So, I spent a whole week looking over the video games I found in my search for the ultimate barbarian game. The question is did I find it?
While I do have my favorites, Rastan and Golden Axe II, I actually have to admit that, despite how great they are, neither are what I would call the ultimate barbarian game. So, the answer is no.
The question that must be asked, then, is what would I consider to be the ultimate barbarian video game? Well, in this age of video games merging with books and movies to become a powerful medium, I would think the ultimate barbarian experience should be immersive. Take games like Dragon Age: Origins or The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion; both, in their own ways draw you into their respective worlds. Dragon Age gives you deep story and characters to sink your teeth into while Oblivion has the play philosophy of a kid in a playground; you're free to do whatever you want, but where do you start and what do you do? I would have to say if BioWare or Bethesda (the creators of Dragon Age and Oblivion, respectively) turned their focus onto a sword & sorcery style RPG, they could definitely create what may be the ultimate in barbarian gaming.
Let's put that under the microscope a little. Let's say I could suggest ideas to both companies to make their magnum opus of swords and steel. What would I tell them?
Well, for Bethesda, all I could really say is take the formula that's worked so well for its RPGs and run with it. Oblivion is a great game and Fallout 3 is even better. If they were to refine their formula and liberally mix in elements of sword & sorcery, they could do fantastic things with it. With the freedom found in the games they make, you could find yourself as a mighty-thewed barbarian warrior; a swift, nimble thief/assassin; even a foul, demon-worshipping sorcerer whose minions steal beautiful, young women to offer as blood sacrifice to glut the appetites of their patrons. To be honest, some of these ideas have already been explored, to a certain extent. If they could be refined and brought to a more savage world, it would be perfect. Of course, Oblivion and Fallout 3 have a main underlying story that the characters can undertake. The main quests seemed to take greater precedence over the side-quests (ergo, they are called side-quests), which, in my opinion, kind of limits the freedom. I wouldn't want to see a "main" quest in a game like this. The main quest should be replaced with a "starting" quest; something that the character initially goes through to insert him into this greater world of possibilities. In Fallout 3, the main quest did have some great import, but didn't seem to be as pressing as it was in Oblivion, so they're kind of taking the right steps. The "starting" quest should be about one thing - revenge. Someone or something wronged out hero (or anti-hero, or villain) and brings them to seek power, in whatever way they see fit, to enact vengeance. This vengeance, however, need not necessarily end in blood. Say your character becomes a power hungry warlord or sorcerer in his own right. You could amass enough power to where your sworn enemy recognizes your superiority and offers themselves to your service. If you're really sinister, you could order your enemy's own men to kill him, or even order him to fall on his own sword in a show of loyalty. That would be a terribly awesome vengeance.
This kind of game would require some definite improvements to Bethesda's formula. This could definitely be a huge game, maybe even bigger than anything they've ever done before. Either way, it would be an ambitious project. One thing they definitely need to work on is character models. Most NPCs in Oblivion were ass ugly. It doesn't surprise me that there were no children in Cyrodiil, because I can't imagine these people actually having sex with each other. There has been an improvement in Fallout 3, but, if Bethesda ever decided to take my idea and run with it, there needs to be some really sexy women in the game.
Now, if BioWare were to make a sword & sorcery RPG, I've got a great concept for them. I'm surprised that no one took a look at sword & sorcery movie staple, The Beastmaster, and said, "That would make an awesome game." As BioWare is more into making story and character driven RPGs, this game should follow the story of a young man who has been taught by a secluded shaman the ways of communing with the spirits of animals. This power gives him the ability to command animal familiars, see through their eyes; all the stuff that Dar could do in the movie. What kind of animals you could commune with should be regulated by an attribute, like "Spirit." The higher your Spirit rating, the more powerful beasts you can command. You can level up your animals, like the Mabari war hound in Dragon Age, to make them stronger.
Of course, the animals will fight by your side, but I think it should go even further. I think a game like that should also deal with the deaths of your animal companions. If one of your animals dies in battle, you can take its remains and return them to the shaman, who could make talismans out of the fur, feathers, teeth, and claws of the animal; granting you greater powers when you equip them. It would be kind of like the spirits of your brave beasts still fight by your side after death. Of course, too many animal deaths could result in the depletion of your Spirit rating, so as to prevent assholes intentionally killing their beasts to gain their power.
Anyway, these are just ideas I have. If anyone from Bethesda or BioWare should come across this post (fat chance of that happening, though), definitely take note of these ideas. The only thing that matters to me is that I may see a video game awesome enough to be considered the ultimate barbarian game.
Well, I guess I'll just have to keep dreaming, won't I?
At least I have Golden Axe II to comfort me on those long, lonely nights. Tyris Flare is so damn hot, after all.