As someone who loves both Doctor Who and video games, I hope that the answer to this question will one day be ‘yes’, but looking at the previous attempts at Doctor Who video games, I’m not sure how soon, if ever, my wish will be fulfilled. But what would it take to make a good Doctor Who video game? I thought I’d try and work it out…
I’m going to be honest with you, I’ve tried three Doctor Who video game franchises in the past, and all of them have been fairly terrible. The first Doctor Who video game experience was way back in 2008 on the PS2. Sure, I already had a PS3 too, but the PS2 in my room was suffice to play the first title I’m going to talk about; Top Trumps: Doctor Who. This wasn’t really a video game in the sense that you got to play along a narrative and follow certain characters on a story; instead we were effectively playing regular Top Trumps against a computer and paid about £20 for the privilege. I distinctly remember buying it on a Saturday and returning it on the Sunday as I’d completed it, there wasn’t too much to do and was a waste of money. This is not how a Doctor Who video game should be at all.
Next up, there was Doctor Who: The Adventure Games which I played on my PC between 2010 and 2011. These games weren’t too bad because they were based on platform games, a genre that I’m very fond of, and had decent enough storylines to keep the player engaged. I couldn’t complain at the price either, as these titles were free. The graphics weren’t great, the game ran slowly on a decently powered computer and the downloads took ages, but those were just the limitations of the time. These felt much more like proper Doctor Who stories that were interactive opposed to the abomination that was Top Trumps: Doctor Who. The Adventure Games showed promise that a Doctor Who video game could work, but the BBC decided to pull the project so they could work on…
Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock. The 2.5D side scrolling platform adventure that featured the Eleventh Doctor and River Song. Now, The Eternity Clock is worth a fortune, mainly because of it’s lack of sales. If The Adventure Games had the promises of a good Doctor Who video game, then the Eternity Clock totally disregarded everything and tried to do its own thing. I didn’t actually own a copy of The Eternity Clock, but I remember playing the game for about 20 minutes on the PS3 and being thoroughly disappointed. To me, the game felt totally rushed and unpolished; when The Eternity Clock released in 2012, we’d already had amazing looking games like Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception on the same console putting the graphics to shame. Now I’m not saying that graphics are the only thing that matters in a game; far from it; some of the best games I’ve ever played weren’t as cinematic as other AAA titles at all but played extremely well. I think that the BBC were hoping that just the branding would sell this game, and they were wrong, which is a shame.
The latest foray into Video-Game-Land for Doctor Who is Lego Dimensions, a game that is an amalgamation of everything children enjoy in Lego form in a video game. I’ve not had the opportunity to play much Lego Dimensions, but from what I have played and have also seen, it looks like immense fun; the game doesn’t take itself seriously at all, there’s lots of humour and it’s aimed at kids of all ages. If there ever was a solo Doctor Who video game to ever be made again, I would not be disappointed if it transpired to be Lego Doctor Who: The Video Game at all. Is that the only way that a Doctor Who video game could work though? By being a platform-puzzle game? I think that that idea would certainly be successful in terms of sales, especially if it is associated with Lego, as none of their recent video games have been anywhere near as bad as recent Doctor Who video games, but what alternatives are there?
For the slightly more mature gamer, (yes, I’m aware I’m 19 at the time of writing this, but I’m going to be 20 in April!) I wouldn’t mind if whoever wanted to make a decent Doctor Who video game went down a more post-modern path in the style of gameplay. One thing’s for certain, I do not want Call of Duty: Doctor Who as that wouldn’t make any sense whatsoever, but there are a few games that I think could potentially be good inspiration for a Doctor Who video game. The first game is getting a lot of buzz in the gaming community, No Man’s Sky, a game which is near infinite in scale. The basic premise is you have a ship and you can travel anywhere in the universe; there’s millions upon millions of planets to explore, each with new species to discover and catalogue all with the optional goal of trying to get to the centre of the universe. Now imagine a game with that scope, with that near infinite playground but have it based around Doctor Who lore. Not only do you have a massive expanse of space to discover, but you could also have a massive expanse of time to explore too. Now I’m not saying that it would have to be as big in scale as No Man’s Sky, but imagine being a Time Lord or a Dalek in the middle of the Time War and being able to travel wherever you want to try and defeat the opponents by planting traps back in time or going forward in time to see if you prevail. That could be utterly incredible.
Another idea that could possibly work involves the latest emerging tech, virtual reality, or VR for short. Now this would be a totally different type of experience to my previous idea, but imagine having a game where you’re the Doctor’s new companion and you have to explore the vastness of the TARDIS. You could literally spend hours just looking around and finding references to past adventures. Sounds pretty relaxed and chilled out right? Now imagine that when you’re doing that you find a rogue Dalek or Cyberman or a swarm of Vastha Nerada and now this is a survival game like Alien Isolation. That would be utterly magnificent and terrifying in my opinion.
In answer to my question, can you make a good Doctor Who video game? With the right amount of time, money, patience and love by a studio who are already skilled at making games, I can see no reason why that would be impossible. We just have to hope that one day we get the Doctor Who video game that we Whovians deserve.