These past weeks, I’ve realized how incomplete my video gaming experience has been. Real time strategy, turn-based, action, sports, roleplaying – been there, done that. But I haven’t been giving one genre more attention: adventure games.
I realized my long-running mistake when I belatedly started playing The Longest Journey last month. The game might have a few years of dust on it, but within the first minute I was hooked, much more quickly than I’ve ever been with my traditional favorites (strategies, RPGs). And I think I know the reason why.
The strength of adventure games lies in their stories, their narratives, their worlds, their characters. Every great game, regardless of genre, boasts great stories, too, but it’s more evident in adventure titles. I’d like to cite one line from Wikipedia:
“Unlike many other game genres, the adventure genre’s focus on story allows it to draw heavily from other narrative-based media, such as literature and film.”
Above all, I’m a literary person, a writer, a poet. I’m a bibliophile on the verge of becoming a bibliomaniac. I’m a sucker for great stories, and this passion carries over to gaming. I’ve played many a shitty game that I diligently finished – whether by sheer determination or cheating – just to reach the end of the story.
I’ve wasted unnecessary hours doing every quest, looking for every secret level, poring over characters’ diaries and in-game lore, talking to every NPC over and over again…all because I want to squeeze every detail from the game world. When I finish and finally tuck the game in my CD bank, I want to have the same feeling I get when I finish a satisfying novel or poem.
I’ve only played a scant number of them, but my experience with The Longest Journey is enough to tell me: adventure games should’ve been in my play-to list a long, long time ago. I’d be the first to say that great RPGs like Baldur’s Gate and Might & Magic accomplish the same thing, but hey, there would’ve been no harm if I played both adventure and roleplaying games with the same level of enthusiasm all these years.
If I’m forced to give a reason why adventure games seem to be able to better portray a world than RPGs, here’s one: you, the player, are forced to absorb the world better. In adventure games, you tend to pay closer attention to hints within the dialogue, and you tend to scrutinize and point-and-click at every possible spot in the environment. RPGs usually give you tasks (‘FedEx quests’) which I always find fairly straightforward, with the purpose of building up your character before he/she meets the Big Bad Boss.
Sadly, adventure games have been overshadowed by action games, RPGs, and the hybrid action-adventure games (as game purists like to call them). Compared to these genres, adventure takes time. Adventure is, yes, slow.
Which is the way I like it, in this frenetic and chasing-after-others’-and-your-own-tail-as-well world.
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After I finish The Longest Journey (and get over my current addiction to Europa Universalis III), the adventure game I’m itching to play is TLJ’s sequel, Dreamfall, which has received positive criticism like its predecessor. Having a lovely protagonist in Zoe Castillo helps, too!
Aside from these two Funcom/Ragnar Tornquist productions, I’d like to try my hand on the fifth and final game in the revered Myst series – Myst V: End of Ages, designed by Rand Miller.
If those aren’t enough, I’ve got four more adventure games in my to-look-for list, and all of them come from one designer. His name is Benoit Sokal, who was originally a comic artist (which probably helped him visualize great worlds). The games have been critically acclaimed, and boy, do the graphics look sumptuous.
The first of Sokal’s masterpieces is Amerzone, where the player “takes the role of a journalist on a quest to help save a rare species of magical birds.” It was released way back in 1999, around the same time as The Longest Journey.
Second is Syberia, described as semi-realistic and semi-surrealistic. The game was released in 2002, and was followed by Syberia II two years later. As the game covers indicate, both games have, well, mammoths, which is, well, cool.
Last but not the least – the screenshots made me drool –
Let’s see how many of these games I’ll be able to finish before the year ends.