Today is Saint Patrick's day. Today, everyone will be Irish, everyone will wear green, everyone will dream of kissing the blarney stone. For me, it will be the realization of a long-held dream to one day visit the island and touch a small piece of my heritage. Heck, I may even kiss the Blarney stone, although my irrational fear of heights could contribute to my untimely death as I tumble from the castle walls.
The Greeks have their own special days and traditions, much like the Irish. Undoubtably, one of the will be March 16th, 2010, which coincides with the release date for God of War III. God of War I and God of War II have been two of the most popular and significant adventure games for the PS2 and PS3 in past years, and so far the reviews of the new game have been nothing less then glowing. I predict a massive increase in PS3 sales in the upcoming quarter. That and five bucks will get you a wonderful cup of coffee - venti size - at Starbucks.
One of the great things about the God of War series is not the over-the-top action, the amazing weapons and combo moves the player can do with them, or the luscious and gorgeous visuals. Those are reasons why dweebs buy games (ie, people like me when we were younger and cared about such stuff). The best reason for the game is the story itself. Not so much the tale of vengeance and redemption that your character, Kratos, is living through, but the incredible attention to detail regarding the mythos of Greek legend. Kratos is constantly dumped into one setting after another replete with stories and characters from the Iliad, the Odyssey, and numerous other legends and tales. If you care to catch up on the details, Hamilton's book still remains one of the definitive collections of mythologies, primarily Greek and Roman but with sections regarding other cultures as well.
Story remains the one thing that video games truly need to be great. Certainly some games get away without having a unifying story. Games like Grand Turismo contain almost no story at all, allowing the player to write their own tale of starting as a car enthusiast tricking out a crappy little Honda Civic with fat tires and a loud muffler before they morph into Michael Shumacher, driving the fastest and most expensive cars in the world that can make something other then a left turn (ok, ok... I know NASCAR has a couple of road tracks, but come on.... must they always drive to the LEFT on every other course? How about switching it up and going RIGHT for a change!).
I think what you'll find, though, is that once you get past the simulator market, most remaining games need some sort of decent story to make them truly great. Great visuals, great game play will go a long way to improving a mediocre or average game and lifting it up into the ranks of loved player experiences (think Mortal Combat), but it's not until you get a real story that you can sink your teeth - or massively over-sized sword - into that you can transcend the genre and create an experience that that is worthy of being considered "the best ever." Mario Brothers did it over twenty years ago, Half-Life did it less then a decade ago, and Mass Effect did it just last month.
All of which bodes well for writers like me. Now if I can just find a really good piece of Irish mythology to rip off, I'll be in business. What do you all think about about a game that centers around kicking leprechauns and drinking lots and lots of beer? Hmmmmm... maybe that needs some refining....
An té nach leigheasann im nó uisce beatha, ní aon leigheas air!!!!