Age of Empires 2 was one of the defining games of my childhood. It was the game which set me on the path towards PC gaming and RTS games specifically. So I’ve been thinking a lot about whether to buy the HD remake, cleverly entitled, ‘Age of Empires 2 HD’, when it comes out in a couple of weeks.
On the one hand, it’s one of my favourite games of all time, and who wouldn’t relish the chance to take a game of their childhood, and combine it with the best of modern game design. But on the other hand, I’m scared, what if playing the game again removes my rose tinted spectacles, and I have my childhood experience ruined?
Problems like this apply to the ongoing obsession the games industry has had with HD remakes for the past several years. Basically since the advent of HD as a concept. But recently it feels like things have come to a head. So I asked myself, just what is the purpose of HD reboots? Is it just to take an old, beloved, and genuinely good IP and scrape it for a few more pounds? Or to provide a new generation with the gaming experience they never had?
On the one hand, HD reboots do bring older franchises up to date. Look at Serious Sam. Nobody born post-1995 has any idea about the original Serious Sam games. But thanks to Serious Sam HD, Sam’s ridiculous levels of carnage can be enjoyed by a whole new generation.
Equally though, things are getting silly. The Tomb Raider Trilogy collection includes Tomb Raider Legend (released 2006) and Anniversary (released 2007). In the case of Anniversary, it’s a 2011 HD remaster of a 2007 remake of a game from the 90′s. That’s not giving a whole new generation the magic of Tomb Raider, they already did that in 2007, this is just money grabbing, surely?
Although at the end of the day, does it really matter? I mean, maybe it depends on the person and the game in question? I know for a fact that if someone told me I could play an HD version of Ocarina of Time, I’d pay through the nose for it, regardless of how recently another version was released.
That’s just me though, and my weakness for Zelda games and Ocarina of Time specifically. And I completely sympathise with the people who feel cheated when they pay full price for a game that’s just an old game made pretty.
But a part of me thinks we should just accept that as part of the system, people spent time updating these games, that incurs a cost on the part of the company. So really, we should be paying for these games, whether they should be full price is another question.
To be fair to the industry though, they have already gone some way to changing that. HD games usually come in packs now, where you get multiple games remastered in HD, like the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, the Tomb Raider Trilogy pack and the Ratchett and Clank pack.
Also, when HD games are released as stand-alone games, without being bundled with other games they have tended to be cheaper. Baldurs Gate Enhanced Edition and Age of Empires 2 HD are both great examples, both being around the £15 mark, which is really the benchmark for ‘cheap games’ these days.
When it comes down to it though, isn’t the most important thing that as many people as possible get to play games which are as good as possible? Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are perfect examples. Both of these games are (in my opinion) seriously underrated by the majority of gamers, if they’ve heard of them at all. By re-releasing them in HD, more people get to play truly awesome games, and isn’t that a good thing?
Obviously, that’s something we all want. But, when it comes to PC games at any rate, why should we expect to pay anything at all? I’ve seen lots of requests on Reddit for an HD remake of Morrowind, and I completely agree, Morrowind HD would be great. The thing is already have it, it’s called the Morrowind Overhaul project, and it’s a five year long effort to completely overhaul Morrowind. I advise anyone who enjoys the Elder Scrolls games on PC to go and check it out.
The point stands though. The modding community is strong enough to deliver graphical upgrades even to games like Skyrim for free, so why should we spend our hard earned money on rehashes of old games?
If the trend of HD remakes goes too much further, we’ll end up playing the Half-Life 2 HD Deluxe Collection about 6 months before the release of Episode 3.
I think what we can take away from HD Remakes is this. It’s a great idea, and works well for a lot of titles. Especially series which need an injection of old-school quality design if they’re going a little stale. And it works really well to engage our nostalgia. But there is a point at which it starts going a little far. When we start getting remakes of post-2005 games, it’s a bit silly.
What’s more I can’t believe how long it’s taken certain games to be chosen for the HD treatment. Only now, in 2013 are we seeing a Wind Waker HD, something long overdue, although that may be because only now is there a Nintendo console which can actually deal with HD in the first place.
To sum up, HD remakes are great, but only in moderation.