For most of this gen, I’ve been having a bit more trouble enjoying video games. Most games just haven’t done it for me; none of them could bring back the excitement that the games of yesteryear could.
Then I found a little game called Demon’s Souls.
I became engrossed in this game, more addicted than I have been to any other game in years, and I just couldn’t stop playing. Every night when I would go to sleep, I would lay there thinking of which level I should attack the next day, what weapons I should develop, spells to learn, and most of all, what was the best way to take down each individual enemy.
All the tales of frustration I had heard from other people meant nothing to me. Every failure encouraged me even more, and I never, not once, became anything other than enthralled while playing this game. It gave off a sense of satisfaction that no other game had this gen, in fact; I really hadn't enjoyed a game as much as that one since I was ten years old. To this day, it is the only platinum I have gotten. I wanted to achieve everything in that game, and, after I did, I still wasn't tired of playing yet.
Demon’s Souls (and Dark Souls of course) has something almost every other game this gen doesn’t have, other than the difficulty. It gives you the feeling that you are in complete control of your character, which is something other action games just don’t do. For example, when you use the melee in Infamous or Batman (both of which are good games, don’t get me wrong), you don’t really know how that attack will go down. Cole or Batman will automatically head towards the nearest enemy and throw a punch or kick. In Demon’s Souls, there are normal, strong, running, and rolling attacks, and these attacks will perform the same movements no matter if there is an enemy on the receiving end or not. See, in these other games, you press a button to tell your character to perform an ACTION. You tell him to attack an enemy, and he does it on his own. In Demon’s Souls, you tell your character to perform a MOTION, and YOU have to guide your character into landing the hit. You have maintain a certain distance from your target so your attack won’t fall short, and you have to time this motion so that you land your hit before the enemy can. This is an incremental part of gaming which has started to be ignored in recent years in favor of cinematics over gameplay.
Let me give some other examples of gaming being a bit too cinematic. Assassin’s Creed, you’re sitting above an enemy, and you see the word assassinate next to the square button. You press it and Ezio gracefully jumps onto this particular enemy and takes him down. What did you do? Not a whole lot. Splinter Cell: Blacklist, you can tag enemies, press a button, and Sam will run out and take down every enemy on his own in a flashy action sequence. What did you do? Again, not a whole lot. Or look at almost any fps campaign this gen. You go down a linear path with some A.I teammates, and you point and click your way through the game. There were barely any choices of where to go or what to do, you just moved on and repeated the same actions over and over. YOU, the player, are slowly being taken out of the equation.
These games just don’t feel like games to me.
Think back to the N64 and PS1 days. Mario front flips through the air, kicks off of a wall and lands on a nearby goomba. You did that with your own skill, and you used a precision that isn’t allowed in most games nowadays because they would have to hold your hand through the jumping process. All the moves you learn in Banjo Kazooie perform the same way each time, and you have to use them appropriately to defeat bosses and move through levels. In Goldeneye, Rainbow Six Vegas, and Ghost Recon, nobody is telling you how to get to your objective. You can go where you want; you can do what you want. How has gaming evolved since then? Compare older games to their sequels or newer games of the same genre, and what do you find? A betrayal of gameplay and a new focus in scripted sequences and actions. Look at Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon, or Resident Evil.
See, it isn’t just the difficulty that makes Demon’s/Dark Souls feel so fresh compared to today’s games, it’s the way they play. The gameplay is incredibly skill based, and there's no auto help anywhere in the game, it's all you. The Souls games are how I always imagined games to evolve, with gameplay and online elements that weren’t possible with old games. However, when you look at other games, the gameplay tends to be less satisfying then it was in the 90s, even if the controls were harder to get used to at first. How many games really feel exciting when you beat a boss? Usually it just feels like you are watching another cut scene.
In my opinion, video games are starting to lose what really made them video games. Nowadays, they are all about cinematics, linearity, and hand holding. Video games aren’t really games anymore, they’re becoming interactive movies. There have been some exceptions of course, but overall games are constantly getting dumbed down into experiences that are visually exciting, but unfortunately not a whole lot else. I can understand why others like these games, but they just aren’t for me. I hope, I really do hope, that at some point we will see a revival of the old school style of games like Demon’s/Dark Souls. Games that focus on the experience through the actual gameplay, not cinematics. Later this year I’ll be buying PS All Stars, but until then, it’s just emulators and HD collections for me. Thanks for reading, be sure to leave comments below and tell me what you think.
Gaming is becoming casual in general, I play mostly driving sims but I am partial to other games. Splinter cell being one of them, the new one button kill 20 people is not splinter cell, I like to be challenged, to have to think my way through a level and it just doesn't happen. Even in driving sims you get a stupid number of driving aids resulting in people who have no clue how to race plaguing the online lobby's, crashing into you, pulling of stupid moves and generally ruining the experience for the people who come on to race.
It's good to see others who think like myself. I have personally poured 250+ hours each into Demon's Souls and Dark Souls. I have both the Black Phantom Edition and Deluxe Edition of Demon's Souls still sealed because I absolutely adore the games so much and had to have them. I still play both games regularly and I can't wait for Artorias of the Abyss DLC for Dark Souls!
I was just talking to a friend about this the other day:
"Remember the good ol' days when you slapped in a cartridge, turned on the console, pressed Start, and within 10 seconds you were actually playing the game?"
Games these days are trying WAY too hard to be a Hollywood movie. Don't get me wrong. I like games with a good story, but games need to focus on being GAMES again instead of trying to find ways to insert more QTEs and more cutscenes.
I must say that I agree with you - but only to an extent.
I see where you're coming from - and I too liked the old-school tendencies conveyed by respectively Demon's and Dark souls. Progressing past a single enemy felt like a monumental achievement, akin to progressing to that FINAL Sonic (or w/e) level you had never seen before..
But where I disagree is in regard to the disdain for a cinematic and 'interactive' experience. Take, for instance, a game like Heavy Rain, one of my all time personal favourite games. It does not allow you to fail, nor does it contain any "gameplay" in the traditional sense of the word - yet, it is something new that no other game has done before. I is in engrossing cinematic emotionally involving interactive experience... And no amount of Sonics nor mario lives is ever going to top that (from my perspective, mine solely). The same applies for the feel that Journey and/or Limbo entails - they have so much atmosphere and radiance to them that you just didn't HAVE back in the Nes/Snes/N64 days.
I believe that the "void" left by the old-school gameplay mechanisms has been filled with a greater focus on story-telling (for better or worse, depending on the eyes of the beholder).
As much as I love a good story (and I do, I really do - I utterly adore titles such as Heavy Rain, Metal Gear,Uncharted and Assassins Creed) - very few of those game keep me coming back in the same sense that I rented (end re-re-rented) 'Aero the Acrobat' on a weekly basis during my childhood only to re-re-replay it to get to that new boss battle.
td;dr: I, too, miss the oldschool gameplay mechanics of old - but I believe that the void has been filled with a far greater emphasis of creating a vivid, living and breathtaking experience - and that, to me, is worth even more.