I can remember, back when I was finally growing out of the mentality that video games are only for boys, looking for games to play other than Zelda . I spotted some Harry Potter game, LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 for the DS. I was so excited! A game based off of my favourite movies? What could possibly go wrong? If you’ve been lucky enough to have never encountered this game, it’s super boring: there is nothing new in the story, the graphics are okay, and the gameplay can peel paint off a wall.
I admit, after that major disappointment and waste of money, I was not keen on trying video games based on movies again. Harry Potter , of all stories, should have converted to video game form easily, but unfortunately the developers didn’t seem to put much thought into it. Video games based on high-grossing movies have a reputation of copy and pasting and generally being bad games. But I don’t think it has to be that way. Movies have great potential for conversion into the video game world. If the developers of these games just put a little more thought into it, equally great games could come of the conversion.
Thus, I decided to give it another go recently and believe it or not, technology has improved the odds since the DS. First of all the recent Lego additions to the Avengers franchise are not bad. With the current technology, a great movie seems to make an okay game, managing to limit the release of disasters like Back to the Future for the NES.
That said, “okay” does not equate to “good,” and movie-based games are not nearly as successful as the movie they’re based off of. Let’s take the Lord of the Rings franchise as an example, specifically the Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor game. The original trilogy took the entire world by storm; they were a revolution for cinema and audiences both. But the video games? They didn’t even make headlines at Polygon, much less IGN.
That said, Shadow of Mordor did what the Back to the Future and Harry Potter games should have. It used its source material as a springboard, not something to copy and paste. The game is a spinoff of the original tale, operating within the world of Lord of the Rings, without at all affecting the main story of the movies. The player takes control of a ranger named Talion, who, along with his family, is killed by servants of Sauron. However, Talion is brought back to life and his spirit is tied to a wraith. A wraith who bears a mysterious connection to him, and has his own motives. The story follows Talion’s journey into Mordor to exact revenge for his family’s murder, aided by the wraith’s spectral powers.
I was so excited when I heard about this game, it sounded amazing. Finally, a game that actually worked with the world of Lord of the Rings and used gameplay to its advantage! Or, so it appeared. When I got around to playing the game, I immediately started to wonder if I’d accidentally slipped in my copy of Assassin’s Creed II . The theme looked different, but I was pretty sure Talion was another incarnation of Ezio. I thought for sure if I looked, I’d find an article saying that Ubisoft was suing Monolith Productions for copyright infringement. Needless to say, after that realization, it was very difficult to break out of that mindset and assess the game on it’s own merits.
Aside from being an Assassin’s Creed game with a Lord of the Rings theme, Shadows of Mordor is a good game. It’s brutal, and makes you feel totally badass as you slice your way through armies of orcs. All in addition to an intriguing story that’s definitely better than any Assassin’s Creed game.
However, Shadows of Mordor will never reach the heights of movies it was based on. This may be for a variety of reasons: gamers and film audiences are simply too different, games do not receive as much publicity as films, or the game is not nearly as innovative for video games as the movies were for cinema.
As we know, the differences between film and video game can be blurred so it is my hope that one day, both audiences will be completely merged. Even so, it is utterly unfair to expect any video game to live up to the innovations of a film like Lord of the Rings or even Star Wars .
That doesn’t mean that video games should not be as good as their movie counterparts! I believe if developers simply put in the effort instead of focusing on just another cash grab, they could make games like LEGO Marvel’s Avengers or Goldeneye 007 . And maybe one day, such games won’t be buried under the mucky stereotype that video games based on movies are terrible.