoyable once again.
You have loot that’s dropped when you off enemies, and the POW abilities, which you can configure during the game on the fly, so that when it’s fully charged, you can execute any number of fantastic combinations that will put a world of hurt on your foes.
And if all this isn’t enough, there’s also an unlockable character in the game too. If you’ve grown tired of playing as Duke (and why the hell would you be?), then you can start up one of the added chapters of the game that’s been included since the release from last year. Jedrik is the man’s name and an entirely different style of play is unleashed once you have him to control. The entire arsenal is chucked out and replaced, and you can wield swords, hammers and a shield.
And this I have just but gleamed from said help file mentioned earlier. I’m still on my first playthrough at the moment. There’s another thing that can be said about this game: it’s very lengthy, and bloody challenging. It truly is a testament to the shooters of yesteryear, then.