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Alexander the Great Disappointment

December 15th, 2004 by Troy Goodfellow · No Comments · Uncategorized

Oliver Stone’s Alexander was a critical failure and a commercial mediocrity. Despite all the pre-release hype and early Oscar buzz, the end product was a major disappointment, especially to ancient history afficianadoes like myself.

So you have to feel sorry for GSC Gameworld, the Ukrainian developer tapped to make the “official” Alexander game. Movie tie-ins are pretty commonplace in the gaming industry these days, and now a strategy game is getting the Hollywood treatment. I’m sure that GSC was hoping that the movie would be a huge hit and that people would start picking up the game with a pouty Colin Farrel on the box.

And now they are entering a crowded Christmas season stuck to a dud of a movie. Plus, there are two other Alexander games out there. Tin Solider: Alexander the Great is a wargame, and Alexander: The Heroes Hour is sort of a roleplaying RTS.

GSC’s big advantage is its track record. They made Cossacks and American Conquest – two games that I could not see the appeal of, but both managed to be huge hits is Europe. Alexander was intended to be a showcase for their new Cossacks II engine, though a quick glance didn’t reveal any major changes to the game.

The reviews I’ve seen of Alexander the game are average at best (IGN gave it a high of 7, though the text of the review made it seem that the reviewer hated it.) The demo did nothing for me, but, like I said, I didn’t like their other games either.

We’re used to seeing bad computer games come out of movies. But when your game was supposed to debut some of your new tech, the one-two punch of a bad movie and a mediocre game worries you. I, of course, have little doubt that GSC will continue to make money hand over fist from the Euro market for Cossacks II. Still, the debacle of a movie must have made some people at GSC wince when they saw what they were tied to. I mean, no one expected Catwoman to be good.

The idea of making a game about Alexander is not so new or original. In fact, there is little doubt that, given the release of the movie, Alexander games were inevitable. After all, the release of the Troy movie was closely followed by the abysmal Battle for Troy and the expansion for Spartan, Gates of Troy (soon available in North America). But to so conspicuously tie a strategy game to a movie is a big moment for the genre. I’m sure that it looked like a win-win for GSC. The movie was getting good buzz while in production, GSC has a lot of loyal fans and with Ubisoft doing the distribution there was good chance of shelf space – unlike the other Alexander games.

Until I play the full version, I will reserve final judgment on whether GSC has made a silk purse out of Stone’s sow’s ear.


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