As much fun as I had with “Dishonored,” the whole time I was playing it I found myself craving the classic stealth series “Thief.” Far from a knock, it’s a credit to “Dishonored” that it borrowed from a franchise that not enough have, as the “Thief” games, and their open approach to the stealth genre all set in a well fleshed out, and stylistically diverse world, are some of the most satisfyingly creative in all of video games.
Unfortunately since the release of 2004’s “Thief: Deadly Shadows,” the series has gone quiet, and except for a vague announcement around 2009 of a sequel, only rumblings of “Thief 4” have existed, as news of a new “Thief” installment has been somewhat appropriately elusive.
Now though, updates to the Linkedin profiles of a game developer and artist reveal recent work on an “Unannounced” and “really cool” project at Eidos Montreal. Outside of some work on the upcoming “Tomb Raider,” there are very few possible titles Eidos Montreal could be working on, and though “Thief 4” has had loose reveals before, and may not technically be classified as unannounced, considering that the logo for the game has been even floating on the Eidos Montreal website for some time without updates, the odds are still strongly in “Thief’s” favor that this pertains to real work finally being done on the dormant series.
This may just be a reach formed from desperate hope for a new “Thief” game causing people to see things that aren’t there, but gaming can always use another great stealth title, and if the revival of the “Thief” franchise can be handled with the same care seen in “Deus Ex: Human Revolution,” and make full use of the advancements since “Deadly Shadows,” then maybe the wait will have been worth it.
With a wealth of candidates available though, there shouldn’t be much problem finding a suitable replacement, which is more than can be said about the spiritual world in video games where paragons of holy virtue and guidance are few and far between. In fact it’s quite the opposite as some of gaming’s greatest villains derive from the world of religion.
To show you how bad the problem is, here are a few of gaming’s most despicable religious leaders.
Important Note: This is in no way shape or form a commentary on any real religion or religious figures including, but not limited to, the pope or the Catholic church. This is just for fun.
Oh and spoilers. Spoilers are ahead.
Allegro Rasputin of the First Church of LeChuck – “Escape From Monkey Island”
The exact doctrines, words, and many basic day to day functions of the First Church of LeChuck are a mystery to many. It’s origins, however, are very clear as priest Allegro Rasputin was murdered by the ghost pirate LeChuck, and even made to view his still beating pancreas prior to death, while out at sea. Initially upset, the priest came to respect LeChuck for his capabilities and founded a church in his honor.
And what a church it is. Built into a volcano, and resembling a skull castle, the church has a river of lava flowing through it used in weddings so couples can become ghosts, and live together eternally, at the end of the journey. The rest of the church is a none too subtle tribute to LeChuck himself, and Rasputin’s primary goal is stopping the enemy of his deity, Guybrush Threepwood.
While not gaming’s deepest religion, for sheer tenacity, dedication, and even style, the Church of LeChuck is one of gaming’s most memorable religious institutions, and Rasputin’s devoutness to stopping our hero is equal to his faith
The Prophet of Truth of the Covenant Religion – “Halo”
It was “Halo 2” where gamers discovered that the hard fighting and no-nonsense alien enemies known as the Covenant were actually a deeply religious society with a strong sense of organization and hierarchy.
Atop that hierarchy are a series of prophets, and amongst those prophets is the clear leader, the Prophet of Truth. His mission is to lead his people in seeking out and activating the halo installations of the ancient, yet far advanced, people known as the forerunners. They believe that once the rings are activated, they will achieve a form of ascension and become eternal. They are actually aware, that while they have a slim chance of elevation, that completing this mission will more or less result in the complete destruction of every known thing.
Being a real fanatic is both the reason behind the rise to power, and the fall of the Prophet of Truth. While many villains have promised the end of the world or universe, few did it with the smug sense of satisfaction, and feeling of purpose as the Prophet of Truth.
Craig Markoff of Unitology –“Dead Space”
While the Church of Unitology’s primary figure is Michael Altman, one of the true spearheads of the movement is military man Craig Markoff.
A cleverly veiled allusion to Scientology in many ways, the Church of Unitology plays an integral role in the “Dead Space” series, and revolves around the fabled markers, which are artifacts of mysterious power. Formed in a time of dwindling religious beliefs, the church promoted a message of harmony and peace which caught on quickly and turned them into a real power. One of their principle ideas is not burying the dead, and instead keeping their bodies on spaceships waiting to be re-born. In reality, they are aware of the limited power of the marker to grant new and eternal life, though it often results in creating unspeakable atrocities. These incidents were written off as anomalies with manageable spiritual factors contributing to them.
A true and horrible evil in every way, Markoff is one of gaming’s great villains. He cleverly used Altman as a figurehead of virtue shielding him from the many, many atrocities he would commit, and his tenacity in refusing to waiver from his claims, is nearly unprecedented.
Morpheus of the Children of the Cathedral – “Fallout”
A servant of The Master (a downright terrifying mutant, human, computer hybrid), Morpheus is an old styled southern preacher who is clever, extremely charismatic, and downright volatile. Morpheus doesn’t believe The Master to be a god as others in the church do, but he has no qualms with using the influence of the church for his own means, and is a loyal servant of him all the same.
Much like Markoff, Morpheus is a pure evil as it gets, as his short temper and selfish ambitions only further his insatiable ego. It’s one thing to take advantage of people’s spiritual beliefs to further your own causes, but to do so at the end of world when all other hope has gone? Damn.
Sergius XVII of the Ormus Religion – “Xenosaga”
One of gaming’s greatest and most complex universes is that of the “Xenosaga” games. Fittingly, it also contains one of the deepest and most complex religions in all of gaming, the Ormus religion.
It would be impossible to sum up the religion entirely here, but it is spearheaded by the patriarch Sergius XVII and is actually an evolutionary offshoot of modern day Christianity. Their main objective is to recover the mysterious Zohar artifact, and use it to defeat the equally mysterious, and troublesome, Gnosis. Sergius XVII, also has personal ambitions to use this event to further the Ormus’s reach and influence, which is already considerable as the religion has power in nearly every meaningful aspect of society.
A victim of absolute power, it’s easy to write off Sergius XVII as simply “evil”, but his motives and intentions are instead a mix of the blindingly noble and the sadistically misguided. Because of this, he stands as one of the deepest, most influential, and in many ways the most realistically flawed of all of gaming’s evil religious figures, making him more memorable than the usual snarling types.
Though the development of the “Killzone” franchise is handled by Guerilla Games, and is nearly their sole project, the “Killzone” franchise was originally intended as Sony’s sponsored “Halo killer,” in a time when all other companies were looking for such a thing. The original installment was generally well received, though no one was confusing it with Microsoft’s flagship shooter, and the reaction was almost universally more of a whimper.
It was “Killzone 2” and it’s “is it live or Memorex?” trailer that brought the series into real prominence and, since that installment, the franchise has both evolved into a much superior shooter, and is often referred to as one of the premier Playstation exclusives, along with a title that, much like “Mario,” is often associated with the launch of new Sony hardware (though the PS3 had to settle for “Resistance”).
For all of its improvements though, the franchise is still not a world stopping launch title.
“Killzone” is a fun game to be sure, but it never managed to reach the heights of the “Halo” series, or truly separate itself in the over-saturated FPS market (despite a rabid fanbase). This puts Sony in an awkward position, as a lot of other big name franchises they have available either have a game most likely still releasing on the Playstation 3 (“God of War,” Quantic Dream’s “Beyond Two Souls,” “Demon’s Souls”) or have no assumed plans for a new installment (“Little Big Planet,” “Uncharted,” a true new “Metal Gear Solid”)
It looks like “Killzone 4” is set to be the premier launch game for the PS4 then and, unless Sony has some serious hardware lined up, or a real surprise title in store, all parties concerned should be taking that position very seriously as the franchise is going to have to be the one thing it never was before for this to work, and that is a true killer app.
That last one is particularly interesting considering the amount of miles that the publisher got out of the renaissance era Italy setting of “Assassin’s Creed II,” and the big news that was the third taking place in the new (and rarely seen in gaming) era of the American revolution. The question now is, where (or more appropriately, when) will gamers get to free run and eliminate their targets next?
I’ve got a few time periods on my wishlist, but just for fun’s sake, I’m ignoring the progressive chronological order of the series so far, and just picking some of the best time periods available for the franchise
Victorian Era London 1837-1901
Could London be calling for “Assassin’s Creed?”
There could be worse options for sure, as the Victorian Era is both one of the most stylized periods consistently featured in pop culture (and a big inspiration for steampunk worlds), and a genuinely interesting historical time that featured a melding of two different time eras, resulting in unique architecture, technology, and people. Not to mention the series preference to include historical figures could have you interacting with everyone from Charles Dickens to Jack the Ripper.
In many ways this would be a logical, and welcome, next step for the franchise.
Feudal Japan 1185-1603 (Roughly)
It would definitely violate the chronological story progression up until this point, but may be worth it.
The feudal Japan era is one of the most romanticized yet brutal periods in world history, and has the added benefit of not quite being overplayed yet in the world of video games. Featuring two of the most prolific and exciting warrior types of all time (samurais and ninjas), as well as the potential of siding with several warring clans “Yojimbo” style, depending on the exact time period, feudal Japan could feature a nice mix of styles and weaponry as well as provide plenty of opportunities for memorable moments.
American Industrial Revolution 1760-1840
If Ubisoft is looking for a new time period, but not a new setting entirely, this might be the best way to go.
The big draw of the industrial revolution is all of the new technology that could be incorporated into the series, but the time period itself was also noteworthy for the effects it had on society and social mentalities of the people. Ubisoft could incorporate the prolific plight of the average working man in this new, exciting, yet often challenging time and create a story both unique to gaming, and genuinely noteworthy if they play it right.
Chinese Ming Dynasty 1368-1644
“Assassin’s Creed III” surprised nearly everyone by taking place in the rarely seen American revolution. “Assassin’s Creed IV” could do the same by visiting Ming Dynasty China.
This time period had everything you could want for a dramatic tale. Unique weaponry, feuding clans, government corruption, plight, rebellion, rising industry, incredible works of art and design, empires, and much, much more. There is a lot to explore during this time, much of which hasn’t been thoroughly examined by a video game. For sheer potential, this would be my personal favorite way for the series to go, though a dark horse candidate to be sure.
World War I 1914-1918
The only real question is, how far does the series want to go?
Though part of the games do take place in the future, the majority of “Assassin’s Creed” takes place in the pretty distant past. Without fundamentally changing the gameplay to a serious degree, World War I is about as far as you could go, considering the major influence of technology on just about everything past this point. Since some of the best parts of “Assassin’s Creed III” was your involvement in large scale battles, doing the same during the chaotic, often confused battles of WWI would be incredibly intense and provide some of the most uniquely hectic moments seen yet in gaming, all set on a world stage.
Considering the options it presents, “Assassin’s Creed” needs to reach this era at some point, but it’s a matter of when.
Gaming and beer may be two of the finer things in life, and while you’ve probably combined the two in the past, my guess is it was done haphazardly by combining a case of the cheapest booze available with whatever you happened to be playing at the time.
I couldn’t argue with the technique either, as I’ve done the same thing many times over. However, there’s at least one beer enthusiast out there who believes that beer and video games can be paired with the same careful consideration of wine and food, or drugs and nightclubs.
His name is Greg Zeschuk, and if he sounds familiar, it might be from this site where I mentioned he was leaving Bioware, a company he co-founded, to get into the world of craft beer. His passion for brewing is such that he recently worked on a miniseries called “The Beer Diaries” which examines the growing art of craft brewing.
Pursuing his other interests doesn’t mean that Zeschuk has forgotten his roots though, and in a recent interview with joystiq.com, he shared some his favorite beer and video game pairings. Among them include IPAs with Action-RPG’s, Adventures with a nice barleywine, and first person shooters with a good pilsner. One genre he doesn’t touch is racing, as you should of course never drink and drive.
Although I’m a little bummed out my go to combinations of PBR and “Team Fortress 2,” Arrogant Bastard and “Hotline Miami,” and Brooklyn Lager and “Far Cry 3” (a little of home, a little of an island vacation) aren’t mentioned, it’s still an interesting idea that drinking could be used to enhance the games you play in more ways than just getting hammered.
So what do you think? Can beers and video games be effectively paired and, if so, what are some of your recommended combinations?