Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, August 07, 2019
Open world games are getting less combat-centric

I used to have a quick way to evaluate whether I liked or game or not: I would just look at the combat. If I didn't like the combat system, I knew that the game would make me spend a significant portion of my time in combat, and so it was better not to play it. The rule doesn't apply so much anymore. I don't really like the combat system of let's say Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild; but that doesn't matter, because the percentage of time I spend in combat has shrunk, and has become more optional. I don't need to kill all the mobs, just to gain xp and loot. I can play for hours exploring, gathering, cooking, and solving puzzles in shrines, without combat being necessary. I do have to do some combat to finish the game, but I can actually get stronger for combat without doing combat, and then the fights are easier.

I just started Assassin's Creed: Origins, and it is a bit the same thing. I don't like the combat system very much. But again there is a lot of other stuff to do in the game, and you can replace some of the regular hand-to-hand combat with a different sort of gameplay, either by sneaking or by sniping. Assassin's Creed: Origins even has game settings for people who don't like combat, making combat much easier. That way you still "do" combat where appropriate for the story, without it becoming the focus of the game, or an obstacle that prevents you from playing the rest of the game.

Of course that only works for these open world games, in which there are a lot of other things to do. You couldn't diminish the importance of combat from games like League of Legends or World of Tanks or Fortnite, because the rest of the game is just there in support of the combat which is the core of the game. But the more playing a game resembles living in a virtual world, the more it becomes possible to tone down the importance of combat, and keep players occupied with things like crafting or building. People don't play Minecraft because of the combat system.

I just started playing Kingdoms of Amalur and one of the things that decided me on giving it a try was all the reviews saying how easy the combat is. It's an open world game and really all I want to do is explore the world. Being attacked and being able to finish off the attackers in a few seconds is fine, it adds to the general atmosphere of exploring a wild and dangerous environment, but I have no interest in endless combat just to get from one place to the next.
I think games adding in inclusive features while criticized by "gamers" is such a smart thing to do to reach more people.

Blizzard for all their faults has been one of the best examples of this IMO.

LFR for as maligned as it is brought tons of people inside of raids who had never done them before. Overwatch eases in people who aren't great at shooters by providing characters like Winston. Heroes of the storm is so heavily weighted towards landing and camps, especially early game, that a player who is bad at the micro can learn to be great at macro and carry games. (Albeit at lower leagues)

I've played Assassins Creed: Origins on hard mode with 90% of my combat existing of attacking from range. The rest you can mostly finish with your stealth attack. It was actually fun for me to make a build and gear up around maximum ranged damage. That took most of the 'weird' combat away and made it a lot of fun to do.
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