This summer and fall, most of my gaming time has been split between two major titles, Diablo 3 and Borderlands 2. Both I’d been looking forward to for years, as each had amazing predecessors, but in the end, both left me feeling just a bit…empty.
Why? Well quite simply, I’m growing tired of games that require constant replay in order to achieve maximum results for my character. Some may call that “replay value,” but that’s not a fair use of the word.
Super Smash Bros has replay value. Halo 3 has replay value. League of Legends has replay value. These are all games you play over and over again because even if they use the same maps and characters, they’re dynamic, constantly changing. Multiplayer ensures you never run into enemies behaving exactly the same way again, and no two matches are the same.
I could play this map a million times and never experience the same thing twice.
But in too many games now, “replay value” is simply playing the single player game you’ve just beaten over again. Why? Well, to unlock all the skills, get the best weapons and be the best character you can be, of course!
Perhaps it’s because I’m growing up, but I no longer have the patience for games employing this format. It’s a shortcut to increased playtime that simply doesn’t need to be there, and I’m getting tired of it.
Borderlands 2 is probably the most annoying example of this because it could be so easily fixed. The first game was relatively short, 8-11 hours if I remember. Back then, beating it once to get to level 25 and beating it again to get to level 50 didn’t seem like THAT big of a deal, even if it wasn’t the most fun exercise.
But for Borderlands 2? Including sidemissions (which you have to do in order to be the proper level to not get your ass handed to you during the main story) the game rang in at about 20 hours for me. By the end, I was level 33, and realized I’d have to play nearly the entire game over again to reach the cap of fifty as leveling becomes much slower as you progress.
The question is…why? Why does it have to be like this?
What would be wrong with allowing players to go from level one to fifty in a single playthrough, adjusting the leveling and difficulty accordingly? I had a great time with the twenty hour game, but by the end, in no way was a prepared to start the entire thing over again from scratch. With a new character maybe, but with my old one? No way.
In a SINGLE PLAYER game (at least one that doesn’t have a trading auction house like Diablo 3), why should it matter that I hit the level cap by the end of the game, or find the best guns on my first playthrough? What exactly is the point of forcing us to run the entire 20 hour gauntlet again? There’s no faster way to kill a game full of hilarious and epic moments than to make you experience them all verbatim again.
It’s such a daunting task that most players will NEVER see their character at the highest skill levels or find the coolest weapons in the game. Again, in a game that’s largely single player, or at least not an MMO, what’s the disadvantage in allowing them to do that? What does Gearbox get when we play their game for 40 hours instead of 20, once they already have our money? Instead, it leaves many players feeling like even though they finished a rather great story campaign, their character will forever be a wimp until they can grind out the entire thing again to reach max level.
When you can quote every line of every character by heart, something has gone wrong.
Obviously Borderlands 2 isn’t alone in this, it’s just the example I chose. Diablo 3 is even worse where it forces players to run through not one, but nearly FOUR difficulty levels before reaching max level. The first two modes are so easy a child could stomp on a keyboard and beat them. The next two can have you banging your head against the wall until you manage to find (but mainly buy) items that allow you any chance of progressing. Diablo can be forgiven a LITTLE bit more for this because it’s borderline an MMO in many ways, which rely on constant replay value and constant play, but still, I’ve gotten so sick of the same story pieces at this point, running them through each four times with five different characters, I never even want to see the game again.
I first noticed this trend a while back with Dead Space, and didn’t realize the kind of game it was playing. In that game you found “nodes” that would upgrade your character and weapons. By the end, I found I only had half the nodes for both my suit’s capabilities and my guns. If I wanted to max out anything, I’d have to play the entire game over again. I said “screw that,” and never looked back, but now the practice is not only commonplace, it’s the entire basis for games like Diablo and Borderlands who force mass repeats of story mode to get to the coolest aspects of your characters.
This trend is unnecessary and annoying. Perhaps I don’t know the development logic behind the idea that my character should only be half as powerful as he could be by the end of a lengthy story campaign, and why the extra gameplay time matters so much to developers who aren’t operating on a monthly subscription model, but it doesn’t make any sense to me. MMOs where time spent equals how good your gear and stats are, I understand, but here? In these single player games? What’s the point in making me do everything twice to get the most out of a title? I don’t have time for this shit, and as I leave my level 36 Assassin 8% of the way through my second Borderlands playthrough, now the game feels unfinished, when it could have just rested in peace after a worthwhile finale.