This is nothing new, been the story across media since Tolkien, really.


The mid nineties to the turn of the century was a special time. We got Morrowind, Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, even Ultima 8 had a pretty interesting setting (even if the gameplay was atrocious). I’m sure there were other games and fiction with interesting settings as well.

Then the LotR films came out, and that was it. Everybody started bandwagoning hard.


I mean… sure if you only play games that have that same feeling?

Like oh no BG3 is just elves & Brittania… Duh?

So play WotR and at least go to the Abyss?

Or play any game based not on Tolkien lore? There’s a ton of games based on different mythologies: Raji, Prince of Persia, Tribes of Midgard, Hades, Wo Long, etc.

Or just play games set in just completely different worlds? Pyre/Transistor/Bastion are all interesting worlds. Remnant I/II is a neat concept. etc. More playful stuff like Cuphead/Death’s Door, etc.

Or look at some MMO’s if you want larger worlds with different influence? Guild Wars 2 is pretty decent as far as a good variety with its world/races for example, even if its still similar to a generic fantasy setting.


I think Skyrim ruined a lot of fantasy for me. It’s such a great game that many other settings cannot live up to it.


Idk, personally it was very unengaging and the only way I found it amusing was through a ton of mods or Enderall’s total conversion mod. But everyone’s into different shit.


It’s weird particularly to see that praise for Skyrim when (imo obviously) morrowind in the same series had a substantially more interesting story and world, a decade prior


I think Skyrim was a big entry point for a lot of fans who haven’t played the earlier games. I do agree though, Morrowind is amazing and is, in my opinion, a better game than Skyrim. Skyrim is kind of a dumbed down Morrowind.

SturgiesYrFase, avatar

Even worse, it’s a dumbed down Oblivion, which itself is a dumbed down Morrowind.


I always thought Oblivion was a much better setting than Skyrim, but I replayed Oblivion recently and I realized nostalgia was doing a lot of heavy lifting. I came away not knowing really what to think. Oblivion still held up and was clearly a great game but it wasn’t perfect and was a bit dated (Jeez I mean skyrim is also dated lol). Maybe everyone just kinda feels that special something about their first ES game lol.

Edit: I should add, I also played Morrowind somewhat recently (much longer after playing the original two) and it was also a great game but didn’t seem necessarily better than the other two.

Edit: Edit: I also played daggerfall, it was very ok lol

Edit: Edit: Edit: I also played ESO, 5/10


Skyrim was a significant improvement over Oblivion, in every way I can think of. Only Oblivions quest lines were better, but that’s not what I go to an open world game for (and I found the extreme mismatch between the cinematic plots and open world gameplay immersion-breaking). And while Morrowind has a much more interesting setting (and the plot weave that encompassed that setting was brilliant), Skyrim was the first entry since Daggerfall to really give me a decent first person action RPG feel.


True, Vvardenfell was a really interesting setting because of how alien it is, but skyrim added a lot of interesting lore through books and such. Like the argonian counter-invasion of oblivion after they were physically altered by their hist-trees, forcing the immortal forces of dagon to close their own portals.


I don’t think the in-game history books count very much at all. That’s the flattest, laziest world building possible. They’re fine, sure, but having good “told but never shown” history is worth the least marks by a long shot.


Stormlight Archive could be turned into such a good Dynasty Warriors style game.

Story-mode is literally just playing differing characters in each of the fights of the story, you could do at least 10-12 fights.

Campaign mode could be picking one of the 10 warcamps, each with different starting strengths, and racing, done via a base building / management interspersed with combat levels, to claim the most wealth.

Tearcell, avatar

@Pheonixdown @alyaza I had alot of fun doing a bares bones prototype of gravity lashing in 2d. Storm light is just ripe for all sorts of video game adaptations.

Definitely a project I wanna revisit someday.

pixel, avatar

I’ve been playing Guild Wars 2 a ton over the past two years and honestly I’m really glad I’ve spent so much time in the setting, it’s so not traditional fantasy and it’s richer for it. I wish that more fantasy played with the expectations of the genre. Tolkien-esque fantasy is a great jumping off point but I wish authors/creators did more with it than just start and stop there

MoogleMaestro avatar

Really wish this game had controller support. I want to try it on the steam deck but only community bindings are available!

pixel, avatar

Yeah I agree, especially bc it’s on steam now and the steam deck puts a premium on games with controller support. But even on PC sometimes I feel like I’m short on buttons, but there’s probably some way to play comfortably on a controller and anet really aught to invest in it

Maven, avatar

I got a Logitech MMO mouse, and it’s great, I can play onehanded for most things!


With action cam it’s definitely playable with a controller but I doubt they’ll put in controller support because like… there’s a billion different bindings and everyone rebinds everything in their own so there’s not much point? Browse community bindings and find one that works for you/your character(s).

Maven, avatar

Yesss I’ve been playing since Guild Wars 1, I was there when the last day dawned on the kingdom of Ascalon, and I looove how they’ve evolved the setting over the decades! I’ve run D&D games set in it, and it’s a great great time

squirrel, avatar

Tolkienesque fantasy has become the carbon copy of a carbon copy of a carbon copy ages ago…
And it becomes even more apparent when people consider that Tolkienesque fantasy tropes aren’t even about “medieval Europe”, they are about a particular English pseudo-medieval world. Fantasy doesn’t do much exploring even beyond the English-speaking world.

Southern Europe (Italy, France, Spain,…) aren’t even featured much. The landscape may allude to it, but then the same Northern European castles sit on the top of hills, occupied by the same kind of lords that you’d find in other parts of the game map.
And other parts of the medieval world do not fare much better: Everything around the Mediterranean is reduced to stereotypes or entirely replaced by some fantasy race. Every place outside of Europe/the Mediterranean fares even worse.
It has no depth, no knowledge of particular local traditions, it is not rooted in any stories, only recalls the same tired tropes that Tolkien established.

Even inside Europe and around the Mediterranean, the medieval world was very diverse. Every region had its own traditions, stories, clothing, customs and its own mythologies with their own particular kinds of monsters and creatures.
But you’d not know through most fantasy stories which - no matter the landscape they take place in - it always boils down to a band of adventurers walking into an inn, drinking a beer and paying it with gold coins, before they go off to kill some orcs in the name of some duke. Very little thought is spend on considering if it even makes sense that a place that is akin to - let’s say - Southern France had any of these things.

When Tolkien wrote LOTR, he based most of it on ancient Germanic stories like “Beowulf”, that there are uncountable other folktales and stories from all over the ancient world which could be chosen as the basis of a fantasy setting instead.

fraenki, avatar

It’s so weird that elves are now the good guys. They were actually dream spirits that give you nightmares (engl. nightmare ≫ german Alptraum = elf dream). And no, they weren’t described having otherworldly beauty.

It’s also believed that nordic elves and dwarfs are the same beings in the Edda. The nordic word for elf is álfr which often is part of dwarf names.


So, the author mentioned a couple of delightfully strange recent games. The thesis of the article is way too broad and unsupportable. If you’re sick of mainstream settings, then stop playing AAA games.


I can understand why fantasy settings are pretty stale, not just in games but in a variety of other media as well. Fantasy can be complex, and using old, familiar tropes (elves are haughty and love nature, dwarves are stubborn and love gold, humans are the world’s jack-of-all-trades) lowers the barrier to entry, which is really important when you want something to be easily marketable to as large an audience as possible. People know what to expect from familiar fantasy tropes, which means they can focus on plot and gameplay rather than going “so what’s that character supposed to be?”

But it’s boring. I love it when a fantasy setting isn’t afraid to trust the intelligence and curiosity of its audience and do something weird.


Anime if anything seems to be doing worse at this. Nearly every fantasy or fantasy adjacent anime goes for a knock-off D&D MMO style and it feels so tired. They don't want their audience to need to make the smallest effort to understand the world and the role of the characters in it.


That’s so disappointing. I haven’t really kept up with anime in recent years, but what I loved about the anime I watched when I was much, much younger was how different it was compared to the western media I was familiar with.


I think the difference is that a lot more English speakers watch anime as it’s airing in Japan now. Anime used to have to be at least somewhat interesting for someone in the west to even be aware of it, but now we get to see all the shit they’re putting out that never would have made it over here before.


At least some of take a super unique approach… like being reincarnated as a vending machine.

aebrer avatar

You got a title for that one? Sounds like something I'd enjoy


Jidou Hanbaiki ni Umarekawatta Ore wa Meikyuu wo Samayou

It’s actually alright. Not something I’d rewatch though.


I count that as more gimmicky than creative. Like they are taking the same structure and just doing a bit of madlibs.


Yeah, that was kind of my point lol.

“That one time I was reborn as ____ and now I ____!”

*cue big ol’ anime titties


Dr. Stone, Attack on Titan, Demon Slayer, Jujutsu Kaisen – you don’t have to look very hard to find anime that doesn’t look anything like western fantasy


The person you were replying to was explicitly talking about current (‘new’) anime, not industry darlings like AoT.


Dude, the last episodes of AoT haven’t even aired yet, how current do you want?


Partly why Shadow of the Colossus was eerily beautiful, it didn’t depend on any kind of pre-existing mythology


Exactly my thinking for Horizon. These studios are pumping so much money into mechanics and graphics, I wish they would put similar resources into story and lore.


I was very pleased with the world-building and lore in Horizon: ZD! The cultures and different factions felt genuinely unique and novel.


I wanted to bring up Horizon but I thought people would quibble over post apocalyptic vs fantasy. But really, if you’re going to quibble about that then you’re already blind to how beholden you are to fantasy tropes and are rejecting things that are genuinely new and different because they are different “wrong.”


Fantasy world that turns out to be post-Apocalypse Earth is a pretty old trope.

Jaysyn avatar

You've not played Caves of Qud, I see.


Only stuck to a specific subset of AAA games I’m fairly sure


This is true of just about every story telling trope in every genre of every form of media right now. The gems that stand out genuinely change the formula, because otherwise, we’ve seen it all before.


You should have seen that long post someone did on “why I hate your favourite story-telling game”, on Beehaw last month.

I’ll edit it in once I find it.

Found it! Beehaw link Original link


That is an interesting read. Everyone in the comments are ripping the author as pretentious oof lol. As I said in my OP, I think this problem goes much deeper than shallow video games. Movies and TVs are struggling to find novelty in the endless deluge of content we’re currently experiencing. (Books and webserials seem to be doing more ok but I’m also a lot pickier about what I’ll consume there so its selection bias) We’re in an infinite monkey typewriter situation and at this point it seems mostly random when something is just different enough to be good television. A tale as old as time, the situation remains: the best stories are character driven.

storksforlegs, avatar

I think the reason they are struggling is because all the decisions on what should be greenlit are being made by VC investor types, business people who arent in it for the love of film or storytelling etc. No chances are taken, only huge guarantees of big returns are considered (which means replicating what has made money in the past.)

This kind of thinking neglects what actually makes a movie good, and how movies were made in the past.


100%, Id say the problem is multi faceted but for sure a big (maybe even majority) part of it is big money trying to guarantee a hit rather than produce quality content


95% of everything has always been crap. We live in a golden age where we have enough non crap at our disposal that we never have to watch anything awful if we don’t want. You will, however, have to look for it – it’s scattered among a dozen services and you’ll need to engage with reviews and social media to find what you’re looking for, most likely.

There’s also a filter of time thing going on, where we forget the shitty media of the past. 1992 gave us Reservoir Dogs, A Few Good Men and My Cousin Vinny. It also gave us Pet Seminary 2, BeBe’s Kids and Love Potion Number 9. So was it a good year or a bad year?


This isn’t a well formulated idea but something that’s been kicking around in my head for a while. There have always been bad movies and TV but I think what is somewhat new is that the blockbuster films are so big budget that it’s always “a good movie” in that its well made but the substance is always lacking. It’s kind of a bizarre and unsettling feeling watching a well produced 200 million dollar movie that kinda… sucks? Is boring? Because movie magic has become so commodified its hard for a movie to ride on flash and sparkle alone.


Ah, I’ve seen this problem in storytelling broken down to this:

You don’t want your story to be a bunch of “and then and then and then.” You want your story to be “because this happened, this other thing happened, then because of that, this other thing happened.” Etc etc.

Still a good read.

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