Thursday, 20 March 2014
Eisenhorn The Video Game - Thoughts and Warning Signs
Well, here's something no one ever thought would happen.
Someone is adaptation Dan Abnett's Eisenhorn trilogy to video game format. Reactions have been skeptical at best and extremely pessimistic at worst, mostly the latter, and there is good reason for this.
Often considered to be one of, if not the, greatest series set in any Warhammer universe, it has a solid plot and great characters. Following the story of Inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn, the trilogy depicted his initial successes and later downfall. Becoming far less of the puritan warrior he had begun as and descending into a staunch radicalist who freely used daemonic servants to do his bidding.
Now, the video game industry has seen a good deal of highly acclaimed literature adaptations of late. The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, and similar episodic games are all extremely well known. The reasons we might be concerned is that the big successes, those previously mentioned, have all come from Telltale Games. They have constantly followed the same style of gameplay, stuck to the same genres, and most importantly stuck to to comics to adapt. These had visuals to work from, a type of story which could be easily turned into a video game because of that.
Eisenhorn is a novel, its worlds formed out of words and stylistic descriptions, but there's even bigger problems beyond this. Unlike either of the examples above, the world was presented in first person. You saw everything through the protagonist's eyes and knew his exact thoughts.
This cannot be translated into a video game no matter how skilled the team behind it.
We could also talk about how the choices would impact upon the game or the problems there, but this isn't the case here. No, what we have isn't a graphic adventure title like the successes above. What we have here is an action adventure game being developed for mobile by a studio with little to no experience.
Oh God-Emperor help us.
The reason to start running screaming for the hills is due to a number of things. Firstly, following THQ's bankruptcy, Games Workshop has begun doing what they did best: Whoring out the licence to whoever could produce them a quick buck with the lowest quality. That may sound harsh, but bare in mind the last developer who brought us a Warhammer game was the same one who spawned Ride to Hell: Retribution. What they created is as bad and cheap as you'd expect.
The others have done very little to engender much faith and the same goes here. Many have yet to create any game of note or, in many cases, an actual retail game with any critical acclaim. The closest we have gotten is Cyanide Studios who, much as we may love them, do not have the best of track records when it comes to quality assurance.
Unfortunately the developers behind this adaptation are no better. Pixel Hero Games is barely known, have done little to truly prove themselves and, to date, have only produced one game. Actually no, they've only produced one episode of a game - Spiral Episode 1. One which was released for free on mobile. While the developers themselves state it was highly acclaimed, and indeed Metacritic showed some positive feedback, it was also barely played by anyone. Few to no truly big name websites like Giant Bomb, Eurogamer or anyone else covered this so it's a little hard to truly gauge how effective the title was.
Even accepting the idea that they could get this right there are a large number of problems.
Foremost among these are the limitations of the platform, as mobile games are hardly seen as the highest calibre of gaming. They are often very limited, short and suffer from a multitude of flaws such as lack of controls or poor responses. In fairness though, what was seen in their gameplay trailer looked pretty damn good, so this is only a minor concern.
What isn't such a minor issue is that their upcomming game is not promoted as Xenos Episode 1, instead it's simply Xenos. The book covered several years of Eisenhorn's life and several major plot threads, all of which look like they would be condensed to hell and back. Admittedly this could be for a much larger game than their last installment, but Xenos is apparently going to see release sometime next year. This is nowhere near the development time needed for a game of such massive scale.
The other problem is budget and tone. The book features massive conflicts with armies as much as it does investigative work, and multiple action scenes which make the finale from Avengers look like a playground scuffle. It also has an extremely dark tone, to the point where Eisenhorn is forced to leave a woman suffocating and freezing to death in order to capture a murderer, something which would give him nightmares for the rest of his life. Bare this in mind as you see this other trailer for Spiral.
Oh dear. It just screams "Abandon all hope ye fans of Abnett!" doesn't it.
These would all be bad enough were this just a common or garden Warhammer novel being adapted like Blood Gorgons or Wrath of Iron, but the Citizen Kane of 40K? Pixel Hero Games will need to hit the million dollar mark to satisfy fans and all of this points towards disappointment. What's here isn't quite enough reason to completely abandon all hope, but things certainly look grim at the moment. There are countless things which could all too easily go wrong here and, with so much at risk, it's honestly hard to see anything which can do the source material justice being produced.
Expect more on this as news develops.