Sometimes a continuation just isn’t on the cards. It could be too expensive, the dev team could have disbanded or one of a thousand other reasons could be getting in the way between fans and the next entry into a beloved game. Comics about games already come out fairly often, but they are generally average at best and can almost always be ignored in the larger series canon. My last list was about comics that could be worked into games, so here is the reverse – five games series that should continue as comics. No inconsequential filler, nothing created to plough your wallet into submission because you dig a game universe. This is purely for the love of the worlds and the stories within them.
(Expect spoilers for all of the games mentioned)
After the dissolution of THQ in 2013, original Darksiders developer, Vigil Games, broke up and went their separate ways, with the license being brought by Nordic Games. No title has been announced yet, but given that the games were received with a resounding “meh”, it wouldn’t disappoint that many of the series came to an end. However, the series does have all the makings of a fantastic comic series.
One thing Darksiders always seemed to have and fail to capitalise on, was its story. Larger workings of the four horseman’s universe always lay at the fringes, just sitting outside of the plot we played as Death and War. Samael, the Charred Council, the Makers, the Crow-Father and the other two horseman, Strife and Fury, all flit in and out of the narrative in some form, but barely make an impact. This is similar to The Darkness game series, except that was based on a comic that gave a great deal more depth to the elements it frantically threw at players in the games.
The feeling of wasted potential isn’t very surprising. Darksiders 1 and 2 were the only titles Vigil ever worked on, with the studio being partially founded by comic writer and artist, Joe Madureira. Acting as the series creative director, it is no wonder that it felt like it jumped off the page. While Darksiders may be dead and gone, a comic run may give the series the time it needed to slowly unravel into the tale it was slowly turning into. What happened after War is reborn? Why is the Council’s end game? All niggling questions that we may never learn the answer to. Maybe Nordic will give them one day, if we are so lucky.
I’m not going to lie, when I first played Tim Schafer’s surreal platformer back in 2005, I fell in love. Both incredibly funny and amazingly imaginative, it walked the fine line between capturing the feeling of childhood wonder, while having a wicked dark streak running through the middle. By the end, everything has been sorted for the hero and his friends. The truth emerges, the villian is punished and Raz becomes an official Psychonaut. THEN an alarm sounds and the main cast fly off to save the Grand Head of the Psychonauts, Raz’s girlfriend’s father.
Given that Psychonauts got shafted by publishers, the sleeper hit originally released to underwhelming sales. Tim Schafer is also a very finicky man for sequels, even if he has stated that he would be interested in making a new Psychonauts as well as a new Brutal Legend. Even though it may be in the black, it may be hard to get another publisher interested in a new Psychonauts title, let alone getting Schafer in a position to trust them again.
It seems like a comic continuation may be a solid compromise. Double Fine would please fans, and allows Tim Schafer to achieve even higher God-status in the cult gaming community. This wouldn’t be new territory from the developer either, with them having hosted seven comic artists who have provided web-comics for the Double Fine site . Given a limited run, it could be a good way of measuring fan interest, or would at least please those desperate for it (ME).
Some games get their time to shine, some simmer over the years much like Psychonauts, some end up like Anachronox. Part comedy, part sci-fi epic, part old-school turn based RPG, it was developed by Ion Storm. That name may now be associated with changing the western role-playing game landscape with Deus Ex, this lesser known title takes many nods from their Japanese brother. Weirdly enough, Anachronox also has a remarkable amount of similarities with Mass Effect, even though it pre-dates it by six years. Both games feature a galactic civilization, elevated by precursor alien technology that allows faster than light travel centred around an artificial seat of power. The major difference however, is that instead of the galaxy threatening Reapers, Anachronox has you stopping the destruction of the entire universe and every universe that could ever be afterwards.
Featuring time travel, multiple universes and a constant cycle of big bangs and big crunches, you can’t really get any larger in terms of scale. It may sound like heavy stuff but Anachronox is has an amazingly sharp script, one which is humorous, without relying on reference and allusion. It is such a shame then, that the game ends on the mother of all cliffhangers; a major character betrayal and the party travelling into a a new universe entirely. Tom Hall, Anachronox producer and designer, has stated that if he fails to create a sequel be 2020, he will post the remainder of the planned story on his personal website.
Ion Storm has long since passed, closing in 2005, with the chances of a new Anachronox game dwindling every year. It would take something miraculous to bring it back, so why not make it a graphic novel series? A follow up is virtually impossible and a simple story write-up seems a tad too dry, so a comic would be a good compromise. It may not be the best – the best would have been the game making enough to warrant a sequel – but it sounds like the most pleasing choice over a plot summation.
The forgotten child of IO Interactive, this alternate history action romp places you in the feet of plumber Christopher Stone as the Soviet Union invades New York. Unlike most games, which would have you slowly push them back for ‘Merica, you have already lost. By the end of the first level the US military is no more, leaving you with nothing more than a rag-tag group of militia Red Dawn style. Through judicious use of the New York sewer system, Stone takes back the big apple one block at a time.
Freedom Fighters came out to good reviews, with many enjoying the fact that you didn’t play the all-round action hero, but rather an average guy coping with being thrust into the role of revolutionary hero. Released between Hitman: Silent Assassin and Hitman: Contracts, IO took a few risks compared to their other titles and undoubtedly created a more enjoyable game than Kane & Lynch ever became.
Freedom Fighters ended on cliffhanger, with the resistance set to retake the rest of America as the Soviet Union poised for a counter-attack, meaning it has been 10 long years for answers on how it all played out. Having a well-established cast of characters, IO could move the series forward through the paper and ink medium. In the time since Freedom Fighters, DMZ by Brian Woods has been and gone, showing that a limited series set around the fires of revolution can do well, and while still being set entirely in New York. Take the hint IO, get your act together and stop messing about with those two middle-aged nobodies.
Now before you get your pants in a bunch and say that Remedy hasn’t given up on the series, things aren’t looking good for the insomniac author. They may have said that Alan’s journey into the night will continue, but that is what they said about Max Payne, which then had to be finished by a different studio. Remedy is tied up with Quantum Break at the moment and have stated that the series lacks the popularity to justify the investment at this time. Things don’t look good.
Alan Wake: American Nightmare only came out two years ago, answering no questions and only leaving more. Where is Alan, has he escaped the grasp of the lake, is Scratch gone for good? WHO BLOODY KNOWS?!?! Between the main game, two DLC chapters and semi-sequel, it can’t be argued the gameplay doesn’t become tiring. Redeemed by the power of its reference heavy story and unique narrative hook, it was a convoluted mess that all sort gelled together into one working lump of pure imagination. More psychological thriller than action game, Alan Wake was, for me, Remedy’s greatest success so far.
With that said, a comic adaptation may be the best way to go if Sam Lake can’t drum up enough support. A novel would be too dry, as well as lessening the impact of the whole Alan finding pages written by himself thing. Alan Wake is a story I want to see to completion one way or another. Like many of its inspirations, Twin Peak I am looking at you, that revel in being vague and open-ended, I don’t want Alan Wake to fizzle out. Sam Lake has stated that he hasn’t given up on the franchise yet, and neither have I. I want to find out what happens after “Departure” and “Return”.