I am a complete and utter Doctor Who fanatic. Those who know me will also know this. I’ve been directly responsible for a mass amount of people entering in to the world of Doctor Who, a feat that I’m proud of.
One of the things I’ve always wanted was a Doctor Who video game. Not the mobile games, or the BBC adventure games, or even The Eternity Clock (a 2D side-scrolling…something or other). I want a full-fledged Doctor Who action game. A game where you can take on the role of the Doctor and, potentially, others to help rid the universe of its “problem children.”
The game would be a third person “action puzzler” (I suppose that’s the best genre I have for it). The big deal about it is that it probably wouldn’t be a 100% traditional action game. The Doctor is the most pacifistic action hero ever. He has his moments of rage and anger, but his big thing is that he doesn’t use guns or a whole load of violence if he can avoid it. He is certainly an action hero, but he doesn’t really follow many of the action hero tropes. How does one utilize this fact and make it into gameplay?
Puzzles, of course! Really well designed puzzles! The Doctor has numerous tools at his disposal. The Sonic Screwdriver and the psychic paper would be the two primary tools, but the Doctor has gathered so many off the wall objects over his several hundred year life that I’m certain many cool items can be used and implemented in puzzle solving. Perhaps a puzzle as simple as using the Tenth Doctor’s 3D glasses to make your way through a safe path of a toxin ridden room. Perhaps it’s as complex as using multiple tools to flip the quantum neurospectromitor and reverse the polarity of the neutron flow. Maybe your companion is trapped in a room and is being closed in on by Daleks, and you need to use your sonic screwdriver and some kind of cryptographic transmogrifier (if you haven’t figured this out yet, I’m making up a whole mess of words) to unlock the door in time. Who knows? The thing with puzzles in a standard action games is that there’s a lot of reality it kind of has to be grounded in. The beauty with sci-fi is that you can dream up all manner of nifty puzzles using all manner of nifty gadgetry. And short of giving the Doctor a Portal Gun, 3D puzzle solving with handheld tools seems to be the trick.
But it wouldn’t be all that fun if there was only puzzles. Herein lies the problem. How do you add more gameplay elements to a character that won’t feature much combat? You add two things: Stealth and Investigations.
The first thing that will probably be implemented would be a stealth element. Large amounts of dangerous enemies are not good things and the Doctor would be in the thick of it (as always). Of course, unless there was some sort of strategic advantage to it, the Doctor wouldn’t rush directly into a confrontation with a horde of Daleks. That’s where stealth comes in. Perhaps you alter the environment to create safe paths around obstacles, like using a crane to lower some metal pipes down to create a path over patrolling baddies. Maybe you can overload a circuit to create a large explosion that draws enemies near to it so you can get through unseen. Perhaps you act as bait while your computer controlled (or, dare I say, partner controlled) companion activates necessary…y’know…things that need to be activated. Maybe you even use your Screwdriver to rewire a drone for an inside job. Subterfuge is important, and there should be numerous creative ways to finagle your way through potentially dangerous situations.
The investigations portion would probably be a lot like an adventure game. A big part of Doctor Who is that the Doctor stumbles into situations with virtually no information on what’s happening and discovers things as the episode proceeds. In the game, the Doctor would have to search the environment and question NPCs about events in progress to get a bigger picture of the situation and how to best proceed. Maybe he finds an old photograph that suggests alien interference with their location and then uses that photograph to ask the owner of the place about strange goings on. Of course, it wouldn’t be fun or a challenge to simply get answers in a string of scripted responses. You would, for example, need to present the right clues and select the right things to say to a character to get all the information you need out of them. What I’m suggesting is, essentially, Phoenix Wright except as Doctor Who. It’s a system that would work incredibly well, I believe.
Of course, there might just have to be straight up action portions to the game to balance out the stealth and puzzles. Maybe you begin a level playing as the Doctor’s enemy and set up the mess that the Doctor has to fix. Maybe in the middle of a level, control switches to an enemy and you have to hunt the Doctor down to bring in the next portion of the story. Maybe there’s a character that is the Doctor’s ally, but not opposed to violence as he is (such as River Song or a potential new character) that takes a more “hands on” approach to the entire situation. It still probably wouldn’t be a traditional shooter or anything like that, but it can add some things to the spectrum of gameplay styles for people who want to do something different.
The best part about this is that you could probably play it two player. The Doctor, for his own sanity, always travels with some form of companion. Whether this is a game exclusive one that gets whisked away on some crazy adventure or the Doctor’s existing companion in the show at the time, there’s still room for player 2. Of course, the AI would have to be smart in this game for any of the tricks you might need to pull in game, but just imagine if you had a friend along for the ride.
As far as the story goes, there are two different ways they could take it. The first way would boil down to one long story taking place over several hours of gameplay. The focus would be on one enemy or group and you work your way up to the final encounter with them over the course of your game. The idea of linear story telling shouldn’t be unfamiliar to you.
The second way (and this is, honestly, my preferred way) is an episode/mission structure. In this case, you’d have several different missions you could undertake that would focus on a different enemy in different locales, but were shorter, overall, than the straight story. I like this option because it offers the widest array of villains they can include in the game as well as the widest array of stories (and I love me a good Doctor Who story). The best part (and this structure would work better for this) is that in between missions, the TARDIS could act as a story hub. You could control the companion in the TARDIS, talk to the Doctor, explore the rooms, and learn more about the Doctor Who universe. If this is a companion created for the game, perhaps you learn more about him/her as well.
If the powers that be could gather a top notch developer to build some beautiful mechanics and some regular Doctor Who writers to pen a fantastic story, I think a 3D Doctor Who game could do incredibly well.
At least, as a Whovian, this is what I tell myself.
(All screenshots taken from Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock for PS3, Vita, and PC.)