Thu 8 Jan 2009
2008 was an interesting year for adventure games, but none of the new releases I played was truly groundbreaking. The adventure game scene seems to be still heavily marred by the desperate struggles to get funding and publishing deals and then to make the freshly assembled teams and engines work. Even such “sure bets” of current adventure gaming as A Vampyre Story and Gray Matter suffered from flimsy marketing (GM), shameful bugs (AVS) and huge delays in production (both).
Germany is the biggest source for new titles in the genre now. However, there are very few of their newest games that I would wholeheartedly recommend from my experiences. Overclocked from fall 2007 is one of those few due to its mature themes, well realized atmosphere, and a bit different approach to storytelling.
During 2008 I was very interested in three other promising-looking German titles (still without English releases as of now), but unfortunately… The demo for the supposed dark horse Edna bricht aus (Edna & Harvey) left me hardly impressed. The demo for Sunrise (full version released in Germany by the end of 2007 actually) – a game with an intriguing, different approach to solving problems in adventure games – proved to be almost unplayable. Finally, Hal Barwood’s developed in Germany Mata Hari has gathered very disappointing opinions. I’m curious how the full versions of those games will be judged in other countries.
The continuous growth of the indie scene is encouraging, but many of these productions tend to copy the gameplay and storytelling techniques from classic titles a bit too much. Some indies that gained recognition I’ve found simply dull (Dirty Split) or feeling artificial and unpleasant (Everybody Dies). The long awaited Broken Sword 2.5 despite high production values has proven to be typical fan fiction stitched together out of homages to the original and without much value in itself. Ultimately, the definite highlight indie game of the year was Mental Repairs Inc. (click for my review). At the moment I’m trying out the very intriguing A Second Face*.
In addition to those freeware indies, the commercial, episodic game Casebook made an interesting comeback to FMV with a brand new technology that could challenge the revered 3D polygons. Another big commercial indie event was Limbo of The Lost – in June the whole game-journalism world reacted with both distaste and excitement to the unbelievable scandal it has generated.
The 2008 game for which I had the greatest expectations (accumulated throughout the years) was A Vampyre Story. Yet the game that became my favorite of 2008 is Insecticide: Part 1. Coincidentally, both were created by LucasArts veterans that now have companies of their own. You’ll find my reviews of both games as well as interviews I conducted with their creators and even more articles devoted to 2008 games on my publications page (or you can click on the box art images).
Other potential greats that I didn’t manage to play yet (besides demos): Sublustrum (Outcry), Dracula 3: Sleeping Dragon, Tale of a Hero**, The Lost Crown
Let’s hope that the various designers and developers that seen new releases in 2008 have emerged from their work more experienced, still passionate about the genre, and ready for new adventury ventures. And that 2009 will bring us closer to the quality of the golden days of adventure gaming.
*UPDATE (16.02.2009): A Second Face has been nominated in 15 categories in the annual AGS Awards and ultimately snatched three of them (including for best game and best story)!
**UPDATE (27.02.2009): My review of Tale of a Hero can be read here and the game has beaten Insecticide in my personal 2008 ranking.