Did you ever play The Longest Journey? I’m going to hazard a guess that most people haven’t as it whilst it received critical praise it didn’t sell anywhere near the amount that many games do today. Personally I think this was due to the type of game it was and the time it came out in (an adventure game that came out long after the golden age of said titles) but I’d also bet that countless people who did buy it never really got around to finishing it. Part of that will be because of its length, clocking in at over 40 hours, but if my experience was anything to go by it was pretty easy to get stuck on certain puzzles which just seemed nigh on impossible to get past.
People who played the game will regale you with many tales of woe with all the titles contained within that game but none of them leave as much of an impression as the infamous rubber ducky key getterer puzzle which is nigh on impossible to figure out by yourself. Indeed I spent so much time stuck on that puzzle that I ended up tracking down a walkthrough guide for it because every hour I lost in this game was another hour I couldn’t spend on Dreamfall, the game I wanted to play in the first place. At the time the use of the guide cause something of a stir within my friendship group with many of the points being centred around how I was missing the point of these kinds of games. However as time has gone on I’ve found myself referencing these kinds of guides more and, strangely enough, I’ve started to enjoy them more as well.
This was playing at the back of my mind as I was making my way through Primordia this weekend just past (I’m lucky enough to be on Wadjet Eye’s list of game reviewers now, so I have access to pre-release copies). Since this game hasn’t been released yet there’s no walkthroughs available and that meant that any puzzle that I got stuck on at one point or another meant I was pretty much stuck there until I could figure it out. Sure I eventually got past them all, usually after taking a break and coming back to it later, but I can’t help but feel that my opinion of the game would be higher if I didn’t have to struggle through some of those puzzles. Once I got into the mindset of the developer though the last couple hours rolled off without too much trouble but I still couldn’t help that feeling that a walkthrough guide would have improved my experience dramatically.
It was something of a strange realization as most of the time I’ve used them in the past has simply been to get past a section once I’ve been stuck on it for what feels like too long. I’m not religiously following them, mostly because that gets boring rather quickly, but having that get of puzzle free card certainly went a long way to eliminate any anxiety I might have. Indeed there were many times where I thought it’d be better just to wait for the guides to come out and then slug it out after that. Thankfully the drive to do the review on the day it was released (Wednesday this week, for those of you wondering) pushed me past this and now that I’m aware of this bias towards games with available walkthroughs I can account for it properly in the review.
I’m interested to see what the wider gaming community’s opinion is on this as walkthroughs have always been a slightly taboo topic, something we all know about (and likely use) but rarely ever speak about. Whilst I love a good challenge as much as the next guy there are times when being stuck at the same place for a long time just doesn’t feel like fun and a good guide can get you past them without too much hassle. Is that missing the point of the game? That’s something for you to decide and I’d gladly welcome your opinions on this.
I’m an avid gamer and have been ever since my Dad sat me down at a computer at the tender age of 4 and showed me an old classic, Captain Comic. I spent many hours playing through that game and never getting too far into it, only to have my Dad’s friend show up and beat the game for me. I remember being awe struck as a child watching someone play through it so perfectly, when I had struggled for hours and only got half as far.
Fast forward 20 years and gaming has become a huge multi-billion dollar industry. So many games are released every year that no matter what kind of genre or play-style you fit into you’re bound to find something that you enjoy. Hollywood blockbuster budgets are thrown at impressive game titles and production values have skyrocketed, which has allowed game designers to become analogous to movie producers. Thus Cinematic Gaming was born, bringing the choices of a choose your own adventure book together with the immersion of modern interactive games.
My first real introduction into this blend of movie and game was Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. Whilst this is no where near the first foray into this genre it is a great example of what it is capable of. The emphasis is strictly on the characters and their interaction with each other. Every time I sat down to play it I felt drawn into the game and empathised with all of the characters, something which was made even stronger by the fact I could make their decisions for them. The ending left my heart aching, something which I had never experienced with a game before.
After finishing Dreamfall and sharing my experiences with some of my friends I was put onto Fahrenheit by Quantic Dream. This was a much earlier attempt at Cinematic Gaming and whilst the graphics were a tad rough, even for the time of its release, the emphasis again was on the plot and immersion. I quickly got drawn into the interaction between characters, and the use of game mechanics really makes you feel like the character is supposed to. Throw in a dash of naughty sex scenes and you’re onto a winner.
Probably one of the biggest jumps forward in this genre would have to be Mass Effect by Bioware, who are renowned for their games with intricate dialogues and over-arching plot lines. The conversation system implemented in Mass Effect is really second to none. Your responses are displayed just before the other person finishes their part of the conversation, allowing you to choose what you want to say before there’s an awkward pause. Once you’ve figured out which options are where (a “Paragon” response is typically at the top, “Renegade” is at the bottom) you can usually judge how you want to respond to someone before the options even come up. This makes the dialogue very fluid, and doesn’t have the same immersion break like many similar games do when you’re interacting with non-player characters.
So how does the future look for this type of game? Well Quantic Dream is busy working on Heavy Rain which is looking to take the next step in immersion with realistic facial expressions. They put an emphasis on the fact that their characters will show real tears, which is something that is sure to tug on heart strings. Here’s a great trailer:
I’m definitely looking forward to this, and I’ll be sure to give a review of it once I’ve played it through. Don’t expect it to be out quickly though, I like to take my time with things like this