Lords of Time #5: Doctor Who Vs Shadow of Destiny
Gustaff Behr continues the series pitting Doctor Who against some of the biggest time travel fiction.
“If you can return here after the fated hour has passed, then I will tell for you the next fortune.”
We did promise we’d pit Doctor Who against some of the most popular works of time travel fiction out there, didn’t we? That includes video games media and this time, Doctor Who is not the king of the hill when it goes up against Konami’s Shadow of Destiny. As a little side trip into this series, let’s explore another media aspect in which time travel has become a huge part of.
About the Challenger!
Country of Origin: Japan
This story begins after Eike Kusch leaves a local European café and is making his way down the street. An unknown assailant kills him by stabbing him in the back without warning and then vanishes. I know what you’re thinking, this sounds like the ending to a game, not the start. Worry not. Eike is brought back to life by a mysterious entity called Homunculus and given a device that allows him to time travel. His mission is to go back into the past and somehow outwit and uncover the identity of his assailant before time runs out on him permanently. Throughout this game, Eike will uncover a 400 year old conspiracy and discover that he is the focal point in the lives of many others across time and space.
This game has arguably one of the best storylines I have every played (in any genre) and it is made even more spectacular when you realize that Eike can only walk, run and pick things up. Yip! He can’t even jump in this game. This is a strategy game that tells an intelligent and gripping mystery. Adding to that, how often does the detective of a story also end up being the murder victim – at the same time at the start of the investigation? Only time travel baby!
What’s terrific about this game is that in each chapter, Eike will die in some new way and come back with that foreknowledge and attempt to prevent it from happening. Also cool is that time passes in synch with the past, present and real time. This means that if you spend X minutes exploring in the past, then X minutes will have transpired in real time with you playing and after you return to the present, you’ll arrive X minutes after you first left in the present timeline. This puts a sense of urgency on the player in every one of the challenges. This game isn’t about action; it’s about how clever you are as a person and how well you understand time travel!
Dynamics and Differences
Since 2010, the Doctor Who franchise has expanded into a new media. It’s not really new, but the concept, much like the series at the time, received a brand new makeover: The Adventure Games. A creative series of PC games, most of which were freely available, but didn’t sit right with fans in some areas. Some of the common issues the games had was specifically how utterly easy they were to beat, the repetitively timed puzzles and the lagging, sometimes uncooperative AI. Much like the Adventure Games, Shadow of Destiny also utilizes a free world roaming system, but provides even less restrictions on where you can and cannot go.
Shadow of Destiny, unlike most of the Adventure Games, is heavily story based with lots of cut scenes (about five hours’ worth), another plus in my opinion. The plot also spans multiple time zones which is something that was done in The Eternity Clock, but instead of just creating a random time zone to dump one of four iconic sets of monsters in, Shadow of Destiny is a murder mystery (your own actually) that spans four different time zones; stretching from the 1580s, 1900s, 1980s and the present day. The puzzles in Shadow of Destiny are, unlike the Adventure Games, complicated and difficult to beat in time the first time you play this game because the player only has a set real-time limit to solve the mysteries which vary from thirty minutes to two and a half hours. This should give you an idea of how long they take to complete. Also, the puzzles don’t look like a 7-year old point and click mini game either; something Doctor Who should be ashamed off in this day and age.
The quests in Shadow of Destiny are also non-linear. The Eternity Clock played a little with this, but as a whole, it fell apart as evidenced by the lack of continuation the series received afterwards. To give an example of complicated quests: In one mission, Eike is poisoned by a very rare herb. There is no library or hospital in town to research the herb (library I get, not sure why there isn’t a hospital though), so I had to travel back 100 years to when it was first decided to turn the building I need Eike to visit into either a library or a museum (present form) and convince the owner to choose library, travel back to the present, read a book on curing said poison and find a way to get the antidote that happens to no longer exist in the present. Timey-wimey eh? Oh and I had to go back and change the library back into a museum in another chapter as well.
It gets better. Shadow of Destiny has at least five different endings that all depend on what the player does in the game. How’s that for time travel? Most players (myself included) tend to end up with the bad ending first time they play, which is also the easiest ending to get. Playing through this game multiple times isn’t boring either, because doing things differently results in a completely different story route. This sadly is not true in Doctor Who’s case. There is only one story route and one ending. Beating the game once will severely shorten the amount of time needed to beat it a second time and seem less exciting after each time.
One thing Doctor Who has over Shadow of Destiny though is availability. Shadow of Destiny was released in 2001, so it’s a really old game (with remarkably good graphics for the time). The PSP version came out in 2009, but I don’t recommend it. As for the PS2 and the PC versions, the only place you’re viable to locate them is via online…methods (shush!). Doctor Who on the other hand is fresh…ish and available all over the world…except in places where it isn’t.
Comparing these two, from a gaming viewpoint, instead of the usual time travel stuff, Shadow of Destiny manages to beat the competition. Actually, even if you compared the two using the latter criteria, Shadow of Destiny would still easily defeat The Adventure Games.
Maybe next time developers decide to create a Doctor Who video game, they’ll take a closer look at how Doctor Who is supposed do time travel in the console franchise. There are a lot of games that have done time travel correctly – Final Fantasy XIII-2, Ocarina of Time, Chrono Trigger and Clock Tower 3 among many others. Don’t throw Connect-the-Wire games at us and dress the Doctor up in CGI before calling it Doctor Who. Fans deserve Konami-level entertainment when it comes to our favorite Time Lord!
- Plot – 5/5
- Characters – 2/5
- Character Development – 2/5
- Tearjerkers – 2.5/5
- Timey-Wimey ball – 4/5
- Plot Point – 4/5
Based on these criteria, Shadow of Destiny scored…
19.5 out of a possible 30.
This means that the rankings look like this now:
- Back to the Future – 24/30
- Future Diary – 22/30
- Quantum Leap -- 20/30
- Shadow of Destiny – 19.5/30
- The Time Machine – 16.5/30
Join me next time when we rake up another challenger. Clue for next article: John Titor!