Skyrim: Dragons and Superheroes?

(Originally published at Comics Bulletin)

I'm playing the most awesome superhero game.

I'm a man with strange powers in a  troubled world.  As I journey around engaging in may battles, helping people, I can see my effect on the world.  My powers grow, I gain allies, and find disturbing truths.

I'm playing a wizard type character in Skyrim, the fantasy RPG that's the latest in the Elder Scrolls series.
After wandering around for gods-knows-how-many hours, I'm wielding massive powers as my character evolves beyond a simple wizard to a powerhouse.  Gameplay changes.  People in-game react to what I do.  It feels . . . a bit like being a superhero.

What feels a LOT like being a superhero is the fact that the game has assorted plots and chances to help (or hinder) people.  You end up right in the middle of a complicated fantasy world, with awesome powers, and a chance to change the course of events.

You know, kind of like a superhero game should – an open world where your powers write the course of things.

There have been some good superhero games out there – InFamous is one that impressed me greatly, for instance.  But a lot of more open-world superhero games have felt more like Grand Theft Auto with powers than an big epic story.  So I'm tossing out a simple thought:

Maybe people doing superhero games should start paying attention to the open-ended fantasy games rather than the open-ended crime/urban adventure games.

Sure, the latter makes sense – most superhero games are in the city since no one wants to play Avengers: Idaho or the Defenders of Newfoundland.  But I'm thinking the focus on urban-centric games has held back superhero games, because they do often feel like GTA.  I'm thinking a look at fantasy games may inspire superhero game developers.

Consider your "typical" open fantasy adventure:

  • Multiple possible endings.
  • Multiple plot points.
  • Assorted superhuman powers and forces.
  • Plenty of action.
  • Elaborate appearances of characters.
  • Assorted secret bases (in this case, dungeons).

If you think about it,  that's pretty much a superhero game, just with more treasure-taking and elves.  And I'm not sure about the elves.

So let me submit to you current and future comics pros that maybe it's time to look at fantasy games to get mechanic and implementation ideas for superhero games.  It may help snap us out of the GTA modes we've been in for awhile.

Now excuse me, but my Disaster Caster has to go smith some enchanted swords – he needs the money (Think of it as a secret identity)

Steven Savage