I’m going to be totally honest here and say that as much as it’s supposedly a part of the subculture, I’ve never much cared for Lord of the Rings. This isn’t a case like Star Wars, where I think the thing as a whole is undeserving of praise; J.R.R. Tolkien seems to have been a fantastic guy, he wrote one of my all-time favorite fantasy novels (The Hobbit), and he did sort of kick of an entire genre. It’s not his fault that later fantasy writers have resorted to making thin pastiches of his original work, and while it is his fault that he found heroic sagas way more interesting than I do, that’s… not really a “fault” thing.
But it’s really, really difficult to make a game set in that universe, despite its popularity. We’ve gotten a lot of magnificent games in the universe already, sure, but this is a unique project insofar as every successful one makes each subsequent one that much harder. We should be thankful for what we have so far, but it’s getting harder to fit in more stuff.
I am as fond of anyone as saying that maybe something isn’t necessarily for you. Which is a great message to internalize until something is for you and it still blows.
The problem with the idea of “it’s not for you” is that it can easily becomes some sort of precautionary principle that shields a game or a book or a movie or whatever from any top-level criticism. If you think that the Game of Thrones series is awash in unveiled misogyny and way too many gratuitous bare breasts, well, it’s not for you. On the flip side, you could also be complaining that it’s a fantasy piece with a lot of swearing and no clear heroes or villains, which… kind of does merit the “not for you” defense.
Point being, the whole thing is a fuzzy area. But there are a few pretty firm signs that someone is complaining about something that isn’t for them or something that is, in fact for them and just not doing a very good job of it.
2014 is just about fading in our collective cultural rear-view mirror, and to that I say “fuck along.” This year has been sort of terrible, after all. But as this blog was started/revived/whatever in March, it’s been around long enough that I do not have immunity to the contractual requirement that you have to do some sort of year-in-review piece. On the plus side, at least I don’t have to cast a vote for game of the year.
I probably should, but I didn’t play all of the games this year, so whatever.
So let’s look back at the collection of broken bottles and drunken notes that encapsulate 2014 and talk about them in hindsight, a hindsight heavily filtered by the fact that pretty much no one wants to remember this year and that I have a terrible time remembering when things actually happened. Seriously, I still think Lost premiered recently. I am not well-suited to retrospectives for precisely that reason.
Remake. The term strikes fear into the hearts of all, because you know you’re in for a ride as soon as you hear it, and it might not be a good one. Someone has decided that your favorite movie or game or show needs to be recreated completely, because for whatever reason the original just isn’t good enough any more.
To be utterly fair, if you’re looking at your favorite stuff with a critical eye, this is frequently accurate. Your favorite stuff is not sacrosanct, and there are times when it completely deserves a redo to be more accessible or just plain better. My affection for older games does not render them immune to the ravages of technology, and bringing them up to date both graphically and mechanically could do wonders for several. I’d love to see the original Phantasy Star games brought together into a fully remade form, for example.
Yet for every great remake in any medium, there are some truly atrocious ones. So let’s look at what can be done with remakes, the tiers that can be aspired to, from the worst to the best.