In the last 25 years, video games have changed a lot. As the machines we play on have grown, so have the games themselves. Many games people remember fondly are almost unplayable by today’s standards. With the amount of modern takes on classic games coming to the market in the last few years, it’s interesting to look back on the games they were based on. Today, I’m going to look at how we viewed the originals and how we play their newest iterations. Many developers try to reach the more “mainstream” gaming crowd by streamlining their titles – undoubtedly a good business decision, but many fans of the originals were left frustrated. So how do you strike the balance of maintaining the classic feel and bringing modern changes that new players expect? There’s no easy answer, but many games have tried. Let’s have a look at some of the more successful examples, shall we?
Doom is a name that carries weight with anyone who has even a cursory knowledge of gaming. A game that is genre defining, it’s almost impossible to have a discussion of this kind without bringing it up. The difference between the original Doom and the newest edition is physically dramatic – 20+ years has built a beautiful game. But, more importantly, how has the gameplay aged? Doom was originally a fast paced FPS with crazy weapons. It had you murdering some terrifying demons in explosive fashion, and the whole thing dripped with style. Almost nothing has changed, and that is in itself hugely significant. In between the first Doom and the latest, the FPS scene has had titan after titan come and go. With names like Call of Duty and Battlefield setting the benchmark for how these games play out in both singleplayer and multiplayer, it’s almost refreshing to return to a world of health packs and power-ups. While Doom borrowed some modern ideas like weapon upgrades, most of it feels like a throwback to yesteryear. But how does it hold up? As it turns out, amazingly well. The more arcade-y feel attracted new and old players of the franchise, and there weren’t many who left disappointed.
The Elder Scrolls
4 years ago a game was released that will undoubtedly find a place in the history books. A game so universally loved it’s been released on every platform bar mobile phones, and on many of them twice. I’m talking, of course, about Skyrim. I feel like I have to preface this by saying I am going to be talking about the unmodded version of this Elder Scrolls game – anyone who has access to the fan made content knows this game is truly endless. Now, Skyrim is the 5th in the Elder Scrolls universe, which started back in 1994 with a game called Arena. Comparing the two, however, is a near impossible task – too much has changed. In fact, if you ask fans of Morrowind (the 3rd game in the series) you may find that many say the same thing – Skyrim is just too different. Sure, it’s still a first person open world RPG, but Bethesda pioneered a new set of rules for it. The simplicity of Skyrim in comparison to the complexity of its predecessors meant that fun was always right there to be had. Fans of the older games, however, found themselves quickly bored by a myriad of issues. They felt the game suffered – there were things the older games had done better, or at least to a level they found more gratifying. Some hated the new leveling system, others the storyline. There are threads in community forums dedicated to complaining about the quest markers alone. But I’m not sure that Bethesda are too concerned – considering it is one of the most popular games of all time, I think they hit their sweet spot.
Fallout started out its life as a turn-based isometric RPG. By the time its third installment was finally released, it had shifted developers and become a 1st person FPS RPG. This change, among others, divided fans of the series. While many were frustrated with the change in viewpoint, feeling it was unnecessary, others felt that the quality of the writing declined significantly. The disappointed were in the minority, however, and most loved exploring the capital wasteland. The huge variety of quests kept people busy for hundreds of hours, and the dynamic nature of the world drove replay value through the roof. Fallout 4 was announced with even more changes – a fully voiced playable character was revealed to the confusion of many. Gone was the long list of conversation options, replaced with the dreaded “conversation wheel” that boiled down to 4 options – be nice, be mean, be sarcastic, and “more information”. That, combined with some curious quest direction, left even fans of the newer games frustrated and disappointed.
Torment: Tides of Numenera
Planescape: Torment was released 18 years ago. It was a game that stood unashamedly apart from the masses. An RPG that was heavy on brilliant writing and extremely light on combat, it was best known for being closer to a book than a game. A few days ago, its spiritual successor Torment: Tides of Numenera was released. I’ve been playing it almost non-stop, and I have to say – it’s like almost nothing has changed. The graphical facelift was inevitable, but beyond that there’s nothing that would look out of place in 1999. Its isometric style, lovingly crafted world, and million lines of text are all a delight. While it remains to be seen how modern gamers feel about this ode to a classic (I’ve heard mixed reviews), the style remains as fun and playable as ever.