If there’s two things I hate in the gaming industry today that everyone else loves, it’s Bethesda and nostalgia. Bethesda has a long record of suing indie developers over spurious copyright claims while pretending to be the victim. Meanwhile they’ve been ruining Fallout and The Elder Scrolls with bland, boring, and two dimensional gameplay and have somehow convinced people they’re still great. And let’s not forget their refusal to work with video game critics, refusing to send out review copies ahead of time so that pre-orderers don’t cancel when critics rake their games of the coals.
And nostalgia. Nostalgia has become a crutch for modern indie game development. Can’t art? Don’t hire an artist, just draw some squares and call it pixel art! Can’t music? Just bang some pots and pans together, record it with a dollar store microphone, and call it classic 8-bit music! Don’t know how to gameplay? Just make a 2D platformer and call it a fan-made, spiritual successor to Boogerman and people won’t be able to pay you fast enough.
Humph, I say.
It’s Lonely Being the Smartest Man in the World
No place exemplifies the rise of nostalgia-baiting in gaming better than Kickstarter. It’s a scum of villainy and hives. The once beloved crowdfunding platform brought back point and click adventure games, gave us a terrible Mega Man successor, a yet unreleased Castelvania proto-reboot, an actual sequel for Shenmue, and countless fan made projects all about recreating old games.
There’s nothing wrong with going back and playing an older game from your childhood and reminiscing about the past. But there always comes a saturation point, and the retro gaming scene hasn’t hit that point so much as it has smashed its face in with a sledgehammer and stolen its lunch money.
I want to talk about and play games like The Sexy Brutale or Night in the Woods, games that try something new and push the medium forward. Instead the only indie games anyone wants to talk about this year are Cuphead, a retro-inspired 2D platformer, Flinthook, a retro-inspired 2D platformer, and the upcoming Spelunky 2, a retro-inspired 2D platformer. As usual it comes down to me being right, and everyone else being wrong. And stupid. And dumb. And they smell like butt.
“If You Can’t Beat Them, Sue Them”
There is always an exception to the rule, and there’s where bashing Bethesda comes back into play. With the exception of Fallout: New Vegas, developed by Obsidian, not Bethesda, there hasn’t been a good Fallout game since 2001’s Fallout Tactics. Fallout 3 was a weak, limp, watered-down forgery, and Fallout 4 was a derivative first person shooter divorced of anything remotely resembling a Fallout game.
After putting well over 500 hours into New Vegas, I’ve yearned for something similar: a narrative and player choice-driven, open world, post-apocalyptic RPG. A few games tried to scratch that itch, notably Wasteland 2 (there’s another one), but none of them ever clicked with me.
That is, until I stumbled across Atom RPG on Kickstarter. Despite its terrible name, I saw something in the campaign that grabbed my attention. “This can’t be,” I said to myself, as I read the Kickstarter page. “The developers go out of their way to talk about how they’re inspired by retro games, and that this is a fan-man, spiritual successor to Fallout.” I should have hated the campaign, but I was excited about the project. Suddenly, my vision went black.
I woke up an indeterminate amount of time later on the davenport, my handkerchief over my mouth and my butler asking if I was alright. The last thing I remembered was shouting “good heaven” as my wig descended from atop my head, powder puffing in my face as if I had gone into my snuff box. As the butler brought me tea and a poor person to rest my feet upon, I pondered why I liked the Kickstarter campaign as much as I did.
To find my conclusion, check out the video above. I don’t know what the hell this article devolved into, but I’m not redoing it.