Lovable Eurojank

Rather than clutter up the Compleat Retro Shooter thread with this post, I thought I’d start a new thread about your favorite janky games. I don’t think I’m going out on much of a limb here by saying that we all have a great deal of affection for certain jank games. And they can be from anywhere, really. I just picked Euro because it’s a common term now, and while you can use the term however you like. I myself use it affectionately, and most of the games I call janky happen to come from Europe.

My definition: Overly ambitious games, usually (but not always) from Eastern Europe, that ship with a variety of deficiencies that may or may not severely affect gameplay and/or graphics, mechanics, etc. And yet somehow, despite these deficiencies, the game has something about it that keeps a person playing long past the point you believe most others would have given up.


Does anyone remember an old Russian FPS games called Hellforces? Honestly, I could not decide whether this belongs in this thread or the Nostalgia thread, so I opted for this thread because I think that most of you would enjoy playing this old game.

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For some reason, it came into my mind the other day, and that set off a search through my piles of old games that came in DVD-style cases, and I finally found it. It came on 2 CDs, was released in Russia in 2004 and everywhere else in 2005. The developer was Orion Games, which was a Russian developer that actually created a bunch of FPS games in that era using their own Orion Game Engine.

I wasn’t able to find out very much about Orion Games or their engine or the development of Hellforces. Other games they developed include: The Stalin Subway (2005), Dusk-12 (2007), and The Hunt (2008).

All of their games seemed to get that label of being “jank”, but I think that word gets used incorrectly in many cases, including with Orion games. “Jank” means “…of extremely poor or unreliable quality” according to an online dictionary, and I think that’s unfair, at least in the case of Orion Games, as these games, while they may not be top-quality games, are not “extremely poor or unreliable”. I think that even the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series received that label, and while those games certainly were unreliable in many ways, they were certainly not of “extremely poor quality”.

Anyway, I too have used the term “jank” to describe certain aspects of these games, but I think that when it comes to many of these highly ambitious European titles created generally by small teams, most people use the term “jank” to describe a certain fondness for quirks that are often found within these games and their engines.

I think it’s highly laudable that so many of these companies actually created their own game engines, probably because they couldn’t afford to license one at the time. They did all of this, plus created a game on top of it, only to be made fun of here in the west. Granted, the criticism is usually good-natured, but I think these guys deserve some kind of award for the work they do, or at least more recognition and/or sales.

Okay, back to Orion Games. I seem to remember that one of the quirks of Hellforces was that it didn’t feature a Run key, meaning that you would be fast-walking/slow-running all the time. As a long-time FPS player, this was extremely frustrating until I got used to it. But even then, I had to wonder at the motivation for neglecting to use such a feature in the game. The engine was actually quite good in so many other ways that it couldn’t possibly be because it was incapable of it. Maybe to control the speed at which you progressed through the game? Anyway, once you get used to it, not a big deal really.

Which reminds me of two more FPS games from that same era that also did not feature a run key: You Are Empty (2006), and Instinct (2007), both by Ukrainian developers Digital Spray, using their own DS2 Engine. Before I just now looked all of this stuff up, I had thought that these games by Digital Spray were just more games done by Orion Games, just because both studios seemed to have a fetish for not using a run key in their games.

I’d better get back to Hellforces now. I had very fond memories of playing this game back around 2005, and I was feeling a strong urge to play it again. I had found my North American release in its original box with both CDs intact and like new, however my current rig has no optical drive, so I grabbed a copy from an abandonware site, and that works fine.

And man, it’s great! It’s exactly as I remembered: It’s fun, colorful, the levels are cool-looking and include some fun environmental puzzles, and it’s difficult, just like old shooters are supposed to be. There is a good variety of enemies, and the models they came up with are quite creative. These people spent a lot of time creating this game. I’ve currently only completed the first level, but my memories are telling me that it only gets better from here.

The first level is laid out kind of traditionally, but things get very creative later on, in spite of the fact that this game is fairly linear overall. I know I’ll get crap for saying this, but the level layout in some levels reminded me of the original Half-Life. I also remember it being a very long game, and that I did not finish it back in the day, so I’m looking forward to trying again now. Also, I remember that many levels are very large and interesting.

I can’t forget to write about the cutscenes, which deserve a Special Mention Award, and really must be seen and heard to be believed. The word “jank” definitely does apply here. Beyond that, I will not give spoilers.

Also of note: Hellforces has very few graphic options. IIRC, you can turn the shadow quality up or down, and there is one other minor up or down adjustment you can make that I can’t recall at the moment, but for the most part, it’s got one basic setting, which at the time was a rather high setting IIRC, because my computer back in the day had some trouble running it. It also seems to default to your native screen resolution, because it completely fills my 3840 x 2160 screen, and actually looks pretty damn clean and sharp, and it runs smooth as silk on Windows 11 with a 4080. Zero crashes, glitches, or stutters.

Here’s a couple screenshots I grabbed from elsewhere. I note that these shots are not widescreen, so it must be stretching to fill my monitor screen. I suppose I could adjust that back to original, but honestly it looks so good in widescreen, even stretched, that I couldn’t tell the difference.

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The first game that immediately comes to mind.

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This thing is completely strange. It’s a source engine shooter. Dystopian cyberpunk setting blended with Warhammer 40K with a bit of faux French-sounding VO. You are given a smorgasbord of powerful weapon options from the get go in the tutorial. There are a multitude of separate character upgrade paths that are impenetrable without some research (including research as one of the paths). Missions are semi-labyrinthian style maps with re-spawning enemies. Some are huge. You can alter the difficulty of the AI, and respawn rates in the options on the fly at any time. There is no manual save…auto save by way of a character profile. You can take your character online, offline, coop, and in-between independent from the single player campaign. There’s a hacking mini-game with 4 different starting options and an additional layer of 5 options during the hack. There’s over a dozen Cybernetic upgrades and implants and PSI powers (like Magic) on top of all that. Totally overwhelming with so many options.

On top of all this the games story is actually some kind of dream/Jacob’s latter type scenario, or time loop prison with unreliable characters. It’s way out there and very confusing.

French studio. Another game by them was that WH40K Hired Gun which might also fit the bill.

Oh gods, so many space games fit in this category:

The Star Wolves series
The Parkan series
The Tomorrow War series
The SpaceForce series

So much space jank.

Let us not forget The Precursors.

You gain brouzouf!

One of my favorite eurojank games is probably The Guild (the first one), a medieval political/economic sim set in smaller cities. Mars: War Logs and Technomancer (same developer) were also pretty solid action RPGs.

I’m tempted to put UnderRail here as well but it’s not at all janky, in fact it has some of the best combat mechanics I have ever seen in an RPG (turn based or otherwise), but it punches so far above its weight that it’s ridiculous even trying to comprehend it. Also made in Europe, obviously. And cheap as hell.

And on that note, Atom RPGs probably also qualify.

Ye gods, jankiest of the jank.

I have this in my Steam library, though I have not played it in ages. I found it as you said very weird but also strangely compelling at times.

I think STALKER is a great mention here, actually. It was completely ambitious and impressive in a way that nothing else was, punching above its weight class indeed, but there were a number of things that just felt funky compared to the other big shooters at the time.

Something about the inventory always felt off to me, maybe the how detailed the icons were? There’s something about The way they looked and were laid out that never quite sat right. Maybe it was the feeling I got from trying to find the appropriate remedy when I was suffering from radiation poisoning or something else, which always seem to progress entirely too quickly for me to do anything about.

Then there was a bunch of faction stuff which I never really saw. I played a ton of the original and the third game as well, and either faction stuff was so obfuscated it was invisible, or it never really worked, but this much ballyhood feature was just non-existent for me.

The thing that really captured my imagination in that game was the loneliness and questing, which combined with the hostile and foreboding environment to create a really unique and compelling brew, but I’d say 10 to 20% of the stuff around that felt pretty janky to me.

Gosh, this was the one I was immediately trying to remember! Trying to get that to work with all the additional english and music patches was something!

I would say it’s more that it’s brutal in that it required careful character building and lots of save scuming at times. I’d call it Save-scum: The CRPG. Always highly recommended.

OMG yes. This could be the king of Eurojank. Then again, it has a lot of competition.

I distinctly remember buying The Precursors along with Xenus 2: White Gold (which is another contender for this thread) on Beamdog, back when they actually sold games on their website because Beamdog included the English patch along with the games. I got the game up and running in English, but then gave up on the game for some reason. A few years later, I went back to Beamdog to download those games again, and they were no longer being sold there, and I could not access the files, even though they had records of my purchases. I never forgave Beamdog for that. I ended up buying them again on Steam, but haven’t attempted another install of either of the games.

Xenus 2: White Gold actually ran quite well IIRC. It felt a bit like Boiling Point. Which is another contender.

There was a period of a few years back somewhere between 2000 and 2010 when most of the games I was playing were Eurojank. Those games were endlessly fascinating to me, in no small part because they were so unpredictable. You never really knew what you were going to get when you got one of those games. It always felt a little bit like Christmas, especially when treasure was found.

All of Techland’s stuff pre-Dead Island.

Chaser is another.

Chaser, holy crap, I totally forgot about that game. Had decent fun with it but yeah, kind of a mess.

It was completely linear, but I thought it was pretty okay until I hit an area where I was in some kind of big garage or warehouse-type area with very limited health and/or ammo, and I’d spend a lot of time wiping out the enemies, and end up with like 2 health, and I was sweating because hey, that was difficult, and then they’d send in the second wave. So I’d try like 10 more times, I’d somehow get through the second wave, and the f-ing third wave would drop in via helicopter! At that point I rage-quit.

Oh damn, good one. I remember getting literally lost in one of the levels, might’ve been underwater.

How about Cryostasis: Sleep Of Reason from Ukrainian developer Action Forms circa 2008/2009. I was quite fond of it.

If you’ve played it, you likely remember the sled dogs at the beginning:

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I think both CD Projekt Red and Larian both heavily trafficked in eurojank but managed to breakthrough into AAA, unlike say, Piranha Bytes who are still fully mired in it. You could even say they took a deeper dive.

I’m going to go with Outward, a little open-world-rpg, some Souls-like combat, 4 (or 5?) different magic systems, and a whole lotta jaank. I really dug it. It even has split screen co-op on all platforms, including pc!

For Chaser, um, victims, that “protect the truck in the warehouse” level pretty much broke everyone. To this day if you do a Google search on the game, you’ll find all sorts of old threads on how to console command your way out of that one.