I'm Over Elves And Orcs. Let's Have Some More Low Fantasy.

When I was writing about The Secret World yesterday, I mentioned that for many years, I've wanted to play an MMO based on Neil Gaiman's novel Neverwhere. So far, The Secret World does some, but not all, of what I've always wished I could see a massively multiplayer world do. But as I've been thinking about it, I'd love to see singleplayer games with a new focus, too. And much of it all comes down to the same focus.

My issue is this: I am so very tired of the worlds of European high fantasy.

Make no mistake: I love The Lord of the Rings and I admire the groundwork that J.R.R. Tolkien laid for what later became a huge and sprawling genre. (I can even explain more than anyone would ever care to know about the Silmarillion.) I think Dungeons and Dragons did well to draw on Tolkien for inspiration. I am amazed at the depth, breadth and variety of stories that have come out of sword and sorcery worlds.

But I am tired of them.

Orcs and elves are now as commonplace to a gamer as cars and phone poles are to a 21st century American. I have seen ice magic, fire magic, air magic and earth magic. I have seen chaos magic and blood magic. I have seen particle effects and dramatic colours in every hue known to man. I have seen impractical armour of every shape and metal; I have seen countless wizards in long robes and warriors with vital sections of their torsos unprotected. I have seen swords, bigger swords, daggers, unlikely daggers, and occasionally even a bow and quiver.

I have spent an absolutely ridiculous amount of time playing games in the England that never was. It's the pastoral, pre-industrial plane where everyone will talk to you, no matter how heavily armed you are. It's the world of a history that didn't exist, tinged with a magic that nobody actually told stories about.

Even Harry Potter had to deal with the Muggle world, on occasion.

I have always found there to be so much magic in urban environments. And even in a thoroughly explored, never-disconnected modern world, there are mysteries to uncover and stories to imagine. There's no reason not to get creative with variations of the world that is.

And that's what makes me think of Neverwhere. The novel posits an entirely parallel London, inhabiting the space physically and psychically below the London-that-is. A place where forgotten people, forgotten things, and forgotten slices of time go, to mix and merge and build a world all of their own. It's an urban fantasy that tells the story of a city's soul, not just a story of the people in it.

There's more than just vampires and zombies to the 21st century, or at least there could be. There is a feeling of age and mystery to so many cities. There is an underlying sense of wonder, and there are so many places to look. I'd rather follow the trail of the ghosts of San Francisco, or discover where that strange alley door in New York leads.

So far, then, that is what draws me to The Secret World. Here is a game that posits that the myths and legends of man are the magic we have to work with. We don't need to wear the bastardised fashions of 1450 to move in a world of good and evil. The cloaks aren't really necessary to a cloak and dagger story. And when it comes to the sword and sorcery bit, let's keep it something I could carry home on the subway.


Comments

    I don't think I'll ever be over elves and orcs but I am really enjoying The Secret World. It's sort of like a mix between Assassin's Creed and Silent Hill.

    I'm all for comtempory low fantasy, as there are a lot of sources that can be tapped and adapted to the modern setting.

    I agree with the tired of the Euro-high fantasy which is why I loved to bits the Guild Wars: Factions and Guild Wars: Nightfall. So different from the usual flavour, monsters and art styles from completely different cultures to what I usually find in games. Loved them to bits.

    Unfortunately for me, the GW's vocal "dedicated" player base reacted badly to being taken away from their European fairytale and well... It seems the continents of Elona and Cantha aren't going to be in GW2. At least at launch till god knows when.
    *sigh*

      August 28th.

        Aug 28th = us returning to Tyria. No word on when if ever we'll be revisiting Cantha or Elona (they're confirmed to be not included at launch).

      The issue wasn't so much being taken away from the european high fantasy and more that the prophecies campaign vein the original was paced the best.

      The standalone expansions of factions and nightfall were designed to be far quicker content with Factions to be a mainly PvP orientated affair.

      Factions did a lot of things well and if it had been the original location as opposed to the second likely there would be even more love for it especially since it would probably be more fleshed out.

      Though in getting away from the orcs and elves we just ended up with the afflicted(flood) which aren't really all that interesting an enemy.

      Nightfall though was just a big bland desert and the less of them we get the better in my mind

    A well made game based on Sandman or Lucifer would be fantastic.

    Until that game appears, I'll be content with VtMB.

      VtmB is still (dispite its flaws) one of my favourites. I've been trying to get a group together to try the pen and paper role play in the World of Darkness, but that doesn't seem to be too popular out here in Melbourne, unless you're in Monash university.

      But yeah, hopefully this starts a trend and we see more stories set in similar settings.

    I want to see weirder MMO settings (and games in general). Take your standard MMORPG fantasy lore and run it through a Mighty Boosh filter. Set it in a place like Wonderland or Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. Let Dr Seuss twist it a bit. Make a MMO that looks like Paper Mario and plays like Saints Row.

      For weirder settings I'd like a Giger inspired world to play in, not the Alien universe though more like the universe of Dark Seed.

        Yeah, Dark Seed had a pretty sweet world. As impressive as a snow capped virtual mountain range can look (Rift had some great views) I'd much rather look out and see some crazy Giger-like world.

      I'm glad I'm not the only one who's actually thought about this; personally, I always thought an mmo set in and around insects would be interesting, to say the least. Like say, raiding a house's kitchen floor for scraps, with the raid boss being the house cat or something.

    I'd love to see another Shiny game like Sacrifice or Messiah.

    Agreed. I'd love to see a video game adaption of the night watch trilogy.

    Meh. It's certainly cool to have many and varied settings, but how well that setting is used to tell a story/immerse the player is what matters most to me. It seems everybody and their dog says what Kate is saying here these days, personally I'm fine with elves and orcs forevermore if the plot uses them well, setting doesn't make something inherently better or worse.

    PS: Kate your definitions of high and low fantasy kinda suck, Neverwhere is technically High Fantasy.

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