The newest title known as For Honor, recently published by Ubisoft, has everyone’s attention at the moment, and for good reason. The game brings all of the excitement of being in a sword fight with your friends, without all of the.. you know, death. For Honor has tight controls and a cornucopia of different fighting styles and tactics at the player’s disposal, making every battle different and exciting. But seeing this caliber of gaming bliss does not happen often, and that got me thinking. Why are there not more games like this?
The answer is simple so I won’t keep you waiting, it’s gameplay. If you stripped away all of those lovely, lovely pixels and turned the volume down to nil, you would still have a fun game. Sure, it would look pretty strange but it would still be fun. That seems to be a rare quality in many triple A games these days, and one that definitely needs a renaissance. Now this doesn’t mean that there haven’t been those gems, i.e. Doom, to come down the pipeline, there just haven’t been many.
There are few factors contributing to modern games being more dependent on presentation rather than actual gameplay and I hope by highlighting these problems we can all become a little more frugal and only throw down 60 big ones when it really is something worth it.
First up to bat is something that a lot of gamers these days, myself included, hold close to their heart.
Graphical capability has been rapidly increasing proportionally to its importance in modern games. I am sure we all want to see Lara Croft looking better and better and I’m not against it. All I ask is that a little more time be spent on the actual game rather than how each individual hair whips in the wind. Of course, the argument can be made that these visual improvements also help with immersion. While that is definitely true, it is not a be-all end-all factor, otherwise companies like Nintendo would have died a long time ago. Since the beginning of the medium, graphics took a backseat to the gameplay. When you think about it, it is a tad upsetting to think about an industry based on gameplay being watered down to the equivalent of movies just to be more “cinematic” or “exciting.” There used to be a time when games would be amazing with just a few pixels on the screen. The games that were the foundation for the industry, like Super Mario Bros. or Pac-Man, had very little processing power and weren’t able to look beautiful. This made the creators more tactful and probably a bit more scrupulous, only wanting to make a game that they would love to play. Though, while the focus on graphics might not be the downfall of video games, it brings along something with it that definitely is.
Cinematics and QTE’s
The bane of all gamers, these sequences of everything but gameplay, as well as the general reliance on them, are used to make things more exciting where the actual gameplay fails. Thankfully the actual QTE is a thing of the past, but many games still hold the genetic makeup of these tyrannical ancestors. Games like Call of Duty, for instance, have their generational roots in these tropes and can still be seen in the overly long cinematic sequences with occasional button presses that make up much of the single player campaigns. Sure, there’s not much you can do with an engine that is designed for a shooter, other than shoot, but this dependence on the cinematic capabilities is what makes these games so profitable and, in turn, more and more unoriginal as a result. But don’t get it confused, it’s not only the shooter category that falls victim to this as can be seen in annual releases like Assassin’s Creed or Metal Gear Solid. This brings us to the last point and possibly the most important reason that games do not continuously have better gameplay.
Yup, it’s as straight-forward as that. It is very difficult to come up with new and interesting gameplay mechanics every time let alone every year. It must have taken months to fine-tune the crisp feeling of jumping on turtles in Super Mario, and honestly just as long to calibrate the best running speed in the early years of series like Call of Duty or Titanfall. This is certainly why big corporations like EA turn down originality for other avenues to make their games bigger, better and more exciting. Churning out samey games every year that we all keep buying sure fills the quota better than getting down and dirty with one game for three or four years.
In the end, this sums up why these games keep coming out the same and, I hope, gets our eyes open to the fact that we all help them stay the same every time we buy a mediocre triple A title. I encourage everyone to support new and great ideas like For Honor so that we can let these companies know what truly makes all of our favourite video games exactly that. This is the power that we, as gamers, hold and unfortunately very rarely utilize. Once we start holding back from these games that we know for a fact have no originality or fun gameplay mechanics, we can start enjoying the ones that do more often. Yes, I know it will be difficult. I can barely keep myself from buying every other game that comes out in the hopes of finding something truly enjoyable. The good part is that there is light at the end of this tunnel. Developers will not simply give up because games are not selling, they will regroup and come out with something that will. Hopefully then, they can offer something akin to the greats. Something that has more than a pretty face and if all goes right, something that can mark the comeback of the gaming industry to its once golden heritage so that we can once again enjoy the ‘playing’ part of games.