Did you ever come across a game you’ve heard about that for whatever reason stuck in your head for years despite being unable to play it?
Because that’s Midgard for me.
Released in Japan (and a few other countries) in 1998 for Windows PCs, I came to find out about Midgard in an article by Hardcore gaming 101.
So why did this game stick out above all others? Why did THIS seemingly unremarkable game remain stuck in my head when so many others would basically airbnb my memory space for a couple nights?
Those are the portraits of the characters you could pick out and a game in 1998 letting you choose your class AND gender? I just thought it was neat and it stuck in my head.
It’s also referred to as a “Kusoge” which can generously translate to “S–t game”, so naturally my curiosity doubled.
Then to my absolute surprise, 24 years after the games release… it got a english patch by people who evidently saw this game as something worth looking at, so if they thought it was worth the effort translating it, I figured i’d put in the effort of playing it. There were some hiccups initially as it also needed to be patched with a wrapper (it is very important to follow the patch instructions to the letter, turning on compatibility mode is a must and will be one of the few times said windows function actually works), I played the whole game at 480p which was fine oddly enough, it’s too simple looking for me to care, but i’m sure could be tweaked if I cared (I didn’t), fortunately once everything was set up, the game ran like butter. I even got it to work with a controller!
So as a quick preview and slight spoiler, wanna know what made me fall in love with this game? The moment I found a mysterious consumable called “Drug of Slime”, what happened when I drank it?.... This:
Anywho, Once you pick your class and gender, the game immediately dumps you in the most Silent hill-ass mediaeval village i’ve ever seen, foggy and empty, with the roads leading to literally nothing, it just stops existing. There are only 3 doors you can go in, a shop where you can identify loot, a tavern where you can switch class (but not gender, you’re stuck with the one you pick in this game) and lastly, the church, which appropriately has a dungeon full of evil monstrosities right beneath it.
So what’s the story? well let me tell you since the back of the box certainly doesn’t tell you.
“No Action” lol
Image credit goes to hardcoregaming101.net who were the ones who introduced me to this game: http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/midgard/
Okay so what is the story? Well, strap yourselves in because it’s a long one, you ready?
Long ago in a distant land, the lands were in turmoil and the people prayed to their god, seeking salvation.
In utter desperation, a black armoured holy knight, and his holy warriors ascended the tower of the gods and prayed to their lord to summon him. Also a Dragon happened.
We know not of what happened to the knight, but for a time, the scourge that ruined the land was wiped out. To honor the sacrifice of the noble heroes and the god which saved us all, a church was built atop the ancient underground city pathway that lead to the tower (shut up don’t ask why we have to go down to go up!).
But corruption seeps out like a horrific fog, monstrous sounds can be heard from beneath the church and what once was a thriving village full of devout worshippers, was now to become the gateway from which hordes of monstrosities will inevitably emerge.
Thou brave adventurer must traverse the 15 levels of the dungeons and then 15 levels of the tower so that thee may seek out the cause behind these events! we beg of thee genderless hero, choose thy gender and class, so that thee may saveth the world!
Sounds good? Good, because in case the last line wasn’t obvious, i’m the one who wrote it, it’s also mostly accurate, but the game itself just dumps you in “loud background music hill” with nary an explanation.
PS I will be spoiling the rest of the game, if you care (which you shouldn’t)
So what of the game itself? Well, if you were paying attention to my masterfully written story opening, you’d know you’re tasked with going down 15 levels of the dungeons first. And here’s where an interesting feature of the game shows up:
All the levels have a randomised layout.
Now I can’t be certain, but I think this game may actually be one of the first (if not, the first) 3D games to use randomly generated levels/dungeons, I couldn’t find any examples of randomly generated dungeons in a 3D game prior, which means this completely unknown Japanese game used a technology that would become incredibly popular years down the line…. That said… it most certainly is a very rudimentary implementation of the technology, for one, the randomisation happens once, so don’t worry if you die in the dungeon and should theoretically (I didn’t test it) only actually be different if you start a new game entirely.
Secondly, the loot and enemy layout will be random each time too (with some exceptions).
But what makes it really weird is there’s random boxes everywhere, stuff you’d THINK you could smash and get loot from… except for some reason can’t, they’re just obstacles for you and your enemies to get stuck in.
Speaking of, your enemies will never travel from one room to the other (their wall-clipping projectiles will though), meaning you can literally just stand inches away from them, smack em, take a step back and they won’t follow you, it’s weird.
So yeah, neat that the game does it, but the enemies were programmed in a way where there are more limits to their movement.
Not that i’m complaining because:
THE MOVEMENT SUCKS!
People tend to forget that there was a time when MOST 3D games controlled badly, this was the exact same year that The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time came out and would revolutionize how these sorts of games played, but before that, games would have to figure out their own systems and they were all very finicky, especially on PC where we had arrow keys and controllers were a rare after thought, so things like analog movement in PC games were not really a thing (minus joystick and wheel compatible racing games). So this game went for the tried and true solution of “Tank controls”, where you mostly “steer” your characters instead of them being able to move around like a person would. That said even for a game with tank controls, it feels like the slowest tank controls i’ve ever used.
But it’s okay, the game has a button combination that let’s you do a quick 180 degree turn, so no big deal right?
Wrong! Because the button combo is the same as a backwards hop dodge and it felt like it was random which action I would pull off, I THINK it has something to do with the timing of which button is combo’d but I couldn’t figure it out.
Then we get to the combat….
Combat’s alright actually.
Sure it's clunky, butr for all of my griping I ended up actually rather enjoying the combat in this game, you can do a 1-3 hit combo when holding the attack button (though it feels random how many attacks you actually do) and a magic spell which starts of as your heavy attack, even better, because the game knows the camera sucks, you auto lock toward your enemies and even better, if an enemy is right behind you, you do a quick 180 spin attack toward them and face them after knocking them flat on their behinds, it’s awesome!
Remember that stupid backward hop I could never pull off reliably? Well pressing right or left let’s you do a sideways hop that is actually often quite great for avoiding attacks and projectiles.
Some enemies can block your attacks and at that point it’s important to learn to time your inputs, you MIGHT be able to pull of a heavy attack, but sometimes that can get blocked and you need to INSTANTLY tap the attack button if you don’t want to get hit, maybe it’s because i’ve got the Fromsoftware Souls games on the mind, but it gave me the same satisfaction as a parry when that happened.
Heck, if you time your attacks right you can even air juggle your opponents like your in an actual fighting and it can only be done if you time your attacks right.
As someone who loves stuff like Sekiro’s very timing-dependent combat, I really appreciate this sort of stuff (and I can’t believe I compared this to Sekiro!).
Now mind you it does get repetitive, for which the game has its own easy solution.
EQUIPMENT AND CHARACTER CLASSES
As you explore the dungeon, you’ll start to find more and more precious loot and you might notice how some of which can’t be equipped by your character, have no fear and don’t sell them (yet) because the equipment is class specific, after all why would a priest want to use boxing gloves when the obvious holy priestly weapon is a mace!
But even better, if you like the class you are playing as but are finding things repetitive, don’t worry because eventually you’ll find a secondary weapon that plays completely differently! It’s such an awesome feature and weirdly ambitious for a game like this, for the Monk (my favourite class) she starts with boxing gloves of some sort, which were quick and effective but you had to get RIIIIIIIIGHT up in your opponents faces, but then she picked up a bo staff and suddenly had more range! The Priest starts with a mace and shield, but can dual wield a giant hammer worthy enough of Amy Rose at the cost of the shield.
Oh yeah, you also sometimes block, there is no dedicated button, it just happens, but even my monk was blocking with her bo staff so there’s no requirement of a shield for the action, just random chance.
As for each class, it’s up to you to figure out which is a good fit for you, they each have strengths and weaknesses, but I liked most of them except the mage and that’s purely because
a) She looks nothing like her neat artwork
b) Her standard attacks are weeeeak
The Thief is the fastest character which actually makes her a great pick for cruising through bigger levels and her attacks are fast too, she starts off with daggers and can also equip a claymore. Her special attack has a double hit which is incredibly useful against enemies that can block,
The knight is the strongest but her special attack is a big swing forward, not very helpful in a pinch but it does hit like a truck.
There’s more to say but for most of my playthrough I stuck with the monk, she also as a very powerful double magic special attack and her bo staff/glaves/sharp pointy sticks really worked well with smacking the enemies first.
Really, once you get a handle on the combat and your class, you start pulling off awesome and satisfying moves like this.
See? For 1998 this ain't too shabby!
You also will eventually (but since it’s random you might not) find amulets that passive buff you, armor, rings that passive buff you and most importantly: Magic spells and my advice is you only really “need” the “Heal” spell so you don’t need to waste precious healing potions. But it is worth looking at the lighting spell.
Only hassle with magic (and weapons and items to a lesser degree) is you can only equip one at a time and the closest thing to quickly wapping between them is to pause and entr the inventory to swap them out.
So now that we’re done talking about our heroes, let’s talk about our enemies and there’s a whole assortment of them!
Most likely the first enemy you’ll encounter, they come in a variety of colors and sort of just rub on you. The red and blue are jokes, but the yellow ones hit hard.
These things are mean, fly around in an annoying circle and have razor sharp teeth, there’s a green color variant that burps projectiles at you, they suck. Waka waka.
There are a variety of skeletons in this game, some have swords, some have helmets, some have shields, some can cast magical firewalls and all have a love of life. They also have a Union for their construction work on the side.
These golden bats can be tricky to catch if they are not aggro’d but they tend to get hit by the backwards swing attack. Trust me it's in the picture only vaguely visible.
Batlin Mcbattison Sr
These large white bats can shoot you from a distance using ultra powered echolocation. Easy to dodge though.
These guys give off a vibe man. They come in different colors, some can shoot you across the map with projectile attacks and when they die the do this weird animation like they’re really regretting something and trying to reach out to you, very “forgive me Zanzibar” vibes.
Empty walking suits of armour, very scooby doo, also, very dangerous and have a golden color variant who are also way more dangerous.
These guys hit like a bulldozer but are incredibly slow, infact they are so slow that they even FALL slow, meaning you can “ground juggle” them if that makes sense
That’s right we got demon ladies! Unlike the other projectile based things in the game, they won’t attack you if you get close to them, instead they try (and fail) to back away, but just like every other enemy with projectiles, they can shoot through walls, so watch out.
They’re here to sing, dance and turn you into a useless slime with their “moe moe kyun” beams. It's up to you to graduate them!
BTW you can use a “drug of slime” to reverse the effect if you’re lucky to have found any (that’s right, the drug works in reverse too!).
And those are all of the enemies in the game, not a huge variety but nothing to sneeze at either. They all can kill you rather quickly if you’re not careful and while you can abuse the AI and hide between pathways, why would you do that to yourself? Dying isn’t as huge a punishment as you might think, for one it allows you to return to the shop lady, who can buy your stuff, sell you really useful (randomized) stuff and more importantly, identify the unknown crap you have so you can equip it or drink it safely.
The biggest downside to dying is just having to reach the point where you died and even then, you get a checkpoint after clearing every 5th level so dying AT the 5th level can be a tad annoying, but on the way you will find new (and ocassionally really useful) stuff, sure you don’t NEED to grind to much, but if you organically fight each enemy you face you’ll level up very quickly.
Don’t do something silly like running straight past the enemies because you’ll very quickly learn why that’s a bad idea when you first encounter:
THE BLACK KNIGHT!
Yup! It’s him, the Black Knight of yor. This jerk is the main antagonist of the game in the sense that he keeps showing up. He’s not exactly a boss but he also sort of is one, every 5 levels you will need to find and defeat this guy and every time you do he spouts off some cryptic nonsense. He is easily the strongest enemy you’ll face in the dungeon (and game possibly) and he puts you in your place if you’re underprepared and careless. You have to combine everything you learned when facing him, when to time combos, when to time harder hitting magic attacks, being aware of your location, dealing with surrounding enemies, when to dodge…. Or I guess you could be boring and stand in the hallways before his location in the map and snipe him with weak fireball attacks… sure you’ll beat him but I guarantee I had more fun doing it…
That said, he often gets himself trapped, i’ve seen him spawn inside environmental obstacles to the point I literally couldn’t hit him without using long range attacks, it was hilarious!
"I've fallen inside a fountain and I can't get out!"
Most importantly is the fact that the Black knight is the only thing in this entire game that hints at the story, the rest is entirely inference by me.
When you finally reach the lowest level of the dungeon and face the Black Knight he finally acknowledges your strength and beckons you to continue moving forward… so he sends you to....
THE BIG BOSS DRAGON
It's a Shiny Charizard!
Yeah! The first actual boss of the game is the black dragon you sometimes see in the loading screen. Kalameet this is not, but be careful of its… of its….
Crap, I don’t actually know what he does.
I do know he has a beam attack but I don’t recall ever being hit by it, nor do I know what melee attacks it has, because once you get close and unleash a combo or heavy magic attack… you stagger it, and if you time it right, you can effectively stun lock it and stagger it over and over and over again until it is dead….
Huh… most importantly, this unlocks a really special moment:
“I’M THE BABY! GOTTA LOVE ME!”
You become a momma!
Where did this little guy come from? Was it the evil dragon reincarnated? a prisoner? Or did we just murder a dragon mother desperately trying to protect its young?.........
Are we the baddies?
Anywho, congratulations if you made it this far! We’ve finally reached the tower and we can now… start the whole thing all over again in reverse as we are going onwards and upwards.
I must say I do appreciate the attempt at diversifying the scenery (wall texture) every 5 levels... it doesn't work but at least the tower look relatively nice compared to the claustrophobic dungeons, here we have really wide spaces to the degree that the hallways are as wide as some of the rooms, I like it and it certainly works a lot better than the small doors considering the character we’re using moves like a stiff truck.
Once again at this point it’s more of the same, despite the Black Knight wishing you luck in facing the dragon, he actually shows up again every 5 levels and THIS time he actually starts explaining some stuff. Here it is:
Well done making it this far...
We tried to call forth an ancient god of this land...
But what answered the call...
Was not our benevolent god, but an eldritch demon that destroyed our land...
We sealed it once again, at the cost of my life...
This cursed life of mine is the punishment for our hubris...
But maybe my end is finally in sight...
Thou hast bested me. Please, I wish thee to consider my final plea...
I no longer have the strength to maintain the demon's seal...
I beg of thee, extinguish the accursed life of the beast...
…Oh what’s with the poofing? He does that each time you fight him, there’s barely 2 paragraphs of dialog in this whole game, I just didn’t bother documenting the first 3 times because he doesn’t say anything of note.
Holy moly did you catch what he was saying? He is cursed thanks to summoning the wrong thing but more specifically… does this imply that everything we’ve been fighting so far have been former humans attacking against their will?
Doesn’t that make too much sense?! WE can clearly turn into a slime, the lizard men’s unusual almost remorseful death animations, the suits of armour probably belonged to them when they were knights and aside from the bats and pac men things, everything else is distinctly humanoid… we really are the baddies!
We were fighting people all along and we didn’t know it! All because of a curse brought about by an eldritch abomination!....
DEMON’S SOULS ANYONE!? One of the first bosses of that game is a human being turned into what is effectively that game’s version of a slime!
OMG! Did… did someone from Fromsoftware play this game? Because they would use this exact idea MULTIPLE times in their games where the horrific abominations you were facing were once people, it’s always been a twist I liked in stories but here? HERE?! I wasn’t expecting a game with barely a tweets worth of story to even have a twist that would intrigue me! Let alone one I had to interpret as one would with the Fromsoft games.
Wow…. that was… not expected.
Anywho, my exxagerations aside, we finally get to encounter the final boss, the big bad, the monstrosity that ruined everything and….
…It’s a digimon?
Finally, our brave monk reached the demon's lair and faced it in a fierce and epic battle. She fought with all her strength, using her glaive to deflect the demon's spear and deliver powerful blows. After a long and grueling fight-
I’m just kidding, same strategy as the dragon, mercilessly stun-locking the punk!
Yeah! Look at that healthbar! So long it clips past the screen, looks scary at first until you pin it down so hard it can barely move.
After wrecking the demon (and I WRECKED it), the tower begins to collapse, but have no fear, our loyal dragon shows up and rescues its momma (also it probably knows better than to possibly get on our characters bad side), making a last second air save, where they both fly together and land in the village…. Then credits.
Yup, that’s it.
WOW what a weird journey.
This is probably the most anyone’s ever written about Midgard (including the devs haha!) and it’s been one heck of an adventure to observe. This is not a very good game truth be told (kinda mediocre really), yet, I still think of it fondly, for my conclusion, maybe it helps to tell you a little bit about myself.
I’m someone who really enjoys watching cheesy 50s monster movies, even the bad ones, when you see someone with a badly fitting rubber costumes, i’ll laugh with everyone else at the shoddy effects… but I will also always at the same time deeply appreciate the fact that they would show the creature, I appreciate the fact they dared to show anything, even when even they knew how goofy it looked, sometimes I try to see the potential behind the story they’re telling (when I am not laughing).
It’s for this same reason that Midgard, for all it’s faults, has ideas I find really interesting, it has a punching “above its weight class” sort of personality to it.
It tried to have a fairly varied feeling combat system with multiple weapons.
It had the option to freely change your character class, all while giving you the option to choose your gender for said class.
It…. might actually be the first 3D game that had procedurally generated levels (seriously I tried to look it up, Elite technically had it first but Midgard appears to be the first 3d dungeon crawler with said tech).
It even had a funny slime transformation!
Bad games aren’t always entirely bad and while it is obviously much harder to ignore the proverbial “zipper at the back of the monster suit” in games, I feel we have just as much to learn from and be inspired by bad games.
Besides I finally finished playing through every single Fromsoftware Souls game this year, i’ve built up my resistance to jank.
I’m of the belief that bad games are usually often good ideas executed poorly (and why they’re more deserving of remakes imo) as so many games that could potentially even be considered “okay” are hampered by a fundamental flaw in their system.
That said. Seriously the movement sucks.
But sure, movement sucks, combat is a tad clunky and the story is all but non-existent, but do I appreciate it? Damn right I do! The fact that someone clearly cared to implement these (especially for the time) relatively unique ideas means something, I'm just not sure what! and even though it’s been more than 24 years I hope the devs know that someone thousands of kilometres away appreciates them for it.
As our Monk returned to her home, her adopted white dragon stayed by her side. It had been with her throughout her journey, providing support and protection.
The other villagers were surprised to see the dragon, but they welcomed it with open arms. They recognized that she and the dragon had a special connection and were grateful for its help in defeating the evil demon.
Together, the Monk and her dragon were hailed as heroes and celebrated throughout the land. They lived out their days in the village, training new generations of warrior monks and protecting the people from any threats that may come their way.
- The ending as made up by me huehuehuehuehue
Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed this write up as much as I did writing it. It’s always fun to find something that’s not only obscure but actually somewhat intriguing and my curiosity certainly carried me through this bizarre little journey. HUGE thanks to YuviApp and SnowyAria for their work translating this game!
I wish you all a happy new year!