Kickstarter isn’t what it was. Back in 2013, the pitch “Dungeon Keeper in space” garnered Maia £140,000. Skip ahead three years and another charming pitch – “Dwarf Fortress meets Elite” – barely scraped £10,000. That’s absolutely no reflection of the quality of the product. After all, despite being a one-man game, Sol Trader is well on course to hit its release window of June 2016 as a stable, intriguing game. It’s just a reflection on the changed times for indies; today, the determinant of success seems to be a tightening social web of ‘in’ indie developers and press, and its creator Chris Parsons isn’t part of that web.
Video games don’t often do subtle or literate. Games like Gears of War and Call of Duty succeed with no philosophical hinterland or characters worth talking about. Cutesy games are sickeningly so, shooting heroes speak in single syllables, and sincere indie games beat you over the head with how much everyone is suffering. Few seem to learn from the thousand years of fiction at our fingertips. And then there’s The Count Lucanor, which might be the purest distillation of the Gothic novel as a game.
I’ve killed these men, many many times. Every character in this French palace is known to me, from the bickering chefs in the basement kitchen, to the magazine editor desperate to stymie her collapsing sales, to the diva show manager to the laconic camera crew at the front of the building, whose report I photobomb. Hitman has turned from the antisocial murder simulator par excellence into Groundhog Day, where your infinite lives allow you to track and poke each and every person’s life.