The violence of it all – recommendations anyone?
A few days ago, I was talking to Anna about how tired I am of the violence in games. It’s not that I am against violence per se in gaming – I still am a very joyous player of Overwatch and don’t shy away from other ‘shooting’ adventures at all, sometimes no or barely a story is exactly what one needs to unwind – but the more games come out that were highly anticipated, the more I feel that they are lacking. Lacking in story. Lacking in plot density and in adjusting the game to the characters that you can choose and instead focussing too much on leveling your character by fighting every few seconds, often against random NPCs or creatures you just happen upon. By walking. Along a path.
And it’s not a thing of “only MMOs” or “only single player games”, both do this more and more – although it might be a problem of Single Player games taking on more and more MMO-like qualities. Be it the random creature or opposed faction in Star Wars The Old Republic, the million zombie-sea-monster-ghost-thingies in The Secret World Legends, the wolfs and bears and spiders in Dragon Age Inquisition, the hundreds of Remnants or Kett in Mass Effect Andromeda which land conveniently and repeatedly just where you have to pass. It’s impossible to “clear” a region, enemies will spawn again and again and often attack without provocation.
Honestly? I am tired of it.
I am tired of the main or (most of the time) even only advancement possibility being to fight.
I don’t mind fights where they fit the story and yes, there surely are stories where a lot of fighting is just fitting for the general setting. But apart from it being something that actively hinders many players from joining the fun of gaming per se (talking about accessibility), it gets boring very, very quickly. You either get a feeling for your battle skills and the encounters stop being a challenge (and since upping the difficulty normally only leads to more enemies with more health I don’t really see that as a bigger challenge but rather an annoyance), or you quickly get frustrated, thus not really bettering your gaming skills. Worse for me: since I’m happy if I manage 80% of my fights without dying, I normally don’t get too deep into fighting mechanics. Which is normally alright for your regular-20-second-NPC-encounter but often bites me in the arse as soon as the first boss fight comes around. And then I get very easily annoyed with the game itself.
Especially since most games don’t even seem to try to balance their combat content with story content – or base their story content mostly on combat. Even (supposedly) heavily story-driven RPGs do this less and less. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Dragon Age and Mass Effect Franchise.)
Also, even if you can choose your character class etc., the story does not really adjust to that. Let me give you an example. In SWTOR, I am currently (on and off) playing the Agent’s storyline. As agent of the Empire, one of your key abilities is to Stealth and thus, I can more or less bypass any enemy I am currently too annoyed to fight. However, there are a lot of quests that amount to “Kill 15 enemies in this base” and which often only appear once you killed the first NPC. I often thought it was a pity that these side quests do not adjust to something like “Manage the whole quests without being seen” or “Talk your way out of here” for a diplomatic character like the Jedi Consular. (I don’t even think this would be so hard to implement since it doesn’t change the plotline at all but maybe I am naive.)
And let’s be honest, most combats are not really very dynamic – not in the sense that they change a lot. Sure, some enemies require some extras like taking down their shield first or killing them from behind but apart from that most fights happen just the same way. You activate your favourite skills in the best order, jump and evade (or whatever is appropriate to your class) and repeat until the enemy’s health bar has been depleted. And again.
As we were talking about that whole thing, Anna and I both tried to come up with games that have no or not much fighting in it and which are not puzzle games like Portal and we basically came out empty-handed. Even games that are (also) targeted towards children like some of the Zelda Games or Child of Light have fights. Child of Light not that many and in an easy-manageable static JRPG style but it still has fights. Zelda at least combines the fight with puzzles and has a lot less randomness in their fights. The only games we came up with were Dishonored and Journey. I haven’t played Dishonored yet but the trailer for Dishonored 2 is very heavily based on graphic violence – as if the combat itself is the main game, so I am hesitant. Journey is a beautiful, wonderful little game for the PS3 which is really hard to describe… if you can, try it out. It’s really about the journey, not about a character and done with in about 2 hours.
What I do miss is a really well-written, story-based and plot driven RPG where the story is more important than the combat tactics. And you know what I would buy in a second? A fully fleshed-out 7KPP. As a reminder, from Anna’s post about Visual Novels:
Seven Kingdoms The Princess Problem
Still in Demo mode but it is one of my favourite games out there. It comes with a very complex (but not overly complicated) story line, a wonderful cast of diverse characters, a lot of customisation of your own character, a ton of romances and a lot of secrets and political intrigue. You have to navigate a peace summit, trying to do some good for your country, perhaps fall in love AND not die. It’s a very nice combination of story and stat raising that comes with a challenge and a story mode – the story mode being very forgiving. The characters have in depth personalities and the relationships develop nicely. So far there is a Demo of the first 3 weeks (out of 7) out. The author is aiming for a release towards the end of the year but the Demo alone is very worth playing as it is longer than many complete Otome games are already. And, as someone who is testing the alpha version I can promise: It is a game that will be totally worth buying later on – the things to come are amazing.
I admit, I am probably looking in the wrong places for these kind of games and the above is more a rant about AAA games and Bioware in particular (for promising something they continue to fail to keep). But that’s why I’m looking to you, dear readers – do you have recommendations? Please give them in the comments, I’d love to broaden my horizon.