The thing that makes adventure games so appealing, at least to me, is exploring and uncovering the unknown. If a story can make me want to enjoy something I’m already familiar with, so much the better. Games like Tomb Raider, Legend of Zelda, and Assassin’s Creed all have a place in my heart because they’ve given me stories not by simply telling them to me. Instead, I’ve needed to uncover them, and the process of discovery is the best part of those stories.
Here are my top E3 2013 picks from the adventure genre.
Be a Witness
The Order: 1886 would have been my first choice, but there are two main reasons The Witness beats it out. First, the story reminds me a little too much about a lesser known steampunk novel, Whitechapel Gods, except there’s more guns and less hopelessness. Second, and most importantly, The Witness is fucking colorful.
While the whole “games are grey and brown deal with it” argument stands, seeing a game with bright colors that invites you to actually enjoy them immediately gets my attention. The trailer begins with a huge pallet of oranges, and the whole range of ROYGBIV follows close behind. The Order looked like a whole lot of grey (London at the time probably was), and there were steampunk weapons, making it seem like less adventure and more “here’s some monsters shoot them.” That Witness put so much emphasis on color makes me happy, even though they continue revealing gameplay elements later. In a gaming landscape of increasing dullness, if you can stand out from the crowd visually, that’s just one giant hurdle you needn’t jump.
Even the gameplay itself looked very colorful, from the puzzles to their results, the world and story. Over-saturation is only a problem if it’s contrary to the gameplay, and in the case of The Witness, contrary is the last word I’d use. Much like Far Cry 3, color in Witness serves to illuminate the beauty of the environment in which we live. But unlike Ubisoft’s offering, Witness is sometimes about beauty for the sake of beauty, and that’s okay. If the trailer’s anything to go by, the player is the only person on the island, its previous inhabitants vanished for some mysterious, but I doubt sinister, reason. Your job is to understand not only their absence, but their way of life and the reason for the puzzles they left behind.
Finally, the fact that the story reveals itself as the player explores could not be more apt. Dear Esther was much the same, but that game was morose and sometimes depressing, in story and aesthetic. While there will certainly be darker places with less happiness to them, I’d imagine such locales exist to give the world depth of character, and show that there’s never one dimension to anything. Adventure games should be about more than just the discovery of one thing or another. It should be an adventure for the player in both a story and theoretical sense. One without the other, for me, makes for a poor game.
Follow the Second Son
Infamous was one of my favorite PS3 games of all time, and before its spiritual sequel, Second Son, releases, I intend to play Infamous 2 on the PS4 (through the streaming service or whatever it is). What makes Second Son interesting, however, is its main character’s ideals of resistance and his contrast to Cole as a character. Where Cole didn’t fully embrace what his powers offered him until late in the game, this new protagonist seems all to willing to use them. Better still, it isn’t an increasing number of other superpowered people he’s fighting against. Rather, he’s taken the role of freedom fighter, going straight for the authorities he might blame for his own powers.
Without much beyond a cinematic trailer to go on, I can only hope that Second Son retains the “gamey” nature of the first two games. Tomb Raider 2013 fails because the story and exploration segments differ greatly in tone and pacing. Infamous embraced that there are extra objectives and when possible wove them into the story. The fact it’s a true open world certainly doesn’t hurt, and that the main character isn’t being constantly injured just because the developers are masochists.
That Sucker Punch is maintaining the whole “there’s an evil corporation that might help you if you let it” angle is good too. Moira wasn’t the most likable character, but she gave you an initial foe oppose. I don’t particularly want to see the Big Monster thing come back, or the whole time travel schtick, but I won’t say I didn’t enjoy them. Most of all, I want to have a new set of powers that don’t involve shocky shocky. Teleportation as a mass of noxious gas sounds a lot more fun.
Who watches the Watch_Dogs?
For me, there was no contest between Watch_Dogs and AC$: Black Flag. Pirates are cool and all, but I think WD’s main character sounds a lot more interesting. He also looks like he’ll be gigglingly fun to control, and not just because of the whole “hack everything” concept. If the game can pull of Deus Ex-like freedom of engagement with or without hacking, I’ll be satisfied.
The curious part about WD is the actual story bit. Sure, we have a near-future world, an open city to explore and tons of people to make no-longer-doing-evil-stuff, but who’s the real threat here? The most obvious answer is the whole cyber-network itself, but Ubisoft seem too good for that easy way out. While Vaas from Far Cry 3 was a fairly easy enemy to face and overcome, what is the main character of Watch_Dogs actually planning to achieve? Revealing the decadence and mismanagement of a powerful system, or is there someone/something that’s wronged him and that drives him to act? Or, most deliciously, is there something in himself he fears, and is the story all an internal shell game to keep that fear buried?
Regardless of the answers, WD’s multiplayer sounds almost as intriguing as its single player portion. Again, I don’t know much about it, but it seems like a mix of Assassin’s Creed and something completely new. My assumption is it’s a lot like the single player, but in a more confined space. New players enter and leave at a whim, each with the intension to take as much as they can before they’re spotted. The cat and mouse of AC mixed with hacking puzzles and more free-flowing combat will be quite the sight to see, and if it competes with Blacklist and BF4, I won’t need to buy another game for months.
Did I not mention your pick of the litter? Yell at me in the comments below with what you’re really looking forward to.