Short, Linear and Lacks Replayability
Yesterday I stumbled across a good video
of Cannot be Tamed
. In it she questioned exactly when the terms “Short”, “Linear” and “Lacks Replaybility” became negative monikers for games. It all stems back to her looking up a review of Parasite Eve from when the game was actually released and expands out from there. She makes the point that games that have a tight and direct narrative are often preferable to long messy open world games for her. She makes some really excellent points, but the main point I was reminded of is the fact that “game reviews” are only really useful if it is a person very much like yourself that is reviewing the game. There are no objective measurements for a video game, or quite frankly any other piece of entertainment. What is a negative to one person is a positive to another person. When I review something I try and touch on a bunch of the points because I realize not everyone is wired quite the same way I am.
Personally I tend to favor those long rambly open world games, and do pretty much everything I can do to avoid actually progressing the storyline. In the video she mentioned Witcher 3 which turns out is a game very much in my wheelhouse, in that it has allowed me to pretty effectively ignore the narrative of the game and revert back to my base state of wandering around aimlessly and enjoying the world. I’ve put in around twenty hours and I just now moved to the next zone. I prefer games that I can lose myself in the random bits of neatness that the game has to offer, and if you allow me to jump off the path… chances are I am going to do it as soon as possible. My first playing of Skyrim for example… I had to back track later to find the stones that allowed you to choose your “path” because from the moment I got control of my mouse I was off on my own ignoring what the NPCs were telling me to do.
All of this said I am coming to appreciate more narrative “ride” games that present a clear concise “movie like” experience. It is not the sort of thing I want to play on a regular basis, but if a game is elevated to a point where everyone seems to be playing it I will give it a go. The irony is one of my biggest praises of Final Fantasy XIV is for its clear and concise storytelling. The difference there is that this main storyline is a “feature” of the game and not the entirety of the game itself. There are absolutely times I want to sit back and be told a story, but there are other times when I want to be out in the world making my own… and I guess in part I expect a game to give me both experiences, at the very least if they are going to earn my $60. So while “short”, “linear” and “lacks replayability” seems like an odd admonishment … I do find myself paying attention to it, simply because it helps me file a game into one of several bins.
I have talked about this in the past, but for me to be willing to plunk down $60 and pre-order a title when it comes out… it has to be offering pretty much the total package. Jasyla has this great series of videos called “Short Games for Busy People” but they also all have one thing in common other than the duration. They are all relatively cheap titles, and I am more than willing to spend $5 for a four hour game experience, but I may not be willing to pay $60 or even $30 for that same experience. One of the biggest disappointments over the last several years was in the ID Software game Rage… not because the game did not provide me a very interesting experience, but instead that it was too short of one. Granted I went into the game mostly expecting “Fallout” by ID, so that was strike one… but the game itself provided this really interesting game world that I wanted to roam around in… but trapped me in a super short story arc that felt abruptly ended. Had I spent even $10 on that game… I would have been completely happy with my experience, but I was frustrated that I spent that $60 preorder on it.
In order for me to be happy with spending full price on a game I need to be able to milk at least 30 hours out of it, and that is actual content… not just chasing achievements. This means I tend to lean towards big open world “exploration porn” type game experiences. My favorite “modern” games are those of the Fallout Series because they let me wander around aimlessly and explore the world at my own pace. While I am getting used to the narrative train ride, I still have this instinctual frustration anytime I am locked into a length intro story cut scene. I remember the first time I played God of War III I kept thinking to myself “why won’t they just let me play the damned game?”. There are times I need to temper this instinct, when I know if I allow myself the time I will enjoy the story. For example I am trying to go back and play the modern Batman games because I think I will ultimately like the story arc. Similarly I really want to play the Uncharted games, but I struggle with their “on rails” sequence of event based game play.
Ultimately all of this said… I will never damn a game and treat it as worthless just because it does not align to my personal preferences. This is why I guess I struggle with writing “game reviews” because really I tend to focus on the positive aspects of most games because I know going into it… that my particular preference in gaming, does not necessarily represent anyone other than myself. In truth the fact that I surround myself with a group of fairly diverse gaming tastes in the form of AggroChat on a weekly basis drives this home regularly. All of this said I still do find reviews like this valuable in that they help me decide if I am willing to plunk down my dollar at release, or instead wait until the first, second or third steam sale to offer the game. The Steam Devaluation is a real thing, in part because at this point we all have such a back log of games that we are NOT playing. Then again the ability to actually “beat” a game has never ranked very hire on my meters. What I look for is a bit of escapism and the ability to wallow around in a world that is not my own for awhile. For me personally nothing beats an experience that lets me explore new places while harmlessly venting my bloodlust.
Source: Tales of the Aggronaut