Talking badly about Eight Bit Theater
feels a bit sacrilegious. Starting in 2001 it's one of the oldest and longest running webcomics around and it's 9 year run created 1200+ comics. It can legitimately claim to be the inspiration for so much that went after it and references to Black Mage or Thief or Fighter or Red Mage will still instantly clue a lot of people in on what you mean.
But after reading it all through from start to finish, I can't help but feel my time was wasted. That's not to say it isn't funny, in fact there were two sections that were so funny I was literally laughing out loud for page after page. But two sections in over 1200 pages is pretty thin. The problem is two things
- All the jokes are character based.
- The characters never change.
So after such an extreme length of time you begin to see the same thing over and over again. And to be fair, the comic is self-aware and made jokes about that. But then you begin to see even those jokes again and again and the meta humour can only stack for so long. I'm aware that you can make some decent arguments that too much character development in things like Order Of The Stick
can lose the soul of the thing, but this was too far in the other direction.
The plot continues and that led to some feeling of progression, but the joke at the end of each arc was that the party were too incompetent to finish it satisfactorily. And inbetween the jokes were about the party being too incompetent to get to the end in an efficient non-filler manner. To give a break from the main party there were sidelines about a party of villains too incompetent to do anything effectively. When that got tried they mixed it up with a different party of heroes who couldn't get anything done. And a party of heroes whose lot in life it was to fail at everything. Then a person whose lot it was to fail at everything. Then another person who was massively incompetent.
I'm making it sound like the whole thing is dull and unfunny, but it isn't. Some of the rambling conversations are inspired and the core concept is incredibly strong. But there are moments, particularly towards the end where something changes the status quo. A person does something intelligent and another person changes sides. But within a few pages they always snatch it away. The norm reasserts itself and nothing ever goes anywhere.