Warning: Long read.
Stealth was one of those genre's that I've always thought about trying out, but never really get around to. I thought it sounded interesting, watching an enemies path, learning what they do, and figuring out the perfect time to scurry into that dark alley that they are guarding. (Which almost always have nothing in them anyway but now I'm getting off topic..)
There are two main reasons that I didn't try out the genre earlier:
1. I didn't know if I would truly find sitting in shadows waiting for a guard to move his fat ass away from the treasure I want for half the game interesting.
2. (Our topic of the day.) Every game I had played up until that point had had terrible stealth, which, in my ignorance, made me think it probably did in all of them.
(Stealth in most games.)
The first reason didn't take me long to brush aside. After playing all manner of action games where the only objective was to kill everything filled with a certain red liquid, (Note: Colour may vary depending on thing getting slaughtered.) I welcomed a change of pace that didn't involve killing everything that moves. Besides, if I can get through a game, such as say, (Flame shield activated) Mass Effect 1 , that feels like a work to play, certainly I can enjoy playing something a little slower paced then your average testosterone filled rampage?
The problem came when I thought about all the games I had played up until that point that involved stealth, and then I realized something. The stealth element of every single one was a wet-blanket on the rest of the game. They sucked. They were balls. They needed to take a long bath in a volcano to put it eloquently.
Everything single one seemed to suffer from the same problems. Either your dead the second that your caught, despite deciding that you are going to use stealth you still have to kill half a small country to get to the next checkpoint, or its the kind that lazy developers use to flesh out their lackluster RPG elements (Looking at you Alpha Protocal.) Lets address each one of these, and my problems with them, on an individual basis.
If I am in a room with a single guard, maybe two, in the middle of the night with noone else around, shouldn't I be able to, I don't know, fight him? I'm not saying it should be easy too either kill, or get away from them, but I should have the option. That is what made the stealth sections of Beyond Good and Evil a joy to go through. If you mess up on your timing, or don't plan effectively, you can still fight the Alpha sections. Sure, they may be what seems to be metal with how much of a beating they can take, but it's very possible. You also have the option of running back to these underground area's that allow you to get away. Basically, an instant game over simply ruins gameflow, and in stealths game it shouldn't be there. (Yes I am aware that BG&E has these also.)
Forcing the player to constantly kill enemies in a stealth game is bad simply because the whole point (Not to mention fun) of stealth is to not get caught. Sneaking into a castle shanking everyone from behind, and waltzing out with the money over their dead bodies is a whole lot less satisfying then creeping your way in, slowly drawing the guards attention elseware, creeping by them as they turn away (Pickpocketing them if your feeling especially ninja-like), and then sneaking out with the treasure in hand, and no one the wiser to your presence is a great sensation. Killing in stealth games should be an option, but certainly not required.
The final one is the one that pisses me off the most, but this is turning into a short essay so I'll keep it brief. What I mean by lazy stealth is when all it is is essentially having a power that lets you turn invisible throughout the levels. All you have to do is turn it on, walk by the guards ( Or kill them), find a safe corner, let it recharge, repeat. Lazy! LAZY I SAY!
*Foams at the mouth*
If you want to know what I consider a good stealth game, check out the Thief games, especially the second one. They feature great writing and level design, as well as being open ended (Not so much the third on the last point.) They are definitely the best the stealth genre has to offer, at least in this gamers mind.