Thursday, November 9, 2017

Indefinite Act Structure

How about an action-adventure game instead
of a multiplayer FPS with CCG mechanics?
Sometimes no story is better than a bad story.  When it comes to video games like the Middle-earth duology or Evil Within franchise, I'm inclined to agree.  On the other hand, I can't say EA's decision to abandon single-player narrative-driven games has me excited either.  My guess is they want to use their Star Wars IP rights to make a Destiny clone.  Technically, the Destiny series has a story, but it's an obfuscated mess.  Bungie Studios has never been particularly good at spinning a compelling yarn.  However, it hasn't mattered all that much because they nail the thing that makes or breaks a video game, the quality of the gameplay.

One of the nice things about Resident Evil 4 that doesn't get mentioned often is its fast paced, unobtrusive (albeit cheesy) story.  The narrative isn't needlessly complicated either, Leon Kennedy is on a mission to rescue the president's daughter...and that's ultimately what he does.  Unfortunately Shinji Mikami didn't continue this "economy of storytelling" when he moved on away from the Resident Evil franchise to work on Evil Within.  I have to admit that I rather liked the visuals and non-linear elements found in the IP, particularly the sequel, but the overly long cutscenes rub me the wrong way.  Not being much of a Twin Peaks or Stephen King fan, it's possible that I might not appreciate the inspiration for Evil Within.  Then again when it comes to Shadow of War, I can't say my interest in J.R.R. Tolkien has made me enjoy the journey of Talion the Ranger all that much.

I think the most accurate assessment of the Middle-earth games is they're fan fiction roughly on par with Kirill Eskov's novel The Last Ringbearer.  It's apparent that both works tried to subvert some of the tropes that Tolkien invoked, but in doing so they created a tale that doesn't mesh with the original material.  In the case of Kirill Eskov's book, I'm not exactly sure what could have been done to improve it, but for Shadow of Mordor they could have simply trimmed or edited out the whole Minas-Ithil-Palantir-Spider-Lady plotline in favor of focusing on what makes the games fun - namely the Nemesis System.

I've often heard tell that multiplayer games and/or purely sandbox games have longer lifespans than single-player experiences.  The reason being there's no hard endpoint on how much time you can invest in them.  For me though that's actually the main turn-off.  I guess you could say that eventually the servers will get shut down or the player base will move on to other titles...either way though there really isn't any sense of closure.  Sure, a lot of times video game developers will drop the ball when it comes time to wrap things up, but at the bare minimum I'm glad when the course has a set finish line instead of a nebulous treadmill with a carrot dangling off the front.

Would have been a better game without the 
Assassin's Creed storyline baggage

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