Let’s talk about our “breaking and entering” mechanics.
Lockpicking works. It’s just interesting enough to make for a fun mini-game, but it’s brief enough that it doesn’t feel like it’s bringing your dungeon crawl to a halt. I enjoy it in Skyrim, I enjoy in in Fallout, and even after picking thousands of locks I’m still not sick of it.
The only problem, which I mentioned in this episode, is that for the most part it’s all just more trash to loot and sell. You’ll loot 9 chests of ammo, weapons, and junk. Then the 10th chest will be protected by a lock. Is it worth all those perk points to get one more chest worth of stuff? Not really. I’ve played as a master lockpicker and I’ve played as characters with no points in lockpicking, and aside from the nagging annoyance of leaving a chest behind, you can’t tell the difference at all. You never think, “Wow! I sure do have lots of rare resources. Glad I spent those lockpicking points!” And you also never find yourself in the position of, “Man, I am so starved for resources. If only I’d put points into lockpicking!”
The whole thing is kind of weak and gutless. You can hear the game designer wringing their hands and saying, “But what if players miss out on things? What if they have a different experience from the norm? What if there’s something they want to do it and they can’t because of their build? We have to save them from themselves! We must make all the choices shallow and painless!”
The hacking game never really worked for me. I like the idea of the puzzle, but the individual rounds are too short and too governed by luck to to reach a proper solution. Sometimes you’ll spend your first two clicks and not get any hints that give you meaningful progress. Yes, you can hunt around in the garbage characters for brackets to help you, but it’s still a crapshoot. Worse, the game actually becomes easier and more interesting when it supposedly gets harder. The clues for long words are far more useful than the clues for short words.
But the thing that really kills the game is that it’s a literal waste of time. The fastest and most expedient way through is not to linger over the puzzle for five minutes, trying to reach a provable solution according to the rules of logic. The fastest way through these things is to open up the terminal, click on random entries until you’re about to get locked out, and then close the terminal. Repeat until the dice favor you.
WAY back in 2005, I wrote about a D&D campaign I was running. The campaign is still there, in the bottom-most strata of the archives.
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