After playing through an hour or so of Middle Earth: Shadow or War I think I’ve had a realisation that I really don’t enjoy AAA game mechanics anymore.
I’ll be honest, I don’t play too many AAA games these days, generally the indie scene is way more appealing to me and I’ve already spoken about this before. But I decided to jump into a game that was recently part of the Humble Bundle monthly subscription – Shadow or War. I enjoyed the first one, more so because I love Lord of the Rings, so I should probably enjoy the sequel.
Easing you in
The game starts out as most do, with an introduction to some of the game’s main mechanics. The first order of the day, the stealth kill. Sneaking up behind enemies and stabbing them. Then we’re sneaking in long grass doing the ol’ “makes some noise to attract an enemy” a quick stab later and they’re dead and hidden in the bush. To be fair, this one has always baffled me. Who in their right mind would approach a darkened area, or a bush or anything where you just heard someone whistling from?
Up to this point, I wasn’t hating my time playing. But at the same time, nothing was really grabbing me to say this was going to be a worthwhile experience. Everything was run of the mill generic open-world action game tropes. That being said, I was willing to preserve past the opening few scenes to get more into the meat of the story.
Cut to a few minutes later and I have the task of ascending a tower structure to rid it of some Sauron corruption or something like that. Once done I was able to scan the area to highlight places of interest. Ah yes, the old climb the radio tower and reveal new objectives thing. It was at this point where all these new icons popped up on my map that I basically lost interest. It’s boring and uninspired. I was bored of it when Far Cry 4 released in 2014 and I’m still bored of it now.
Will it change?
Technically there isn’t anything wrong with the gameplay and it obviously works for studios, but I’ve just started to find it dull. Which, in turn, makes me a little nervous about Cyberpunk 2077, I’m wondering whether one of my most anticipated title of this year will end up being a massive disappointment to me. I’m fully expecting to have to sneak around areas at points and face some of those similar tropes that are so prevalent in modern AAA games.
Additionally, we’ve just had the announcement that Horizon Zero Dawn is coming to Steam. It was a huge success and received a lot of praise across the board. However, I’ve seen the gameplay. I know it’s got all those standard open-world bits going on. Before it’s even got to Steam I have no interest in playing it.
Surely there must be room for some new ideas?
Take some risks?
Sometimes it feels like maybe the bigger studios don’t want to take risks with a new idea and that’s why we keep seeing similar gameplay mechanics coming with each new title. Or maybe the reason they stay the same is that the system works and that’s what people want?
I know that I’m saying I’m a bit tired of these tropes, but each time we see a new Far Cry game, or Assassin’s Creed or, well most other open-world action-adventure style titles, they still review well and sell well. Clearly this format is working for many players.
Furthermore, if we look at Death Stranding. It’s one of the only recent AAA games I can think of that has really tried to do something different. It’s a game where Kojima had a vision and wanted to deliver on that with no real compromises. It was a risk and polarized the gaming community, but overall was a success. I’ve not played it, and probably won’t because I don’t think I want to sink 50 odd hours into it.
Despite that, I’m happy the game exists because it shows that being different can work. It shows that creative flair is something people want to see in video games. Although part of me does wonder how successful it would have been without Kojima’s name being attached to it.
I hope that the release of Death Stranding and its successes will show those bigger publishers that deviating from the norm can be a viable route for you to take. And I really hope Cyberpunk 2077 is good.