Portal 2 is awesome, but somehow dumbed down?

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Posted by Wuddel (2079 posts) -

Ok, so I played a few other games since the last post, I come to that in a different blog post. I only wanted to get one thing about Portal 2 off my chest real quick. spoiler free

To set things straight right from the beginning. I really love this game! The controls (I played PS3 version, which played as good as Portal 1 with mouse&keyboard.), the setting, the characters, their development and voice work, and also the graphics are holding up pretty well - in large part because of the unseen amount of 
dynamic environment, which effectively breaks the solitude. I really liked the fact that they got rid of most of the momentum and timing based stuff, and made the game more puzzle orientated. I had a great time, and beside Dead Space 2 it is a GOTY 2011 contender for me (so far obviously).

But is it just me or are the actual puzzles way easier than in the first game? I finished the game in two rather short sittings, even quite late in the evening. Maybe I developed a severe case of "portal vision", but it felt like that you really spend the most of the time just transversing the room with relative ease, and look at everything that is availale. The presentation of the puzzle then already gives so many clues about the solution, that they end up being quite simple. Especially if you take into account that the respective newly introduced mechanic is likely the key to success. Most of the times a puzzle took me longer than average, it was simply because I overlooked a spot, not because the solution was so tricky. I just recently finished the first game, and I remember it to be less handholding and less dependant on visual clues.

I hope Valve has more up in his sleeves when it comes to DLC.

#1 Posted by Wuddel (2079 posts) -

Ok, so I played a few other games since the last post, I come to that in a different blog post. I only wanted to get one thing about Portal 2 off my chest real quick. spoiler free

To set things straight right from the beginning. I really love this game! The controls (I played PS3 version, which played as good as Portal 1 with mouse&keyboard.), the setting, the characters, their development and voice work, and also the graphics are holding up pretty well - in large part because of the unseen amount of 
dynamic environment, which effectively breaks the solitude. I really liked the fact that they got rid of most of the momentum and timing based stuff, and made the game more puzzle orientated. I had a great time, and beside Dead Space 2 it is a GOTY 2011 contender for me (so far obviously).

But is it just me or are the actual puzzles way easier than in the first game? I finished the game in two rather short sittings, even quite late in the evening. Maybe I developed a severe case of "portal vision", but it felt like that you really spend the most of the time just transversing the room with relative ease, and look at everything that is availale. The presentation of the puzzle then already gives so many clues about the solution, that they end up being quite simple. Especially if you take into account that the respective newly introduced mechanic is likely the key to success. Most of the times a puzzle took me longer than average, it was simply because I overlooked a spot, not because the solution was so tricky. I just recently finished the first game, and I remember it to be less handholding and less dependant on visual clues.

I hope Valve has more up in his sleeves when it comes to DLC.

#2 Edited by SomeDeliCook (2232 posts) -

Blame the QA. Some people had a lot of trouble on the smallest and easiest of levels. I read somewhere people had trouble with the puzzle where the spikes come down from the ceiling in one of the first Portal 1 videos released, and so it was taken out before the game was released.

#3 Edited by EuanDewar (4788 posts) -

In the first game you had to get to grips with a system that you had never really seen a in a game before and as a result you spent a lot of the time getting used to the mechanics. In this game you're used to that system by now so it's harder to befuddle people with simple portal tricks. I feel like they do a good job of introducing new mechanics with the gels etc to keep things fresh and challenging. This familiarity is the reason l don't think we'll see a Portal 3, although there is still the case of those hints at the Portal gun being introduced into Half life. Whatever, a truly fantastic game.

#4 Posted by supermike6 (3540 posts) -

Maybe I'm just really stupid, but I got stuck multiple times. I thought the difficulty was just right.

#5 Posted by SomeDeliCook (2232 posts) -

The first one also had a lot more timing puzzles. In fact, I don't think Portal 2 had any real timing puzzles outside of Co-op.


Just trying to figure out how to get the timing right before certain doors would shut added some frustration and challenge.
#6 Posted by FengShuiGod (1478 posts) -

I thought it could of been a little more challenging. I'm not asking for anything crazy, but the game was kinda easy. I would have liked to have seen some more variety too, but anything that is a little weird gets taken out because testers don't get it. I really liked the gel stuff though. Maybe the DLC will have some interesting additions to the Portal formula.

#7 Posted by GunstarRed (5044 posts) -

I totally agree. I didn't get stuck once on any of the puzzles. The only time I ever had any trouble was  in a couple of the large open outside areas in the old Aperture labs section, I just wasn't quite sure where the wall i needed to portal up to was sometimes.

#8 Edited by Azteck (7449 posts) -

I got stuck a little in some places but not for longer than 10 minutes and as you said, it was purely because I overlooked something, so ultimately it felt waaaaay easier than the 1st game.

#9 Edited by Origina1Penguin (3500 posts) -

Yeah, almost every level was changed because of testers getting stuck. It's in the developer commentary. It was also mentioned that trailers made people believe the game would be too hard so those levels (or at least the timing parts) were removed.


EDIT: Hopefully the test chambers that will be downloadable will be more challenging.
#10 Posted by TheBlackPigeon (314 posts) -
@EuanDewar:

I second this. Portal 2 isn't "dumber". We're just smarter. : p
#11 Posted by bkfountain (102 posts) -

yes, it felt like this game was designed for morans. 


I enjoyed everything else about the game, and haven't touched co-op yet, but hopefully they give some hard levels in DLC.
#12 Edited by ReyGitano (2467 posts) -

I went back to play the original portal right before this game. The puzzles are amazingly simple so I don't really see how it was dumbed down. I think it's just that now you understand how the portal mechanics work this time around.

#13 Edited by Crono (2643 posts) -

Portal 2 is indeed much easier than the first Portal and that is actually my biggest complaint about the game. I never felt challenged as I played Portal 2 and this isn't simply a case of the mechanics being "more familiar" because, while Portal certainly introduced a new concept, the concept of Portals is simple and elegantly executed, allowing us to understand it instantly. Because of this I would have to refute the claim that Portal 2 wasn't easier and that we're simply more accustomed to how the game works. Luckily the game is so well designed with such great delivery of its content that, while it lacks difficulty, it is still an extremely well-done performance overall. But, like you, I felt let down by the lack of difficulty. Portal 2 is a fun stroll through the park sort of game. Even the co-op presented minimal puzzling difficulty. It threw in a modicum of timing-based puzzles but they were far and few between.

I guess what I miss from the first Portal was that it felt like it took more on-the-fly "skill" than Portal 2. In the first Portal there were a lot of moments where you had to land portals at the right times in the right places while flying through the air and it felt a lot more dynamic because of its mixture of puzzling and skill-based execution. Meanwhile Portal 2 is a lot more static. You assess your situation and systematically execute each step in the process instead of having to pull everything off in a deftly-executed 1-shot process. In Portal 2 you can take things 1 step at a time, it is a lot more forgiving.

I think that is definitely a contributing factor as to why you hear so much praise for the game - because it is a lot more accessible to a wider audience (that and it is amazingly well designed, as I mentioned earlier). This sucks for people like you and me who yearn for more challenge, because the difficulty has been watered-down to accommodate people who don't get the same satisfaction out of taking on the same kinds of challenges as you or I might; think of it this way, there are some people that really enjoy math and get a pseudo-high from solving complex problems, and then there are other people who are just happy to pass. If you listen to the audio commentary for Portal 2 and look around on the web some, you'll see that Valve used metrics in the original Portal title to better build Portal 2. They found that a lot of players had quit playing the game at some of the timing-based puzzles. This, coupled with the fact that in the QA tests people were getting stuck a lot, contributed to the removal of the parts of the first Portal that we are missing so much in Portal 2.

Another way to think of it is Portal is an RTS (like StarCraft 2), requiring you to dynamically orchestrate and execute a plan on the fly and Portal 2 is a turn based strategy game (like Chess) which allows you to take a breath and refine your decisions before ever making a move.

I am really hoping that the new challenge levels they release over the summer will actually live up to their name: a Challenge.

I also hope that they introduce missing features such as the pneumatic tubes, which only made cameo appearances in a very toned-down way:

  

 
In fact, if you watch that video (actually the whole series of videos from this particular batch), you'll see a lot of very challenging-looking puzzles. I really hope these are the sort of puzzles that we'll see in the DLC. Here's hoping.

And to everyone insisting that Portal 2 is just as challenging as the first one. Go back and play Portal. Sure, it is a shorter game, but tell me, do you really believe it wasn't more difficult?
#14 Posted by The_Laughing_Man (13629 posts) -
@SomeDeliCook said:
" Blame the QA. Some people had a lot of trouble on the smallest and easiest of levels. I read somewhere people had trouble with the puzzle where the spikes come down from the ceiling in one of the first Portal 1 videos released, and so it was taken out before the game was released. "
Wasnt that like the first trailer we got of the first game? 
#15 Posted by jaymorgoth (242 posts) -

I'm in the camp that it isn't easier, we're just smarter this time around.  We've played with a Portal, we are familiar with the mechanics, and because of that we are able to discern what needs to be done much easier. The first one had some tricky stuff because I was learning how the portal works and now in the second one I was able to remember the lessons of the first one and found it easier because of it. I think it's just as challenging as the first, our brains are just wired into the Portal mechanics now.

#16 Posted by Gamer_152 (14058 posts) -

The developers did say that they wanted to make it more accessible to people who couldn't necessarily get all the way through the original Portal. Having had so much practise since I first played a Portal game I did wonder whether it was just me who was finding Portal 2 a little easier than the original, but the general consensus does seem to be that it's eased up on the difficulty. That being said I felt like the difficulty of Portal 2 was just right for me and I was very happy with it, I'm expecting the DLC to include some much more challenging maps though. Dumbing down and making a game easier also aren't necessarily the same thing, while I agree that Portal 2 is easier, it actually feels more layered and varied than the original to me.

Moderator
#17 Edited by agentboolen (1752 posts) -

The only part I really had a lot of trouble with in the 1st game was the last puzzle, it seemed to be much longer then all the other puzzles, but I eventually beat it and felt it was brilliant. 

#18 Posted by SomeDeliCook (2232 posts) -
@The_Laughing_Man said:
" @SomeDeliCook said:
" Blame the QA. Some people had a lot of trouble on the smallest and easiest of levels. I read somewhere people had trouble with the puzzle where the spikes come down from the ceiling in one of the first Portal 1 videos released, and so it was taken out before the game was released. "
Wasnt that like the first trailer we got of the first game?  "
Yeah, I believe thats what I read about was referring to. All you had to do was shoot a portal to the other side of the room and put one right next to you, walk through, then go to the exit. Yet apparently people failed at that.
#19 Posted by Crono (2643 posts) -
@Gamer_152 said:
" The developers did say that they wanted to make it more accessible to people who couldn't necessarily get all the way through the original Portal. Having had so much practise since I first played a Portal game I did wonder whether it was just me who was finding Portal 2 a little easier than the original, but the general consensus does seem to be that it's eased up on the difficulty. That being said I felt like the difficulty of Portal 2 was just right for me and I was very happy with it, I'm expecting the DLC to include some much more challenging maps though. Dumbing down and making a game easier also aren't necessarily the same thing, while I agree that Portal 2 is easier, it actually feels more layered and varied than the original to me. "
Of course its more varied. They added all of those new mechanics to the game like the gels for instance.
#20 Posted by ProfessorEss (7282 posts) -

"Dumbed down" is quickly becoming one of my least favourite expressions.

#21 Posted by BrockSampson (296 posts) -

The first game was cake (get it) compared to this one. This one has more test chambers and more varied tests. The first game may have had more timing puzzles. But those were easy once you knew what your overall goal was. I got suck plenty on the first and even more on this one.

That being said I do also believe this game is far superior to the first in  every possible way.

#22 Posted by fraser (478 posts) -

I definitely felt it was "easier". But purely from a gameplay perspective. As someone mentioned above, it felt like they took out all of the reaction/timing based puzzles that required precision aiming mixed with momentum conservation. I think the difficulty of solving the puzzles was the same, if not harder, but pulling them off was much easier.

#23 Posted by Wuddel (2079 posts) -
@Crono:  Well, I am fine with the removal of the timing based stuff. I actually welcome it. It really bugs me when developers make a puzzle game into a an action game, while introducing mechanics. I also think there is no way you can pull off the skill-based execution from the first game with a console controller.

What I am looking for is simply more challenge on the purely "intellectual" level. Do not show me every step by limiting the portable surface etc. Also while they introduce new elements they completely forget about the old one.
#24 Posted by drag (1223 posts) -

I thought it was a little easy yes, or rather I wished the puzzles just went a stage further with things, a certain extra level of complexity. Maybe not more difficult exactly but more details perhaps. It's hard to explain. But also 


@ProfessorEss said:
" "Dumbed down" is quickly becoming one of my least favourite expressions. "
And I have no problem with the balance in terms of letting everyone get through the game and experience it all, I think it's actually very well balanced if not perfect for me. 

That's just the single-player anyway, the co-op totally scratched my puzzling itch much better, some real tricksy ones. And free DLC upcoming. Everything is fine basically. 
#25 Posted by PhatSeeJay (3322 posts) -

I more think it was "easier" because with the user friendly incline in difficulty made me adjust faster to the newer puzzles while I just blew through the puzzles using the mechanics from Portal 1 only.
I certainly wouldn't mind some trickier puzzles, but I still felt really smart on occasions even if I was suppose to go there. In fact I got pissed off when I found some place to go and went "ah hah! found a secret area" only to find out I was suppose to go up here.

#26 Posted by i8Donuts (96 posts) -

Hell yeah it is dumbed down. Wheatley’s first test must have been designed by a moron.

In all seriousness I thought the game’s difficulty was just fine.

#27 Posted by OneKillWonder_ (1698 posts) -

I don't think Portal 2 was easier than the first one at all. The scale and complexity of the puzzles have increased significantly from 1 to 2. That said, I don't think I got stuck in either game for very long periods of time. Most of the parts I got seriously stuck on in 2 were the big open spaces in between test chambers, and some of the tests on Chapter 8. The level of challenge throughout felt perfectly satisfying for me; most of the solutions never felt too obviously easy or too obscurely difficult. I would also like the upcoming DLC to provide even more of a challenge, but I will certainly not complain if it offers a similar experience to the core game.

Online
#28 Posted by bybeach (4732 posts) -

Mostly it was just looking twice. I won't forget running around swearing I needed a deflector cube, then finally, there it was, damnit!  One, a free form combo, still stikes me a little ambiguous. But I got through to the next part which was back to looking twice... I really liked Portal 2, and actually it hooked the shit out of me. So it is a bit strange on my part to say some of it was tedious. So boring I actually had to stop playing...for around a short 1/2hour.
#29 Posted by louiedog (2335 posts) -

I think the difficulty was fine for the game. You're playing through a story, not some $10 50 level puzzle game on XBLA. You want some challenge, but nothing that will cause you to be stuck for an hour on one puzzle. It would ruin the experience. The difficulty will come with DLC and community created maps.

#30 Posted by Azteck (7449 posts) -

Okay I just went back and played the first Portal in like an hour, and after that I retract my statement. It's not easier in the least.

#31 Posted by nukesniper (1312 posts) -

I wanted it to be a bit harder, yes, but I feel that way because I learned the mechanics in Portal 1 and already had a grasp on the crazier aspects of Portal. Either way, I still have some of the harder Portal 1 challenge levels to do. Perhaps our DLC will give us more?

#32 Posted by Aus_azn (2224 posts) -
@Wuddel said:
" I really liked the fact that they got rid of most of the momentum and timing based stuff, and made the game more puzzle orientated. I had a great time, and beside Dead Space 2 it is a GOTY 2011 contender for me (so far obviously).But is it just me or are the actual puzzles way easier than in the first game? I finished the game in two rather short sittings, even quite late in the evening. Maybe I developed a severe case of "portal vision", but it felt like that you really spend the most of the time just transversing the room with relative ease, and look at everything that is availale. The presentation of the puzzle then already gives so many clues about the solution, that they end up being quite simple. Especially if you take into account that the respective newly introduced mechanic is likely the key to success. Most of the times a puzzle took me longer than average, it was simply because I overlooked a spot, not because the solution was so tricky. I just recently finished the first game, and I remember it to be less handholding and less dependant on visual clues.I hope Valve has more up in his sleeves when it comes to DLC. "
I'm glad too, that they removed all the timing based puzzles. Those were terrible.

I actually found Portal 2's puzzles to be harder, mainly because you're reliant on actual skills of observation and not timing. The gels too, those were annoying.
#33 Posted by Sooty (8082 posts) -

I found it harder than the first game.

Dumbed down and console port are two expressions I'm sick to death of. I'm a PC guy but the amount of whiny fucks that cry console port really grate me. (not aimed at anyone in this thread)

#34 Posted by KaosAngel (13765 posts) -

I dunno, I spend 5 hours to beat the co-op and it was pretty hard after Stage 3. 


Playing on PC btw.
#35 Edited by yinstarrunner (1182 posts) -

I found it to be about the same difficulty, but of course it was spread out over more time.  I don't really remember having any trouble with portal at all outside of a couple of parts, and the same could be said for the sequel.

There was less timing-based stuff, but that stuff was never really compelling or intense to me in the first place.  The fun has always been in figuring out the puzzles.

I'm sure we'll get some ultra-challenging brain-busters in the upcoming DLC.  I can't wait.

#36 Posted by JJWeatherman (14557 posts) -

I like how everyone in here thinks they're better than the game testers. I'm sure they play games too. If they got stuck and frustrated, then so would you.

#37 Posted by BulletStorm (487 posts) -
@Crono: @Crono said:
I also hope that they introduce missing features such as the pneumatic tubes, which only made cameo appearances in a very toned-down way:

  
  In fact, if you watch that video (actually the whole series of videos from this particular batch), you'll see a lot of very challenging-looking puzzles. I really hope these are the sort of puzzles that we'll see in the DLC. Here's hoping.And to everyone insisting that Portal 2 is just as challenging as the first one. Go back and play Portal. Sure, it is a shorter game, but tell me, do you really believe it wasn't more difficult? "
I hope those Pneumatic tubes show up in DLC or mods, if only for fun - because really, judging from that video - I can't think of any way to turn that into a challenging puzzle mechanic, it really seems to exist for the sole purpose of killing turrets, and we already have ways to do that... this just looks more fun. 

Second thing I gathered from watching that, which you may have already noticed - the repulsion gel puzzle they demonstrate is actually just the SDK version of one of the introductory repulsion gel puzzles in the full game, so at least QA testers were able to pass the introductory puzzles! 

As for the repulsion gel demo - well, all of the puzzles shown involved crushers. And, as Valve said at somepoint, crushers were removed because QA found them too difficult/frustrating whatever. Wish I had known that before I played the game, I kept hoping the next puzzle would be the crusher one... but if anything, I think removing the crushers; and therefore removing the timing aspect of Portal 2, Valve both broadens the audience of Portal 2 players and makes the game friendlier to the smart folk. 

I think Portal 2 definitely has casual gamer appeal, I think their TV marketing is completely casually-aimed and the game takes its time to introduce each mechanic. So easing the timing demands on the casual gamer allows them to enjoy Portal 2 more, and take in humor and atmosphere and, blah blah blah. 

And to smart folk; who lets say, knew the answer to a puzzle but weren't reactive enough to get timing right, well they're bound to be less frustrated. 

That being said... I'd like Valve to give us their best shot with this DLC. Make me want to break my mouse and keyboard! I don't want your damn lemons! What the hell am I supposed to do with these!? 


Also, to those claiming "Portal Vision" yeah, maybe a bit of that... but I think Valve's doing that work for us. 





#38 Posted by Hizang (8533 posts) -

I had to resort to a FAQ quite often, I thought it was really challenging
#39 Posted by Kyreo (4600 posts) -

Who cares about how hard it is.  It's about the story, characters, and humour, not the puzzles.

#40 Posted by Soviut (164 posts) -
@SomeDeliCook said:
" Blame the QA. Some people had a lot of trouble on the smallest and easiest of levels. I read somewhere people had trouble with the puzzle where the spikes come down from the ceiling in one of the first Portal 1 videos released, and so it was taken out before the game was released. "
That just means crushers will be present in the harder maps and DLC!
#41 Posted by Soviut (164 posts) -
@Wuddel: I beat the game in a single sitting.  Though I did the same with Portal 1.  I don't think it's dumbed down, but I don't care either.  The story was awesome, the atmosphere unmatched, and I felt incredibly satisfied when I finished it.  Whether the puzzles were too hard or too easy doesn't really matter since I was literally giddy when the game ended.

Being difficult or easy only matters when that's the only point of the game.
#42 Posted by TheHT (10930 posts) -

Yeah, the puzzles in Portal had almost a twitch aspect where you had to be quick with your portal-ing at times. The only real urgency in Portal 2 was 'the part where ** ***** you'.

Portal 2 was less thinking with portals and more thinking with gels.

#43 Posted by MystDragon3k (123 posts) -

I'm almost certain it depends on who's playing it. Its a puzzle game, its impossible to be just the right level of difficulty for everyone. But rather than defending Portal 2, let me just say...go back and play Portal 1...there's only a couple challenging ones there...and there's lots of head scratchers in 2 (especially the latter half of the 2nd batch of Test chambers...no spoilers but you all know what I mean)

#44 Posted by Sin4profit (2910 posts) -

i felt the same when playing it but i just assumed they saved the more complicated material for the Co-Op multi player, which i still haven't finished..

#45 Posted by MiniPato (2721 posts) -

Like many said, a lot of the portal puzzles don't rely on quick reflexes. And quick reflexes does not mean one is smarter, so I wouldn't call it dumbing down. I have terrible reflexes, it's one of the many reasons I can't get into fighting games. So I prefer puzzles that are more challenging in the "thinking and figuring out" aspect than the execution aspect.

#46 Posted by GetEveryone (4455 posts) -

I think I got stuck in Portal once. In Portal 2 there were at least 3 places where I was scratching my head for an extended period of time.


I think it was because the problems were more to do with concepts, than simply using what you had available. Momentum seemed to play quite a large part in the places where I struggled. Changing your way of thinking to accommodate an idea is much harder than just looking at a room and realizing, 'Oh, I have to put one there to reach here and...'

...That was really vague, but trying to vocalize an intangible thought process is pretty fucking hard.
#47 Posted by ShaneDev (1696 posts) -

I didn't think it was easier than Portal. Although there were parts that you can easily fly through, overall it was more challenging. Only issue I had was that in Portal 1 you could place a portal anywhere in the test chamber in Portal 2 you were very limited in were you could put them. I felt limited in how I could solve a puzzle since there were only a hand full of places to put a portal. I think most of the complaints about Portal 2 come from people mis remembering Portal 1 or looking at it with rose tinted glasses. I really like Portal 1 but  Portal 2 is a much better game.

#48 Posted by craigbo180 (1739 posts) -

It was definitely easier and some there was only a couple of truly awesome puzzles. Some of the puzzles solutions were just bad and a case of finding a wall that is hard to see. The new features were interesting but none were focused on enough and there wasn't any inspired puzzles just using the portal gun. The difficulties was mostly right if a little easy but it just didn't ever ramp enough or offer true difficulty, I only got stuck on two puzzles. One because it was really well crafted and one because it had a bad solution where I didn't notice where the wall I had to portal to was because it was slightly obscured. This game is good but not as good as the original and there was a few things the frustrated me about it. Still enjoyable though.

#49 Posted by Vexxan (4616 posts) -

I thought the difficulty was just about right, some puzzles were obvious and some took a little more thinking to figure out(at least that's how I saw it).

#50 Posted by eternalmatt (53 posts) -

Completely 100% agree with what Crono said from page 1.  Portal 2 is easier compared to Portal 1, and not because you're already familiar with the controls, but rather because it genuinely lacks the need for precise skill and timing.  There aren't THAT many puzzles that require a lot of heavy thinking and assessing what's going on around you.


Also, let me say I love the new physic puzzles that are possible with the three types of gel and other mechanics. They allow for a lot more puzzle chambers. However(!) I'm really disappointed that there wasn't a TON of these chambers because I'd have happy if there was.  But I guess that's what DLC is for.

In the mean time, I can still stay really busy with some challenging mods for Portal 1. If you haven't been playing some mods, you should really check out Portal: Prelude or the Flash Version MapPack mod.  Those can keep you busy for several more hours and there is a decent sized community that has been making mods for Portal 1 since it came out. I expect the same to happen for Portal 2.


As for Portal 3.....well Valve doesn't know how to count to three.

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