In response to a few recent games that appear to be lacking in the criteria. This is a short list and thoughts on some stand out game mechanics that developers seem to be ignoring and need to build upon.
The Biggest Problem With The Last Of Us
There are some major spoilers regarding The Last Of Us in this article.
BEWARE OF SPOILERS.
Don’t say you haven’t been warned.
The Last Of Us is a game with many, many positive points in favor of it being one of the best games of all time. The sheer emotion that you feel when you watch the animations and hear the voice acting play out in front of you in both the cutscenes and sometimes in the gameplay is something that I have not felt in a game for a long time. Just like with Uncharted, Naughty Dog created a truly amazing game that is rivaled in its story by very few. With this comes a large problem after the completion of the game.
As soon as I had completed the main story on Hard mode, I wanted to start it again on Survivor or New Game+, which I did. Booting up the game a second time, I did not feel in any way as attached to the game as I had been before. There was none of the magic and gloss that I found to make the game amazing. After the first playthrough, when you have seen all there is to see of the main story, to replay the game means that there is no more wanting to see what was next. This is obviously not an isolated incident, but the way in which The Last Of Us was marketed to us, building up the hype till we got the game and played through with a certain amount of curiosity, was what makes this stand out from other games.
If you have played the game through the first time, I would guess that some people would agree with me that it is not like other games. The characters really enthrall and many lots of the artifacts and scavenged supplies are fun to find and are unique. The second time is when it gets more like a game. I played through the first time searching for the right equipment and if I happened to find a collectible along my travels, great! When playing the second time I found myself more inclined to search for the collectibles and that was because it was the only thing that was unknown to me anymore. Gone was the sheer terror I felt when Ellie ran away, with me thinking the worst, only to be confronted by that giraffe which was a touching moment to say the least. There was pure indifference. Gone is the emotional pressure that you feel when Joel lies right to Ellie’s face in the last cutscene.
One of the worst parts of this experience was the realization that this was just a game. On a second playthrough you are less invested and less excited to see what is next, you already know. The combat is no longer fun and the stealth is no longer tense. You know what is round every corner and what is happening as Naughty Dog’s closely crafted masterpiece has already hit you at all of the right notes. I thought about the ending, of Joel’s selfish choice of saving Ellie over the possibility of saving EVERYONE, and I also thought about how the game made me feel at various points (such as the Firefly lab, the disappointment when they are no longer using the facility is overwhelming and, while it is a small section in a large game, the fact that it pulled at my emotions was the interesting part) long after I finished.
The disappointment in knowing that the second playthrough will never render me the same feelings that I did through the first is a problem that is not Naughty Dog’s fault. They have crafted a perfectly pitched story and left me wanting more.