The period in question was the peak of my gaming career as it took place when I was 12-16 years old and consequently had me playing probably hundreds of games. Mind you, most arcade and action games generally bored me to tears even back then - although there were exceptions such as Airborne Ranger. Thus, I mostly concentrated on adventure and roleplaying games as well as some light strategy. The two games I introduce here were two of the most memorable titles of the time and I'm still waiting for a proper remake of Defender of the Crown.
Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar, Origin systems -1985 Apple II
Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar was the fourth title in the series, but also one that transformed the series into an entirely new direction. Whereas the first three games had been focussed on dungeon crawling, Ultima IV was the first of the “Age of Enlightenment” trilogy and introduced the concept of virtues and ethics into the game. Also, the story had a stronger presence than in the previous Ultimas.
After cataclysmic events that changed the very world, Lord British ruled over the unified Britannia. However, he felt that his people needed an example – a person who would stand for the very values of the new kingdom. Thus, he proclaimed the Quest of the Avatar in search of a hero who would become the very embodiment of the virtues that Britannia was built upon. Thus, the object of the game is to become a spiritual leader to the people of Britannia by learning to understand and uphold the eight virtues by visiting towns and cities and talking with people, as well as by searching for lost artefacts and descending into deep dungeons.
Ultima IV is still unique among RPGs even after all these years. Most modern RPGs still allow the player to loot pretty much anything they can set their greedy palms on with little or no repercussions. In Ultima IV, this resulted in immediate lowering of your score in the Honesty virtue. One of my dreams is to one day see Ultima IV remade with the technology and gameplay of the latest Elder Scrolls games.
Defender of the Crown, Cinemaware – 1986 Commodore Amiga
Defender of the Crown was Cinemaware's first game. It was released first on Commodore Amiga and it professes the peak of the computer graphics quality of its time. In fact, game designer Bob Lindstrom recalls, "The shock of seeing Defender for the first time was one of those experiences that changed the gaming stakes for all of us." Of course, this was mostly true only for the Amiga version and later ports to other platforms paled in comparison to the original – although they added new gameplay features to compensate.
Defender of the Crown was basically a light strategy game, where the player took the role of one of the factions that are vying for the control of England in the Middle Ages following the death of the king. The player could choose between four Saxon leaders (such as Wilfred of Ivanhoe) and then drive Norman hordes out of England by taking over one territory after another. The territories were taken over in field battles or, if the territory happened to have an enemy occupied castle, in siege battle. The battles were sort of minigames in themselves, such as shooting down castle walls with a catapult before the main charge. In addition to this, the game also had tournaments, where you had to fight enemy knights, and sometimes one of your allies had their beautiful daughter kidnapped and you had to lead a charge to a castle to rescue her (and perhaps eventually marry her).
In some senses, Defender of the Crown resembled Sid Meier's Pirates!, a famous title that was released a year later, but more strategic land battles stood in place of the sea battles.