In the old, golden days, video games where thematically almost exclusively catering for a single target audience: male adolescents. Logically, some fantasy themes were recurrent: saving the earth and all of humanity or even the whole universe. Those were the goals and challenges of tomorrow's family men. Gaming having grown up, yesterday's youths are now confronted with reality. Those old dreams have been tainted as childish and the games industry now also delivers realism into the formerly well kept play rooms of today. One way of doing this apparently involves simulating every single job, no matter how absurd, and also every single every day activity, no matter how trivial, in a game. Resulting in increasingly obscure products in which the original ideas can hardly be recognized anymomre. Though even in the good old days, us heroes had to take a couple of collateral damage hits and, for example, resign ourselves to the role of a simple taxi driver. The implication being boring drives from A to B, where the highlight of the day is exchanging some gossip with the passengers. Unless, of course, it was Space Taxi.
While I watch my character walking slowly towards the sunrise at the end of Valiant Hearts: The Great War, I take a look back at the road that has brought me here. Considering that for the most part it lead through the battlefields of World War I, the journey was surprisingly rich in variety, and it entailed even some nice memories besides all the horror. Yet it has been exactly those contrasts, these emotional ups and downs, which make these sensations so intense. Its beginning seems almost a bit unreal now, but soon the story will come to an end, and I cannot remember when I had such a feeling of accomplishment at the end of a computer game.
First came Midwinter… and then the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Whether you see a causality in this sequence of events or not – the illegitimate child of these two followed soon enough, and it was called Ashes of Empire. From the (at the time very much current) situation of the former Soviet Union, the game takes its scenario: A large country, a major military has collapsed under its own economic weight. Its former republics are plunging into anarchy, and not the good kind. Armed former military units, now turned into modern-day highwaymen, are roaming the countries, leaving a trail of fear and suffering among the already poor and underfed population whereever their aimless plundering takes them. Only some local administrative structures can still uphold at least a bit of order.