Call him the Bard of Avon or England’s national poet or ShakeyP, there’s no doubt that William Shakespeare is one of the top contributors in the business today. That’s why we were positively exploding with anticipation when we learned he’d be dropping by our office with a recent build of his latest project, tentatively entitled Hamlet. To our disappointment, Hamlet wasn’t a cross between ham and an omelette, as tasty as that sounds. No, it’s a new play, one that according to its author will break new ground in the often staid tragedy genre. But will Shakespeare’s Hamlet really live up to all the hype? Hit the jump to find out how our demo went.
The scene we were presented with shows the titular Hamlet talking to his mother, Gertrude. Apparently, Hamlet’s father has been killed, and his uncle Claudius sits on the throne under somewhat suspicious circumstances. As best as we could make out, another man, Polonius, is spying on the conversation, and Hamlet, mistaking him for his villainous uncle, stabs him through a sheet. Or would have if the sword actually penetrated it– a Shakespeare rep was quick to point out that the plastic sword we saw would be replaced by a very realistic looking sword in the final shipping version of the play. After that, a ghost shows up and says some more stuff that we didn’t quite get– the plot gets very convoluted at this point, and all we could tell was that Gertrude was mad at her son and that he would be off to England. All in all, though, it was a pretty engaging scene and we were left with a definite sense of what Hamlet is going to be all about.
What did we like?
The words: If ShakeyP is famous for anything it’s for his way with words. Everyone’s speech was beautifully written and listening to the flowery soliloquies was like experiencing genuine literature.
The action: The only action sequence we got to witness was Hamlet stabbing Polonius, but we were impressed with what we saw. Hamlet convincingly lashed out and both Polonius and the sheet in front of him reacted realistically, with the cloth waving around and the old man dropping to one knee before he died. It’s nuances like this that have given Shakespeare the name he has today.
What didn’t we like?
Whiny young protagonist: Well, maybe ShakeyP’s been taking a little too many cues from the JRPG bag of tricks these days. Hamlet himself is a pretty unlikeable hero, one who spends too much time dithering about what to do and not enough time kicking ass. The devs are trying to portray him as a red-blooded young lad by giving him a love interest named Ophelia, but he seems suspiciously more at home with his buddies Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. How gamers are going to identify with him is beyond us.
The words: Did we mention the play is long and full of words? We found ourselves nodding off a certain points. We suggested some kind of skip function, and the Bard seemed to like our idea, saying that not everyone really needs to hear all of that stuff. We’ll see if something like that gets implemented for the final version.
Graphics: The visuals have never been the strongest suit of Shakespeare’s works, but the ones we saw in Hamlet were a little bit concerning. The scene we watched only had three characters on the stage at any one time, and the bedroom setting was so sparse it looked like it could have been something from a couple generations back. Hopefully by the time the play comes out they’ll have passed a few more renders over the whole thing to bring it up to more modern standards.