While my fellow Pop Cults editor, Tiarra Joslyn, recently reviewed Evoland for us here, I also have my opinion of the game. While she is more critical of the game than I am, I do believe there is a lot of importance to games like Evoland far beyond what any review could point out. Games like Evoland, and other independent games such as Dys4ia, Slender: The Eight Pages, Journey, Spelunky and Retro City Rampage, as well as a host of other games that are too numerous to count, have a certain importance and relevance to the industry that would sometimes overlook the creative nature of these games. Certainly some independent games garner the attention of bigger companies and publishers and get released on top platforms, but other games that go under the radar sometimes make the biggest impact though not always noticeable at first.
While Tiarra may have felt that the paid version of Evoland wasn’t worth the price, I disagree with such a notion. One of the main reasons that I believe that independent video game developers should get some kind of monetary compensation for their games, even those that are released free of charge for the love of simply making games, is because it helps encourage and embolden other indie creators to do the same. And when independent creators start to spur bigger gaming companies to develop their games free of any other outside interferences as one would likely expect to find as part of a huge development team, and these game succeed despite, or in spite, of not being developed by a huge company, it is my opinion that it helps spark some kind of flame under the butts of the larger gaming companies.
Certainly development teams behind such huge games like Final Fantasy, Call of Duty, Sonic and a host of other popular yet stale video game franchises could use some kind of spark or pressure to change their ways just a bit to revitalize what they are doing. Final Fantasy is the best, or worst, example of what I mean. Here is a gaming franchise that has stuck to its “tried-and-true” formula for making video games for more than a decade now and each of their games is just as repetitive and formulaic as the last. Worse of all is that they are either blind to the fact that their properties are suffering because of their business model or are fully aware of the fact and chose to remain ignorant of how their practices are hurting the property and are simply churning out clone after clone simply to make money off of the fans of the product and a familiar name.
Given the stale nature of games like the aforementioned Final Fantasy, when games like Evoland happen to come out and become as popular and as fun to play as they are, I would like to think that someone on those development teams are looking at what is going and thinking to themselves “what can we do to change what we’re doing?” “What can we do to take what they’re doing and make our game just as fun?” Someone has got to be thinking, maybe even a little afraid, that a little game such as Evoland or Journey or Dust: An Elysian Tail come along and makes their mark on the industry the way they do and take away some of the shine the bigger titles are more accustomed to. Smaller games garnering the attention of the gaming population that in past instances was normally reserved for bigger, AAA name franchises.
When smaller, independent games get the kind of attention that these and others do, it forces the bigger companies to take notice and see what the smaller games are doing right as opposed to what they are doing wrong and think about some, any kind of changes they can implement to mimic some of the appeal the independent games do. At least, I can only hope that someone is paying attention to that. Someone needs to in order to bring something new and fresh to a lot of the big budget titles – most notably some heart and soul, and that is something that these smaller titles have lots of.
Playing Evoland, Hotline Miami, Dust, Limbo; you can feel the heart and care that went into making the game. You get a sense of just how much the game is as much a work of mind and art as well as entertainment. There is something intangible found in these small independent titles that you rarely get from big games lately. Certainly not all big budget games feel lost or soulless, but those that are lacking in the in the real feel you get with smaller titles certainly need some kind of infusion of some kind. Heart, soul, creativity… what is missing from these games makes them less and less enjoyable with each outing. So when you have games like those that I have mentioned make waves and get the notice that they do, hopefully someone is looking at them and wondering what they can do to bring back some of that something special to their games.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of big name titles from big publishers. Battlefield, Halo, God of War, Infamous, Mortal Kombat, anything LEGO… those are franchises that I really love and are also from the biggest publishers out there – yet they still manage to remain loveable and relevant while delivering the kind of gameplay fans are used to. But other series like Resident Evil and SoulCalibur, who keep rehashing the same thing time after time, those are the series that need to take a look at what indie games with huge appeal are doing to maybe bring some of the “heart” back to their games. Smaller games like that really make a hit in the fan base help bigger game development teams take note to try and keep the industry fresh at a time where sequels are the norm and creativity and individuality seemingly have been stamped out. But that is a story for another time…