Sunday, January 10, 2016

Back to the Well

The outpour of video game remakes continues unabated.  For the most part these re-releases of older games feature minor improvements to graphics and (unfortunately only sometimes) the frame rate.  While that's all fine and dandy, the big opportunity with remakes is a chance to polish up some of those weaker gameplay elements and tweaks to niggling details in such a way that they improve the overall experience.  Regrettably, remake developers sometimes take things in a different direction let's look at a few examples shall we?

Homeworld Remastered Collection is missing the middle entry in the series due to the original source code ending up lost to the mists of time.  It sucks, but I get that there's nothing that can be done about it.  What is less forgivable though is the lack of proper formations and tactics that were in the original game, but not the remake.  An even worse underling problem is how ballistics are calculated.  You the original Homeworld the trajectory of each shot fired was tracked individually.  The way small and nimble strikecraft evaded was to quickly change course or juke.  Doing so though would sometimes prevent them from shooting back depending on their orientation, hence the importance of formations and tactics.  This also led to some interesting gameplay.  For example, a large number of bulky assault frigates (while ill suited to combating strikecraft individually) could assemble into a wall formation and proceed to shred oncoming enemy fighters and corvettes by producing massive amounts of flak.  Put enough projectiles flying through a compact enough enemy occupied area and something is bound to get hit eventually, even if it wasn't the originally intended target.  This doesn't work in the remake though because calculations are handled purely via RNG; "hits" always hit, "misses" always miss.  Supposedly, Gear Box is working on a solution, but let's face it, Randy Pitchford isn't the most trustworthy guy in the industry.

It's not all doom and gloom though.  Banner Saga had issues with its caravan system and story pacing which the developers claim will be cleaned up retroactively with the release of the sequels.  Essentially, Stoic Studios plans to integrate gameplay improvements made to Banner Saga 2 and 3 back into the original and eventually combine the intended three part narrative into a single saga.  It sounds great since I kind of want to go back to the first entry in the series again.  However, I'm going to withhold enthusiasm until we get to see what said improvements actually are.  It's possible that the changes may not add to what made the game fun to begin with.  To paraphrase what Jeff Gerstmann (of Giant Bomb fame) said with regards to the Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, the original Xbox360 version of Gears of War has dated poorly, in large part due to it's massive influence on the industry, especially when it comes to cover-based shooting.  Had they tried to bring the gameplay up to current standards though it would have no longer been anything like the original Gears of War.

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