There’s a modern trend in first person shooters that I frankly cannot stand. It involves the idea that I must grind experience points to level up my character. Two of the four shooters I’ve reviewed on this blog feature such systems, even though in one of them you play as a team leader of an elite commando unit that’s implied to have been in the military for at least 15 years.
I’m over it. I’m sick of it. Back in the day when you died in a first-person shooter, it was your fault. You fucked up. You used the wrong gun or you didn’t dodge attacks or you ran out of ammo.
Now the focus is on skill trees and leveling up. Spend an hour doing a certain action and now your character is better. To me, this is filler content. Ever since games like Skyrim and Fallout 3 have become popular, people seem to rate a game on how long it takes to play through rather than what that content actually is.
Farcry 3 is a great example of what I’m talking about when it comes to filler content. In the game, you start with the ability to only equip one weapon. To equip more you must hunt various enemies. You also have to do this to hold more ammo, grenades, Molotov cocktails and even money. It made some sense for the protagonist to need to learn and improve himself, but it always feels you have to do spend a good chunk of the game focusing on just farming and leveling up rather than enjoying the game.
Focused content is better than just pure content for the sake of content. Shooters such as F.E.A.R., Spec Ops: The Line and Max Payne might only be eight or so hours long, but every level feels like it’s been crafted. The story moments are engaging and the character’s progression feels natural.
RPG elements can work if it has a purpose. I feel this year’s Prey is a good example of this. The character you play as is a scientist and uses NeuroMods to improve there own abilities. The difference for me is the progression feels natural. There is no need to farm enemies or jobs over and over again to progress through the game itself. Yes, exploration is encouraged and advantageous, but not to a degree where you’re spending hours to level up.