Randomly Generated Difficulty

Ever get the feeling you’re praying to someone who isn’t listening?

Let me open this one with a semi-formal disclosure of sorts. It has never been, and nor will it ever be, my intention to be inherently negative about anything without giving it a fair chance first. Equally, it has never been my intention to be negative in any of my content here. Unless, of course, the negativity cannot be avoided, as in the case of saying that an update has currently made a particular title non-functional or nearly non-functional. Like the issues with The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing a few months ago after that update where, even on my level cap characters, most of my equipment wasn’t able to be worn or used. Which kind of killed any notions I had at the time of doing any recording.

However, it has been a theme of recent non-specific gaming posts that I’ve kind of fallen into a purchasing rut.

One of the major issues I find in several new (or recent) releases is that the difficulty curves are wildly variable. Now, I don’t mind a challenge- I love a good challenge- but I find the concept of challenge to be one that means a lot of things to a lot of different people. Often times equating near impossibility, tedium, or repetition with challenge.

Take Lords of Xulima, for instance. Good title, solid mechanics (for the most part), and interesting party composition. But it doesn’t explain things to you.

Straight from character creation there is little to no actual explanation of what the classes do. Sure, they explain the basics of the kinds of things a class can do- but they don’t even hint that some classes can do a particular role but are totally unsuited for it. Leading to excessive skill point spending to get sub-optimal results which could be substituted with any other class that actually does the role. But, there’s the learning curve and we all are likely to make mistakes (without prior knowledge). However, the problem just compounds the further into the game you get.

Which is where I think a lot of the disinterest (on my part) comes from.

So many titles start with really good, solid, enjoyable gameplay for a few hours and then devolve into really tiresome slogs through needlessly complex mechanics with complexity for complexity’s sake. I love randomisation, I love complex mechanics, and I have no problem running the same content several times- but sometimes that’s just too much. The specific underlying reasoning is too frustrating- and made frustrating on purpose- rather than trying to make it slightly enjoyable. Or remotely feasible (in some cases where you need to repeat sections over and over again).

Now you could argue I’m a bit harsh on Lords of Xulima (and perhaps I am)- but that’s what I took away from the experience.

It’s also what I take away from a lot of experiences nowadays. Not just with indie titles or small developers, either. I found that Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel featured a similar atmosphere where I never really felt compelled to want to get back to the story. The combat sections felt too similar, with many bosses employing the similar mechanics, and generally the only difference being the cutscenes and/or locations. (There is a fair argument that this could be because it wasn’t made by the same studio that made the previous titles, though.)

In any case, if there ever was an explanation for how I feel about it all- that would probably be the most coherent one I have.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

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One thought on “Randomly Generated Difficulty

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