The mysterious countdown that has hovered teasingly on GOG.com the last few days has finally ended… and true to rumour, it has revealed that the wonderful DRM-free digital distribution service has secured a deal to include an alleged 30 LucasArts classics to their marketplace. As suggested by unlinked release threads unearthed by members of the site’s forums, today sees the release of the first six of these games:
- Sam & Max Hit the Road
- The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition
- Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis
- X-Wing: Special Edition
- TIE Fighter: Special Edition
While all these titles are classics, it’s X-Wing and TIE Fighter that have melted the internet. They’re probably the two most requested titles for rerelease/remaster over the last few years, only to have these requests ignored time and time again. When Disney shuttered the development side of LucasArts in April 2013, many believed that the classic space sims would never see an official release ever again.
But here we are: X-Wing and TIE Fighter are again available for purchase in digital form, free of DRM and optimized to run on modern PCs as is GOG’s wont. They may not be the full remasters for which most of us were hoping, but each title comes with its expansions and include the original DOS version and the 1998 rereleased versions that removed LucasArts’s iMuse dynamic music system, but spruced up the visuals with the more advanced X-Wing Vs TIE Fighter engine.
These were not only two of the biggest PC games of the 90s, but regularly top best games of all time lists and for good reason. With 1993’s X-Wing, Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe developer Lawrence Holland and Edward Kilham’s Totally Games married the dynamic dogfighting action of the Star Wars movies with a sense of quasi-sim realism to create arguably the first game to really place players inside the Star Wars universe. They built on this achievement with the following year’s TIE Fighter, which utilized a more focussed and ambitious narrative to give players an insight into the shady dealings within the Empire never before attempted in the Star Wars franchise (Look out for a cameo the now sadly de-canonized Grand Admiral Thrawn). These games rank alongside fellow debutant KOTOR as the greatest Star Wars games of all time, and arguably two of the greatest space sims (Rivalled in this writer’s opinion only by Freespace 2 and David Braben’s Elite series). even if you’re not wild on the franchise, they’re essential stuff for any space sim fan.
So far I’ve had a bit of a tinker with the Collectors Edition version of TIE Fighter, which popped right up without a single complaint on my Win7 rig (Gawd bless you, GOG). Surprisingly, the game is pretty much playable with a 360 pad right out of the gate though the steering is a bit wonky and the throttle is awkwardly mapped to the triggers – these controls are reportedly remappable in the CE editions, however. Most importantly, it still feels wonderful to play, the no-nonsense turorials getting you back up to speed in no time and the whole thing runs smooth as butter. That may seem a weird thing to say about a 20-year-old game, but this series has always been notoriously problematic to get running on modern systems and GOG have done a marvellous job optimizing it for modern Windows systems.
X-Wing Vs TIE Fighter/X-Wing Alliance: While the third and fourth entries in the series are considered as weaker than the first two, it makes sense to complete the set, especially since these games have been similarly ill-served when it comes to rereleases. Besides, imagine what the modding commumity could do with the multiplayer of a back-in-wide-circulation XWvTF…
Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb: This unsung 2003 release responded to the influence taken by Tomb Raider by adopting that series’s platforming action, while adding in a fun melee system that recreated the rough-and-tumble brawling of the movies.
Day of the Tentacle/Full Throttle: Tim Schafer’s Double Fine may have taken back Grim Fandango for a well-deserved facelift, but these early works by Schafer are also well overdue a reprise.
Afterlife: This little-remembered gem had you simultaneously managing Heaven and Hell in Theme Hospital style. A fun, quirky little title with an utterly charming cartoony style.