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A Pillars of Earth Game is Coming, but Do Book-to-Game Adaptations Work?

The Pillars of the Earth series of novels is being adapted into a series of games, let's look back at some successful book-to-game adaptations.

Ken Follet's series of novels The Pillars of the Earth are being adapted into an adventure game that is slated to launch sometime in 2017 for PC, Mac, Xbox One, PS4, and iOS.

The story follows conflict and conspiracies between the clergy and people of a small fictional South England town of Kingsbridge. The story is fantastic, and if you don't have the patience or spare money to burn through the books, I highly recommend watching the miniseries on Netflix which is a great adaptation.

Though the story is wonderful, I can't imagine it being played through as a game. Movie-to-game adaptations have always been dicey territory, but there have been some great successes in the canon of book-to-game adaptations. Well... as long as they're able to avoid some of the common mistakes. One of the biggest mistakes with movie-adapted games is when the game is pushed to release with a movie, which has the same problems any game with too short of a deadline will run into.

Movie-to-game adaptations have always been dicey territory, but there have been some great successes in the canon of book-to-game adaptations. 

 

A novel has so much room for detail and exposition and while a game has arguably a little bit more, it needs to be peppered out throughout the experience, nobody wants to sit through an hour of exposition before getting into gameplay. It seems that some of the best novel adaptations take the world as it's written in more of a gist than a one-to-one representation and make it into it's own experience for a game. Shadow of Mordor for instance isn't really a canonic experience in the small details, but the overall concepts and setting all fit into the Lord of the Rings world well enough to feel believable. The worlds in novels are much more story driven than anything else, and adapting a book into game takes the finesse of fitting into that story with interactivity that doesn't feel out of place in that world.

It's a tough balance to find and three games in particular come to mind as games that not only find that balance, but become their own distinct world in-game that feels familial with that of the books, but still stands alone as it's own entity. 

3. American McGee's Alice


This macabre adaptation of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland stays impressively close to the source material while putting a distinctly dark spin on the narrative and its characters. It's long past its glory days now, but I'll always be fond of this cynical twist on Carroll's classic story and the hauntingly beautiful aesthetic that it nailed so well.

2. Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six

The longstanding series of games based on Tom Clancy's novels first hit PC in 1998, and has been pumping out tons of games since, both in it's Rainbow Six series and several others - including The Division, coming next year. Tom Clancy is arguably better known for the games with his name on them than he is for his actual books, and of everything on this list his series of games are easily the most ubiquitous and successful. 

1. The Witcher

The Witcher games have been met with varying degrees of praise and criticism. and have gained a sort of cult following among the most dedicated fans of the lore in this world. The Witcher universe was originally crafted by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski in the 1980s, in a short story titled "Geralt of Rivia". Several more short stories and novels later, Geralt and the world of The Witcher became cemented in in Polish culture.

It wasn't until CD Projeckt Red's The Witcher in 2007, and even more so in 2011 with The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings that the world of the The Witcher built a real following outside of of Poland. With all of the news surrounding The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt's pending release this coming February, The Witcher tops this list as both a book-to-game adaptation that works well, and one that I'm currently excited about. 

Published Nov. 30th 2014
  • Si_W
    I think you answered your own question...
  • Benjamski
    Contributor
    Correct haha. They work sometimes, but it takes a special sort of game to balance the bridge between such a fully pre-existing world and a new one. I loved Pillars of the Earth but if i had to put my money on whether or not they pull off a a game, I'd put it on not. I just don't see it.
  • Si_W
    If they use the book as the source but adapt it to an RPG scenario similar to the Witcher series then it'll be fine.

    Or maybe go down the Telltale route.

    Let's face it, no book to game works as a straight re-telling of the story.
  • Benjamski
    Contributor
    Agreed. I think they'd be best with the Telltale route, those guys are pretty unstoppable right now.

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