The purpose of this blog is not to claim one opinion is right or wrong, but rather to (hopefully) incite thought provoking conversation and debate. Have fun!
Over the past couple of years in the video game industry there seems to have been a large movement towards rebooting currently existing franchises. The idea behind these is to bring the franchise to a new audience and hopefully take a new spin on the games without alienating them from past entries. This is extremely useful for a franchise that has been out of sight for many years, as it helps bring an entry to both old and new fans without demanding that people have played the many years old entrees. This process seems to be one that many people dislike. People who love a franchise generally don't want to see all the lore and characters they've grown up with disappear or change into new unrecognizable forms. I suppose the real question when it comes to reboots is where do you draw the line between making a reboot to a franchise or simply making a new IP?
One of, if not THE, most infamous reboots ever created is Sonic the Hedgehog for PS3 and Xbox 360. Sonic '06 as it is commonly referred to is a game which, in the minds of many, sealed the franchise's fate as beyond redemption. The game was a reboot, which suggests that it was the representation of the direction that the developers wanted Sonic to take moving forward. The game was universally disliked with cited problems being long load times, poor camera, glitches, poor plot, and an overall lack of control. The game brought an overly cinematic approach to Sonic the Hedgehog. Some cutscenes in it could easily be confused with scenes from a jrpg because of the huge contrast between what you would expect from a Sonic world and what it offered. It wasn't until Sonic Generations that many started regaining faith in the franchise. But in this case we can probably assume that this was overall poor design as Sonic '06 was not the first 3D Sonic game, it was just the representation of all the things that could go wrong with it. The fact that it wasn't connected to the other Sonic games was the least of its problems.
So let's move to another rebooted franchise: Devil May Cry. DMC has long been a franchise that has prided itself on challenging, impressive combat that mixed gunplay and melee weaponry to fight demons in the most stylistic ways possible. The original Devil May Cry essentially created the spectacle fighter genre (or "Character Action" genre if you prefer that name) and its sequel turned around and did nearly everything wrong that it could. Devil May Cry 3 came around and succeeded in creating the pinnacle of that style of game while Devil May Cry 4 tried to continue it's legacy but things such as backtracking held it back from being all it could be. 5 years later DmC: Devil May Cry hits the scene, this time developed by Ninja Theory rather than the team who brought it to life. The new entry was a huge hit critically but received an immense backlash from a large portion of fans who found it to be a stain on their favorite franchise. Things like the lowered challenge and streamlined combat displeased fans who found the hardcore nature of the former games to be their favorite part. Personally as someone who has always loved Devil May Cry I actually really enjoyed DmC, but even I will admit that it would have likely been better for Ninja Theory to have simply made this a new IP. Though to be fair, at this point (considering sales and fan backlash) it's extremely likely that this entry will be relegated to being a spinoff instead of the basis for a rebooted franchise.
So that's an awful lot of text about poor reboots you may be thinking to yourself. Are there any examples of reboots done well? Absolutely! Just have a look at games such as Prince of Persia. The Sands of Time trilogy revolutionized the Prince of Persia franchise, brought it to mainstream audiences, and did so with a great reception! The recent Mortal Kombat is probably the safest example of a reboot done right, it brought back the prolific fighting game franchise not just as an arcade style game, but as an example of how to properly include a story mode in a fighting game. The latest Tomb Raider entry is also an excellent example of a reboot done well, though there are those who have some valid points about the lack of actual tomb raiding done in it. Metroid Prime also springs to mind when thinking of well received reboots, and what a change that was from its 2D predecessors!
So where is the line? What are the specific requirements that should qualify a new game as worthy of being a reboot to an older franchise as opposed to just turning it into a new IP? Personally I enjoy reboots if they manage to capture what made me enjoy the originals, anything new from there is fine with me, but then I'm a person who enjoys seeing different takes on existing franchises and doesn't like to watch something I enjoy go stale. How about you dear readers?
Video games are meant to be fun. Well, unless they're made by David Cage I guess. The feeling you get when playing a game you truly find enjoyable is one of the best feelings you can get as a gamer, as it's what we strive for. Often times though, we come across games that we hope will be fun, but turn us away instead. Maybe it's the flaws, maybe it's the difference in taste, who knows. Sometimes however, we are able to look past the flaws that exist and truly fall for a game, even when we know that it's got its fair share of problems. That's what I want to talk about today.
No game is perfect, but some do have more flaws than others. For example, a game I really enjoy playing is Dragon's Dogma. I've played through it twice, and every time I know that there are problems there but I just never let them get in the way of my experience. The plot is nearly nonexistant for the entire middle of the game, the pawns don't shut up, and when they do stop talking long enough to act they often don't do what they should. I always notice these things when I sit down to Dragon's Dogma, but I never stop playing because of them. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is another great example of a game with plenty of problems but I constantly think "I wouldn't mind messing around on there some more." Hell, Reckoning is one of the few games I've actually platinumed on PS3, that took some time. Many of the game's sidequests feel like they were pulled right from World of Warcraft, and boy are there a lot of them. The voice acting nearly never fits to the lips of those speaking and the plot, which has you wondering just who you were before you died, leads to a pretty unsatisfying conclusion. All the same, I always have fun when I venture back into the world of Amalur, whether I choose to wield feyblade or chakram.
Every now and then a game comes out that seems to be nothing but flaws. Most recently we've seen the likes of The War Z and Aliens: Colonial Marines, both of which had fiascoes surrounding their development and releases which were arguably more interesting than the games themselves. The War Z wanted so badly to be the next DayZ (a game which I haven't played) but failed to really accomplish much of anything. It was a game that I paid for solely so I could experience just how bad it supposedly was. Of the few hours that I played it I died more to other players than I died to zombies by a long shot. Nothing about the game appealed to me, and yet people play it. They not only play it, they enjoy it. The other catastrophe is Colonial Marines, a game which played on fans emotions and nostalgia for years. Constantly being cancelled or delayed, until finally a glorious reveal by Gearbox of a game that looked like everything they had been waiting for, until those fans got their hands on it and they saw that not everything that glittered was gold. And yet, despite all of the immense hatred that went out to Randy Pitchford and Gearbox, people not only bought it, there were and are people who defend it.
I'm not here to criticize these people. Just the opposite in fact, I envy these people in a way. As I said before, games are made to be enjoyed. If a game can be incredibly flawed but still enjoyed by many, does it say more about the game or the player? To pick up a game, play it, enjoy it, and move on to the next without the disappointment or longing that others feel when playing the same game is something I only wish I could do every time I picked up a game. I don't like to not like things. When I am disappointed by something, I am truly disappointed that I'm disappointed by it, if that makes sense. I could go on for days talking about games that I liked but can see all the flaws in. Likewise I could talk about all the games that I wanted to like but couldn't help be disappointed by, despite how much others liked them, but I think I'll save that for another write up.
How about you? What games do you really enjoy despite their flaws? What is your Kingdoms of Amalur?
I am 24 years old and I have been a gamer for as long as I could hold a controller, thanks to my dad who was interested in video games when he was younger. I've always played a bit of everything, though while I was younger I mostly hung around rpg's. Unfortunately, I never owned my own computer, or even had any real access to one, until I finally got my own laptop when I graduated high school in 2007. As such, I missed out on many of the "classics" as many would call them. Baldur's Gate, Deus Ex, System Shock, and Planescape: Torment were games that I was never able to experience.
I've heard many great things about Planescape: Torment over the years, particularly praising its story. Now, I play video games for different reasons. I play Devil May Cry games for over the top action, I play Elder Scrolls games for large immersive adventures, but a great story? That will cause me to play anything. I love stories, in any medium. I love to hear others' stories and come up with my own though I know I'll probably never get around to writing any down, so to hear that Planescape: Torment had one of the most memorable stories in gaming had me intrigued. When I saw the recent kickstarter for its spiritual successor Torment: Tides of Numenera I decided it was time to make the effort. Upon finally experiencing this classic, I was not disappointed.
As I said before, I didn't grow up with a computer so old school crpg's are pretty foreign to me, any time I've tried them since I've found the combat a bit off putting, so hearing that you could play through the entire game with minimal combat definitely spurred me on. I've also never been a pen and paper rpg kind of guy so games that force you to choose every point of stat allocation from the beginning of the game on are a handful for me without a guide. From a graphical standpoint the game isn't much today, but it's not the visuals that you want to experience here, it's the strange sort of interactive book that this game presents. I loaded it up with the suggested mods as listed by GOG so that it would run correctly on my current setup and began my adventure.
As a story lover I don't think that I will ever forget this game. I have never seen a game with not only such a fleshed out story, but a fleshed out universe. For as interesting as the game's plot is, the universe it takes place in is at least equally interesting. The Planescape universe from what I have learned through the game is made up of many different worlds that are all linked together. These worlds are connected by "doors", each of which are opened by very specific "keys". I put the emphasis on those two words because this is the point, near the beginning of the game, when I knew that I was 100% down for whatever the game had to offer. You see, the "doors" that connect these worlds can be nearly anything. An actual doorway, an arch in the city, an old tree trunk that has fallen over onto another. Equally intriguing is the concept of their keys, which can literally be anything. A tune you hum, a piece of string, or even the want to not enter the door. Potentially, you could be walking through the woods, humming to yourself, and pass under a fallen tree only to find yourself transported to another world with no way to return. The degree to which this is fleshed out is incredible.
The plot of the game follows a character known only as The Nameless One. TNO, as he is affectionately referred to by fans, awakes in a mortuary with no memory of anything, but that's not the strangest of his problems. The Nameless One cannot die. This is no Superman situation where he is impervious to everything but one special type of rock, nor is it a Highlander situation where he must have his head removed. Your character literally can not die in this game, not through plot nor gameplay. If you are in combat and your health reaches zero you pass out and awaken at the entrance to the current area. This isn't to say that he isn't impervious to pain, no matter how much it means that he can mutilate his body. Through the course of the game you can watch (or rather, read about) TNO removing parts of his body to replace them with more favorable ones, such as pulling his eye out and shoving a new one in.
The main story of the game follows TNO as he tries to discover his past as well as his identity, and the things you will see along the way are things that you will likely never see again in your life. A woman gave me her sentient teeth that I then shoved into the jaws of my floating skull companion, Morte. I met a woman who literally steals the desire from other people's bodies (isn't that always the way with women?) I helped a pregnant alley give birth. Simmer on that last one for a bit. All of these things, no matter how ridiculous they get, only accentuate the deep narrative that is being told here. You control this nameless man as he slowly regains his memories and struggles to discover why he continues to die, lose his memories, and wake up again. You meet so many great characters, each of whom is flawed in such a way that they are incredibly believable.
As I mentioned, this game can be played in such a way that combat becomes a very minor part of the game, to the point where you can go through it very rarely ever needing to pull out your weapon. This is thanks to the no less than three character stats that relate to your ability to talk to people. There is so much dialogue in this game it's almost ridiculous. It really does come off as an interactive book more than a traditional video game at times.
I really wish I could discuss all of the crazy things that happened in this game, but this is something that I feel people should really experience for their own. If you are a fan of rpg's or even just a good fantasy story then you owe it to yourself to give this old classic a shot. If just one person reads this at some point and decides "I think I'll give that old game a go" then this was well worth the effort to write it.