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Up until this point, our ‘Eighth Generation Gaming in Review’ series has been a beacon of positivity – we’ve highlighted the best and most underappreciated that the generation has offer, only radiating good vibes and warmth to our readers. But as we all know, for every four instances of shining positivity, we earn one good moan. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is that moan.
Of course, not everything we’ve seen this generation is praiseworthy and there have been some trends and patterns that have infiltrated the industry that can get right in the bin. So this is our look at the tedious facets of current gaming that have proven, in some way, to be a detriment to our enjoyment of otherwise great video games, trends that we hope just don’t make it into the next console generation.
We won’t be including microtransactions, loot boxes and their associated practices that often feel akin to a publisher holding a consumer by their ankles and shaking until all their change falls out, because we’re going for changes that are smaller but more realistic. After all, no company is going to wake up one day and decide they don’t feel like squeezing a few extra million from their new releases anymore.
Now collectibles aren't a bad thing in and of itself, not when they're interesting, provide a worthwhile challenge, or provide further backstory about the world you're exploring. The problem is that so many open-world games seem to enjoy using a ludicrous amount of collectibles as a way to artificially extend their playtime, providing maybe 20 hours worth of story, 10 of side-missions and 20 of collectibles.
Anyone who's played an Assassin's Creed game or slowly lost grip on their sanity while trying to collect all the Riddler Trophies in the Batman Arkham series will know exactly what we mean. Let's not even start on Breath of the Wild's 900 collectible Korok Seeds (though ardent fans will argue that this is simply a comment on the excess of collectibles in other games...yeah right).
If you are making a game, ideally don't go nuts with collectibles, but if you do, please do not tie a trophy to collecting them all, that's just cruel.
On paper, adding stamina bars that would limit how much a character could sprint or take certain actions must have seemed like a nice little touch to make your game a touch more realistic, after all people get tired, so your characters should too, right? In practice, these have not only proven more of an irritation than a benefit, but have actually made games feel less realistic.
The situation as it stands is that a wide range of protagonists - be they a normal person, a medieval knight wearing heavy armour, or a legendary hero who's just woken from a 1,000 year sleep and shouldn't even be able to stand due to leg atrophy – all of them are able to run for weeks without getting tired or needing to rest, but as soon as you press that button to make them speed up, they all turn into Homer Simpson, managing a 5-10 second burst of speed before doubling over, gasping for air.
It's just silly and feels like a waste of time and effort, just let us run through the world at whatever speed we like and stop giving this ridiculous system the time of day.
What we mean by this is that sometimes it feels like a developer has a checklist of things that have been used in popular games and so they have to crowbar into their own, even if it doesn't fit or even makes the game worse. Sandbox setting? Check. Over-abundance of side missions? Check? Upgradeable and customisable everything? Check.
The best example we can give is Gravity Rush 2 on the PS4. This first Gravity Rush had one of the most joyful core mechanics of any game. The feeling of shifting gravity and watching protagonist Kat fall into the sky is incredible and the hectic aerial combat is constantly engaging, but of course the sequel had to be bigger in every way.
This means the game was given a world so big it was a chore to navigate and took the joy out of the traversal, plenty of drawn out, tedious side-missions, and worst of all sloppy stealth missions in a game that's the antithesis of stealth, creating a series of rage-quit baiting segments.
Essentially, trying to 'tick boxes' and crowbar certain facets into a game can transform a potential ten out of ten into a generous six.
Why is it that this generation, so many game developers seemed to forget that games they developed on PCs are played on TVs, with players sitting clear across a room and therefore they need to enlarge the text? Here's looking at you God of War, Xenoblade Chronicles X and Stellaris: Console Edition (in fact, ports from PC games are the biggest culprits here).
Often it's not even a case of being unable to read the text, it's more a question of why should we have to strain our eyes to make it out? If we're playing on a 45 inch TV screen, why is the important text only ¼ inch high? Thankfully many major releases include accessibility options to remedy this, but far too many don't.
It's hard to say why text size seems to have decreased so much even since the PS3/Xbox 360 era (an era that also had HD as standard but none of these widespread readability issues), but maybe those who create games should start looking back to the text display from the seventh generation or earlier and follow that example.
Releasing Unfinished Games
This is an issue that was highlighted recently when CD Projekt Red announced a further delay in the release of the highly anticipated Cyberpunk 2077, much to the ire of some expectant fans. It's understandable to be a little disappointed, but if a developer doesn't feel the game is up to their standards, then delaying it to make improvements is always the right decision.
We've seen so many respected companies fall from grace due to rushed releases. WWE 2K20, Fallout 76, No Man's Sky, Mass Effect: Andromeda and many more have all been punch lines for their shoddy, unfinished states on release and this has proven a lesson to the industry at large.
After all, if a sub-par version is released with the intention to patch improvements in at a later date, who does that benefit?
- Certainly not the developers, who would see the years of hard work they've put into their product denigrated by those exposing, highlighting and mocking the game's flaws online and see their reputation damaged in the process.
- Not the publisher, who would see sales suffer when those flaws result in underwhelming reviews.
- Not the players, who have shelled out full price for a new release only to receive a product that potentially doesn't deliver on what was promised and have their enjoyment diminished by problems that could have been fixed with a little more time in development.
So to the coming generation, we say: “Take all the time you need”.
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