Kotaku, that benighted oracle of all things game, has given to us a prophesy concerning the big RPGs of E3.
Prophecy is, of course, a staple of RPG storytelling. If those trope-filled monstrosities are to be believed, every orphaned farmboy, scullion, and hard-nosed street kid is the subject of an ancient prophecy (never a recent or middle-aged one) that destines him to save the world from a comically-oversized villain.
The hard thing about prophecy is that it is a one-shot gig. If one is right, then one is divine and infallible. And woe to the prophet that bats .500. If one is wrong, however, then one is false and usually liable to civil authorities for fraud. One might even spend the later years of his life at sea, unwelcome on land due to his contacts among the spacefaring races, as well as for the necromancy of John Travolta’s career.
So it is with trepidation that I consult such an oracle, due to the inherently shifty and fractious nature of prophecy. Still, I would be remiss if I did not at least attempt to inform my constant readers of the upcoming events in RPG-land.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Many of you young’uns will not remember the original Deus Ex. The title is nonsense, of course. “God of?” That is not a complete title. It is like Final Fan or Dragon Que. Nomenclatural mishaps aside, the hybrid FPS/action game with RPG elements captured the imaginations of a generation of gamers. It holds the title of “Best PC Game of All Time,” according to PC Gamer magazine. I recall it mostly for having Governor Schwarzenegger on the cover, and being nearly alone in my desire not to play it. In my defense, this was during my “if there is no sword, no sale” phase of gaming, and I was busy trying to sneak in Everquest or The Realm hours on a dial-up connection.
Such an august legacy, however, cannot go unmolested, apparently. The cacodemons at Square, having absorbed and assimilated Eidos, have decided to revive their old property in a new and even more terrifying rendition. I have in my mind visions of endless tunnels, filled with bad cyberpunk storylines about neuro-implants or mirror shades or whatnot. Listen, kids, cyberpunk began with William Gibson’s Neuromancer and ended with Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. If one’s name is not Richard Morgan, one simply does not do cyberpunk any more. Square, especially in light of recent vilification from myself and others, is certainly not the one I would entrust with attempting to take a beloved cyberpunk property and do it justice, but since they have stolen the soul of Eidos like some sort of developer-cum-vampire, well, this is what we get. Tunnel-based Deus Ex. These are the wages of our sins.
I have touched on this one before, but mostly because I have lost all faith in the Wii as a platform. I will have my readers know that I stood out in the cold darkness of a Waco, Texas Toys ‘R Us parking lot before law school to obtain one. Twilight Princess and Metroid gave me hope that the platform might mature into something respectable. Alas, it did not, and I ended up spending prize money from a mock trial I won on a PS3. Best. Reward. Ever.
Xenoblade, on the other hand, looks like it has promising visuals. As long as the controls are natural and organic, I think this one actually has potential. I am looking forward to E3 coverage of this game, because I am hoping it will show off some sort of active, non-menu based combat and a storyline that experiments with JRPG conventions, rather than repackages them. I might have to dust off my Wii controllers. Might.
Dungeon Siege III
Oh look! A Dungeon Siege game is coming out during the same time frame as a Diablo game. How… terrible.
Lord of the Rings: War In The North
A Elbereth Gilthoniel! I confess, I am a bit of a Tolkien geek. As in, I took a course in Quenya and Sindarin when I was in college. As in, I often find myself correcting people’s bad tengwar tattoos. So this one titillates and excites me: a respected studio with experience doing popular intellectual properties right by turning them into hack ‘n slash RPGs? Exciting battles between the realms of men against the forces of Melkor, who is called Morgoth? THIS ONE SHALL PASS.
The only thing that could possibly ruin this game would be some sort of annoying mechanic, like stepping in water and dying. That would suck. Unless players are given the ability to be Nazgul, in which case, it makes perfect sense. The undead hate bathing.
Hunted: The Demon’s Forge
And the award for “most cryptic title” goes to… Seriously, I have no idea what is going on with this game. But that title… why would a demon need a forge? How does hunting factor in?
The game, on the other hand, appears to be a rather by-the-numbers dungeon crawl, complete with characters lifted out of Big Bob’s Stereotypical Guide To Fairyland and Other Creatures of Yore. But those graphics! They redefine “sexy graphics.” However, it comes from Bethesda, and I have been burned before by this Elder Scrolls-pimping developer. Oblivion was a yucky mess.
Still, it looks like it has promising cooperative play, hopefully either local or online, and will be a solid and respectable entry in the hack ‘n slash category. After literal years of no decent hack ‘n slasher, it is about time we got our hands on one. Too Human, for all its promise, was a disappointment, and Blizzard is taking their sweet, sweet time with my Diablo III. Torchlight stands out as a dark horse hit, but it is also relatively short.
We will not speak of this.
Golden Sun DS and Dragon Quest IX
We close out our discussion with a couple of handheld titles. For those of you young enough to be getting off my lawn, the original Golden Sun was a throwback to the beauty of the 16-bit era for the Gameboy Advance, a system most of my readers will have seen only in a museum, so I am hoping its DS update dispenses with Nintendo’s usual “touch-screen” gimmicks and just keeps a fun and engaging 16-bit style.
That is exactly what I expect from Dragon Quest IX, however… and yet, that worries me. Dragon Quest‘s gameplay was never exactly stellar. It was often grindy and needlessly repetitive. The 16-bit era of Dragon Quest is not nostalgic, it is something best improved upon. And improved upon hard.
That is what I hope we get out of these DS titles — an update of the good and an improvement of the bad.
I have purposefully not looked at reviews of the import game for this reason: any fan dedicated enough to get their hands on a Japanese version and play it may not be the most objective. Still, there is not much longer to wait, and then I will have the opportunity to see for myself, prophecy be damned.
All in all, it is a mixed bag of the good, the bad, and the Fable III. If any of these interest you (or the others discussed by Kotaku), I suggest you keep abreast of E3 coverage. And with the term “abreast,” I have provided Jen the perfect segue for her post.