Game revivals, reboots, spiritual successors… oh my?

When I saw the news that Baldur’s Gate will be getting an expansion, I nodded like a Gandalf.

As a gamer who loves and supports old-school titles, I have no reason to not approve of it. It’s a logical next step after BG’s Enhanced Edition, and keeps that refresh from becoming just another prettification. It’s another lease of life for a towering RPG classic many modern gamers may shun solely on account of it having fewer pixels than Uncharted 4.

Now here comes a massive update for Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. In the same month. One can’t help thinking the age of classic revivals – or, more cynically, a rising tide of nostalgia plays by devs – is at hand.

As I acknowledged before, it works either way. I’m sure even folks who have a lot less time for gaming these days would appreciate what Beamdog and Aspyr are doing – it might even inspire some to squeeze a little nostalgia gaming time back into their timetables. Which may lead to more – revival begetting revival.

The devs’ real audience, though, ought to be the uninitiated. We’re talking a brand new market of gamers, weaned on mainstream MMOs and gorgeous single-player RPGs like the BioWare stuff. Capturing that huge share of the gamer market would be a coup.

With the blasts to the past rising like Bane’s ultimately hypothetical fire, I find myself distinguishing revivals, like Dragonspear and the KOTOR II patch, from spiritual successors like Pillars of Eternity, and reboots like the upcoming Doom.

Reboots, of course, have been the in-thing for quite a while. I’m glad to see that while Hollywood botches them all the time, game devs seem to have a better track record at getting it right – XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Shadowrun Returns, and God knows how many else, and now we have more reborn legends like Unreal Tournament and BattleTech to watch for. Which begs the question of why two creative camps, working on products so closely related, end up with results so dissimilar.

As for spiritual successors, there’s not much to say. They are, for all practical purposes, their own games. Yes, ‘spiritual successor’ is a powerful sell, at least for me. But I always, always remind myself to judge each one on its own merits. (The ‘how well it imitates the past’ part has its own section in my mental review form.) Something I have great difficulty doing for films, incidentally!

But what of revivals? What if this is the fate of the classics – to be resuscitated and remarketed to a new generation?

I don’t doubt there are those who disapprove of what amounts to game necromancy. Don’t tamper with the legacy of a great game. Let it rest in the mausoleum of memory, in the honored halls of history. Et cetera.

Well, I do not count myself among them. Old is gold. And any effort to share the glories of the past with today’s masses can only be lauded. Whether folks can endure the ‘horror of the pixels’ is another matter.

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2 Responses to “Game revivals, reboots, spiritual successors… oh my?”

  1. I am currently very torn about the FF7-remake thing, although it’s been coming for decades. In a way it’s great that awesome games come back for a new audience but there’s also such a thing as butchering a title. I don’t know…..I guess it mostly concerns me when I really worship a title. ;) But you’re quite right, wider access is goooood.

    • Oh, right – how did I forget to mention FF7 redux! And here I was hoping Crisis Core would be the end of it… but as the moldy old joke goes, there is no final Final Fantasy.

      And true, people’s perceptions of game necromancy are shaped by their own experiences with a game. With my own buddies, it’s that plus their casual natures: they were FF7 freaks back in school, and they have absolutely no issue with the remake because hell, more FF7 can’t be bad, right?

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