[As Read on GIO.]
[Titled: Unfinished Business]
Aka “When a Single Playthrough Simply isn’t Enough”
Well, I hadn’t planned on this being a blog very closely related in part to the always interesting Jeremy Sturgill’s post earlier this morning, however, I guess that’s how the ball is rolling today. I’ve actually had this blog idea for quite some time, and figured that now would be just as good a time as any to put into into full effect. So here we are, and here it is. Day Twenty-Two, and a new day to start over on gameplay throughout multiple games- at least, as far as this blog’s main purpose is concerned. And that’s just what it is about- continuing on or choosing to start over, either one resulting in a New Game Plus experience, or a second playthrough. So, without further ado, as you are no doubt now accustomed to, I shall begin in earnest.
The Single-Playthrough Conundrum
Should I start over and lose the majority of my statistics, upgrades, and powers, or should I play in what is now a somewhat dead and stale world, with very little to do that I haven’t already? This is a question many gamers find themselves pondering, but not all are limited to these two simple options with their games. For example, in terms of games that offer a New Game Plus mode, you can restart the adventure at a more appropriately challenging level, keeping the majority of your skills and powers, and sometimes even opening up new upgrades and tiers of possible advancements. Whereas some games are done and buried after one playthrough of their campaign or story mode, such as the majority of Call of Duty games- unless you go back to harvest some harder achievements, there are others that you could replay as often as you wish without real fear of them getting old, or after waiting long enough for them to be as fresh again. There are many things to be considered in what I call the ‘Single-Playthrough Conundrum’. Enjoyability, Story and World, and Replayability are the three key traits that must be checked in order to pass the Sustainable Replay test, and be good enough to repeat the same or varying process of replaying a game. In fact, here are several examples of games that have plenty of replay value, and why they are exciting each time you play.
Batman: Arkham City
Nearly everything is open to players right from the start of New Game Plus. The story is the same thing rehashed, but thankfully this time around, you start off with all of your gadgets and upgrades, and the difficulty increases a little bit as well- mainly because on-screen prompts are automatically disabled. This creates a more challenging, tense, and realistic Batman experience on your second playthrough, and even unlocks some new challenges, maps, and costumes, and other content as well. Not to mention, you’ll get a hefty sum of challenges and credits through and through for completing NG+ successfully.
Mass Effect 2
The Mass Effect series has a great story and mostly great mechanics as well. But it was in the second game that I really enjoyed continuing to play after the main quests had been completed, and then starting a new game and importing my already leveled up ME2 Shepard. Sure, you’ll be forced to replay the same major story points over again, however, you can approach them in completely different ways this time- owing to the series’ emphasis on choice and consequences. That is what a truly replayable experience is.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
There isn’t really a set New Game Plus mode in this particular game, but a lot more options open up to players after initiating a grueling second playthrough. Plus, you’ll probably want to start an Insanity run-esque playthrough anyway once you’ve managed to survive the first on a slightly easier difficulty. Although, that’s saying something, considering nothing about this game is particularly easy on whatever difficulty you play on. You’ll open up several new “cheat-like” options, characters to recruit, places to go, and much, much more. And all you have to do in return is build up your assets and protect the world. Nothing too difficult, right?
Now, let’s talk about some games that don’t really handle a second playthrough too well, but are still better at it than some others I can think of off the top of my head.
Modern Warfare 3
Modern Warfare campaigns can be fun to play through at times, maybe even twice sometimes, or multiple times by specific level if you are farming for some relatively easy or veteran achievements, but rarely are they completed again for sheer entertainment. It is for this reason that Modern Warfare 3 falls into the indeterminate and intermediate category here, as many will replay the levels for achievements and trophies, but rarely so quickly for sheer fun and shock value- this kind of thing only really works once. Like a one trick pony even. But hey, at least there’s multiplayer to start and restart and restart over in with the Prestige modes…right?
Assassin’s Creed 2
Don’t get me wrong- Assassin’s Creed 2 is a wonderful game, and has some extremely high replayability as well, but there’s only so much you’ll want to do in this world after thirty plus hours, much less start all over again. Once you’ve completed Ezio’s adventures and decided to continue on in the world with all of your upgrades, that’s fine, but fetch quests and some miscellaneous items you might have otherwise missed in upgrading pouches and your villa don’t catch the fancy of too many people it’d seem. So for that reason, Ezio’s first memorable adventure falls into the ambiguous category here.
Now, for the final little portion of today’s blog here, let’s highlight a few games that have absolutely little to now enjoyability through replayability, and some that barely have a first fun playthrough in fact. Be prepared to die…of boredom.
In a game that has so many things going for it, yet ultimately just as many of those things fall through, you know you’re not really going to enjoy a second playthrough, much less a first one. However, if you want to get any really, or all of its achievements- you’re forced to witness the same horrible moments over and over again, and play around with the mostly shoddy controls and footwork each time. Sorry, but it sucks, there’s no getting around it.
Game of Thrones
This game is very true to the series in many ways, which is nice to see, if only it could be a little better about everything it does- and try to do more things right as well. If the mechanics worked a little bit better, then maybe people would be more willing to sit through the same story and make the opposite choices from the ones they originally chose- for good or ill. Maybe then it would be as meaningful a replayable game as Mass Effect and other role-playing experiences…
LA Noire is a phenomenal, if flawed experience, don’t get me wrong. However, once you’ve burned through the novel-sized script and quite lengthy open world gameplay and story, you’re a little unwilling to dive back in again. Granted, it has many of the same ideas as Grand Theft Auto games, however, for some strange reason, its just not as much fun to play when you have rules you must abide by. Granted, you don’t have to be a criminal to have fun, but can’t we splurge just a few times without being chided by our captain and seeing game over? Or failing interrogations and automatically starting over or losing the case? Throw us a bone a few times, and we’ll gladly come back to see how we can differently impact the world around us, in that seedy LA underbelly…
Now, I think I’ve fully described some aspects of why single playthroughs are great, but some experiences deserve second chances and second playthroughs for a variety of reasons. So, I hope you took the time to read and enjoy my blog, and will come back for more later.