With the recent release of BloodBorne I was stuck immediately by how satisfying the game feels. BloodBorne is a game that feels like every other game in the ‘Souls’ series, but still brings enough of it’s own flair to separate it from it’s predecessors. I mention this game predominantly as it is a prime example of a full priced release that gives so much to the player to do, whilst not overwhelming the player with empty and pointless content.
Something that haunts many games released in recent times is the tendency to flood the player with filler content. Collectibles, repetitive side quests, loot chests and radio towers to name a few are often used to make a game feel complex and rich with experience. The problem with this of course is that it often doesn’t work, many games with open worlds to explore feel empty despite their amount of ‘content’. I am not going to collect all the flags in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood because it’s pointless to the overall game, and therefore it doesn’t enhance the game’s experience.
Conversely, in a game like BloodBorne, winding paths and hidden areas are tantalising prospects for new enemies to face and new items to find. It may simply be a question of taste, but it seems more likely that what makes the difference between filler content and extra playtime is whether or not the core game itself is deserving of extension. Some games cry out for exploration and little snippets of collectibles, because the core gameplay is interesting enough that the player is constantly engaged. Other games are either too simplistic or so repetitive that added content becomes simply busy work, which to me is the worst thing a game can do.
For the most part, games are able to strike a decent enough balance between their core content and the surrounding side quests and collectibles. Skyrim is a great example here, the game had an engaging plotline with a huge variety of side content. Most of the content is really only small encounters or dungeon crawls, but overall only helps to weave a rich narrative and make the game world feel lived in. Gathering flags and dead drops only reminds me that I’m playing a video game.
This isn’t to say that a game needs to not feel like a game, but that it’s game-play content is either such that the story isn’t important, or that the story is so well formulated that the game-play is only improves upon the interactivity. The importance with the latter claim is that gaming has the potential to be the greatest medium for story telling, simply due to it’s ability to interact the player within it’s story. Games that scatter shot similar content and call it fulfilling are the main problem, as it makes many popular titles seem like a book filled with random sentences, rather than a consistent flowing narrative or experience.
Many of the highest rated games of all time are rated as such because they know what they are and what they are aiming to achieve. Halo sells itself an arcade style shooter with weighty combat and a glorious story campaign. Whilst on the other side of the spectrum, Super Mario Galaxy sells itself as a classic platformer with brand new ideas and imaginative levels. Galaxy’s major success coming from it’s solid controls and it’s well-honed use of level design. BloodBorne lives in every part of it’s game world, from it’s haunting minimal soundtrack to it’s enemies draining your life force from you with glee.
In short, games often fail in their goal to make a satisfying experience that doesn’t fall short of it’s intended goal to create a living breathing world. This is due to a tendency to cram in the same mission repeatedly in order to clone the experience, rather than enhance. Games like BloodBorne succeed where others fail because the entire game drips in the games atmosphere and mechanics, sucking the player in to it’s dark and gloom filled world. It is a truly satisfying game because it creates a world worth conquering, and a world worth exploring for more than just a few trophies dotted around a jungle floor.