I must be in a grumpy mood this week, LusiScrooges, because I have been mulling over game mechanics I never really liked and wish would just go away. There are plenty of things that some games do that I do not like, but sometimes those things infect otherwise fine games or ideas. At times I will go into a game knowing about these unsavory qualities and hope that it is overshadowed by the better aspects the game has to offer. And at other times I find my distaste for these game mechanics only after finishing the game or spending enough time with it. The worst part is that this list seems to be ever-growing as lazy game development likes to copy a good idea and turn it into something worthy of loathing. As development costs soar and AAA games struggle more and more to make a profit (despite an ever widening playerbase), corners get cut and successful ideas get cribbed in a software environment all too saturated by the “me too” business model. Thankfully the internet provides a wonderful platform for armchair game “critics” like myself to shake their fists and shame the lazy developers. Granted not all of what follows are necessarily overused, but they certainly are things I currently do not enjoy in a game.
First person combat is something I sort of understand but it just does not work in practice. If I am to do anything from the first person perspective in a game I only want it to be firing a gun and driving a car. If I need to wield a melee weapon or, even worse, jump around on platforms, then it must be from the third person where I can confirm key things like depth perception and the location of my feet. What the first person camera offers is a very “immersive” perspective that allows me to feel close to the action. This is useful for games predominantly featuring gunplay since these games demand accuracy and this perspective affords me an unobstructed line of sight on what is in front of me. But if I must swing a sword or defend myself with a shield, then this perspective’s limitations make gameplay frustrating. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim therefore was a bit of a problem for me. Knowing that first person melee combat would make things like determining my reach with a sword to be pretty annoying, I spent most of my time firing elemental magic spells at enemies as a mage. Conversely, Bethesda’s Fallout series, which focuses much more on ranged combat, is one of my favorite series of recent memory. And though the Fallout games do feature some melee combat, I was able to put up with smacking a few radroaches with a baseball bat when most of the game I was shooting guns at dudes either in real time or using the fun VATS system. And Skyrim is hardly alone in insisting on a first person camera for a melee focused game. Recently I bought Arkane Studio’s Dishonored, which happens to have been published by Bethesda, and though it does offer many ranged solutions for taking out the opposition I still find myself engaging the enemy a lot with my offhand dagger. It is not enough to be a problem (this game has other problems), but I would not count it as a positive.
While still on the subject of Bethesda, another gameplay mechanic that I have grown tired of is one our own Gyme has recently written at length about. Go check it out! Morality systems were once something I took no issue with because, like many things introduced in the previous generation, it was shiny and new for a while. However, it became apparent to me that these systems were all quite similar and rarely made a game’s ending change in a meaningful fashion. As Gyme mentioned, Bioware’s Mass Effect series is one of the more popular examples of a morality system in a WRPG, however it falls into the same banal trap all morality systems do which is to over simplify things into a black and white, good or bad, context. Initially, the idea of gaining “good” points for being good and “bad” points for being bad sounds interesting. But, since the developers often do not want to be stuck in a grey area and have to labor over if a given action should be “good” or “bad”, I often find that my choices are either to be the best and most considerate person ever or to be a total ass wipe. I can either give that annoying reporter lady in Mass Effect the story she wants or I can literally punch her in the face. If memory serves, I can also ignore her but I get no morality points either way for this. It could almost be considered a losing option because things unlock the more of a “paragon” or a “renegade” I become. Choosing to be a sensible person is not exactly made an attractive option.
Finally, and to my greatest chagrin, is something I like to call “easy creep”. Easy creep is that slowly increasing presence of easier elements in games. Doubtless over time games have become easier to complete. There are many likely reasons, the more cynical of which would propose that it is to sell me post-game DLC and to lessen the likelihood of me selling the game back at retail. However doing so comes at the expense of a good challenge, which is something this medium holds as a distinction apart from other mediums like literature and film. Once a point of pride, the difficulty of games has become more of a nuisance in the eyes of developers and seemingly some gamers. One of the better examples, and perhaps a bit unexpectedly, of easy creep in modern games is From Software’s Dark Souls. The game, touted as being notoriously difficult, hardly qualifies as much of a challenge to beat. If I simply move ahead cautiously and do not plunge face-first into unexplored rooms I can easily win. Just putting on the heaviest armor and tanking everything is enough to get through the game. To see just how easy the game is and has become, then look to its predecessor Demon’s Souls and at Dark Souls‘s pre-patch release. Demon’s Souls regularly punished the player for being unskilled, actively making the enemies and environments more difficult the more the player died in that area. Face tanking was also out of the question and only a limited amount of items could be brought to an area based on the character’s item burden stat. All of these things were removed in Dark Souls. Post-patch, Dark Souls gives an experience boost from all sources, more enemies drop experience, item drop rates and the drop rates of a key item called Humanity were all greatly increased and more merchants started carrying more items. I beat Dark Souls before this patch and still found it an easier time than the earlier Demon’s Souls. In fact the only thing that could have made Dark Souls any easier would have been regenerating health. Look for it in Dark Souls 2!
So tell me, readers, what popular or unpopular things in games do you despise? They can be gameplay mechanics or just a general observation or trend in games. Maybe it is something games no longer do anymore. Maybe something I mentioned here is something you enjoy. Discuss it in the newly (re)improved comments section below, where you can follow posts for comments and replies. So the next time your phone rudely chimes during the moment of silence at a funeral and everyone turns to look and see who the impolite person is, just think: Lusipurr.com!