By armaan8014 1 Comments
(This is a copy of my post in the ACIV forums, which due to the site being broken, I couldn't attach it through my blog. Therefore I just copied it for my own collection of my blogs. I tried removing it from the general discussions forums, hopefully it worked. Either way, this topic is probably buried at its bottom)
I often feel that the perspective with which we have begun to discuss games with, discussing it through some isolated parameters, blind us to the satisfaction of the overall game. Sure, gameplay, graphics, story, atmosphere, sound, replayability, its multiplayer are all important things to think about when it's time to decide whether or not a game is worth spending our hard earned cash and time on. Only thing is, at least for me, I think these smaller parameters contribute to a larger, more crucial factor - the overall experience. In my case, sometimes by the end of a game, and despite its apparent flaws discussed in great detail by some reviews, I can't help but fall completely in love with it simply on the basis of how it made me feel by the time I was done with it.
It's reasonable to believe that if each of the individual factors (gameplay, replayability etc) are touched upon, it'll give a good idea of the overall experience. But the only thing is, I feel, that each of those factors may not always contribute equally to the overall experience. I guess what I mean is that games are discussed in too great a depth in only technical terms.
Simply put, a game lacking in gameplay (though not to the level of unplayability) may have an amazing storyline or atmosphere, that makes up for the less than great gameplay. The feeling at the end of the game may be one of satisfaction. On the other hand, it might even be that a game with very tight gameplay might lack "soul" and be forgotten after a few months of finishing it. Giantbomb's way of reviewing is pretty good in this way, because although they discuss the details, the overall verdict is just rating out of five stars and a concluding line, rather than rating per parameter.
Some examples I can share here are, on one side, the game Risen. It is, as we know, a mostly underrated game, and some of us love those types of games. It did get praise for certain parts (involving gameplay and leveling, interesting atmosphere) and criticism for some others. Thing is, giving a conclusion based on those points makes many people avoid buying that game, because they get the feeling that it isn't the most polished of experiences, and for some reason that would prevent them from having a good time with it.
Honestly speaking, I still sometimes watch Youtube videos of that game, because something about that game still sticks in the back of my head.
Another ( somewhat ridiculous) example is GTA IV. It's a great game, very playable, with a lot of interesting things to do in a very interesting world. Yet, we have managed to weed out (unnecessary) criticisms about it and almost giving it a bit of a bad image.
Maybe It's just me who is tired of criticism, being an Architecture student, who faces it almost every other week during presentations/ vivas :P But I just feel in a medium that focuses on experience, there should be more of an emphasis on what experience the game provides and a lesser focus on it's technicalities.
I should clearly state though, this is only my way of playing/ looking at games. I'm a bit of a romantic that way, and would probably make a terrible game critic/ reviewer. I never like getting technical about things. If a game (or even film) manages to evoke emotions within me, I'll be completely in love with it.
I mean, Deadly Premonition was my GoTY. Yeah. (And yet, I barely remember my experience with a very similar game - Alan Wake)
So it's quite obvious what creates a beautiful gaming experience in my case - Story, characters, atmosphere. Games that I love for doing these well are Mass Effect 1 & 3 (where people mostly prefer Mass Effect 2), Dragon Age: Origins, The Witcher 1 (I vastly prefer it over the much more acclaimed Witcher 2); Fable TLC (people prefer the first in the franchise, but very few would put it in their top 10); TES IV: Oblivion (Prefer it much more over Skyrim, I guess in a way similar to those who love Morrowind above the others); Assassin's Creed 1 (AC2 isn't bad, but I was admittedly disappointed with it the first time I played it. It lacked... some wonder of the first. I have begun to appreciate it over time though) and most recently, Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag.
I guess I play games in a search of beauty. In search something profound, deliberate or there by accident. That is where games do something that films cannot. Films cannot allow you to dive from your ship into the depths of the bright blue Caribbean ocean, with the power of decision to choose in which direction you'd like to swim.
In the beginning of Black Flag, I spent a large amount of time slowly sailing on the seas, often diving off to spend some time in silence on one of the many tiny islands scattered throughout. Many of them didn't even have a chest or a collectible, but they were places that I could choose to go to, and stand there for as long as I liked, watching the sun set, the moon rise, the change of color in the sea, the dolphins (I think) swimming by, the birds circling up ahead, and the soft music that accompanied it all. Here's a 1 minute video of what I'm talking about (The pic on the right is from that vid. I didn't embed it as I couldn't reduce the size of the video player)
The freedom to do this, to make our own experiences, is where the unique strength of games lie. Another game that accomplishes this beautifully is TES IV: Oblivion (or Skyrim, you could say, but in that I didn't feel the world as much)
This highlights another funny way of playing games of mine. I never try to get any of the achievements, or say, collectibles. I'm sure there are other people that do this too, but we are surely a minority. In the end, after spending hours playing Black Flag, (actually I played it over a period of 4 months - started around November, finished yesterday) my percent completed stands at 63%. My ship was only adequately upgraded, I only fought one legendary ship once (and died), I did about 6-7 assassination contracts, and collected only a few treasures.
I did chase down shanties though, and finished all the Templar assassinations. I guess I do those things that the character would (say role playing) and everything that adds to the story. Rest is just my wanderings through beautiful locations to soak in the atmosphere (streets, jungles, taverns and the above mentioned island)
Ofcourse, this isn't the only thing I loved about Black Flag. Everything else was spot on. The exciting gameplay is one of the reasons why it has received a great reception, and it makes me all the more happier. The game is finely crafted, and here, the overall experience and the individual parameters are both excellent.
I had exceedingly high expectations from the game, so a tiny bit of disappointment was expected. That happened after the initial few hours, when I began to find the story a little shallow. It gave me a Mass Effect 2 vibe. It had characters, but the story didn't feel too engaging. That feeling went away though, as the story began to pick up in an interesting way a little later than halfway through.
What sealed my final feelings about the game was the ending (I had a similar feeling after finishing DA:O) The story became very personal, and centered on Edwards' (and Anne Bonny's) feeling of being the survivors, of having witnessed all the chaos, and now being left with a feeling of emptiness. It did have the expected ending - the protagonist succeeds in defeating the bad guys, and accomplishes his mission. But the reaction wasn't the most expected, not for us and nor for the characters. It's haunting how through the blur of the action of the major bulk of the game, everything else was forgotten about, both to us and the characters. At the end though, it's there for everyone to see - what mattered were the people we met.
The hunger for success was so strong, Edward was blinded to everything else by it, and lost everyone in the process. At the end, when he has achieved what he set out for, it feels less like an achievement, and stings more of regret. It's a bittersweet end. And it scares and cautions me, to not become blind to the more subtle, everyday precious things in life during my journey towards success.
And that's pretty much what I feel makes a beautiful experience worth spending my time and money on in games, which Black Flag beautifully achieves. It isn't very quantifiable, it's a bit mixed up, and it keeps adjusting itself according to the game in question, but I guess it's all led by feeling and instinct. Like the way I just knew Black flag was going to be a great experience while some moaned about another installment. And I know Witcher 3 is going to be the experience of all experiences for me :) Can't wait.
To end, I made a bit of a "tribute video" for the game, focusing on Edward's journey through those years. I used soundtrack from AC 3 (only good thing about that game), AC4, and also The Dark Knight ;) Please give it a watch if you enjoyed the game (and my blog)
Also, it has :)
So what are your opinions? What is it that makes a game stand out above all others when you look back at all the gaming experiences that you have been through?