"Adventure games are dead!" It's a statement that has been hanging around the gaming industry for years now, like a foul smell that simply won't leave your two-bedroom apartment after the third week of pizza dinners in a row. The gaming media is partly to blame for this continual statement; it seems every outlet (MMGN included) has spewed forth countless articles that scream for the days of yonder when adventure games were front and centre of the gaming industry.
I understand that gamers LOVE to complain about every facet of their favourite pastime, but what we should be doing now is appreciating the present, and future direction of the adventure game genre. While adventure titles may not hold as much fanfare or critical acclaim as they did back in the mid 90's, there is no denying that the genre is back with a vengeance.
Telltale Games have managed to develop an extensive library of point-and-click adventure titles since they opened their doors in 2004. Comprised mainly of ex-LucasArts employees, the studio quickly gained a reputation for delivering tightly bound episodic content, based upon some of the world's most recognisable franchises. Back in 2004 is someone told me that a studio would attempt to develop a meaningful Back To The Future game, I would have laughed in their face. Fast-forward to 2012 and Telltale has not only delivered a fantastic "season" of Back To The Future adventures, but also managed to adapt Law & Order, Jurassic Park, Wallace & Gromit along with countless other existing franchises.
Anyone who has played the Telltale catalogue will have noticed a slight progression from classical P&C towards a new kind of adventure. Jurassic Park was the beginning of it, but their most recent series, The Walking Dead, is a perfect example of action adventures. Intense combat sequences handled via quicktime events, dramatic dialogue, weighted moral decisions and the general pace of the series creates a new and exciting feeling in the adventure genre that I haven't felt since playing Grim Fandango back in 1998.
While Telltale may be one of the big fish making changes to the adventure genre as we know it, you needn't delve very far into the waters of indie games to find some interesting takes on the classic formula. Just this year I've been privileged to play through two extremely innovative titles that take the classic adventure gameplay and add a few interesting mechanics to create something beautiful.
Intense combat sequences handled via quicktime events, dramatic dialogue, weighted moral decisions and the general pace of the series creates a new and exciting feeling in the adventure genre that I haven't felt since playing Grim Fandango
HOME is a fantastic example of indie developers taking the adventure genre and throwing a spanner in the works to create something fresh and exciting. Developed solely by Benjamin Rivers, this adventure game has players collecting items and examining evidence to discover who they are, where they are, and how they can find their way home. While that may not sound revolutionary, the game fails to include any kind of useable inventory, and players decisions will have an effect on the outcome.
The end of the title is where it truly innovates however. Players are largely left in the dark until the final moments when everything starts to come together, but then Rivers turns it around on the player and leaves you wondering what the hell just happened. You are presented with a laundry list of of outcomes based upon your actions and evidence found, and then you are simply offered a website. Following that website you can share your own theory as to what "actually happened," and be entertained by literally thousands of crack-pot ideas coming from other gamers who are just as confused as yourselves. It's bold, it's fresh and it's something we've never seen in the genre before.
Wadjet Eye Games have been releasing successful adventures for the past few years, however their latest release, Resonance, is without a doubt their most ambitious project to date. Instead of sticking with the one or two playable characters, the studio went with four very different characters, from very different situations, whose actions eventually cause them all to meet through twists of fate leading up to a catastrophic event. Not only is it novel to have four playable characters, many of them with different strengths and weaknesses and present during each other's company, but the developers also included a vastly different mechanic that was simply brilliant.
Memories, sweet and wonderful memories. During the course of the game you can place game items and conversations into your Short Term and Long Term Memories, allowing you to call on them at later points in the game to gain access to certain conversation trees, remember vital pieces of information and recount glorious tails of success and failure. It's like a secondary inventory, crafted entirely for items in the game world and your own personal gaming experience.
It's advancements like this that truly show how much hope there is for the once dying genre. With Tim Schafer on the horizon with another adventure game, Telltale announcing a second season of The Walking Dead before the first has even ended, indie titles such as Hoodwinked and countless others on the horizon, adventure gaming has never looked brighter.
Sure, the spectrum of an adventure game may have stepped outside of the confines created in the late 80's, but is that really such a bad thing?
By Stephen Heller - Bio