Time for reviews of 3 more computer games I have recently completed. As perhaps gathered from other posts, playing games is now work for me! Or, at least I should try to analyse what makes games fun (or not). So far I have learnt that a small amount of choice can go a long way in making the player feel part of the world, and that smooth easy to use controls are a must.
I got The Witcher cheaply when I picked up its lauded sequel. I decided the try the original first. It plays like a MMO. It reminded me of Lord of the Rings Online in terms of graphics and addictive gameplay. The game is based on the a series of Polish fantasy books and there is a great deal of back story to it. There is also a decent plot, which doesn’t develop in the obvious way. The downside is the number of cutscenes, they are everywhere and they are long. It seemed like every time you wanted to do anything there was a couple of cutscenes to get through. This and the large body of lore was overwhelming. It is a good game and I played it to the end (about 60 hours, including side missions), but I did feel it was a bit too big and slow.
Just Cause 2 is almost the complete opposite – it is fast paced and stupidly good fun. The basic idea is that you run around destroying stuff and generally causing chaos – which is how the game is scored (in chaos points). The tropical island game world is open and beautifully rendered. I can understand why one blogger joked they holidayed on Panau. It must have been a huge amount of work to create all the game art. Missions are short and little distracts from the mayhem. Also the player is hugely overpowered, short of calling in air support or other heavy weaponry, the locals have little chance. This game takes a few simple idea and takes them completely over the top.
I also made a short trip back to Liberty City for the GTA IV games The Lost and the Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony. It was good to be back, even the starting music theme was evocative of good times. These two extra games play just like the original (review here). Again the open world is terrific, the controls are a little clunky. The story of the TLaTD is particularly good, but I found TBoGT to have too many cutscenes and airborne missions (where the controls are particularly annoying). Still, very enjoyable.
So what have I learnt from these games for my own work? Best to have a low death penalty or easy restart. Keep cutscenes to a minimum and ensure they are short. It is better to try telling the story as part of interactive gameplay.