As you can tell from my scientifically derived title, I’ve come up with a rather rudimentary scale for action games that shows a spectrum of difficulty for me. If I may, allow me to define a few things first, and then the scale.
So, the action category contains a wide variety of games. Just looking at the Steam Store, I can see: Scrolling Shooters, First Person Shooters, Third Person Shooters, Action/Adventures, and even some Role-Playing Games. I mean, case in point, on Steam right now are 22 single-player games with a metascore of 90 and above AND are under $20. Here’s that list:
Battlefield 2: Complete Collection
Call of Duty
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Company of Heroes
Deus Ex: Game of the Year Edition
Grand Theft Auto 3
Grand Theft Auto IV
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Half-Life 2: Episode Two
Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II
Street Fighter IV
The Longest Journey
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell
Unreal Tournament 2004: Editor’s Choice Edition
Unreal Tournament: Game of the Year Edition
Now, ignoring iterations on the same game (because there’s not exactly an appreciable play difference between some games and their sequels) we’re seeing a few different types defined as action. You have your third person shooters in Splinter Cell, first person shooters in UT, Quake, BioShock, and a few others, there’s the sandbox third person shooter/RPG in Grand Theft Auto, a platform beat-em-up in Street Fighter IV, and… I don’t know enough to say anything about The Longest Journey, but I do know the graphics look a bit funky (it was released in 2000, so I don’t really know).
So, I made that list to make another list… here’s my spectrum of action games that I find fun, interesting, and captivating all in order of the difficulty it provides for me:
Mass Effect Series
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Assassin’s Creed series
Splinter Cell series
These four games/series share many common mechanics and are all third-person with varying levels of environmental navigation, puzzle solving and so forth. For me, I think when Mass Effect landed in my home it became akin to catnip and I never wanted to stop playing it (my first run through the original Mass Effect was so thorough that a second playthrough later that month actually put me to sleep, but ME2 didn’t have that effect on me because it was more action oriented – something that Steam doesn’t really notice and has put the original Mass Effect in the Action category, but not ME2, which is odd considering the faster pace of the game). Assassin’s Creed requires a certain level of skill and drive to complete each game and contains a variety of methods for handling every fight and navigation puzzle thrown at you. Batman is some sort of hybrid between Mass Effect and Assassin’s Creed in the way that you can navigate the world in pretty much any way you want, you can fight however you wish, and (unlike Assassin’s Creed) you can beat the game in rather quick order thanks to having a lot of free time and three days (tops).
Splinter Cell and Assassin’s Creed, being made by Ubisoft, are exceptionally similar in gameplay. Hell, if you look at Prince of Persia too, you can see all sorts of things being used between the three games. Prince of Persia aside though, Splinter Cell is a more difficult Assassin’s Creed. For one, you can’t just walk out in the open in Splinter Cell and expect to survive your stroll across the room and for another, Splinter Cell is a stealth-based game that relies on you solving puzzles through a judicious application of stealth and stealth-based kills whereas Assassin’s Creed relies on you solving puzzles by using a judicious application of terrain negotiation and any weapon that comes to hand. Further, as Batman contains stealth mechanics and the ability to track enemies, the Splinter Cell connection is obvious here.
However, I did point out that my scale was built on difficulty for me to play. Mass Effect just came easy to me. I pick up science fiction based worlds very quickly (but I’m a big fan of that sort of stuff and there isn’t a lot of really truly good sci-fi that gets made into a successful gaming franchise). Batman was one of those games where I played it on the console, didn’t do too well, ignored it for a while, then on a whim picked it up via Steam and beat the crap out of it in less than three days. Easy, but I did have some issues with certain fights and the game really did a good job of creeping me the hell out.
Assassin’s Creed games have always been difficult for me. I’ve never actually finished the original all on my own (it was too slow paced and a lot of the side quests seemed kind of frivolous to me). I have finished the second installment and I’m about halfway through Brotherhood (even though I know how it all goes and so forth). Assassin’s Creed bridges the work/play dynamic a lot. Sometimes I just suck at the “being publicly stealthy” mechanic that AC has and it frustrates me and forces me to put the game away for a few months. Likewise with Splinter Cell. SC is a case of “too much stealth” sometimes. If you screw up once, you’re done for, whereas in AC if you screw up once, you’ve got a good chance of recovering from your mistake.
I greatly appreciate the four franchises I’ve outlined above in my spectrum. They cover different periods, different genres, and take different approaches from each other (more or less) while maintaining a high sense of self/world. If I had to pick, I’d take Mass Effect any day over the others, but I’m silly that way. I’m quite happy ME3 is coming out in March (reportedly) as I dunno if a 6th playthrough of ME2 would be capable of sating me again. Further, now I’m looking forward to even more the release of Batman: Arkham City and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. Initially, I’ll just watch my friends play those last two, but once Steam gets its paws on them (and runs a sale of sorts possibly) then I may indeed jump in.
Until next time, keep enjoying awesome game experiences!
P.S. My playthrough of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic continues! Considering that I’ve spent 30 hours playing it before, it’s going to be quite a few videos if I intend to finish the game and post it all online. Something like 180+ 10 minute videos. Sheesh, at least I’ll have plenty to post! Should keep me busy through the very near release of The Rise of Isengard expansion for LOTRO and the release of Star Wars: The Old Republic.
P.P.S. “Experience needs distance and what you write of at a distance tells not so much what you were like as what you have discovered since.” – David Wade
I’ve had this craving recently to dive back into a game that I’ve already beaten. I’m not entirely sure why though. Let me try to convey my thoughts on the matter.
First of all, I have plenty of games I haven’t beaten yet:
Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
Splinter Cell: Conviction
Lord of the Rings Online
Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
Police Quest Collection
Space Quest Collection
Roller Coaster Tycoon
X-COM Terror From the Deep
These are just some of the games I have access to right now. I haven’t even touched the stacks of handheld games I haven’t beaten yet or even the console games I haven’t beaten. Seriously, I could focus on one or more of these and actually FINISH a few more games, but I have this craving to keep playing/replay certain games even after I’ve finished them. Here are the siren songs that keep calling me.
Final Fantasy XII
Star Trek Online (I consider it beaten, but since they keep adding new stuff, I dunno)
Mass Effect 2
I’ve successfully resisted replaying a few of those games lately by focusing on LOTRO, but Final Fantasy XII has been calling me exceptionally often lately. Whenever I look at my dormant PS2, I have this craving to play FFXII and I don’t really know why. I beat it rather soundly last time, but for some reason I just want to start a new game and pound the crap out of it again. It’s a massive investment of time though, so I’ve been able to resist it successfully. Resisting Chrono Cross is kind of easy though, however sad because well, I can resist it because it doesn’t have voice acting and I’m afraid the game might put me to sleep without enough stimulation. Strange, right? I know, but I once nodded off while playing Final Fantasy VI on the PSX and that’s my most favorite FF game of all time. I managed to whet my Chrono Trigger appetite recently when it came available on the Wii and I also own a handheld copy of the game (but it’s so much more fun to play on the TV).
Lately I’ve been having this strong desire to play a game where I can shoot things. Obviously, this rules out games like LOTRO and Chrono Trigger, so I’ve been giving sidelong glances at Splinter Cell: Conviction and Hellgate: London and a few other games with colons in their names.
I’m not sure about the details behind my desire to replay a game over finishing a game, but hey, that’s why this little site is here! To let me expand upon my random thoughts and help me discover what’s going on! I seriously think that I have a problem with finishing games because deep down I don’t want the experience to end. Further, I like replaying certain games that are quick and exciting or allow me to carry over information from a prior game. It’s possible (since FFXII doesn’t fit this mold) that I might have a strong desire to replay a game if I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the original playthrough. I did kind of give up on the extras in FFXII when I realized I just wanted to beat the game at level 70 or something as a result of losing to a stupid extra boss that was an hour or so away from a save point. I’ll never understand why they don’t put save points in front of every boss fight, however optional. FFXIII has save points galore, but I guess when you really need one it’s never there.
Anyways, I’m off to work some more on my Captain in LOTRO. I got him to level 50 last night and he’s currently working on upgrading his first legendary item to level 10 so I can go back and put a hurting on the Watcher in the Water. It’s a decent halberd I’m using, but I’d prefer different legacies. We’ll see what happens.
Until next time!
P.S. “Congrats on finishing the game. Now get a life!!” – Eiji Nakamura in the “Programmers'” Ending of Chrono Trigger
It’s taken a lot of effort over the years, but I’ve been learning to let some things go… like those achievements or optional objectives that encourage being a superhero completionist.
Let me explain a bit. I stress out over trying to get everything done. Some of the missions in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood have an optional requirement for full synchronization such as “Get through the mission without taking damage” or “Finish in under 8 minutes” or “Don’t swim”. Some of them are easy and I’ll go for them, sure. Some of them… well, I’m not going to stress myself out over them.
I just don’t want to have to do a dungeon over and over again just to get the little thing that says “Yay! You did this within our arbitrarily set limits and here’s your nominal and ultimately insignificant reward!” Besides, I have my own achievements… like not dying or successfully surviving this one fight regardless of how I do it. You know, little goals.
Some achievements make me wonder who they’re really for. I seem to recall one achievement for Lost Odyssey where you need to beat this entire series of fights in some kind of fight club and the last one you solo versus two other enemies. There were whole strategies online that I perused in an effort to finish this one fight, but I just couldn’t do it. I don’t know if in some ways I’m just not good enough to tackle certain objectives in games, but I’ve been playing games for so long, you’d think I’d be decent enough to actually get by.
When the crap hits the fan in a game, the first thing to get ignored by me is the achievement system. Of course, when they’re there, I want to do them… but there’s this balance between having fun and getting stressed out when you pay attention to the achievements. At least, that’s how it goes for me. I suppose the less the game feels like work and the more it feels like I’m making progress the happier I am. When the achievements just happen because I stumbled across them or the objectives and my play style happened to line up suddenly, I get the notion “Hey, that was cool!” and it pleases me.
I don’t need to get every achievement or complete every optional objective to have a good time. I WANT to get all those extras done, but whenever I sit down to play, I remind myself that I don’t NEED those extras and I shouldn’t stress myself out to get them done.
Until next time, remember that it’s just a game and have fun!
P.S. “One of the hardest things to learn: There are so many true crises, so many lurking situations that could be dangerous for the President, its hard not to get caught up in the adrenaline and make everything lethal. It’s more than picking your battles, marshaling your energy. It’s about grace under fire. All war metaphors. I guess that’s it; being able to tell when its a matter of life or death.” – C.J. Cregg, The West Wing