The Adventures of Mr Sneaky: The Joys of Non-linear Game Design

I've played a lot of Skyrim, which certainly isn't hard with such an engaging game. The first character I made was a warrior who wore light armor and used a sword and shield (and later switched to dual swords). He was your standard jack of all trades and with him I did all the main quest lines and guilds. It was fun but once I maxed out enchanting and smithing, all the challenge was lost from the game as my dude became a tank that did ridiculous amounts of damage. My second was a mage who focused on Conjuration/Destruction. This time I brought Lydia with me too and I had fun decking her out with cool weapons and armor so she could tank for me. The mage pretty much became a support class for my summons and companion. Then I made a Khajit unarmed fighter based on that forum post for laughs but that didn't last me long.

By this point I had to force myself to take a break from Skyrim (by getting obsessed with Dark Souls instead) and when I felt like returning to Skyrim I realized there was one more build left to make, Mr Sneaky. I never touched much of the stealth stuff in Oblivion so Bethesda's implementation of stealth was mostly new to me. After a few hours of playing this way it became clear that this was the most fun I had playing Skyrim so far. I focused purely on 'sneak' early on to get the 15x knife backstab skill (and then became a member of the Dark Brotherhood for the gloves that double it to 30x), so that my backstabs got the job done. The risk-reward nature of this play style became apparent when I ran into a sabercat head on and it destroyed me. I loved the risk, knowing that if I failed at being hidden I would be as good as dead. I then invested in illusion magic so that if I did get spotted I could calm so I could find a spot to re-hide. I also used my bow mainly to cause distractions.

I love how every time I re-rolled a character in the game, it became a very different experience and it is something I wish more games did. Rather than just replaying a game on a harder difficulty, I 'd prefer 'the way' you get through each scenario changed making it a new experience with the same content. This is one of the reasons I am looking forward to Bioshock Infinite because of its 1999 mode and Kingdom of Armular: Reckoning for its destiny system. Other games I can think of that have done this well were the Deus Ex games. With the raging success of Skyrim I hope it inspires future games to be more open and less guided.


Will Mass Effect 3 suffer from Uncharted 3 syndrome.

On the game of the year awards podcast the bombsquad talked about sequelitis and why Uncharted 3 made very little impact on them, but is there a way they can make a second sequel without this happening?

I feel once you get passed the first sequel of a game, unless the game is a hugely different game, it will never be as good. Uncharted was fun, Uncharted 2 was the perfection of Uncharted. There was nowhere else to go without completely changing the formula. The same happened with Modern Warfare 3, Gears of War 3 and so on. But this did not happen with Skyrim. Why? because with each iteration the elder scrolls games have been very different games in a completely new area of the world but still keeping the feel of an elder scroll game. Say what you will about the Final Fantasy series but the only reason they are up to such a high number is that each game is dramatically different.

Mass Effect was decent and Mass Effect 2 was the perfection of the formula so this has me and a lot of other people worried. It is possible that Mass Effect will still be a great game, but the odds are against it getting the praise of the original. What I would like to see is a simple yet deep character perk system or the return of loot. Something to freshen up the gameplay in a way that is not 'We made the shooting better' or 'we're making this more accessible for the mainstream'. You did all that last time round! I guess I'll have to wait and see.


A game I should have enjoyed.

Heavy Rain is a good game, no doubt. But I really didn't find myself enjoying it. Yes it had its flaws, the story was dark and depressing, the controls were awful, some sequences were just stupid and the voice acting was mediocre. However I think the main reason I couldn't enjoy it was that I felt I had no control despite the game telling me the opposite. 
Just looking after the kid at the start was a pain because it wanted you to find stuff in the house but you have no idea were anything is. So you end up walking around with the terrible controls bumping into things, where in real life that character would know the contents of his own house. Another thing was that one wrong button press may lead to getting your character killed or injured without realizing what that button press represented or meant in the first place.  Also the fact that I controlled  multiple characters forced me to lose any personal attachment to anyone in particular. I think I would have preferred a game where you controlled the story, giving you the impression you are writing the story as you go along. Either that or you know exactly what your choice mean like in the mass effect universe. 
Despite these flaws I still think this game is a huge step in the right direction. The quick time action sequences were very well done and a lot of fun, just a lot of time they just didn't fit in with the story or were completely unbelievable. In the end I think they chose the wrong type of story for this type of game. A more fictitious action adventure title would have been great fun. In the end I much prefer to watch a well written drama piece rather than trying to play one. To each his own but I hope this type of story telling in games is taken further, because there is definitely a long way to go.

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