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Still Searching: Part 2

Bouncing off my discussion on here a bit ago about Deus Ex: Invisible War, here’s the first of the articles I ended up writing for other places instead of posting here.  It’s over at Gamasutra, and features words such as these:

Consider your favourite example of an atmospheric game. Mine, at present, would be something like BioShock, but I could just as easily pick Half-Life and its sequel, both System Shocks, Silent Hill, Vampire: Bloodlines or a whole host of others. Heck, even something as seemingly innocuous as World of Goo has heaps of the stuff. And the one thing these atmospheric games have in common, always, is a convincingly crafted, tangible, flowing world.

…and discusses all this sort of stuff in relation to Invisible War.  Would be interested to hear what people thought of all this.  I might tap into some more specific design stuff on here in the future, though probably not yet.  In a month or so, I’ll be talking more lengthily and generally about the game, its developmental decisions and the ensuing backlash over at Eurogamer.  Keep eyes peeled for that, and let’s hear what you reckon about the game in the meantime.

**Oh, meanwhile, one of the features I mentioned a couple of posts back is on hold, which has irritated me plenty.  Certain people didn’t take kindly to being reported on, and naturally, what with Simon Parkin’s excellent piece and the ensuing (inevitable) threats from Langdell, things are a bit heated in the old investigative-games-journalism-world at the moment. A shame, but hopefully there’ll be a position where this is runnable in the future.

Better news on the other feature front, though: first draft complete, tidying up tomorrow and hopefully online at Faceoff Games later in the week. Woop woop!


2 responses »

  1. Right! My thoughts on IW, entirely unstructured:

    Well, I really liked Invisible War. I did find that I had to actively fool myself into forgetting that it was a Deus Ex sequel, however. Deus Ex was very much the opposite of elegant in many ways, it was crammed full of features and mechanics and bells and whistles and tried to do pretty much everything at once. It was clunky. Cutting it down to the basics was a really brave decision that I have huge respect for, and I love that ISA decided to not just do more of the same but try to reinvigorate the formula from the bottom up.

    The problem is, I always had a love for these over-complicated games like Deus Ex or Bloodlines or Stalker or even Boiling Point – games that want to be everything all at once. The complicatedness of Deus Ex (I’m not using the word complexity because it sounds too positive, it smells of “depth” and I think IW did fine in the depth department) was incredibly charming, or so I found it, and I really missed some of all that incidental detail in its successor: I missed being able to read people’s emails, I missed having to remember and punch in the keypad codes myself, I missed weapons with 3 different ammunition types, I missed poking around the corners of the maps looking for exploration skill awards.

    Most of all, however I have long blamed the size of the levels for taking away from Deus Ex’s game, and I stand by that: Deus Ex’s maps were enormous, and though they were sometimes too large for what their content could justify, they often had oodles of content in the strangest of places – Hong Kong’s myriad entirely optional secrets and mysteries remains one of my favourite bits of game design. You definitely cut to the core of it by bringing up immersion and the “reality” of Deus Ex’s world, which IW really seems to lack, but I still think the tininess of the game’s maps are a major factor in that – you never feel like you’re outdoors, there’s never enough space.

    There are so many other little things that bugged me, but I they always seemed to only be problems because this was a Deus Ex sequel and I had a pretty clear set of expectations of it because of that. It bugged me hugely that you had so many choices with so few long-term consequences – picking sides between the WTO and the Order or Pequod’s and Queequeg’s only to find that they were the same guys was the big one. The fact that it didn’t matter who you helped, the others would still keep offering you missions like nothing had happened. It instantly became our goal to refuse the player any second chances in TNM, precisely to avoid making the choices as unimportant as they felt in IW.

    Universal Ammo… almost completely irrelevant, it just became a convenient example of all the ways in which Invisible War wasn’t Deus Ex. Though I still question the wisdom of making the rocket launcher and the flame thrower use precisely the same ammunition as the pistol – it sort of ruins the point of carrying a fall-back weapon, doesn’t it?

    But, yes. Invisible War did many things right. The game still played a lot like DX – the choices, the multi-linear level design, the details of character and plot. I liked the way they let you kill anybody you met, protecting plot-critical characters by making them holocoms or putting them behind bullet-proof glass. I liked the vastly improved AI. I liked the ludicrously over-enthusiastic physics system. I liked the redesigned augmentation system, even if it was a blatant example of the game’s deficiency of long-term consequence. I liked the bot control biomod. I liked the hidden unique weapons. I liked the far more limited inventory system, though I missed the many useless items that were just in the game to make the world seem more real. I even liked the new HUD.

    Invisible War was a great game, and I had lots of fun with it, as long as I didn’t compare it to Deus Ex.

    Wow, long comment, sorry about that. I had too much invested in this series intellectually and emotionally by the time IW was released, and I still do.

  2. I actually got Invisible War free with my graphics card at the time. I chose the girl, and completed it, and it were proper bo.

    It’s perhaps relevant that in Deus Ex, you’re making decisions that have a long-lasting impact, like choosing an upgrade or advancing a skill, whereas Invisible War makes it easy to reverse those decisions.

    At a glance it looks like a better, less formal way of doing it, but it does rob some of the importance from those decisions, right? Neither is really better, but the Deus Ex crowd must have felt like that moment where they stood with a Nano Aug in each hand, just deciding how to alter their character forever, had been deemed irrelevant.

    Almost like Assassin’s Creed – if you can just kill everyone with kung fu, why sneak around? If the choice has no consequence, it literally doesn’t matter.


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