Dream Games: Mistborn
Sometimes magic in a fantasy novel is a strange, esoteric thing with bizarre world-changing effects. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as the prose is up to the task; I love the Thomas Covenant series and nothing in those books is straightforward or easily explained. Then there’s guys like Brandon Sanderson who delineate every little aspect of the supernatural stuff in their books, making sure everything is completely logical and understandable to any reader. Sanderson is famous for coming up with creative "magic systems" that set his fantasy writings ahead of the Tolkien-imitating pack. Mistborn is one example, and a particularly great one at that.
Do You Believe In Magic?*
Allomancy works so well that if you didn’t know better you’d swear it was tailor-made to be part of a video game. When a Mistborn wizard swallows trace amounts of metal, they can burn them up from within their stomachs to produce certain supernatural effects for a short time. Pushing and pulling metals, strengthening oneself physically, altering other people’s emotions, and (for the rarest metal) seeing a few seconds into the future are some of the possible effects of this sorcery.
With a large variety of abilities, highly specific rules and limitations, and a material component required to perform the acts, it’s easy to see how this could work in a gaming setting. You could use all the metals when needed to become an unkillable dynamo that adapts to any situation. Or specialize in one metal, like having your character master using tin so he/she can be a fantastic spy or assassin. Focus on zinc and brass so you can manipulate those around you. I’m foreseeing some Planescape: Torment levels of conversation options here.
Feruchemy would probably be irritating to work into a video game; being crippled part of the time so you can have greater power when the time comes would be just as tedious as grinding. It works from a narrative standpoint because it displays the discipline of the Terrismen in willing to postpone immediate wants for later needs. In a game it would just lead to players clicking the “store pewter” button and playing Facebook games in another window while their power meters slowly fill up. Maybe if Feruchemy stores only charged while in combat or something it could be feasible in a video game. That would be a definite break from the established rules of the magic system but would be a necessary change to work it into a playable format that wasn’t as boring and awkward as me on a date.
Hemalurgy, on the other hand, works perfectly as is. Killing your enemies to steal their abilities is pure Mega Man . Imagine having an inventory full of different spikes that you use to fight enemy Mistborn, Feruchemists or Inquisitors and finish them off with a stab to the heart as you siphon their powers to add to your own. It would be like the ending to Diablo except it wouldn’t necessarily result in the suffering of millions of innocents. Plus the fact that Inquisitors necessarily have some Allomantic powers anyway would result in some unique and fascinating combinations.
It’s… It’s the System!!!!
Some people might be screaming for a Mistborn MMO, but it would face the same problem as Star Wars MMOs: everyone wants to be the elite super awesome master race, therefore no one would be special. PvP might be interesting with all the cool stuff available, but I would not look forward to Pushing coin bullets at rats in a cellar for five hours to grind for EXP and leather pelts. I want a game that’s fun start to finish, not a glorified hamster wheel. What I’m picturing is a single-player game like The Witcher where you have one character, one long quest with many branches, and the three areas of magic to play with. Level up abilities in the three skill trees (either with experience or with use, like in the Elder Scrolls series) to your heart’s content. Mix and match.
I spoke of a potential Attack on Titan game before. Like Mistborn , it features people jumping all over the place during combat. Mistborn doesn’t have any gigantic creatures in it, but just copy-paste the stuff I said about 3D movement in that article and it could easily apply to this one.
The plot could simply be about someone traveling around, visiting new countries, and fighting/talking to loads of people. Open-world fantasy exploration games have been done many times before, but it’s a genre I truly enjoy. Or a Mistborn game could follow the plot of the books; there’s no shortage of fun things going on there. Hobnob with nobles as Vin or fight in the streets with Kelsier. Plenty of options here.
I’m not just dreaming, though. Your prayers have (maybe) been answered, for there is in fact a Mistborn game in production. Sanderson is pretty internet savvy, so hopefully he’ll work with the designers (like Peter Jackson did with King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie in 2005) to ensure the game wouldn’t be a soulless media cash-in like so many other games based on popular franchises. The game has great potential, so please don’t screw it up. Sanderson should know better, but sometimes executive meddling frequently destroys what would have otherwise been great works of art. Fight to make this game good.
* P.S.: Magic isn’t real.