Why, 18 months later, I’m still in love with TEW 2008.
Ah Fall, I love you so. The leaves turn brown and golden and red, the grass grows slower. Football takes over my Sunday mornings and baseball closes in on the World Series. Fall is a time for looking back at the year that was and towards the approaching Winter. The Kansas City Royals will be done for the year when you read this and the Chiefs will be limping along, still winless as I type this. The Kansas City Renaissance Festival is in full swing, with it’s delicious hot cider and cheese crepes served by busty maidens. Autumn is the time I like to listen to Killing Joke and paint miniatures and play video games in my socks. Is there a better time of year?
Diehard GameFAN starts putting its year end awards spectacular together around this time. I love the year end awards because it gives me a chance to look back at the games I played over the course of the year and see what I missed that others are recommending. The funny thing is, at this point in the year, ten months in, I am only really playing one game. That game is Total Extreme Warfare 2008.
TEW and I have a long history. I was a disciple of Extreme Warfare Revenge, a freeware game that Adam Ryland designed years ago. I played that game to death. From the ashes of EWR came Total Extreme Warfare 2004, a game no longer in print or available anywhere. Not that you need it. This summer, Grey Dog Software, the publishers of Total Extreme Warfare from 2005 to now, made the 2005 iteration freeware. Just click on the link on the front page and it is all yours. I could tell you how much I love TEW 2005 here, but instead I’ll point you to the review my 2006 self wrote. Everything I said then is still true now.
“TEW has no peers or rivals in its genre and has become more than a game. TEW is a hobby.” – Chuck Platt
Best of all, that game is now free. There is really no reason not to play it. Really.
The 2007 edition took a good game and refined it into near perfection, making me while away hours furthering the careers of fictional wrestlers. I loved 2007 so much I bought it. If you had any idea how cheap I am, that alone would tell you how much I love TEW. Paying full price for a game is something I just do not do, but TEW is an exception. The only downside to 2007 is that 2008 came out and rendered it irrelevant.
Yes, TEW 2008 is a game I, at the time, loved more than any other. More than any wrestling game and more than any sim game and, as I sit in front of my computer now, more than any other game period.
Eighteen months have passed since TEW 08 was released, and even more time has passed since I started following its development, reading Adam Ryland’s Developer’s Diary, something I have read all the way through more than once. I have moved, changed jobs, changed presidents, and watched the New York Jets play one and a quarter seasons since then, but here I am, still playing TEW ’08. I guess the question is why is this one game so good that I want to continue playing it so long after its release and what could other games learn from it?
The biggest reason, I think, that I am still playing TEW ’08 is the depth and flexibility of the initial scenario. There are dozens of wrestling promotions available from the outset, and more appear as the game continues. Playing a game at the Supreme Wrestling Federation is so different from playing as its number one competitor, Total Championship Wrestling, that it is a testament to the quality of the game’s engine that they can co-exist. That is not even the widest gulf you can cross. Try playing as Warrior Engine XXV, a Japanese garbage fed, with its one quality, popular worker and compare that to running Pride Glory Honor Wrestling, a hotbed of talented workers. Each has its own challenges and rewards. I am sure there are players who never even attempt booking the women’s wrestling companies, like Babes of Sin City and miss out on a whole new experience. From the darling of most players, Mid Atlantic Wrestling, to the seemingly doomed North of the Border Pro Wrestling, the Cornellverse is such an interesting and engrossing setting for a wrestling game that I seldom miss the real world. Of course, if I do, there are always the mods, which are reason two, handily enough.
The Mods for TEW 08 do much to keep the game at the front of my mind, though not always in the obvious way. Yes, downloading a complete game makeover, like Death of the Territories, is a way to recharge the batteries of even a veteran player, there are all sorts of other mods. Some fans, like the uber-talented ReapeR, make neat additional graphics to enrich the experience. His belt renders make the game play experience just a little bit better. Having good looking belts reminds you why the competitors are doing what they do. The Alternate Picture community, which I have contributed my own limited Photoshop skills to, can make even the most boring worker worth using. The sheer number of new ideas I have generated from reading that thread could fuel a million Dynasties, the third leg of this journey.
Dynasties are the thing that keeps me playing. Hell, I started on last week, a paean to the NWA of my youth and Cornellverse hardcore worker Genghis Rahn. I call it the Wrath of Rahn. Each day, when I am not writing my own Dynasty, I am reading the others. It interests my how two people can take the same data and play completely different games. USPW: Long Hard Road From Cult starts in a similar place but goes in a completely different and exciting direction. My friend mistaken’s Money to Burn: One Year of Wrestling! is from a different planet than anything I would ever write, but I read the whole thing in one sitting, fascinated by the concept and the style. From using D.o.T.T. to play as Lanny Poffo’s ICW to playing as the WWE just after this year’s Royal Rumble, there are as many Dynasties as there are players. If there is not one that tells the story you want to read, write it yourself.
In the end, that might be why I still play and love TEW 08 so late in it’s life cycle: creativity. There is no limit to what you can do, and if there is, you can remove it. Playing a game with no limits is freeing, it reinforces why I play games to begin with. Having positive, encouraging connections with other players, instead of being “pwn3d” is a nice change. I have used Photoshop and writing to expand the world of TEW and TEW has given me the tools to create and recreate at will. There is simply nothing like it.
If you have even a minor enjoyment of professional wrestling, you will likely find something to love about TEW 08. Whether it is the cheesy South of the early ’80s or the hardcore of ’90s Philly or some strangeness you saw in DDT, TEW can recreate it or even one up it. Do yourself a favor and play the demo. Now, if you will excuse me, I have a PPV to book.