Ever have it where the only thing stopping you from enjoying something is yourself? Welcome to StryngBean is Anal, or How I Learned to Shut Up and Enjoy Videogames Again.
Tuesday Augest 23rd, 2011. I had that date locked down; between my own interest in cyberpunk and one of my friends detailing every press release/ trailer, Deus Ex: Human Revolution climbed to the top of my must-play list.
A first-person stealth RPG set in a not far-off dystopian future where human cybernetic augmentation is as common as folks getting reading glasses. This essentially translated to "Ghost in the Shell: the Videogame", the idea of playing as what was essentially a cyborg detective just clicked for me.
So I went out on launch day and picked up my copy, got home and popped it in my ps3. After waiting for the game to install I was greeted by a by-the-books tutorial that introduced me to the world and mechanics - it was enjoyable but was clearly just the tip of the iceberg.
After messing around in the hub world I jumped into the first real mission. The briefing before the mission presented me with a question lethal or non-lethal?
As of late games have been trying to give players more options - gameplay, story, whatever. Options are always nice.
The most common would probably be choices regarding morality: Do you want to be a ruthless killing machine? Or do you want to be a saint in the shadows? Whether these are added to create depth in what would otherwise be a fairly basic story, or add replayability via different endings they're there, and they add too much complication for my perfectionist self.
I like to play as the hero in games, I like the idea of helping people in situations normally inescapable. It's pretty basic and boring, I'm aware. But I'm an optimist; it's what I like. I also find taking the moral high ground tends to reward you better, but damn, if the developers don't make you work for that reward...
So I decided a pacifist, no-alarms, ghost playthrough would be best.
It wasn't. I played for around five or six hours over the course of a few weeks and whatever enthusiasm I had for the game was gone. Between obsessive saving/ reloading, and going completely out of my way to do things to meet my self-imposed mission I was done. I drained all enjoyment out of it, the game was no longer fun and it felt like a chore.
A few months later I traded it in and that was that.
Fast forward to October 11th, 2012. I got home from work to my copy of Dishonored in the mail. This one crept up on me, it went from "that one game Bethesda's publishing" to "Steampunk-ish stealth with arcane powers!" Everything I read about the game had me excited, it was a stealth game where you could pretty much improvise your way through any situation using a combination of different gadgets and powers. It looked great, it ended up being great. However, one thing that stuck out like a sore thumb was the game's chaos system.
The way the chaos system worked was if you killed guards or set off alarms they'd add to the total chaos in the world, which in turn would change the amount and type of enemies in later stages. Low chaos provided perfect grounds for being sneaky and slipping through undetected. Whereas high chaos meant everything was in high alert, making it very tough to avoid encounters. This seemed okay as I found it just encouraged you to pick one playstyle and stick with it. But there was one other difference between high and low chaos. Different endings.
Ugh, multiple endings. As if the in-game moral implications weren't enough I was stuck with a good ending and a bad ending. Much like I enjoy playing the hero, I generally like a good ending. I knew what had to be done.
Thankfully Dishonored made pacifist runs pretty fun, so I finished it with the good ending and thought it was one of the best games I played last year. Although afterwards I couldn't shake that I felt as though I missed out on a lot of what the game had to offer, after all I only used a small selection of the powers and only one of the gadgets.
It reminded me of my experience of Deus Ex: HR.
2013: A few weeks back I was reading something about cybernetic prosthetics and my mind wandered to the world of Deus Ex again. I had a craving for the game, but I knew how miserable it was for me the first time I played it. I thought "if only it didn't have those stupid restrictions on your playstyle", and after talking to friend who had been playing the game I realized the only restrictions were those I put on myself.
So I picked up the Director's Cut and dug into it with a more open mindset, and damn. What a game.
I just beat it over the weekend, and other than some of the bosses it was a great experience. Amazing what happens if you don't hold yourself up to weird standards. I'm gonna replay Dishonored again soon with a similar outlook, and I have a feeling I'm gonna like it even more.
tl;dr Some guy whining about being a perfectionist when you're trying to have fun.