In Part 1 of my salute to Adventure gaming, we took a look back at some of my favorite moments in the genre; the ones I feel helped define the genre as it is. This week, I want to take a look at the newest wave of adventures. There are two schools when it comes to the viability of genre. There are those that feel that the market has changed, and that the core user base of adventure games is either no longer interested or too small to sustain itself. Then there are those that feel that this perception is a mistake; that the audience is there, but the quality titles aren't being produced. It's a bit of a "catch 22" because this perception is an obstacle preventing higher budget adventure games from getting produced.
However, there are developers who want to buck this trend. While major publishers aren't putting their investment dollars behind adventure games, independent developers are picking up the slack and there's a number of recent and upcoming entries in the genre that show more promise than anything we've seen in quite a while.
The much anticipated sequel to the 1999 smash The Longest Journey, Dreamfall's creators are proudly declaring it the next generation of adventure games. While still proudly touting the adventure label, Funcom has ruffled a few feathers when they announced that Dreamfall will include action elements, and even combat, which is generally so frowned upon by purists.
This new sequel is still squarely focused on environment and character interaction, with combat being a part of this dynamic world, and not a focus on gameplay. Dreamfall will not have players clobbering cloned thugs as they roam about, but will simply be given the option to brawl their way our of sticky situations. It will also feature the kind of lavish production values that have been slowly making their way back into adventure games with lushly detailed 3D character and environments. We will be watching Dreamfall closely as it approaches it's completion in Spring.
Developer Quantic Dream has revived the concept of "interactive cinema" for their sophomore effort. Indigo Prophecy is very much an adventure game, but benefits from some lavish production values and slick, cinematic presentation to help draw players into its story, a dark and violent thriller about a man possessed to murder against his will.
It's a fresh take on the genre and should please many purists as well as newcomers. Indigo Prophecy has the real potential to be a mainstream success. Vivendi dropped the title from their lineup last year, but Atari jumped in to bail out their countrymen and the title has been experiencing strong sales in Europe.
Adventure gaming's greatest success story draws to a close. After slowly declining sales, Myst originators Cyan Worlds return to helm the series conclusion.
Since Cyan has been away, the series has not done much evolving and for the 5th outing, Myst moves into a fully 3D world, complete with free 3D movement. But Myst V promises to be as much of a back-to-roots experience as a step forward as Cyan promises to try to recapture some of what made the original stronger than its sequels in the eyes of many.
Newcomer Talltale games takes a fresh approach to the "problem" with the release of their first major title, Bone. Based on Jeff Smith's classic comic series, Bone moves to a new distribution format which is creating a lot of buzz. Bone will be released in small "episodes" which will be sold using an online distribution method at a bargain price. This allows Telltale to feature new content on a very regular basis. Bone also marks a return to lighthearted subject matter, as well as a classic point-and-click interface, but features a fully 3D world and characters. Bone and the format it pioneers show a great deal of promise.
Sam and Max:
Telltale Games recently announced their partnership with series creator Steve Purcell to revive the classic dog and lagomorph duo for a new series of adventures. The games will follow Bone's episodic format and distribution model, and will likely share technology as well. Telltale's staff worked on the cancelled 2004 Sam and Max: Freelance Police, and the yet-unnamed series will give the staff a chance to avenge themselves and prove the viability of the franchise and the genre.
A Vampyre Story:
The LucasArts veterans at Autumn Moon Entertainment have put the revival of the adventure game in their mission statement. Their first title, A Vampyre Story, looks to be an uncompromised update of the classic adventure, featuring lavishly illustrated 2D backgrounds, and a cartoony style reminiscent of yesteryear's greats.
Clearly AME does not believe the genre is in need of revision, and purists around the globe will surely delight in what they have to offer. Whether they are able to connect with the broader audience remains to be seen, but one can't help but anticipate the results.
Broken Sword 4:
Not a lot is known yet about Broken Sword 4, but already it's riding high as one of the most anticipated games for adventure diehards. Its mere existence as a reaction to the success of the recent third installment is a refreshing reminder of the commercial viability of the game.
The latest adventure from Frogwares promises to be a progressive one. Inspired by Jules Verne's classic novel, 80 Days follows an original protagonist, Oliver, in his race to circumnavigate the globe. Its world is fully realized in nicely detailed 3D, and its gameplay is supposed to mark a new era for the developers, promising to shy away from the rigid puzzle structure and scavenger hunt nature of most adventure games. 80 Days is showing a great deal of promise, but we'll see if it can deliver when it launches in late October.
Tony Tough: A Rake's Progress
Tony Tough was a game that I heard nothing but praise for, but never even saw on a store shelf. Developer Prograph is banking on the critical praise and cult following that the first game had to bring better success to its new sequel.
A Rake's Progress doesn't hope to turn the genre upside down. Like the first game it doesn't look to fix what isn't broken. Pre-rendered backgrounds mesh with nicely detailed 3D models and a point and click interface to deliver a classic, lighthearted, and humor based adventure game, which is more than enough to delight longtime fans. Whether it will be able to find its audience this time around remains to be seen, but traditionalists will surely delight in it.
Next time we'll talk with a few developers involved with adventures past and present for some perspective on where the genre is going and where it's been to wrap up our salute the adventure.