I found myself buying, among a few other games that were featured and/or recommended to me during the latest Steam Winter Sale - the original Darksiders.
Now, at first I didn't even realize something rather important about it, because I was hit with a bit of nostalgia; Darksiders was a game I greatly enjoyed playing back when it was released in 2010, but after two (consecutive) playthroughs I had completely forgotten about it - until it popped up on the sale as the "Warmastered Edition". Having a more thorough look at the store page I realized it was a remake and, though I went ahead and bought it anyway and am currently enjoying playing through it again, I started thinking about whether the concept of "remaking" games is worth the gamers' time and money.
But before I get into that, I want to be a little bit more specific with this particular remake: Darksiders Warmastered Edition is a remake that, although thankfully low in price during the sale, offers both the remake and the original version of the game, which I found odd; the problem is that the "two games" do not share achievements, playtime counts or card drops for crafting badges. What the game does not offer is any striking difference from the original: first of all, the graphics improvements are rather simple and at most times unnoticable unless you really, really know where to look and want to waste time making comparisons of the two versions. Thing is, Darksiders is a very action packed game where there's almost always a lot going on, and you don't usually really have time to stand around and appreciate slightly less blurry or a bit higher res'ed textures. The game doesn't seem to offer any new content in terms of gameplay, UI improvements, DLC bonuses, music, concept art - nothing. Some bug fixes here and there, some new bugs here and there - but all in all, nothing to be excited about. The game originally being heavily console oriented means some camera problems and weird animations persist even in this new version of the game which, I had hoped as I was downloading it, had been fixed for this re-release. Unfortunately, they were not. Don't get me wrong, at the end of the day this game is still very fun to play and if you've never owned it before this is still a better version than the original.
... (why) are video game remakes/ramasters slowly becoming a trend and, in the current state of the gaming industry, is it worth trusting devs and publishers with your money for something you already played and, most importantly, payed for in the past?
I would argue that most of the time, the answer is no or, in the best case scenario, maybe. Buying a remake or remaster of a game should be a very, very hard decision on the consumer's part and should include a lot of research into what exactly the new version offers compared to the original, especially if you already own that original version. Also, you have to remember, in most cases these remakes are a way for publishers to make some more money off of a game when its sales drastically drop or have completely diminished, so you shouldn't really expect anything grand in the first place.
And there are plenty of examples that kind of prove this argument:
Metro! Although Metro 2033 Redux was a great update to the game because it used the then latest version of the 4A engine found underneath Last Light - Last Light Redux, in fact, was not. And that's because it was completely unnecessary, even though it did feature all of the previously released DLCs. Deep Silver even went as far as bundling both games together to release them as one package, creating a Redux hell of sorts for those who jumped on the remake train early.
Darksiders! The latest example, explained above in case you skipped it, you bastards.
Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy)! Now here's one you might not have heard of before. Fahrenheit is a game from 2005 released by Quantic Dream, the same guys who made Heavy Rain ten years later. It was also a more cinematic and very engaging game, though with a bit of a ridiculous storyline - however this was also a game I very much enjoyed playing. It can currently be found on Steam as a remastered version that literally does not offer anything useful; the old blurry low-res textures have been replaced or mashed together with other blurry low-res textures (some sources claim the textures have a higher resolution but this might as well be completely untrue, because it's exactly as underwhelming as it sounds), there is finally official controller support on PC and it is finally uncensored, so you can finally watch some low-polygon boobs. It's a ridiculous and wasted attempt at recreating one of the most original games in the industry at that time.
Assassin's Creed: Ezio Collection! Of course Ubisoft jumped on the remaster train with one of the most spammed franchises ever, remastering the second game along with (rather annoying) Brotherhood and (utterly boring) Revelations. Though I have to give them props for actually including some additional content, the problem with this remake is that, well, the graphics improvements were laughable and capped to 30FPS.
And of course, the case of a publisher that gives absolutely no shits: Activision! The most notable remake in the gaming industry's recent history, Call of Duty Modern Warfare Remastered was supposed to be this awesome remake of the game that ended the reign of WW2 shooters and set the standard of what a large percentage of today's shooters "should" be. We all know how that went: the remaster was locked behind what I will call, for all intents and purposes, a paywall. Then they fucked the actual remake with loot drops, which makes things even worse considering it wasn't a full remaster anyway, as not all multiplayer maps were included.
So where does this all lead to, and will this growing trend die before more damage has been done to your wallets by publishers looking to cash in on old glory?
Probably not, and the way things look now, it doesn't seem like this formula will change. It's rather unfortunate that instead of remaking older games that would really benefit from a graphics bump and additional content (back from the era of feature-complete expansion packs rather than half-assed DLCs) we get somewhat more recent games with moderate graphics improvements, barely (if any) gameplay improvements, and basically no additional content.
I can certainly think of a few games that would benefit greatly of a remake: Morrowind, the first two COD games, perhaps Doom 3 on the new engine, old Thief games, Diablo 2, good old Red Faction games, Red Alert, Warcraft... the list goes on and on and on. Who still remembers Quake? How about Quake 4? Imagine Quake 4 with a more fleshed out storyline in the same engine Quake Champions will run. That would be fucking amazing.
Unfortunately, what we currently seem to have instead is very few, if any, honest attempts at rebuilding an old game and giving it a new life.
So don't fucking buy them! Unless you're 100% sure it's worth it based on your own criteria and expectations of what a remake/remaster should include.