It’s been a while since I’ve played a game that’s really drawn me in. For a while I played Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and, despite its endless content (with downloadable plugins and content created by the user community), sandbox world style gameplay, and certain absolutely brilliant modifications that alter even how the game engine itself works, I eventually lost interest. It might have something to do with my being such a completist that I spent most of my time playing every single side quest and getting every single item and upgrade I could, ignoring the main plotline. That’s probably my biggest problem with sandbox games — they don’t hold my attention for long enough for me to actually get around to completing the plot. For instance, despite greatly enjoying the series, I’ve never completed a Grand Theft Auto game.
(way more below the fold…)
Recently, I played through Final Fantasy 12, and while it was certainly different from every other Final Fantasy game I’ve ever played, it was a really involving game — as long as some of the Massively Multiplayer RPG conventions that they borrowed don’t annoy you. It could be considered a semi-linear game with a lot of extras and sidequests once certain areas are opened up. There are roughly twice as many bosses that are optional, than there are bosses between you and the end boss in the main plot. But as things only open up to you as the plot progresses, you don’t have the full, open sandbox world until you’re one tick away from completing the game — at which point, generally, either I put off fighting the last boss until I’ve competed everything else there is, or I fight that boss and lose interest in the game immediately afterward. With FF12, the latter.
So obviously I tend toward role playing games, mostly due to there being so much content, so much strategy, so much brainpower used. I certainly prefer them to FPSs, though there are a few of those that are masterpieces in their own right. The Half-Life franchise, for instance, is far and away more intelligent than a lot of other games I’ve played. And Portal has my undying devotion, as I’ve pointed out in a previous post.
My latest dabblings with modern games are leaving a sour taste in my mouth, though. I tried out SimCity Societies, and while I’m sure it has its own pros and cons, it’s a vastly different game from SimCity, and getting over that is a bit difficult for me. I expected to put down some power generation, some water generation, zone a few areas and put down some roads — but what’s this, you have to pick every single building out yourself? And, some buildings don’t use power, they use “creativity” or “authoritarianism”? I have to build things like ice cream stands, and murals? I’m sure the game would be fun, taken on its own, but it’s awfully jarring to have to fundamentally rethink how the whole SimCity franchise works.
Another game I tried for a while but ultimately wouldn’t buy, is Assassin’s Creed. Beautiful game, a lot of thought went into the plot and all the little details, the controlls are really intuitive and easy to get used to, but the game consists of doing the same thing over and over again (spend fifteen minutes riding to a city, rescue citizen by killing a dozen guards, do a stupid footrace to collect flags, rescue another citizen, protect an informant who cowers at the first sign of trouble, pick an idiot’s pocket, find a vantage point to synchronize your map so you can find more citizens, informants, pickpocket marks and footrace challenges) until you finally get permission to go after your real assassination mark. As much as I’d like to see how the framing story plays out, I just can’t bring myself to keep playing when very little about the game’s mechanics, or the challenges presented, ever changes.
The only game series that I’ve played recently and haven’t mentioned thus far, is probably my favorite. The Sam and Max franchise held my interest beginning to end, owing mostly to it being an adventure game with some particularly insidious puzzles, and its sense of humour and pop culture references throughout. Sam and Max deserves its own post, though, so I’ll leave it at that for now.
So, what games are you playing that don’t suck?