Column: It’s the Little Things…

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I’ve recently finished a handful of games, including Dark Souls and Watch_Dogs, and I am currently about 35 hours into Dragon Age: Inquisition (look out for the review, should be coming soon!). I know it may sound petty, but for all of the countless hours of work that go into most of the AAA games these days, I find that too often there are little mechanics or moments that completely break the game for me. Here are just a few:

Walking speed is too slow, running is too fast
I’m sure everyone can related to this one, in one game or another. Any game where you are asked to escort someone, or follow a group of people, and they move at that really annoying in-between speed. If you walk, they get too far away and you get one of those obnoxious reminders: ‘don’t lose your target’. But if you choose to run, you go past them, and they stop walking altogether when you get too far away until you ‘catch up’. Is it too much to ask for them to move at the same speeds as the character you are controlling? Or better yet, stop putting in annoying escort quests!

The game has custom armour/weapons… that don’t carry over into cutscenes
So many RPGs are guilty of this one. The cutscenes are pre-rendered, using the default outfit, so if you have changed it from that, which of course you are bound to do, the person in the cutscene is nearly unrecognisable. Worse still when the game doesn’t have pre-rendered cutscenes,  but still just dumps you back into the old costume for the scene. I understand this may sometimes be due to hardware limitations, but it still completely ruins my immersion.

Receiving a quest for an area you have already explored
Dragon Age Inquisition is very guilty of this one. When I play these open world sort of games, the first thing I do is explore the entire map, so that I always know what area I am working in for a quest. But of course, I then get given a quest to go and kill a monster, or find some hidden items, that seem to just magically appear when I am given the quest. The few games where this is not the case always stand out, because coming across and managing to kill some giant monster, and only later finding out it was terrorising some town people is always a better feeling than being told about it, then finding it, then killing it.

Similarly, finding a rare or unique item, and only later hearing that it is the long lost super duper rare item of magic magicalness is thrilling. But being told it exists, then having to go and get it, defeat some enemies in the way, then find it among the battlefield, ruins some of the surprise.

Item descriptions that say ‘gives a small chance’ or ‘provides a medium boost’
I like working out damage per second, or whether one greatsword is better in terms of damage or boosts than duel-wielding two daggers. I like to know, in numbers, when one set of tactics will aid my playstyle more than another, so these vague item descriptions always drive me crazy. What one game may classify as a ‘small’ boost, may be monstrous in the mechanics of another game. You can, of course, start to work out what a particular game means by it’s keywords, but i would rather the game just tell me. Some do, like Diablo 3, below, but it is the ones that don’t that make it hard for me to want to keep playing.

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Having the ‘interact’ button the same as the ‘jump’ button
Another that Dragon Age: inquisition falls victim to; trying to pick up loot from fallen enemies, but instead just hopping in place like a coked-up kangaroo. This is not limited to just picking up items, though; far too often I have been trying to interact with a ladder, and instead of climbing it, my character just bounces around. Worse still when I am trying to interact with the top of a ladder, so my character decides to jump down and take huge fall damage instead.

Newly added multiplayer in previously single player games
This one can kind of go two ways. In a series like Assassin’s Creed, it can breathe some new life into a formula that may be growing stale, and give players a reason to keep coming back to try new skills, techniques or strategies. In a game like Mass Effect 3, it can be used to draw in some new fans (though wanting new fans for the third game in a trilogy is still something I will never understand), and provide some side entertainment for the fans of previous games.

But sometimes, it is purely there to add more achievements, rope in a different subset of gamers, and generally shit all over the established game series, like Tomb Raider (the new one, obviously). No matter how I tried, I could not make heads or tails of why Square Enix decided to add multiplayer to what should have been a tense, gritty, story driven reboot. Let’s hope the upcoming sequel doesn’t fall into those same pitfalls.

It is tempting to add another entry to this list and just bitch about the gamers themselves I meet online, but I think that will be long enough to be an article of it’s own.

The last few are smaller things that don’t ruin the game, but always bother me:
– when your characters’ feet do not match up to the ladder/stairs they are climbing
– the game loads you into an area with you facing the way you came in, so if you are just holding down the forward movement button, you immediately leave and have to sit through another loading screen
– you can get infinite skill points to spend, even after you have every skill unlocked. Similarly, quests that give huge amounts of money, when there is nothing to spend money on on, except the ability to get more money.
– long, unskippable cutscenes or monologues (especially if they are before challenging puzzles/fights
– defeating a boss, and then having them then beat you in the cutscene that follows, but if you lose int he actual fight, it’s a game over

As I said, I know these are small things. But sometimes, it’s the little things that count, right?

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