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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Busting Myths: Could The Iliad Work As A Game?

Besides the ever-expanding God of War series, Greek mythology to this day has had a rather small presence in the gaming world. The Iliad in particular has remained as a largely untapped source for game studios and developers which is a shame when you consider that it's one of the most action-packed stories in the mythological timeline.

The entire video game legacy of The Iliad doesn't extend far beyond a smattering of indie titles such as Battle for Troy, a 3D strategy game developed by ValuSoft and released way back in 2004, or Warriors: Legends of Troy, a hack-and-slash game developed and released by Tecmo Koei in 2011 that, while receiving generally positive reviews, didn't garner very impressive sales numbers and remains largely unknown in the gaming community.

A F2P MMO titled Troy Online, developed by Alt1 Games, had to be shut down only three months after its initial release last November because of the sheer amount of bugs and other technical errors that were still present after it went live. The game's termination came as sad news for fans considering its unique yet familiar setting. Despite Alt1's vow to revive the game at a later date, that vow has gone unfulfilled up to the time of this writing. 

So why haven't any AAA developers pounced on this veritable gold-mine of epic action-fantasy material? Imagine getting to explore the sprawling mecca of Troy both before and during the war, getting to roam across the fields and hills of Ilium, perhaps even stopping by in Troy's surrounding provinces such as Dardania, home of Aeneas.

How cool would it be to take part first-hand in the landing of the Greek ships upon the Trojan shore, fighting alongside Achilles (or maybe even *as* Achilles) and his Myrmidons? Assisting Hector as he defends the walls of Troy, or helping Odysseus construct the wooden horse that would lead to the eventual downfall of the Trojan people?

Various other mythological elements such as the presence of the gods could make for some very exciting and dynamic gameplay; perhaps invoking the blessings of different gods could grant bonuses to your character or the troops they commanded. A rich, fleshed-out combat system would be ideal for recreating some of the famous duels from the myth such as Paris vs. Menelaus, Hector vs. Patroklos, and, of course, Achilles vs. Hector.

Playing as either Hector or Agamemnon could allow for strategic elements such as commanding troops to attack specific parts of the enemy's army or gathering materials to forge new armor and weapons. Taking (or retaking) certain buildings or areas could open up new tactical options such as increased food stores from taking a farm or more powerful blessings from capturing a specific god's shrine. Elements of resource management and the loss/gain of strategically vital areas could make for a very well-paced experience; a perfect setup considering the war's ten year duration.

As ambitious as such a game sounds, care must also be taken when working with a story as universally well-known as The Iliad. Not that there wouldn't be space for some creative wiggle-room, but careful handling of how the characters and narrative are represented within the gameplay could not only help bring in a wider audience, but could also help to spur interest in both the actual myth as well as Greek mythology in general in gamers who would otherwise just take the game at face value.

What do you think? Could a game based off of Homer's epic poem of The Trojan War spur any interest amongst gamers today? One could certainly make a strong case for the compelling nature of famous heroes such as Achilles, Hector, Paris, Odysseus, and Agamemnon, but could these same compelling qualities be transferred over into a format that would appeal to gamers who had never read The Iliad? 

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