Playing The Secret World was in many ways both satisfying and infuriating. On the one hand, here’s an MMO that genuinely wanted its players to be engaged with puzzles beyond simply clicking on the right answer from a short and obvious list. That’s kind of awesome. On the other hand, the actual puzzles it had were highly reliant upon you scanning through fake websites, assembling clues very vaguely hidden in context, and then producing a synthesized answer. Or, as was far more often the case, looking up the solution online and skipping that whole tedious and unenjoyable aspect.
Still, there’s something to be said for the fact that the game did earnestly try to provide a challenge for its players that stretched beyond the norm. It was trying to challenge players beyond the usual sides of gameplay (which ties into that bit I outlined near the start of this feature) or simple common-knowledge trivia, asking players to flex a different skillset. They’re challenges that rely partly on things you’re not usually asked to do and partly upon the fact that you’re taught there’s a certain way video games play.
So let’s tell the story of why I didn’t play the Final Fantasy IV remake on the DS, and the convoluted story that is the sequel to the original. Because by my own rules, it could be argued that the remake is closer to being the default for Final Fantasy IV now, especially as that’s what’s up on Steam at the moment.
See, when Final Fantasy IV was being remade, the developers had a clever idea. If the players wanted more story, why not give it to them? Why not have a companion piece produced showing what happened after the events of the main story, showing the next generation of characters many years down the road?
Final Fantasy IV: The After Years started life on mobile phones, then as a series of downloadable installments. On the PSP, the whole thing was packaged into a single game, which essentially took the remake version that was released for the Gameboy Advance (i.e. minus the improvements in the DS release) and added a new feature. Which brings us to today’s piece, a bonus piece of content between Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, bridging our way to a sequel that I’m pretty sure no one needed.
I’m not fond of excuses when it comes to critical thought. You hear a lot of them thrown around consistently, usually that a given film wasn’t supposed to be winning awards, so why are you critiquing it? Because apparently it’s impossible to both be a good action film and not insultingly stupid, never mind that Pacific Rim showed us exactly what Transformers could have been with a better script instead of the blaring obnoxious films that we’ve seen for years now. Just because a film is meant to be entertaining action doesn’t mean it also has to be bracingly stupid.
We need to tear down the idea that critical thought and questions somehow need to step out of certain discussions. It is possible for something to both be a straight action piece meant to show off cool hardware and explosions while also being a likable piece on its own merits. You do not get to defend blockbuster titles on the premise that they’re meant to just be action extravaganzas, as it’s possible to have both. But that’s the least of the defenses that I want to skewer and be rid of.
Let’s start this real simple-like: Hard Reset is what Serious Sam wanted to be.
I wasn’t too fond of Serious Sam, partly because my love of old-school FPS games is strongly tempered by the fact that I do not have a love of old-school FPS games. I acknowledge them, sure, and I had fun with Doom and Marathon back in the day, but that love faded fast and can now be found only in a handful of things here and there. But also because it was, well, kind of boring.
By contrast, Hard Reset‘s demo makes it very clear that it understands why these games worked and what parts were vital. It is by no means flawless, and it has things that others have pointed out as being kind of odd hiccups in the whole “relentlessly old-school FPS” layout, but it is clearly hitting the notes it wants to. Heck, I was enjoying it quite a bit, and I’m not even the target audience.