Posts Tagged ‘the evil within


Identity Crisis



Quite a few games lately seem to be suffering from a bit of an identity crisis. Whether it’s trying to change up a formula that has grown stale, making tweaks due to the changing tastes of gamers, or just because something in a previous iteration didn’t work out. Games – and times – change. That’s a fact.

But still, sometimes the changes are pretty weird. Several of the games I’ve been poking at recently seem to have undergone this sort of metamorphosis; I’m going to poke at three of them real quick.

First, (Totally-Not-Resident)Evil Within 2. While the first game tried to be Resident Evil 4, Mark II – and didn’t do so hot at it, I’ll add – EW2 at first presents itself as more of the same… but trying to play it that way will quickly reveal that’s not the best way to go about it. EW2 does its best work when it’s being played like a Splinter Cell or Metal Gear game. Carefully creeping about, studying the enemy patterns and looking for loopholes in their pathing to either shank them from behind or evade them entirely. Also like Metal Gear, it tends to fall apart in the obligatory boss fights, playing to none of the game’s strengths and all of its weaknesses. Still, it worked out better than expected, and EW2 is in many ways better than its predecessor.

Assassin’s Creed: Origins is from the “we’re bored, let’s do something else” camp; while I will happily state that AC:O is the best AC in just about forever, it’s not really much of an Assassin’s Creed game. It’s more like Ancient Egyptian The Witcher. Which I’m totally okay with, but strikes me as a little odd. Cramming in a bunch of open world RPG elements was nice, though the fact that “assassination” doesn’t really work any more seems to defy the title a bit.

Last on the blotter is the newly-released God of War. The previous six games all had a bad case of the samesies; there’s very little to differentiate God of War from God of War: Ascension or Ghost of Sparta. It’s also a genre that doesn’t seem to have much of a following anymore; basic “stylish action” hack and slashers have sort of fallen by the wayside in recent years. With that in mind, God of War decided to do something decidedly different. First is embracing an epic story that tries to hit you in the feels (mainly by riffing on The Last of Us’s themes of parenthood), while second is retooling the game into something that seems to want to be more Zelda than anything else. Well, amendment. More Darksiders. But given that Darksiders is basically Zelda on steroids with a coat of black and red paint, that’s still kind of the same thing.

All that being said, all three games are great, and very enjoyable. They’re just different, and not likely what folks were expecting when walking in based on their sequel status.

What about you folks out there? Know of a great game that is completely different from its forebears? What about sequels who developed an identity crisis, switched things up, and flopped hard? Let us know down below!

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The Evil Within 2: “You’re Playing it Wrong!”


“He’s playing it wrong!”

This was the dismayed complaint I frequently voiced to my parents when saddled with the responsibility of playing Fantasy Zone: The Maze with my younger brother. He would not abide by the rules of the game, would not attempt to reach the objectives, and would generally cause trouble until we both were killed.

Now, I’ve broadened my scope a bit since then. Realized that – at least in most of today’s games – there’s no one specific “right” way to play. There are, however, better ways to play a given game, that play up the strengths and the way the designers conceived of players making their way through instead of bashing your head against the concrete to see if you could do it a different way.

That’s not to say playing counter to type can’t be fun; I remember a fine afternoon spent with Hitman: Blood Money in the suburbia level, determined to see if I could eliminate everyone in the area without being caught, dispose of them all in the garbage compactor, and walk away. I did. Eventually. But it’s not the optimal way of doing it, it’s not the way the game and designers want you to do it, and it’s an exceedingly frustrating way to go about what is otherwise a fairly simple mission.

Other games you can play “wrong” might include Metal Gear Solid 4 and V, or Splinter Cell: Conviction. Sure, you can Rambo your way through those if you really want to, but you’re going to have a bad time. The developers want you to do it sneakily, and the rules are set up around those concepts even when they give you the chance to break them.

evil within 2

That thinking led to me initially not liking The Evil Within 2 as much as I could have. I walked into it assuming it would be like its predecessor; a semi-functional Resident Evil 4 knockoff with some interesting psychological mumbo-jumbo added in. I spent the first three hours with the game becoming frustrated by the enemy placement, hordes that would come any time combat started, the seeming impossibility of getting around anywhere and monumental task – by design, I’m certain – of trying to kill any of the little zombikins.

I finally came back to it – yes, four months late, but what can I say? There was Shadow of War, catchup with Resident Evil 7, the Switch, and being sick as hell for the majority of this month – and discovered a wondrous thing.

I had been playing it wrong.

The Evil Within 2 has a great deal more Metal Gear and The Witcher in its DNA than Resident Evil (4 or otherwise). Add in a dose of Don’t Starve, and play it like you would those games, you’ll have a much better time.

Trying to get around enemies or run away from them was getting me nowhere. Memorizing their patterns and sneaking up on them for quick neck breaks followed by a swift looting of their environs works a whole lot better. Remembering where to find certain materials and knowing what to craft and when is crucial. Learning how to lure enemies away from where you want to be, checking for potential traps and escape routes, and using the environment to dispose of the baddies whenever possible becomes your bread and butter.

That’s where the Witcher and Metal Gear influences come in, but I hear you asking “Don’t Starve? How’s that fit in?”

Supply runs. The game is semi-sorta-open world, but enemies don’t generally respawn. You’re liable to take at least a little damage, though, and supplies don’t respawn as a general rule either. But there’s usually a safe house where you can regain your health, put all those materials to use, spend your XP (or brain goo, in this game) and save. So an effective tactic is to pick a direction from that safe house. Start working your way out there, checking everything you can, stealth killing anything you can and taking note of the beasties you can’t remove or otherwise neutralize. When you’ve made some progress, scurry back home, put your ill-gotten gains to use, and venture out again.

This leads to a slow discovery of the world, and the tension remains high. There’s very few automatic checkpoints, so pushing too far will result in heavy setbacks; the risk vs. reward incentives are strong, here.

I’ve enjoyed my latest ten hours with the game a great deal more than I did the first three, and almost solely because I think I’m playing it “right.” I may go for a Rambo-mode playthrough later, for Trophy cleanup, but from the success I’ve been having I think this is how the developers intended the game to be played (at least on Nightmare difficulty, which is where I started because I’m a masochist and a Trophy/Achievement whore.)

What about you out there? Have you ever been playing a game “wrong,” either intentionally or because you just hadn’t figured out what the developers wanted from you? How did it go? What’re your thoughts? Is there actually a “wrong” way to play a game? Let us know down below!

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