Friday, September 23, 2011

The New is not the enemy of The Old

I have to hand it to them, Starbreeze has balls.

I don’t mean they are brave because they producing a game in an over-saturated, spent genre, in a crowded marketplace, oh no.

I mean that they have had the gall to stand before the Internet and present a re-imagining of an Old Classic that was anything but said Old Classic in higher resolution.

Let’s find a name for this. Does “The Fallout 3 syndrome” sound good?

Look, I’m not particularly found of Starbreeze’s output; I think they were nice, engaging, smart games that were a cut above the usual FPS fare, but they didn’t shatter my world.

Now, the original Syndicate - that shattered my world. It introduced me to a new, squad-based take on the real-time strategy I knew and loved from Dune II; it introduced me to the dark, gritty concept of a futuristic, corporation-driven world; and it showed me that it was fun to be evil.

Yeah, in my innocence, I coiled in revulsion at the though of capturing innocent people and modifying them into cybernetic hitmen and women, and pumping their adrenaline levels until they were burned-out husks, ready to be replaced. This game made me feel self-conscious.

Until it didn’t, because it was just so satisfying to wreak havoc and slowly take over the world. Megalomania was setting in, and out went conscience.

Well, not completely; correct me if I’m wrong - maybe it was some other game - but I believe it was my Amiga version of Syndicate that came with a polite note in the box explaining that the dev team put a lot of effort into the game and it would be ok for me to make a backup copy but they would be very grateful if I did not undermine their efforts by distributing it.

I have strayed from the path a bit in the Playstation Era (it was just too convenient and everybody I knew was doing it), but overall, that message left an impression on me, and at that time stopped my pirating habits.

Ah, but I digress. Starbreeze, then. They are mauling one of my formative gaming experiences. I should be livid. Am I? Not really. It really does not matter, Internet.

Worst case scenario, the game is pure shit, and the Syndicate franchise falls back into obscurity. We’re back where we started, really. The original games are still there, and possibly will  eventually be released in GoG for ease of access. So, you know, you have been robbed of nothing.

(and no, you have not been robbed of “potential” for a proper remake. You are not entitled to own people’s future creative efforts just on the grounds that they might be made. get over it, Internet)
Now, let’s consider that Starbreeze, despite having lost key members on recent times, still is a developer with a track record for good games - but especially, for shooters that are focused on setting and ambiance rather than multi-player and kill-streaks; shooters focused on world-building and storytelling; shooters with some degree of experimental mechanics.

I’d say that this is a pretty decent pedigree for a game in the Syndicate universe and theme. Yeah, it would be nicer is it wasn’t in such a drawn-out genre, but lets be realistic here - that’s Starbreeze’s shtick. They probably wouldn’t be very good at real-time squad-based strategy. I’m willing to bet that said game, made by Starbreeze, would be a worse game than this will ever be.

So, am I sold on the new Syndicate? No, I’m not. But I am hopeful. I will at least wait to see some proper footage of a decent length mission before I pass on judgement.

Also, GoG, what’s taking you so long?

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