Yes, plot driven games are a thing nowadays, and the clever melding of interactivity and narrative can lead to some amazingly immersive experiences. Just play me Rosie’s song (the original Japanese version of course) from Valkyria Chronicles and watch me suddenly get something in my eye.
But sometimes games just need to be judged as games first and foremost, and there has been an annoying trend emerging lately of truly excellent games being reviewed as such, but marked down severely at the end for ‘weak characters’ or ‘vague storytelling’.
Take the recent Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, which I adored for it’s sense of momentum and sheer twitchy point-to-point gameyness. However, a lot of reviewers chose to mark it down for having a generic cliched dystopian setting with a generic cliched dystopian evil coproration. Yes, it did, but how else are you going to build a game around a constant sense of urgency unless all of the enforcers you encounter are blind zealots who shoot first and ask questions never?
The setting serves the gameplay, and shouldn’t that be what’s most important? Reviewers also objected to the new characterisation of Faith, who is this time younger, cockier, recklessly arrogant, when these are the very qualities which get her into the situations which fuel the game’s sense of tension in the first place.
The beguiling Hyper Light Drifter also lost a lot of review point recently for ‘vague storytelling’. Seriously, what? The atmosphere is everything in that game, coupled with the player’s own sense of exploration. Every weathered temple, or decaying god warrior laying dormant beneath a lake, or ancient half-organic machine ticking away for eternity conveys such a sense of subtle purpose and history, that having some narrator take the sense of discovery away from the player alone would have ruined the game.
Seriously reviewers, just let certain games be games first. It’s what they’re best at. If you’d rather not, I’ve got some great suggestions below for games with rubbish plots, which deserve to be marked down severely.
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