Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Graphic Violence

So after an epic battle against my computer, it looks like I finally got my CD/DVD drive working. Which means, among other things, I can play Heroes of Might & Magic V. I've been a fan of the whole M&M corpus for some time now (I adore Might & Magic VI and VII and find VIII passable [IX was wretched], and was also quite a fan of HOMM II and III).

The game is fine -- not stellar, but fine. But something about the graphics bugs me. They look almost precisely as if you took Warcraft III and made it into a turn based game. It's uncanny and a bit unnerving. And I feel like a lot of games have adopted this graphical style. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is a bit odd, as Warcraft III has a distinctively cartoon-y look to it that I think looks far less polished than many other games I've seen (compare it to, say, Halo 3 or Final Fantasy XII). Even put it against HOMM 3 (which by now is quite dated) is an interesting comparison -- obviously there is more detail in HOMM5, but I would call the third version quite a bit more artsy, if you will, and it feels weird to see a game step away from art. Again, not a criticism, just an observation and an oddity.


DCM said...

Glad to hear of another HOMM fan =)

HOMM5 actually is more copying the art style of the miniatures game Warhammer; Warcraft/World of Warcraft just happens to draw off the same source. Search for Games Workshop and check their miniatures lines, particularly the Dark Elves.

BTW - do you have Tribes of the East? It doesn't change the art style, but at least in terms of gameplay most people think TOTE makes HOMM5 a lot better than it was at first.

Matthew said...

I think your criticism is only valid if "artistic" graphics are taken to be "meticulously realistic" graphics. I don't think games move "away from art" when they pursue a non-realist aesthetic; artistic games are those in which designers pursue unique aesthetic vision, better if it synthesizes the audio, visual, and game play mechanics. Most of the Final Fantasy games do this well, but I found FFIX's world more compelling than FFVIII's despite it being more cartoonish, and I can think of other recent games like Persona 3 & 4 or World of Warcraft that have wonderful and intriguing non-realist aesthetics. If anything, the fetish for ultra-realistic graphics has only hurt the video game medium.

David Schraub said...

It's not a criticism, just an observation -- there is a very particular style to these games that wouldn't at first glance strike me as the sort to be the main "competition" to ultra-realism.

Also FFIX was more compelling than FFXII because it was simply a better game, story wise.

Matthew said...

I know you said that you didn't mean it as a criticism, but I'm not sure how else it can be taken if you say that something "moves away from art". Art makes an aesthetic appeal to the senses and emotions and non-art does not. I don't think "moves away from detail" or "moves away from realism" should be described as "moves away from art" unless that move diminishes the originality and vision of the game. Though, that said, there are vanishingly few games - less than a dozen - that I would consider even "art candidates", so it's probably not worth getting to worked up about.