Playing Games Like You Watch TV Or: Why It Took Me Over Two Years To Finish Dragon Age: Inquisition

DAI

I’ve spoken about my gaming habits plenty in the past but I’ve noticed another shift in the last year or so. If I have an hour spare now in the evening I’m much more likely to play an online game, not something single player based.

While it sounds contrary to the above, I feel like I want to invest more time in single player game sessions than ever and really lose myself in that world, which conflicts with my gaming schedule – essentially the odd hour here and there in the evening. I’m finding that I don’t want to play something story based for 45 minutes or an hour. Or at least that’s how I feel about open world games, I’m certainly still happy to play an hour long session to complete a chapter of Uncharted or a main mission in Tomb Raider. More linear games still lend themselves to that style of play. I’ve always played those kind of games like TV shows anyway, a chapter or two at a time over the course of weeks rather than days. I’ve never been a gamer who will rush through a 15-20 hour game in a weekend.

Horizon

Horizon: Zero Dawn is a good example of this new play style, a game I likely would’ve rushed through before is now a title I’m planning to play over the course of months rather than weeks. Crucially, I also feel like I’m getting more enjoyment out of the game by taking the time to explore and discover smaller content along the way.

I think there is an accompanying parallel change in multiplayer games, which are doing a much better job of getting you to come back and play more often. There has been a positive change in a huge amount of games whereby new content (new levels/maps or characters) is being added free of charge for all players. This is important because, firstly, it means the player base isn’t split (some that paid have the new content but others don’t and they can’t all play together) and secondly it gives people a strong reason to come back to games they might not have ever returned to before this trend. In addition a lot of games are rewarding players for logging in and playing, which keeps people interested for longer.  I also feel like there are a ton of pick up and play online experiences that last 5-10 minutes per game, which align perfectly with the time I have available.

If I only have 30-45 mins spare why waste my time on an open world title and have to turn it off just as I’m getting into the rhythm of the game? I’d rather play a few rounds Overwatch and a game of Rocket League. It’s also occasionally quite nice to play something that has a set beginning, middle and end. I guess it’s similar to watching a really good eight episode TV show knowing it only has one season and tells a complete story within that.

OverwatchTV

Big, sprawling open world titles are definitely still attractive to me, Horizon is one of the best games I’ve played in the last 4 or 5 years, but I just need more time to play and invest in them. Dragon Age: Inquisition took me over two years to finish. Why? I suspect the TV season-like structure helped, along with the change in my own gaming habits. What I loved about the structure of Dragon Age in particular was that your main hub in the game was your ‘War Table’, where you and your colleagues/advisors would plan your next tactical move and which mission to take on. On this table you had a selection of smaller missions, including favours for your colleagues that would reveal more about them and strengthen your relationship with them, but also one bigger mission that moved the main story on considerably. So for me, the game became like a TV show in so far as I would spend a few weeks playing side missions, levelling up and getting some character development for my team before doing the big, climatic ‘end of season’ mission and then putting the game down for a month or two.

Another huge title in terms of scale is Fallout 4, which I’m still playing 18 months after I started. Why? Well for similar reasons to Dragon Age but with the added decision from the outset not to follow the direct path for ‘character reasons’. I decided to make my character more selfish than my usual created characters, for example my elf Inquisitor from Dragon Age or Commander Shepherd from Mass Effect. In Fallout, Bella would be a character that was, for the most part, more interested in her own current affairs than any grander goal – which has been great fun and I’d recommend everyone to try playing a character like it at some stage!

FALLOUT4TV

Another issue with mainlining games is burnout, doing the same thing over and over again is certainly not fun and can severely lessen your enjoyment of a game. However, I think there is a huge difference between repetitive gameplay over a longer period of time in hour sized chunks and repetitive gameplay experienced in bigger 3 or 4 hour time slots.  I genuinely believe that the reason I still enjoy long running game series like Assassin’s Creed, where you are essentially doing the same thing in every iteration of the game in a different setting, is because I’ve never really sat down and played them for 4 or 5 hours at a time.

Episodic gaming kind of solves this play style problem, although it doesn’t always necessarily do the best job. Titles like The Walking Dead and Life Is Strange are great games, although each episode usually runs the length of a film which runs into the same problem for me time-wise. Hitman, which is perfectly suited to the episodic format, is another title with lengthy levels (a positive when I have the time to invest) although the inclusion of smaller one off assassinations does mean that is a game you can also dip into here and there.

Life Is Strange 1

Some people are quick to mainline these huge games and I just don’t get it. Why would you want to rush through these big titles? Where Uncharted is like a film, games like Skyrim, Mass Effect or Dragon Age are like having 10 seasons of a TV show in front of you. Finishing these open world games as quickly as possible by doing just main quests would be like having a cut down version of the TV show that just focuses on the main character and no-one else. Sure you’d get to experience the story at the centre of the show but without any focus on other characters. Imagine a Buffy The Vampire Slayer without any development of Willow or Xander? Or an Orphan Black with no focus on Donny or anyone except Sarah? Indeed, imagine a Mass Effect that didn’t bother to flesh out your crew but just double downed on the main story.

I’m as guilty as the next person of binge-watching TV shows but I do feel that for games it is a little different – as I mentioned above my confusion isn’t really based on people playing games quickly, it’s what you might be missing along the way. Even if I binge something like Jessica Jones I am still seeing all the story the creators put in there and want us to see. If you mainline a game you could be missing a wealth of interesting content and potentially things that might be integral to the wider plot of the game.

hITMANtv

Even in this age of on demand binge watching it can be nice to watch a TV show week by week – one of the biggest luxuries of the ‘old’ approach to watching TV or playing games is that you have time to think about and appreciate the content you’re consuming. I’ve found that in games but also in TV. Recently, Legion was a delight to watch week by week and I actually think I needed that time between episodes to process what I’d seen. Sure, there is a rush from getting through something you’re enjoying – it can exhilarating knowing that you are just a click away from another episode or main mission but I’d recommend giving slower paced gaming a shot. It’s definitely a different experience and one, for me personally, that means I’ve gotten more enjoyment out of open world games.

.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Advertisements

GregHorrorShow: Game Awards 2014

Game Awards 2014 Main

Now that everyone has had time to digest their turkey and Christmas pudding, it’s a good opportunity to look back at last year’s game offerings and dole out some awards.

So let’s start at the very beginning – well, 2013 to be precise…

.

MISSED GEM OF 2013

Game Awards 2014 AC IV

WINNER: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (PS4)

Black Flag missed out on a place in last year’s list as the PS4 launch was too late in 2013 for consideration. I was burned out on Assassin’s Creed by 2012’s title which I felt had a poor lead character and not a particularly great story. Black Flag throws the Assassin’s Creed rule book out of the window (well, not the whole book) and gives you a fun character and interesting world to explore, along with decent gameplay to compliment it. The sailing aspect is excellent and I never got bored of my crew striking up a shanty 🙂

.

BEST GAME INNOVATION

Game Awards 2014 Innovation

WINNER: Nemesis System (Middle Earth: Shadow Of Mordor)

There were some cool new ideas in games last year. The prospect of a single player game being online and full of people isn’t a new one, we’ve had quite a few of those trailers over the last few years, where the game pulls back and reveals the other characters are real players (The Division etc.). Despite it’s faults Watch_Dogs was the first game that I thought handled it quite well, with other players able to hack your game and you having to force them out. Photo Mode is one of those things that you can’t believe wasn’t in games before – the ability to pause the action and be able to set up a photo opportunity might not sound that ground-breaking but it changes how you play the game and has led to some amazing in-game shots of titles like The Last Of Us: Remastered, DriveClub and Infamous: Second Son. For me though, the biggest innovation has to be the Nemesis system in Middle Earth: Shadow Of Mordor, which gives personality and meaning to the enemies you encounter throughout the game. Essentially enemies are named and remember the previous times you’ve met in battle. They can also be promoted through the ranks of the opposition army and it’s fun to have some history with opponents. When you clash with them the camera pans in and the enemy will taunt you or threaten you. The other cool thing about this feature is that it isn’t limited to specific characters or events – you can sometimes find yourself in a battle with two or three of these named enemies if they happen to be in the same area you’re fighting in. It’s a great addition to an open world title and gives the game world a huge boost.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Invasion Multiplayer (Watch Dogs)
  • Photo Mode (Various PS4 Titles)
  • Shadow Gameplay (Contrast)

.

BEST DLC (CONTENT)

Game Awards 2014 DLC

WINNER: Last Of Us – Left Behind (PS3)

The Last Of Us was my game of the year for 2013 and February saw the release of the long awaited story DLC ‘Left Behind’ in which you played as Ellie. Set before the events of the main game it was a look at Ellie’s relationship with her close friend Riley. Well written and with some truly memorable moments this is quite possibly the best DLC I’ve played. Wholly recommended and for you lucky folks who have picked up The Last Of Us Remastered on PS4, this DLC is already included on your disc – enjoy!

RUNNERS UP:

  • Second Assault (Battlefield 4)
  • Intercept (Killzone Shadow Fall)
  • Ignition Pack (DriveClub)

.

BEST DOWNLOAD ONLY GAME

Game Awards 2014 Download2

WINNER: Transistor

I’ve never played Supergiant Games previous title ‘Bastion’, although I always loved the art style. So when the studio’s follow up for announced as a PS4 exclusive it was a title I was really looking forward to. At that stage I had no idea how much I would fall in love with the world, art, music and gameplay of Transistor. I also thoroughly enjoyed the second season of The Walking Dead and I certainly wasn’t expecting to get as much out of Resogun as I did – I’m looking forward to picking that up on Vita as well when it arrives. A title that didn’t technically land this year but arrived on Vita was the superb Rogue Legacy – if you haven’t checked that out yet then make sure you pick it up!

RUNNERS UP:

  • The Walking Dead: Season Two
  • Resogun
  • Rogue Legacy

.

MOST ANTICIPATED GAME OF 2015

Game Awards 2014 Anticipated

WINNER: Uncharted: A Thief’s End

While 2014 might’ve been a little disappointing, with lots of top tier releases being delayed into 2015. On the flip side it means that this year is already full of quality titles just waiting to jump into your PS4 as the months progress 🙂 For me the biggest of these is Uncharted: A Thief’s End. I *love* this series, which never fails to keep me entertained and I can’t get enough of the characters created by the wonderful folks at Naughty Dog. The gameplay reveal in December has left me even more psyched than ever, so roll on November! It was hard to narrow down the runners up to just three when factoring in titles like Batman: Arkham Knight, Bloodborne and No Man’s Sky. However the other three games I’m most excited for have to be Hotline Miami 2, Metal Gear Solid V and the new Rainbow Six game, which I think could be amazing if they nail it.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Metal Gear Solid V
  • Rainbow Six Siege
  • Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number

.

BEST GAME TRAILER

WINNER: Uncharted: A Thief’s End

As mentioned above I’m a huge fan of Uncharted and boy was this reveal trailer impressive. Giving a glimpse at what might be possible for PS4 in the future, even if the gameplay only looks half as good as this it’ll be a huge step up for the series. Cuphead isn’t even scheduled to come to Playstation platforms but I adored this trailer, which reminded me of all the old cartoons I used to watch as a kid – what a great artstyle! If you needed an excuse to get excited for Velocity 2x then this trailer was it, showcasing the new platforming sections as well as the ship based gameplay… and THAT music! Sadly Assassin’s Creed Unity didn’t live up to the hype but the series continued it’s great run of trailers with this gem, scored by Lorde’s version of Tears For Fears.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Cuphead
  • Assassin’s Creed Unity
  • Velocity 2x

.

.

.

.

.

BEST PS VITA GAME

Game Awards 2014 Vita

WINNER: Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

The Vita has had some great games this year, original titles like Murasaki Baby, Freedom Wars and Luftrausers as well as excellent ports like Fez and a solid version of Football Manager. I enjoyed the super addictive Rogue Legacy and Velocity 2x, both requiring a different set of gaming skills while I thoroughly enjoyed the cold war setting and espionage gameplay of CounterSpy. That being said it was a more unusual title that ended up being the one I got the most out of – Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. Yes, that is a real title and yes, it’s a fantastic game! The story of a group of students who wake up to find themselves trapped in their school. The only escape is to kill another student and get away with it by beating a courtroom judgement. All seemingly masterminded by an evil, robotic teddy bear. Crazy, for sure, but a great gaming experience.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Rogue Legacy
  • CounterSpy
  • Velocity 2X

.

BEST GRAPHICS

Game Awards 2014 Graphics

WINNER: DriveClub

Just look at that picture. Click it to see the full size version. That isn’t a press shot or some PR trick, I took that screenshot during a race using DriveClub’s Photo Mode. It is insane how good this game looked before the weather update added different conditions. And now? Well, it’s certainly one you could show to friends and family to show what the PS4 can do. Big shout outs to Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare for some ridiculously good facial animation, Destiny for a wonderful art style and Alien: Isolation for an almost perfect recreation of the original film’s world. But this year’s award goes to the DriveClub – possibly the best looking game I’ve ever played.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Destiny
  • Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare
  • Alien Isolation

.

BEST STORYLINE

Game Awards 2014 Story

WINNER: TellTale’s The Walking Dead (Season 2)

The return of Clem, and the fact that you were controlling her, in the second season of The Walking Dead had me in two minds about the direction the game was taking. I loved Clem and felt that maybe she was better left behind in the first season and that the new run of episodes should feature just new characters. How wrong I was, while it stumbled at times, this season of the game was superb and I found myself with a decent resolution by the time the final credits rolled. I really enjoyed the story of Transistor, delving into the back story there was great – although I felt that game was more about the characters than a specific storyline per se. I ended up liking the story of Murdered: Soul Suspect as well, which had some interesting twists and turns. The closest game to beating The Walking Dead though was the superb DLC for The Last Of Us ‘Left Behind’, which as I mentioned earlier looks at the relationship between Ellie and Riley.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Last Of Us – Left Behind (PS3)
  • Transistor
  • Murdered: Soul Suspect

.

BEST SOUNDTRACK (SCORE)

Game Awards 2014 Download

WINNER: Transistor

The music in Transistor is a huge part of the game and what an amazing soundtrack. The excellent Darren Korb delivers a brilliant score, with some help from vocalist Ashley Barrett and this is one of those games where you’ll be raving about the music for a long time afterwards. Destiny‘s score had some wonderful moments and the recreation/remix of original music from the Alien film gives Isolation a really strong score element. Child of Light was another title that I thought music played a big part in and the score is definitely worth checking out. Special nod to Velocity 2x as well which I thought was also a great soundtrack.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Child Of Light
  • Destiny
  • Alien Isolation

.

BEST SOUNDTRACK (LICENSED)

Game Awards 2014 Music

WINNER: Grand Theft Auto V Remastered

Adding 162 new tracks to an already huge and impressive soundtrack is a great way to help flesh out some of the radio stations in your game. Doing it with quality artists like Jackson Sisters, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Chvrches and Lorde just increases the richness of your world no end. Good lord even Bobby Brown’s ‘On Our Own’ from Ghostbusters II is in here! Just, wow. Watch_Dogs had a good soundtrack but was hampered by the fact you had to unlock tracks in game rather than them all just being on the radio. FIFA 15 delivered again, for the sake of clarity I did help shape the soundtrack to that one a little, but even the stuff I played no part in was great. And Battlefield 4 technically shouldn’t be in here but it missed out last year based on time constraints and deserves a nod for ‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart’.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Battlefield 4
  • FIFA 15
  • Watch_Dogs

.

BEST VOICE ACTING

Game Awards 2014 Voice

WINNER: Infamous: Second Son

I enjoyed Infamous: Second Son, although I did feel a little let down that the characters weren’t more fleshed out. Having said that what was on display here was seriously impressive in terms of voice casting, with Troy Baker and Laura Bailey doing most of the heavy lifting. Matched with some superb facial animation, Infamous gave us the best voice acting of the year. Both ‘Left Behind’ and ‘Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare’ weren’t far behind though, the latter also helped by having the fantastic Kevin Spacey on board.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Last Of Us DLC
  • Transistor
  • Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare

.

SINGLE PLAYER GAME OF THE YEAR

Game Awards 2014 Single Player

WINNER: Transistor

The haunting quality that Supergiant Games gave to the world of Transistor was a big part of why I wanted to explore the world and discover more about the characters but if it didn’t have the gameplay to back it up, this game would not be taking this award. Taking the time to plan out your moves before erasing them and trying a different solution was an addictive process. As you hit ‘go’ to put your plan into action there was a rush of the unknown as you desperately hoped your plan would work as desired. Sometimes it did, sometimes it didn’t but it almost always felt satisfying. Shadow Of Mordor’s main accomplishment is taking various elements from other titles, mixing in the Nemesis system and having everything work together really well. Sadly the story wasn’t up to scratch, a problem which also hampered Advanced Warfare. Again the gameplay in Call Of Duty was strong though and graphically it was excellent. Far Cry 4 delivered more of the same goodness from the previous game and it’s emergent world was great fun to be a part of. Also a quick nod to Dragon Age: Inquisition which I’ve been enjoying but haven’t spent enough time with for serious consideration here.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare
  • Middle Earth: Shadow Of Mordor
  • Far Cry 4

.

MULTIPLAYER GAME OF THE YEAR

Game Awards 2014 MP

WINNER: The Last Of Us: Remastered

2014 was a bizarre year for multiplayer games, with most of the year being taken up with last year’s titles like Battlefield 4, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Killzone: Shadow Fall. There just wasn’t anything that attractive in the multiplayer space on PS4 – Xbox and PC owners had Titanfall but judging from others comments, even the allure of that wore off fairly quickly. FIFA 15 was up to its usual tricks and I got pulled back into Ultimate Team mode again. Destiny had its hooks into me for a while there as I was really enjoying the multiplayer and more recently (now that it all works) DriveClub has been amazing fun – both in terms of time challenges and straight up races. For me though it was another 2013 title that I ploughed countless hours into. The Last Of Us Remastered hit PS4 this year and with the package containing all previous online maps and the extra Interrogation mode, there wasn’t a better online experience in 2014. The meta-game with your camp remains a really nice touch – meaning that everyone always has something to play for – even if you’re having a bad round the need to get supplies means that you’ll never just write a round off. Added to that the fact the game still looks glorious despite its gritty nature and you have one hell of an online experience on your hands.

Runners Up

  • Destiny
  • FIFA 15
  • DriveClub

.

GAME OF THE YEAR

Game Awards 2014 GOTY

Winner: Transistor

Well, who would’ve thought in the first full year of PS4 it would be a turned based strategy game that would take home Game Of The Year? The simple truth is I got lost in Transistor in a way I simply didn’t in any other game this year. The music, the art, the gameplay… the characters… the world. Wonderful stuff and much deeper, tactically, than you might originally give it credit for. The style of the cut scenes had me hammering the screenshot button again and again. My only complaint would be that I’d have liked a bit more story told through the game rather than unlockables but it’s a small gripe in the grand scheme of things. I can’t wait to see what Supergiant come up with next.

Runners Up:

  • The Last Of Us: Remastered
  • Far Cry 4
  • Middle Earth: Shadow Of Mordor

.

So that’s 2014 done and dusted!

I’d love to hear if you agree with any of the choices above and what your favourite games were from last year. Here’s to 2015!

.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine