Giants: Citizen Kabuto

Giants: Citizen Kabuto

Some games are milestones in the history of video games. Usually, it's because they do something with the computer hardware that had never been done before - Doom, for example, set off the first person shooter genre with its 2.5D graphics - or because they introduced game mechanics that others copied.

This game is not one of them.

Giants: Citizen Kabuto

Giants: Citizen Kabuto
Planet Moon Studios

Interplay, 2000

An almost forgotten game that pioneered many developments in games. A large part mesmerizing beauty with an undercurrent of existential dread of your own insignificance, the world of Giants was the single thing that had the greatest artistic influence on me. (5/5)

Giants: Citizen Kabuto did in fact introduce gameplay elements that are with us today, such as first-person squad based tactical combat, and mixing a first-person shooter with real-time strategy. But due to the game's lackluster sales it never got to claim those advances and there are no features that we today refer to as being "Giants-like".

The game gained a cult following, though, and even today, more than fourteen years after its release, there is a community of players and modders[a]. Thanks to digital distribution and (I believe) Microsoft's obsession with backwards compatibility, you can find it on Good old Games[b] and play it on your Windows Vista / 7 / 8 machine without problems.

Every once in a while this game pops up in my thoughts, which, I suppose, makes me part of this cult following. But why am I part of it?

1. The Island

Giants takes place on the Island, a fragment of a world drifting through space in a perpetual golden hour. Instead of the usual desaturated gray / brown / black blurry corridors that games had in 2000 and still do now, the player was treated to this:

Without exaggerating, I can say that Giants was the single thing that had the greatest artistic influence on me.

The skyboxes were reminiscent of The Ninth Wave by Ivan Aivazovsky[c]. After experiencing this, those metallic gray and brown corridors seemed less grim and gritty and much more like someone's juvenile attempt at making something look grim and gritty.

Standing on a hill and overlooking the landscape as it was glowing in the warm light of the low sun, with the distant parts blending into the haze, I knew that this was the feeling I wanted to re-create. It was not just the warm, saturated colors. It was not just the sense of scale and openness, so lacking in the corridors, but sense of wonder in seeing the serene beauty of a world with an uncaring existence apart from you and the fighting.

A large part mesmerizing beauty with an undercurrent of existential dread of your own insignificance, the world of Giants was an experience that I still remember.

2. Still Good?

After replaying parts of the game, fourteen years after I first picked it up and thirteen years after I put it down, I have to say that it has aged surprisingly well. The things I remember as great back in 2001 are still great - and the things that I remember being a hassle back then are still a hassle now.

The Island is still a dreamlike paradise encased in amber glow - and the lack of an in-mission save feature is still annoying on the longer missions. Many of the pioneering features come off just as such: the result of someone trying to implement something that hasn't been done before and thereby pioneering all the mistakes as well. But those mistakes are still relatively few, and when you look at the game as a whole it is impossible to not be awed by the sheer scope of it: three playable character types with unique mechanics, several genres blended together in a seamless whole, and everything tied together in a good storyline.

That such a game was done by such a small team is nothing short of astounding.

3. Cheats

If all you want to do is sample the game you may want to unlock all missions so you can explore the game at will. To do so, press t or y while playing to bring up the chat prompt, type allmissionsaregoodtogo and press Enter.

4. Spiritual Successor

Nick Bruty, the man behind MDK and Giants: Citizen Kabuto, has set up a new game development studio called Rouge Rocket Games, and they are working on 1st Wonder[d], a spiritual successor to Giants.

2015-04-01, updated 2015-04-06