Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The Humble Bundle: Revenge of the RPG

So another Humble Indie Bundle is out now.

You've probably heard of the concept, but if not, it's a bundle of four or five games that you can purchase for multiple platforms (this one will give you Android 2 and Windows/Mac/Linux versions), and you get to choose the price you pay. It's a great way to get in touch with what's coming out of the indie game studios, and one thing I'm particularly interested in with this bundle is the Ultima-style RPG Avadon - The Black Fortress. I've been playing the demo and am just about to purchase the bundle so I can get the whole thing. It's old school, certainly, but on the other hand it appears to be working towards dealing with the issues I have with modern RPGs. FFXIII was terrible - it wasn't so much a game as a journey with a decent scenic route.  Dragon Age 2 fell off a cliff, seemingly looking for a totally different audience from the first game (which was very good and possibly the last great computer RPG I've seen).  And I just can't stomach Mass Effect at all after the first one managed to be so incredibly dull in spite of having all the right tools and a setting that really appealed to me.  Skyrim I enjoy but its story is sorely lacking, to the point that the big showdown at the end of the main quest felt less dramatic than any of the plethora of random encounters which occur when going for a walk.  That's what I miss most about the genre - the great stories that did not take a back seat to polygons and cut scenes. I'm not deep enough into Avadon to know yet whether or not the story is great, but from the reviews I've read it seems to be a strong point of the game, and what's enjoyable so far is that I'm in a Game of Thrones style world where I have to make decisions that actually seem to matter and have genuine moral weight to them. It's not so simple as choosing red or blue to know whether murdering everything in the room is evil or not. It does involve a fair bit of reading, though, and with the 90s-era graphics and no real soundtrack to speak of, I can see where a modern gamer might not be thrilled by it.

Still, I've complained long enough about RPGs not getting it right anymore. I have serious reservations about the direction of the gaming industry in general - too much flash, too much concentration on multiplayer, and far too high expectations for graphic and sound production that prevents anybody taking any risks and doing something new. This is a game from a studio that's at least trying to do things the way I'd like - forget spending millions of dollars and thousands of work hours on the graphics, let's get the story and gameplay working. So I'm putting my money where my mouth is and recommending it. And the bundle benefits not only developers, but the Child's Play charity and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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