Most of us would prefer to know in advance whether a game we like the look of is good. It would save a lot of hassle and certainly make the refund process a lot more straightforward.
Figuring out whether developers have come up with something worth your time, though, isn’t always easy. Before a game release, the hype machine churns, telling you this latest iteration is the best thing ever – something you absolutely need to play.
As you get into it, though, you soon discover that it doesn’t mean your expectations. You wind up feeling sad, depressed and grief-stricken. You wanted so much more.
Throughout the history of gaming, so many games have fallen into the disappointment category: at least initially. Good examples include Fallot 76 and Mass Effect: Andromeda. Both games promised big things, but fans were ultimately sorely disappointed.
Science, however, is helping gamers fight back. Research is revealing the anatomy of a good game, giving you the critical information you need before you buy. Once you start relying on the evidence, you can divorce yourself from the hype train and begin making rational decisions about what to buy.
So what is the anatomy of a great game? Let’s take a look.
All of the greatest games in history have had compelling storylines. Zelda, for instance, developed its cult following because of the general obsession with Link. Final Fantasy VII became the jewel in Square-Enix’s crown precisely because it whisked the player off on a tale of epic proportions while including some hilarious and down-to-Earth moments too.
We live in a world where repetition is seen as some kind of failure or lack of effort on the part of developers. But, as Wonga games make clear, you need some repeating element to create a compelling experience.
If you look at modern games, they mostly use a form of modified repetition. The critically-acclaimed Hades, for instance, has you battling through dungeon after dungeon, trying to escape from the underworld. The game could have been very grindy indeed, especially given how few active keys there are. But it is actually highly varied, thanks to random dungeons and skill upgrades, giving you thousands of ways to play it, all based on a similar, overarching formula.
The idea that a game should be hard work seems a little strange. After all, don’t people play games for relaxation purposes? Well, it turns out that most gamers really want a challenge. Games only feel satisfying if they test the limits of what we can do as players. If they don’t take us up to the edge of what’s possible, it can feel a little disappointing.
Take the Dark Souls series, for instance. Everyone who sits down to play one of these games knows that they’re going to die over and over again. But that is all part of the fun. The idea is that the game should be ridiculously hard to prevent you from walking all over it and getting through it in an afternoon.
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