on Oct 17, 2013
In this episode I mentioned one room where I died several times. Josh said he got cornered and killed in the same spot. I tried it again yesterday, but this time I was using the volt driver. I killed everything without taking damage.
And then I blundered into the radioactive canal and died. Damn it.
We compared the game to Alan Wake. While I agree it does probably throw more foes at you than it needs to, I think this game doesn’t become a chore like Wake did. The better atmosphere, more interesting weapons, stronger combat, and lack of stupid manuscript pages makes this a lot more bearable. Also, I like how the game doesn’t feel the need to grab your camera and aim it at incoming foes at the start of a fight.
I re-watched bits of Alan Wake recently, and I think we cut the game a lot of slack and put up with a lot of crap because it had interesting ideas.
The section where you fall down and have to take the long way around is really interesting. It’s exactly the sort of thing that usually annoys me: An arbitrary contrivance arises that forces you to take a convoluted route through monster city rather than spending a minute climbing something.
But here it works, because the game designer took the time to justify it. You’re at the bottom of a canal with outward sloping walls, so climbing would be fiddly and dangerous. Not impossible, of course, but it would be difficult. You’re over radioactive sludge, so you don’t have a lot of room for error. The game establishes that there are flying beasts around, so you wouldn’t want to spend several noisy minutes in the open, scrambling over cars, stacking up debris, or searching for handholds.
It’s also not too long. Ignoring the optional basement detour, it’s only a few extra minutes to take the long way. Far too many games get the ratio of obstacle-to-detour difficulty way out of alignment. To put it in terms that other games use: No, I wouldn’t try to MacGuyver my way past a locked wooden door to save myself from a couple of blocks worth of travel. But if the detour around the door takes you halfway across the city and through the enemy base? Yeah, the doors starts looking like a lame fig-leaf justification.
Also, it’s good to put the obstacle at the start of the journey rather than at the end. If I was already sick of an gameplay area and a bridge collapsed just before I reached the exit, then it would be a lot less welcome. But in this case we’ve just arrived and probably eager to explore on our own for a bit. The detour ends up justifying a route the player wants to take instead of denying one.
I always appreciate it when games spend the time to justify my goals, rather than forcing me to roleplay a shooting-obsessed dullard who can’t solve simple problems or climb over trivial obstacles.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.