Open ended flaws: The 4 major (and totally avoidable) pitfalls of open world games

There is a reason games used to veer towards being Geographically linear. It allows designers to more easily create set pieces and instill a more planned set of emotions on the player as well as add more details to the game world. The concept of open world came about with the first GTA and has sunk it’s teeth quite firmly into the shin of gaming. Nowadays series much more commonly flaunt a open world as a feature. I, cynically, tend to see this as not automatically a good thing for many reasons. Open worlds offer the player a degree of freedom not seen in linear experiences. That said they do tend to have a lot of problems:

Boring traversal mechanics

whether it’s horrible car handling, drab landscapes or one button parl\kour it is important to engage your player on their way to point B from point A. Holding one button for 2-5 minutes is super boring and unless your world is the caviar of world design then you need to mix up your mechanics. Good ways to engage the player can be requiring them to jump, grab ledges (tomb raider) or avoid enemies. I say avoid enemies because even the best combat, if always required to move past a group of enemies, can be incredibly tedious. Also, bridge the gap between a big world and a”Oh my god 10km to the objective” world. you can also try to challenge the player on their way to point B requiring them to orientate themselves using the environment and more vague maps.

A useless leveling system

A lot of games feel the need to force the player to feel “invested” in the game through a pointless leveling system. The new mirrors edge has one, watchdogs has one, far cry has one, Just Cause 3 has one. Its a cheap tactic to pad out game length and the same job can be done through the unlock of equipment instead of limiting the basic mechanics available to the player. This is the seen of a lot of the problems Ubisoft games keep having.

feeling overpowered

A side effect of a leveling system is the chance that you may make your player overpowered. This feeling of being overpowered is occasionally fun and engaging (Just cause 3, Prototype) but most of the time it makes the game incredibly dull (any Assasin’s creed bar unity, shadow of mordor). The reason this lack of difficulty makes the game boring is the exact same reason that bad traversal mechanics get boring. The lack of engagement and thought causes the drop off of players later in a game.

Content

When i say “content is a problem in open world games” i am not speaking of a lack there of, but a focus on quantity over quality.  i would much rather play a singular well made level twice then a boring, Cooky cutter level 4 times with different colors. Their also needs to be a focus on content that doesn’t solely rely on mechanics but engages the player in other ways through story and enemy variety.

Open world games still have a long way to go and seriously need to listen to their communities. their needs to be a much bigger focus on quality and overall content that does more than just passes time. In the meantime however have a wonderful day.

Cheers,

Earlegrey

Good Robot: A Review(PC)

On paper Good Robot is a very simple game: Fly around neon levels shooting Bad robots (Opposed to the morally righteous one you are) whilst collecting weapons, Hats and various upgrades. Each combat scenario is a short dance of lights and lasers which is fairly tense due to the fragility of your character. However even with it’s intense combat and colorful backgrounds the game feels unsatisfying and doesn’t deliver the feeling of progression with each death that most games of it’s ilk have.

Sound:

Good Robots sound is  above average. While weapons sound simplistic and rather rudimentary with the standard array of pewpews and muted explosion,  the pumping electronic soundtrack is energizing and is well worth buying on it’s own.The soundtrack compliments the visuals well to emulate the feeling the game inspires.

Narrative:

Good robot’s story isn’t really told after the introductory statements of a CEO. However, the writing that is seen in item descriptions and tips is very funny and feels incredibly underutilized. Besides that there is not much else here which is a pity because there is already a wonderful Douglas Adams feeling to the flavor text.

Graphics:

The highlight here is the wonderfully use of colors which contrasts nicely with the mainly dark backgrounds. The simple but weirdly emotive character design is charming and very Disney unique. This and the hats you collect combine to make a Ushanka and Bonnet filled neon acid trip that is unique to this game. The background melds well with the bits of destroyed machinery you will unavoidably create and helps push the post robot takeover vibe. This is the strongest part of the game.

Gameplay:

It being a 2D shmup the actual minute to minute gameplay involves shooting at polygons which your corporate overlords deem as bad. It is HOW you shoot things  your corporate overlords deem as bad which is intersting. The variety in destructive devices is simply mind boggling and speaks volumes to the creativity of the developers. The real depth, however,  comes from the way the enemies behave and the different tactics you have to use to destroy them. Different enemies will employ different weapons wich keeps you on your toes due to the lethality of each one. The only real progression you make outside of each run is a building knowledge of the game. The problem is that besides the aforementioned knowledge you just get a score and a witty line of writing. This is where good robot falls flat. It simply gets boring. There is no definitive gameplay loop that is appealing to anybody other than high score fanatics. Good robot is lacking anything more than roaming around a colorful environment shooting things. I wish there was something else here but fun weapons and interesting enemies eventually dry up which leaves you with a painfully average shmup.

Verdict(deep sigh):

Good Robot is a visually interesting game that knows how to have fun with it’s weapons and enemy designs. However a complete lack of engaging mechanics and underutilized writing leaves this cute little game empty and boring after just a couple hours. If you really just want some fun and difficult shooting pick it up on sale but otherwise I cannot bring myself to recommend it.

Score: 5/10 Painfully average

Sincerely,

Earlegrey

Thief: Retrospect #1

Very few Stealth games have come out in the past couple  years. Most games that have stealth mechanics make it more of an afterthought and a viable option rather than a necessity. This lack of focus is a product of developers attempt at making their games more accessible to gaming’s growing audience. However with this new blended style comes a lack of straight up stealth games. That is not to say that they don’t exist anymore it is just that they have decreased in number.                                                                                              However well searching for something to play this weekend I happened upon the Thief series (Excluding the 2014 reboot) and decided to start with Thief 2 due to it’s well balanced difficulty. I now after () of game time realize why they are hailed as not only Stealth masterpieces but as pillars of good game design. For those not familiar with thief they are stealth games based in a dark fantasy/steam-punk named, well, The City. Players control the endearingly cynical garret, a master thief and (According to deadly shadows) a real ladies man.                                                                                                                                  The              older character models take a little getting used to but overall it looked wonderful for it’s time and even today the overall aesthetic still holds it’s own. The maps in Thief are massive, and have multiple secrets and hidden entrances. Each map is diverse in it’s layout and design, in one map you will go from swimming through pipes, to hidden cave system that opens up to a police station which is situated above a haunted dungeon. They are massive. However due to technical limitations they lack detail but for it’s age it is amazing that there is not a single loading screen in a hour long level.                                                   The audio design on display here is amazing. For the most part the levels have little ambient noise and barely and music which accentuates  footsteps and guards idle chatter which does miracles in the way of building tension as guards approach your hiding spot or hidden bodies. I have yet to write of the elephant in the room: Gameplay and that is due to how  interwoven all the aspects of Thief. The beauty of Thief is how it handles stealth. Sneaking about a level is free form and intense due to level and audio design and is exciting due to the originality of the places you discover around any given area.                             True to it’s title Thief has you pilfering candlesticks bars of gold and literal stacks of cash. This ties in nicely with the the heavy focus on exploration and risk versus reward mentality that comes with exploring a level and risking discovery. before a mission you get to use previously stolen money to stock up on gear for your next foray into private property. Every piece of equipment is incredibly and although the the default loadout is adequate it never hurts to bring more health potions or water arrows. Shadows are your best friend here and you should try to avoid going into lamplight unless hidden.                            The interface is clean and concise with a gem (which indicates light) and a small line (which changes color depending on the noise you are making). The control scheme allows for a good amount of control on how Garret moves and acts. Thief is truly a gem of a past age. A relic of the golden age of stealth an age that we can only hope comes again.

Sincerely,

Earlegrey

Fallout 4: Automatron DLC: A Review

gfxautomatronThe basics of Fallout 4’s Automatron DLC are you can build robots and have them do stuff for you. Additionally there are a few quests, but nothing to write home about. Automatron also reintroduces a character from Fallout 3, The Mechanist. Essentially you have to stop robots and use their parts to reverse engineer your own robots.

Narrative:

The DLC presents a few quests in which you help a robot who was defending a caravan take out the Mechanist. By getting rid of the Mechanist you rid the Commonwealth of its robot problem. Not only are robots rogue in the commonwealth, but there are new types of raiders. These new raiders are called ‘Rust Devils,’ the utilize robots to attack you. Overall narrative is well made.

Sound:

Robot sounds are great and the voice acting is solid. The rest of the sounds are supplied by the base game. All in all sounds are are good.

Graphics:

The graphics are of the same quality as the rest of the Fallout 4 game. So they are pretty bad and mediocre.

Gameplay:

As stated before this DLC only presents a few quests. Sadly, the majority of these quests are either fetch-quests or a kill-everything type situation. Overall the quests were made poorly and very bland. While narrative and dialogue is great, the gameplay does not shine through in anyway. Quests and bland and repetitive and the main story-line’s gameplay is dis-interesting at  best. The final boss fight consists of the same copy-pasted robots coming after you. The only difficulty is the amount most of them are taken out in a couple shots. This part of the gameplay is approximately 45 minutes to an hour. There is a chance for redemption however. Automatron enables you to create and modify your own robot companions which also work as settlers in settlements. Firstly, the good, the DLC allows you to create insanely effective robots which seems to be balanced somehow. The customization is solid and you may choose different paint-jobs and voices for you bots. This is due to the need for leveling and perks. Now the perk Robot Expert is finally useful. Additionally robots made can be used as settlers. The only difference between settlers and bots is just the positive of not needing water and food and the negatives of not being able to take the job of a storekeeper. After the main quest and robot building there are only a few new enemies in the commonwealth to be wary of. These include rogue robots which include robobrains, eye-bots, protectrons, assaultrons and other mechanical conglomerates. Other than this a new type of raider, rust devils, were added to the commonwealth. They use robots to attack you along with weapons. Overall this DLC is not worth the money it costs upon release ($10 US).

Verdict:

While automatron has good customization and overall adds to the settlement mechanic I can’t say this for the overall game. This DLC sadly falls short on a few fronts such as quests and price for content. At ten dollars this DLC is not worth the price right now.

3/10

Poor