6 Video Game Campaigns with Epic Stories.
Multiplayer seems to overshadow game narrative these days but we at Geek Pride do enjoy a good story and so we thought we’d put our heads together again and list 6 Game campaigns that were truely epic.
Make sure to let us know in the comments if you agree or if you think there should be others.
Halo – Reach
The last hurrah for Bungie before they left their baby, Halo, behind and moved onto new things…. and man did they go out with a bang.
Halo reach is arguably still on of the greatest Halo games out, and part, if not a lot of that, is down to the engaging and down right heart wrenching Campaign story, something 343 have struggled to surpass; though coming close with the end of Halo 4.
There is no Master Chief, but a completely new team, something that for a lot of Halo fans was a big shock. BUT where Bungie succeeded in Reach and 343 failed in Halo 5, was giving their characters, their team, depth, background, a sense of belonging and the player a real emotional ride.as each team member is killed / sacrifices themselves. Culminating in the final battle, after the credits, where you, as noble 6, fight off a horde of elites and are overwhelmed. Your over shield is depleted your health runs low and Noble 6 takes of his / her helmet and places it on the ground.
You are inevitably killed and the camera shows you your final moment but your sacrifice allows the Pillar of Autumn to escape with the Master chief and Cortana on board… the scene ends with the helmet on a decimated Reach and as time goes by the green returns; an allegory for Bungie’s transition to pastures.
The Witcher 3
Witcher 3 wrapped up a series that achieved a truly epic scope, bringing together the disparate elements in the most cohesive version yet and delivering meaningful conclusions to a host of characters from across the franchise. In a lot of ways, this is the series at its best and it managed to expand further with DLCs that contained more story than most regular games managed to fit in.
Perhaps the greatest triumph though is its environmental storytelling, the way in which the world tells a million smaller stories without shoving everything into your face. From battlefields that don’t lead you there with a sidequest to the folklore overheard in passing, this is the world of the Witcher at its most vibrant and your passage through it as Geralt is perhaps the most iconic representation of the character within the series and tells probably the most Witcher story yet.
Digital: A Love Story
I’m thinking of something a little more Lo Fi – Has anyone ever played Digital: A Love Story by Christine Love? she writes some really intense visual novel type indie games. Digital is set in the Faux 80s – “five minutes into the future of 1988”, and emulates you dialling into BBSes to read and reply to messages… Doesn’t see m like much, right? Blue and White Text and crude windows, Modem sound effects….
You have your first computer, and a modem, and discover BBSes, and you start a conversation with girl, Emilia, online, via text messages left on a BBS by one of you and collected by the other – Back and forth, with little segues of time, you develop affection for her, and she seems to be returning them… Then the BBS you’re talking on dies, and you’re left bereft. A garbled message that gets to you, and a load of weird garbled data is supposedly from Emilia, and leads you to to look for more information – You learn that across the world a number of AIs have been mysteriously killed, and Emilia is one of them that is named. It’s a bit of a shock, but you dig deeper, and learn more – Even finding a way to bring Emilia back to life by recompiling her – Great, right.
Except she, and the others, were killed by something – *Reaper – That’s hunting the other AIs – Emilia’s Brothers and Sisters, and while they have a way to kill it, it means someone – an AI – effectively becoming the weapon and sacrificing themself.
So you’re actually remarkably invested at this point, but Emilia wants to sacrifice herself to save her Family, and let them grow, and become more than they already are, and somehow you realise that she can’t do it if she doesn’t think you’re with her on it – And so you lose her again, and it’s awful, but it’s glorious at the same time, even though you know she’s not coming back… And then it stops and leaves you staring at a blue screen, and you realise it’s only been a couple of hours, but you’re all hollow chested and maybe even a little teary eyed – About a fictional AI…… No flashy graphics, no orchestral sound effect. just awesome plotting, good writing and great packing in white text on a blue background… And you want to do it again.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
Modern Warfare was a surprise to me as it was a FPS game I actually enjoyed playing, but I found the narrative strength of the game really engaging above everything else. Who knew – CoD could be more than just shooty shooty, stabby stabby? Not me, evidently. In any case, in a series packed with climatic scenes right from the get-go, with the intense opener on the freighter, the one that really shocked and surprised me was playing as Jackson throughout ‘Shock and Awe’.
Battling through Al-Asad’s capital and heroically rescuing the downed pilot of a Cobra mid-extraction leads you to a high that is spectacularly vaporised by the nuclear warhead that detonates at the climax of the level, killing everyone you’ve fought so hard to keep alive. A true sucker-punch if I’ve ever felt one, cleverly utilised by running parallel narrative threads and capitalising on the player’s connection to the character via the mode of first-person.
Based on the epic poem of the same name, the hero of the piece Dante is re imagined as a knight Templar. Upon is return from the crusades, he finds his beloved Beatrice and his father have been murdered, with Lucifer himself appearing to take Beatrice’s soul away to hell.
Cue a legendary adventure as Dante journeys deeper through the nine circles of hell (after nicking Death’s scythe, obvs) to try and rescue his loved one from the lord pf darkness himself.
The story is one word: epic. At the beginning you start with a hero of the wars, a man of honour and principle returning in valour to marry the love of his life. But as the game progresses you discover some sordid details that show Dante’s soul is more tarnished than twinkling. Thoroughly adult in it’s theming and with twists and turns that keep you engaged, this is for me the perfect marriage of fast paced story telling and gameplay that just keeps pulling you forward.
I also love the liberties this takes on the original poem, which is reflected by the amazing level design and the enemies you encounter (seriously, tiny unbaptised baby demons, *shudder*). This is backed up with high quality voice acting that makes you really *feel* the anger of Dante and the wisdom of Vergil (who acts as your narrator during the game).
Red Dead Redemption (2010).
I really didn’t know what to expect from Red Dead Redemption when it dropped in the Spring of 2010. I knew it was produced by Rockstar, so I anticipated the general narrative and core game play to fall into the typical Grand Theft Auto template (“GTA with horses” was a common description used by almost all of the games magazines at the time) – and I knew it would obviously have an Old West setting, which I expected not to hold my interest as much as the sprawling metropolises of contemporary sandbox games like GTA or Saints Row. I mean, how much fun would it be to be a criminal attempting to build an empire, when all you have are vast empty deserts which you have to traverse on slow-ass badly animated horses (no game had ever really got the feel of riding a horse, and the associated animation, correct before RDR).
How wrong was I…
Red Dead Redemption is a masterpiece. One of the most brilliantly conceived and executed games of the last generation; it transcended the scope of previous Rockstar releases, and also introduced the more mature direction that subsequent projects (such as L.A. Noire and the juggernaut Grand Theft Auto V) have followed.
Players stepped into the dirt-coated boots of John Marston, a former outlaw who has given up on a life of villainy in order to raise a family. Marston is brought back into his gun-slinging ways by the local government, who use his family as leverage to coerce him to eliminate his former partners in crime. So far, so typical Rockstar protagonist (former criminal tries to go legitimate, but is drawn back into crime through revenge/threat of violence/etc) – but Marston feels distinctly different from CJ, Niko or Tommy Vercetti.
They were all unshackled ‘loner’ type characters whose sole purpose was driven by their own individualistic wants and needs – they may have some token friends or extended family members, but they were easily forgotten in the character’s (and player’s) quest to gain more property and better looking cars. Marston’s every action is driven by his desire to see his family again, while seemingly struggling with the appeal of his old outlaw life. It’s this characterisation and associated story arc that invests the player more deeply into the game.
Yes, the hunting and plant collecting got a bit bothersome after a while; yes, the game’s tendency to throw in random frequent pop-up missions (such as breaking up a lynching, or chasing down an escaped convict) right while you’re in the middle of something else, was more than a little frustrating – but these are small criticisms of an otherwise amazing gaming experience.
The wealth of incredibly entertaining and diverse storyline missions, combined with an excellent supporting cast (my personal favourite being Bonnie McFarlane – an intelligent, gutsy and fully-fleshed female character, a million miles away from the multitude of prostitutes, bikini-clad bimbos and other highly sexualised stereotypes that plague females in modern gaming), and an absolute gut-punch of a false ending – made RDR a critical and commercial success.
Throw in a much improved 3rd-person combat system (including the ‘dead eye’ duelling mechanic), an unexpectedly great zombie horror expansion pack (Undead Nightmare is a ton of fun), and plenty of scope for free exploration, which adds to the game’s longevity.
I can’t describe the endless pleasure of taking a ride into an open range, with the fantastic Morricone-influenced soundtrack playing in the background, all while a perfectly animated sun-set transitions into beautiful night sky punctured by a blanket of stars. Absolute gaming bliss.