We would like to touch on a subject of a dying practice in modern videogame industry. Recently we had the pleasure of playing Dark Souls III and during that time we have realized just how much video games have changed and (hopefully without sounding too nostalgic) how much we’ve actually lost for the sake of game being accessible to everybody.
It is not a bad thing that the game is made accessible. It is not a bad thing to help the players in need but, often what players are actually getting is not help but a disservice that looks like help.
Ever since the implementation of quest tracking systems and map pointers games are being made more and more simplistic. Writing is not as important as it was before simply because the quest pointer can guide you directly to your destination without you ever having to consider using that journal and trying to figure out which way you should take. This is definitely a superior way of guiding the player throughout your game but the key word here is “guiding”. Think about it, do you really want to be guided throughout the game? Would you rather be told what to do or figure it out yourself?
We can’t help but feel that we have lost so much simply because of the implementation of helping systems like these. Games are no longer trying to absorb you into the world and make you think about where you are and where you’re supposed to be. Gamers are no longer trying to remember the landmarks and put all the places they visited in an open world games to a perspective. Instead were just following orders now.
Let us take Skyrim for example. Just to make it perfectly clear, we loved Skyrim and it’s probably one of our favorite games ever but it just so happens that we’ve also played previous Elder Scroll titles. Like Morrowind for example.
Think about how much you actually know Skyrim? Are you really familiar with all the tundras and mountain areas? If asked to, would you be able to explain to somebody how to get from Whiterun to Markarth? Would you be able to remember and name five or more landmarks along that road? We’re going to take a wild guess and say that you wouldn’t though we are sure that there are those who most certainly would be able to guide somebody through the entire Skyrim without the help of fast travel or map markers, but we consider these type of players to be a very minor group of players nowdays.
The thing is, we probably couldn’t guide you either. And this is not because we haven’t been paying attention to our surroundings or where we are going. It is definitely not because we were overusing fast travel to quickly go through the entire game, no. It is simply because the way that the games are made has significantly changed over the past couple of years.
Like we’ve said before, Skyrim is not the only Elder Scrolls game we have played, most of us actually played all of them, Arena and Daggerfall included, but let’s stick to Morrowind for now.
Unlike Skyrim, Morrowind is full of memorable vistas and landmarks. Nearly every part of Morrowind is designed so that it sticks out. Even the desolate Red Mountain area is fairly navigatable should you need to thread there.
For those of you who don’t know, Morrowind does not feature any kind of in game guidance system. You pick up a quest, you’re given a couple of pointers (strictly in text form) and the rest is up to you. Of course, most of these quests will provide an in-depth explanation of how to get to your goal. This is all possible because the game was designed to be immersive. They wanted you to feel like a part of the world and were encouraging you to try and do so with every quest. What roads to take, where to turn, who to ask for more detailed explanation, this was all covered in dialogues. This was all possible because of the games writing and design.
Games like Skyrim cannot provide such a detailed explanations because they were not designed to be played without a quest marker.
This is the key difference between the two games. Both of them are iconic games of their generation, both of them are games of the same franchise and both of them are so very much different. There is no denying that Skyrim is a great game but, can we really say that it’s absolutely better than Morrowind? It definitely improved on the combat system, removing all the invisible dice rolls and making shielding an active skill, but, what about the rest? What about the adventure? Some would say it’s very hard to have both. We would simply reply with Dark Souls.
Is it truly that hard to follow their model? These games excel at both role-playing and adventureing gameplay aspects. There are virtually no restrictions to where you’re going and how you’re getting there. The game never even tells you what you’re supposed to do in order to complete the game, it is up to you as a player to figure out the purpose of your cursed existence. And all of this contributes greatly to the theme and feeling that the developers were trying to establish with his game. Since your cursed, undead, you’re meant to feel like there’s no way out, like everything is futile and no matter what you do you will die again and again. Still you’re perfectly aware this is a videogame and that there simply has to be a way to progress further so you start observing your surroundings a certain thinking about what you’re seeing.
You were meant to feel confused and overwhelmed by the frequent ruthless enemy encounters and you were meant to think about giving up. Yet you keep pressing on, you keep figuring stuff out and every time you do so you feel victorious and proud, you start thinking that there is in fact a way out and perhaps not all is lost. This way you are immersed in the game world and your character in more ways than you could possibly be if the game was straightforward and told you at the very beginning what you should do.
This is also what’s very rare in modern video games and we can help feel sorry because of that. It is worth mentioning that none of us are huge Dark Souls fans yet we can’t help but feel that the game was made with much more thought and much more love than the latest TES or Fallout games which are arguably one of our favorite games ever made.
Hopefully more gamers will share our opinion about this and perhaps some upcoming games will focus more on the actual gameplay and adventure, letting us play the game do we want to rather than holding our hand in taking us through it from beginning to the end.