I just finished up The Last Guardian, and playing through it got me thinking about how some high-budget games in 2016 have sort of brought back adventure game elements in that sector. For a while now most big-budget console games have pretty much just been about killing things (or playing sports), but we’ve got some examples this year that seem to have varied up their pace and tempo with non-action elements.
Last Guardian is a pure adventure game. It’s pretty much just about the player figuring out how to get from one place to the next: climbing, getting past obstacles, just solving problems. Even when enemies appear and combat occur the player character doesn’t really do the fighting. Sony has always been one of the big companies most likely to greenlight a non-indie budget for a game like this in today’s environment. I remember hearing that at some point during Last Guardian’s development, director Fumito Ueda’s team got some help from Uncharted developer Naughty Dog, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was true. There are some Uncharted-isms in this game. If I had the time I’d go back to Uncharted 4 for a bit to compare its puzzle and platforming segments to Last Guardian.
The feeling I got from the public reception to Uncharted 4 is that some didn’t like how much more it focuses on non-action storytelling, traversal, and puzzles rather than shooting at people compared to the first three main games. I rather like it. Honestly that emphasis on environmental puzzle solving is what I’ve been looking for in Uncharted ever since the first one. The first three main games were third-person shooters first and adventure games second. Uncharted 4 feels more balanced between the two genres.
Compare this to the Tomb Raider reboot games. I really liked the environmental puzzles in Tomb Raider Legend, Anniversary, and Underworld, and really miss it in the 2013 Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb Raider. Crystal Dynamics turned the game into a pretty conventional shooter where you might find an optional puzzle here and there. You could even say Uncharted 4 is the Tomb Raider game I always wanted.
Another action game that surprisingly threw some pure traversal and spacial navigation into its mix is this year’s DOOM. Not only did developer id bring its action into territory more resembling the early 90’s shooters which we hadn’t seen in a long time, but gave the game levels full of nooks and crannies to explore with all kinds of secrets. Thinking about it now, that might be a main reason why it’s competing for the top of my game of the year list. DOOM isn’t just a great shooter, but the campaign feels like a meaty, complete experience with a tempo that varies between intense combat and pleasant exploration.
I may have to do a second part to this blog post because I still haven’t finished Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and haven’t even installed Dishonored 2, each of which might contain a lot of what I just went over. What I’ve played of Deus Ex so far has comprised of some really enjoyable quests of the kind we just don’t seem to get enough of these days.
I guess it’s understandable that big-budget games having slow parts that don’t involve killing things might not be popular with a lot of people — the mainstream console market likes its action games. People also seem to be comfortable with adventure gaming being mostly pushed into games from indies and other small developers (I also recently finished Inside). What I like and miss though are games where the developers had the budget to build dense environments with state-of-the-art graphics and actually let you explore and investigate those environments instead of just shooting them up.
- Ransomware is getting scarier: http://www.techspot.com/news/67365-new-ransomware-offers-victims-free-decryption-key-if.html
- Big cosmic astronomy stuff: http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/12/brightest-ever-supernova-isnt-a-supernova-after-all/
- An alternate map of the United States based on urban commutes: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/12/12/the-radical-new-map-that-would-really-reflect-life-in-the-u-s/?utm_term=.9ea0e6082f50