• Are the Classics Really Better?


    This is a big question. Some gamers would be appalled at the sight of it, but we find it necessary to tackle this subject. There are many who would have you believe all of the most loved classic video games, particularly from the 1990s and early 2000s, are significantly better than today's spiritual counterparts. Most gamers today wouldn't pay much attention to such claims, but we find the subject fascinating. Are all or even most of the classics really much better games, and if so better in what ways? If not, worse in what ways?

    In this article we will explore these questions with some of the most praised classics and their equivalents today, in several different genres. Beware that every page after this one will contain spoilers. Below is a listing of all the games featured in this article.

    Classics

    • Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn (RPG, BioWare)
    • Neverwinter Nights (RPG, BioWare)
    • Neverwinter Nights 2, Mask of the Betrayer, and Storm of Zehir (RPG, Obsidian)
    • Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (RPG, BioWare)
    • Planescape: Torment (RPG, Black Isle Studios)
    • Fallout and Fallout 2 (RPG, Black Isle Studios)
    • Icewind Dale (RPG, Black Isle Studios)
    • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and IV: Oblivion (RPG, Bethesda Game Studios)
    • Resident Evil, Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, Resident Evil - Code Veronica (survival horror, Capcom)
    • Silent Hill and Silent Hill 2 (psychological horror/survival horror, Konami)
    • Thief Gold and Thief II: The Metal Age (stealth, Looking Glass Studios)
    • Deus Ex (shooter/stealth/RPG hybrid, Ion Storm)
    • Half-Life and Half-Life 2 (shooter, Valve)
    • Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City, San Andreas (open world action, Rockstar)


    Newer Counterparts

    • Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age: Inquisition (RPG, BioWare)
    • Fallout: New Vegas and Fallout 4 (RPG, Obsidian and Bethesda Game Studios respectively)
    • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (RPG, Bethesda Game Studios)
    • The Witcher trilogy (RPG, CD Projekt Red)
    • Metro 2033 and Last Light (shooter + survival horror, 4A Games)
    • Underhell (survival horror, indie)
    • S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl (sandbox shooter with survival and RPG elements, GSC Game World)
    • Amnesia: The Dark Descent (psychological horror/survival horror, Frictional Games)
    • SOMA (psychological horror/survival horror, Frictional Games)
    • Dishonored (stealth/action, Arkane Studios)
    • Deus Ex: Human Revolution (RPG/stealth/shooter hybrid, Eidos Montreal)
    • Grand Theft Auto V (open world action, Rockstar)


    Spoilers begin on the next page.


    Comments 6 Comments
    1. Grompz's Avatar
      Grompz -
      Thanks for writting this article. The evolution of Bioware games is very interesting, it's not very linear, once they focus on the gameplay, after they focus on roleplay elements and it seems that they finally have choosen to focus more on character developement. As for CD Projekt RED, well, they want to do drastic changes for Cyberpunk 2077, we'll see.

      It's hard to tell if the trade that Fallout 4 made is worth of it or not. I think there is still a decent amount of roleplay (less than the rest of the franchise, I agree), it's just that it takes an other form. One of my friend shows me his 250+ hours of gameplay, he assumed the following role: The character is a chinese spy who was here to collect informations about Vault-Tech. After the great war, the cryopreservation made him a little mad, the character believes that the war against the USA is still going on. The personnality of the character reflects on his settlements: he turned all minor locations into deathtraps, he hardly trust anyone except Codsworth and Dogmeat and he made a stealth character fighting with rifles and knives. He also made a cannibal character (turns out that he went mad with the cryopreservation too) with a low inte and adjust the gameplay on how a low inte character would reason: 'Wasteland is dangerous place. Me scared. If me more dangerous than bad people, me will stop fear, uh?'

      There are some genre that also doesn't really progress. Most of popular rogue-like are retro 2D games that often insist on the difficulty for some reason (Nuclear Throne, Spelunky). The most innovative rogue-like I have played is Ziggurat, a mix first-person fast paced games with actual 3D graphics and some interesting features (for a rogue-like) such as random perks choice each time you level up. State of Decay with the DLCs can be consider as a modern rogue-like to a lesser extent (although the world remains the same as far as I know, didn't play it).

      Popular platformers are also 2D games, most of them are retro, I don't really understand why. Super Meat Boy is a well-designed game but it doesn't really bring anything new compared to the NES Ninja Gaiden. Mirror's Edge, Cloudbuilt and Deadcore are modern platform-games (even though the first two are more a mix of platform/parkour) that exploit properly their 3D environnements and bring to the player an experience that is simply impossible to do with 2D games.

      EDIT: Where do you rank games like Dark Souls, Dragon's Dogma or Kingdoms of Amalur? It seems that they have their ass sitting between multiple genres. Same question with shooters that mix old school elements with modern parts such as Serious Sam 3, Rise of the Triad, Shadow Warrior, Wolfenstein: the New Order or the lattest Doom.
    1. Jester's Avatar
      Jester -
      Is there a classic counterpart to Dark Souls and Dragon's Dogma? Most people trace back the former to Demon's Souls which isn't very old. I've never played Demon's Souls, Dragon's Dogma, and haven't played enough of Dark Souls to really rank it.

      Kingdoms of Amalur is interesting, granted I only played the demo so I can't judge much. These do seem more like they are in between genres like you say.

      Serious Sam 3 is a lot like its predecessors... although with less memorable (and smaller) environments and weapons I'll say. So I definitely rank the first two (that is, First Encounter and Second Encounter) a bit higher. Shadow Warrior is an awesome modern take on a classic; the fluidity of its gameplay is perfect and a testament to excellent gameplay design and advancement. I haven't played the new Doom yet, and as for Wolfenstein: The New Order (and Doom as well) Charcharo will have a far more educated opinion on those. We'll see a little bit about Wolfenstein soon on the front page, thanks to him.
    1. Charcharo's Avatar
      Charcharo -
      Dark Souls really reminds me a lot of a modified third person version of STALKER... some of the design paradigms are similar, even if the games do not look to be close. I really have fallen in love with the series now.

      Wolfenstein The New Order is a very strange beast. A REALLY good one at that The term "A game marketed towards roughians but that only gentlemen can truly appreciate" goes for both it and DOOM. Flawed but very interesting.

      I am surprised not more Tycoon and strategy/tactics games are here. Those genres are really good and have seen some great development, even if they have fallen out of grace due to consoles. Some gems are there people (with interesting... if strange RP elements that have been explored).
    1. Jester's Avatar
      Jester -
      There are so many genres and types of games, apologies that we couldn't cover them all. I'd like to see your guys' thoughts on this subject but with genres not covered here.
    1. Grompz's Avatar
      Grompz -
      Quote Originally Posted by Charcharo View Post
      Dark Souls really reminds me a lot of a modified third person version of STALKER... some of the design paradigms are similar, even if the games do not look to be close. I really have fallen in love with the series now.
      I share a similar feeling, the Dark Souls games seems to take place into dystopian universes full of twisted creatures, the games put a lot of emphasis on the atmosphere and it seems that they intentionally have chosen a more abstract way to deliver their lore with metaphoric sentences.
      How does the gameplay feel? I heard that the third game is less clunky and more fast-paced than the first two.

      Quote Originally Posted by Jester View Post
      There are so many genres and types of games, apologies that we couldn't cover them all. I'd like to see your guys' thoughts on this subject but with genres not covered here.
      Some genres are difficult to cover because they are niche games now. The platformers are in this case in my opinion and large publisher are not very encline to make a large budget platformer game. It seems that gamers prefer retro 2D platformers and I can see why. In the SNES/Genesis era, platformers were one the most represented genres so they serve as test subjects for the 3D transition PS1/N64/Saturn era. Overall, I think the transition was difficult for a lot of platformer franchise and gamers have been 'traumastised' by this transition, thus the retro comeback nowdays. However I think there are some very interesting 3D platformers such as Mirror's Edge and I think games like that show the way for a more successful 3D transition. Most of time, platforming is more a part of a package included into action games, such as Tomb Raider.
    1. Charcharo's Avatar
      Charcharo -
      Dank Souls 3 is faster paced in nature when compared to previous titles. It rewards measured aggression as well... just do not get greedy. Once you are used to it it is very fun.
      It also relies on environmental cues and complex level design quite a bit. Its themes speak through the gameplay, which is worthy of applause.

      As for the platformers... not my area of expertise