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Games Without Stories Suck

No, we haven't taken leave of our senses. Bear in mind that we are not making the statement in the headline.

It's just something I heard the other day when I was chatting with one of my PSN buddies. We hadn't really spoken in a while so I was surprised to hear such an emphatic (and somewhat bitter) comment. I had forgotten his unwavering stance on the matter. I had also forgotten that he was once a hardcore RPG fan like me and unlike me, he hasn't branched out into other genres. I kinda did that a while ago.

"Games without stories suck." Essentially, this means he's pretty annoyed at the direction RPGs have taken this generation; titles like The Elder Scrolls simply don't interest him in the slightest, while games like Heavy Rain and Alan Wake keep him mesmerized for hours. Now, it's unfair to say video games are moving away from compelling plots and better character development, because we have examples of fantastic writing. But is it fair to say that games without a story focus are more popular...?

Perhaps. I mean, let's face it, nobody reads anymore. And with the ever-dwindling attention span of an entire nation, all forms of entertainment have been shifting towards faster, flashier, and dumber overall. Nothing is immune to the downward spiral; it's why we have brainless summer blockbusters, sugar-coated talentless pop music, and chick lit. Therefore, mindless video games can and often are popular. But you know, gamers are an intelligent bunch (the older ones were the smart nerds back in the day, remember?), and smart games aren't failures.

It's just interesting to hear a statement like "games without stories suck" because even me, a heavy reader of literary classics and a proponent of artistry in gaming, can have plenty of fun with everything from Battlefield 3 to God of War III. If it's great, I'll probably play it, regardless of genre or story emphasis (or lack thereof). And I have to say, this friend of mine is missing out by being so strict. ...but maybe he has a point; maybe if there were more people like him, we'd have more teams like Quantic Dream and Kojima Productions out there.

What's your take on the subject?

Tags: gaming, video games, game stories, video game plots

12/28/2011 9:20:02 PM Ben Dutka

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Comments (37 posts)

Buckeyestar
Wednesday, December 28, 2011 @ 9:56:19 PM
Reply

I agree with him to a point. I can certainly enjoy a good fighting game or a shooter, but in the end my interest wanes fairly quickly without a story to spur me on. I loved the new Mortal Kombat, but a month later I was bored with it. However a game like Uncharted captures my imagination like no other. And I can replay it again without boredom. It's like sitting down again with a favorite book or movie. The games with good stories are the ones that endure for me, though I can certainly have a brief fling with some mindless fun.



Last edited by Buckeyestar on 12/28/2011 9:57:01 PM

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johnld
Thursday, December 29, 2011 @ 5:10:48 PM

thats basically the reason i stopped buying fighting and racing games this gen.

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Temjin001
Wednesday, December 28, 2011 @ 10:05:46 PM
Reply

It's obvious the statement suggests a preference and not the assertion that games, as a matter of fact, suck because they don't have stories. That's pretty assanine to even consider as true. Games don't need stories to be GAMES. And stories don't need games to be stories. But I think the two can go together like mac and cheese, or something better when done right. And I think that's it. Usually stories in many game formats just aren't much more than explanations for events. Really, Ryu Hayabusa is going to have to slice crap up so let's create some sort of purpose behind the setting. "I'll get my revenge!!!! ..... "

RPG's and rare titles like Heavy Rain try harder and I respect them for that. I haven't been able to grow as fond of eastern/anime-like story telling, even if the Japanese can make the stories complicated I often have a hard time directly identifying with the emotional cues their writers try to sell user on.

But anyway...
I think the better question is, just how much can stories matter in games?
And I think that depends on the game and the user. I started playing Dragon Age:O a few days ago, and I have to say the story really has me drawn in. Surprisingly more than I would've suspected it would. I'm a Drawven dude who got exiled and now I'm a Grey Warden. It's all been interesting and it's helped me care about the adventure at hand and I love being given the ability to decide the attitude of my character. The sort decisions I make in conversation modifies reponses, helping to sell me on the role I'm playing.

Anyway, I'm interested to see what developers do going forward with story telling. This element does have the attention of Naughty Dog, Rememdy, and Quantic Dreams.
Naughty Dog recently cited gaming as being very poor in story telling and they aim to change that. Let's hope The Last of Us helps carve a niche of gamer interests that help support the idea of story driven design. I mean, come on, CoD and BF can't be the only most desirable form of this entertainment type, can it be?

Last edited by Temjin001 on 12/28/2011 10:06:27 PM

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Nerull
Wednesday, December 28, 2011 @ 10:07:37 PM
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While I don't have time to read as much as I'd like, and most of my library doesn't have the classical credentials of Tolstroy and such, I still view it fondly.
It's not the be all end all of fantasy, but just as far as attention span goes, Wheel of Time squashes that trend in my case.
Some genres can get by without much of a plot at all but it always helps enrich the setting, at least for me. Something with emphasis on emerging themes like Human Revolution raises the bar and I hope that area of forbodingness is further explored, rather than JUST more saving the princesses, slaying the dragons, getting headshots etc.

Without something to relate to or stimulate thought, the pixels and invisible walls become more apparent.

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Warrior Poet
Wednesday, December 28, 2011 @ 10:21:00 PM
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I'm a big reader and an author when then have the time. Games that have great stories can be great. Games that have no stories can be great. I enjoy both a lot! Story doesn't have to be there for the game mechanics to work. I just feel like these open-world, "do anything" games lack focus. Most of them end up being "Kill whatever you want for no reason" games. A game with a story that allows you to explore is usually better because its graphics, music, atmosphere, mechanics, environments, and objectives are all focused around a central pillar: The story. No matter how diverse they are, they're there for a reason. In the case of a game like Chrono Trigger, the story is what motivates you to play because as great as the mechanics are, they'd get old pretty quick without the story.

On the other hand, games like Gradius and Robotron don't need a story beyond the one in the manual. That would only get in the way and dumb down the experience. Just shoot stuff - but the objective there is obvious: High score, beat the game, or just survive. Solve the puzzle. It's completely different.

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ZenChichiri
Wednesday, December 28, 2011 @ 10:21:46 PM
Reply

The thing isn't that games without stories suck, it's just that there seem to be far less players interested in a good story these days. Gamers are increasingly looking towards other aspects of the game, which is eclipsing story development. Ask most of the people who bought Modern Warfare 3 what they thought of the story and they couldn't tell you.

What I think is happening is that there are 2 large groups of gamers (dealing specifically with story), with your friend being in a small 3rd category:

1) Gamers who don't care about story and are more multiplayer/gameplay based. These gamers are the ones who complain MGS4 is too much of a movie for them and they just want to play. As the gaming industry grows, this group is getting larger as more casuals come in. You can see this spill over into story development as companies try to increasingly cater to them. Whether it's Farmville or Call of Duty, story is not important.

2) Gamers who enjoy story driven games but also enjoy heavy gameplay and multiplayer focused aspects as well. These are hybrid gamers if you will. Pretty much a lot of us at PSXE are like this, and I like to think there are a lot of gamers like this (even though I know category 1 gamers are on the rise). These types of gamers can enjoy games in most genres, story or no story. Diverse gamers if you will.

3) Gamers that absolutely need a story to enjoy a game. These people are in decline it seems, and it shows in the industry. This used to be a considerable segment of the market in PS1 days, but not so much now. As gaming became less niche, this market dwindled. I still believe that this market exists, and will continue to, but they will lurk in the shadows. It's unfortunate because this group could be the reason why we might get more story driven games in the future. I do wish more people were like this to balance things out a bit. I dread the day when story really takes the backburner.



Last edited by ZenChichiri on 12/28/2011 10:25:51 PM

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Havoc
Thursday, December 29, 2011 @ 8:51:01 AM

I think since now most cutscenes and dialog are expected to be in CG with great voice acting that the decline in elaborate stories might be a Money thing more than a preference in the market.

In the old days you could get away with long walls of text to read while starring at one animated picture. That was alot more cost effective and less limiting in terms of time and money needed.

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ZenChichiri
Thursday, December 29, 2011 @ 10:29:31 AM

Yup. That's another factor to consider as well. However, if big budget games with excellent stories sold as well as a CoD game, we would see more of them. Developers make what gamers want.

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Doppel
Wednesday, December 28, 2011 @ 10:32:54 PM
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While I love story-based games, not all games need a story to be "good." Music games like RB, GH, DDR and DMP are an example.

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Jawknee
Wednesday, December 28, 2011 @ 11:19:00 PM
Reply

"That's pretty assanine to even consider as true."

This^.

Mario Kart 7 is fun, Super Stardust HD, Afterburner, Puzzle Fighter, Flower, Critter Crunch, Tetris...the list goes on. There are a ton of games that are a lot of fun with zero story.

Everyone loves a great story in a game but c'mon, such a bold claim as Temji said is asinine.

Last edited by Jawknee on 12/28/2011 11:20:35 PM

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dork02840
Wednesday, December 28, 2011 @ 11:28:22 PM
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basically most fighting games have very little story. way to bash pretty much an entire genre. a hardcore, storied, roots of the history genre. Boo boo booooooo

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firesoul453
Wednesday, December 28, 2011 @ 11:57:38 PM
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I pretty much play games for the story

Multi player is not something I can play non stop

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kingjose
Thursday, December 29, 2011 @ 12:09:48 AM
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Games need a story so ppl could understand where the person ur playing is coming from likr the old twisted metal yea its a car killing game but every character had a side story with out a story to go along with u could never get deep into the game and understand the character

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Metal Head
Thursday, December 29, 2011 @ 12:38:38 AM
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Games didn't have a story back in my days because of the lack of technology. Galaga,Space Invaders,Pac man, were great, but I always dream to play games that were closer to what movies offer. Games with stories enhance the experience. Now we can compete against different gamers around the world thanks to the internet. I prefer games with stories.

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cLoudou
Thursday, December 29, 2011 @ 1:09:34 AM
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I can tell you that I am enjoying WKC/WKC2 more than Skyrim.

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Alienange
Thursday, December 29, 2011 @ 1:09:47 AM
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You might want to pass on to your friend that his comments regarding gaming are irrelevant. He is clearly a closed-minded, short-sighted elitist that thinks what he prefers is what constitutes true gaming. In actual fact his obvious lack of experience with the different genres of gaming shows that he lacks the imagination needed to truly appreciate what gaming is.

Go on, tell him. And then tell him how gaming's birth had nothing to do with story telling.

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Underdog15
Saturday, December 31, 2011 @ 11:03:01 AM

"...that thinks what he prefers is what constitutes true gaming."

Good point. And I'm going to remember you said this for the future.

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Temjin001
Thursday, December 29, 2011 @ 1:23:21 AM
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It's interesting that the number one complaint I see for Rage is for it's lack of a solid story. And contrary to the notion that few care for stories anymore seems to suggest some fans of shooter types really do care for stories, because clearly without one, people are quick to site flaws becasue of the lack thereof. Rage really doesn't force gamers to sit through long winded cutscenes. Granted, you obtain missions after hearing some person's explanation as to why there's a problem and how you can solve it, but it's not attempting to do what other story driven games do. But it's being held to the standard that it should. Maybe the rich setting and very highly realized design of the wasteland begs for a story because gamers want to know more about this fictional world. Where in military games stories are litered with politics and global control strategies etc. Sort of boring CNN stuff. I mean, really, I just couldn't sit through BF3's interrogation cutscenes. I just couldn't care. I'm fine with the story stuff that happens amidst the play but I don't care to find out about the details. I just want to be a soldier and shoot crap old school.

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Excelsior1
Thursday, December 29, 2011 @ 8:32:46 AM

@temjin

"Maybe the rich setting and very highly realized design of the wasteland begs for a story because gamers want to know more about this fictional world."

That is the best way I have heard the shortcomings of Rage described. I do think gamers wanted to know more about its world. It's hard to describe. There was an empty quality or lack of identity to Rage that seemed to hurt the game with both critics and gamers alike. Very good observation there my friend.

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Victor321
Thursday, December 29, 2011 @ 1:36:54 AM
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I believe that there needs to be a balance; like our own race, diversity is what makes anything unique and has an overall freshness. It's also key in what makes us appreciate what we have before us.



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___________
Thursday, December 29, 2011 @ 1:48:36 AM
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some games need stories, some dont.
RPGs for instance are NOTHING without a fantastic engaging story!
shooters though, well no one cares if they have a good story or not!
thats one thing thats always irked me about shooters, people constantly complaining they have poor stories.
who cares?
complaining that a shooter has no story is like complaining your car does not make breakfast for you.
ITS NOT SUPPOSE TO!

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Twistedfloyd
Thursday, December 29, 2011 @ 2:48:47 AM
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I'm as big a fan of telling stories in gaming as anyone. Gaming is a great medium to tell epic stories in.

But there is also plenty of room for games that are JUST about gameplay. So in that sense I disagree. Plenty of room for gamey games and serious, story driven games.

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BigBoss4ever
Thursday, December 29, 2011 @ 3:23:52 AM
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100% agree, I think this friend shares the similar mentality. So far, I have not really played any western RPG, and not even touched a single FPS.....so here I am.

And this .... "Perhaps. I mean, let's face it, nobody reads anymore. And with the ever-dwindling attention span of an entire nation, all forms of entertainment have been shifting towards faster, flashier, and dumber overall. Nothing is immune to the downward spiral; it's why we have brainless summer blockbusters, sugar-coated talentless pop music, and chick lit. Therefore, mindless video games can and often are popular. But you know, gamers are an intelligent bunch (the older ones were the smart nerds back in the day, remember?), and smart games aren't failures." --- is beyond excellent!!!

Best posting I have seen for a while!!!

Last edited by BigBoss4ever on 12/29/2011 3:26:05 AM

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Beamboom
Thursday, December 29, 2011 @ 4:14:34 AM

Problem is, "mindless video games" were far, far more common earlier. It was almost the rule.

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Excelsior1
Thursday, December 29, 2011 @ 6:11:01 AM

@beamboom

That's a good observation. Mindless videogames were much more common early on. Are the types of games we play today really that more dumbed down that what we played in previous gens?

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Fane1024
Thursday, December 29, 2011 @ 6:45:13 AM

A lot of the regulars here think of JRPGs when they talk about "old games", though those are not really representative of the majority of pre-PS2 era games.

Storytelling in games has definitely improved with each generation, though less drastically if you're only thinking of JRPGs. Which is not to say that past generations do not include examples of excellence, of course.

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Excelsior1
Thursday, December 29, 2011 @ 8:01:49 AM

I would agree storytelling has improved in each subsequent generation. Obviously games have become more complex as well. As for JRPGS...I know many here probably have not played The Lost Odyssey but that game features some great storytelling. Kaim's dream sequences are just fantastic.

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Vivi_Gamer
Thursday, December 29, 2011 @ 8:27:33 AM

While Kaims dream sequences may be interesting I still think it is the wrong use for the medium. I have no problem reading dialogue in text but to read essentially a novel through out the game just became tedious. But I do love the game and really wish it was on the Playstation 3.

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Beamboom
Thursday, December 29, 2011 @ 3:30:48 AM
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Nonsense! Take Katamari, one of my absolute favs! Not much of a story there.
Most old-school games did never have any story to speak of. Pac-man, Pong, all driving/racing games, Paperboy, Galaga, Moon lander, Space Invaders...
Nothing but pure gameplay fun.

It may be closer to the truth to say "games that need a story to not suck, suck as a game."

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Vivi_Gamer
Thursday, December 29, 2011 @ 3:45:04 AM
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I cannot play a game I i do not like the characters. This is probaly why I prefered Tekken over Virtua Fighter back when Tekkens story was simple. by T5 when they started to show more of there charactyers during cutscenes within the story mode, the way they were portrayed was just terrible, awful dialogue.

I feel the same with gams like Fallout, when you control a character, customise them and make descisions. In Fallout, the main character wh9ile customisable, just seems transparent, the idea is that the play is meant to stEp inside the shoes of the character but for me it just creates a barricade. I much prefer games like FF which have a cast of characters with there own life, motives and personality.

However gameplay is important aswell. People keep telling me FF Tactics has a fantastic story, but I just do not like stategy RPG's. So I couldn't get into it. But when it comes to FPS, I much prefer one like Bioshock and Resistance which have stories and very surreal fantasty art direction incomparison to realistic military shooters like CoD or BF.

But this is why games like Heavy Rain and Catherine excite me. The way they make the player make decisions which have conseqeuences and mold the game to the players taste. This personal style of storytelling has such potential and I really hope to see more games like this.

Last edited by Vivi_Gamer on 12/29/2011 3:45:47 AM

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Lawless SXE
Thursday, December 29, 2011 @ 4:14:10 AM
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I wouldn't go so far as to say that they flat out suck, but I can honestly say that I don't find them as interesting. Conversely, I find it easier to sink much, MUCH more time into games that don't really have much of a story. Midnight Club L.A., Burnout, Skyrim. That may just be the design of the game being specifically to keep the player playing.

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Excelsior1
Thursday, December 29, 2011 @ 4:19:17 AM
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One game in particular that I have seen MANY complaints about in terms of story is Rage. I think that hurt the game's reputation so there definetly is a type of gamer out there that is looking for a compelling story. There just seemed to be a general sense of dissapointment when in came to Rage. Lack of story appears seems to be the main complaint. Just an observation.

I consider myself a diverse type of gamer. Having said that, I do like games that have decent stories. I think games have a long way to go in terms of story telling. Let's face it, even some the best examples of stories in videogames would be considered B movie material at best. There is just some awful writing in many videogames in my view.

off topic:

Has anybody seen the headlines about Vita week 2 sales PLUMMETING? After selling approxiamtely 321,000 consoles in 2 days Vita sales plummeted to 72,439 units the following week. Those numbers - a 78% drop - reflect the largest second week drop in sales in console gaming history.(source Game Informer) The 3ds sold a whopping 453,000 units in that same week for comparison. The original PSP sold 110,000 units.

A record breaking drop in sales is not the type of record companies want to see broken obviously. We saw Nintendo quickly respond to the 3ds's drop off in sales by aggressively slashing its price in an attempt to restore confidence in the brand. It seems to have paid off. Will Sony do the same?

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Shams
Thursday, December 29, 2011 @ 1:28:26 PM

I think the abrupt drop in sales has to do with some of the negative press covering the issues concerning some of the market features (playing ps3 games remotely), and about the issues a number of users have been experiencing (powering off, system errors, etc).

While gambling is big in Asia, the Japanese, as consumers and businessmen, are far from risk takers. So, if an expensive system is released with issues, they'll wait it out, until the price and bugs are dropped. Unless Pokemon or Monster Hunter comes out on it. They love that stuff.

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rainrox
Thursday, December 29, 2011 @ 5:15:57 AM
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games should help you unwind and be a source entertainment be it with an epic story or a flashy gameplay. i do love my RPGs but i also like my fighting games, fps, platformers and the hair tearing ninja gaiden series.

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Rogueagent01
Thursday, December 29, 2011 @ 6:32:38 AM
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I honestly believe there is more than enough room in the industry for both.

Again I get to use Sacred 2, the story is almost non-existent but it is a great RPG none the less. Then you have the Yakuza series, great in depth stories and yet they seem to have a cult following. Where most people just say they suck or the more common complaint "it just has to many walls of text". Yakuza 4 I have read(it may have been hear) hasmore text than "War and Peace" which is scary and impressive at the same time.

There are highs and lows on both sides and as long as both sides remain I won't ever have to complain as I will have a good choice of games to play, depending on my mood.

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Havoc
Thursday, December 29, 2011 @ 8:41:17 AM
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Ive come to realize recently upon trying to play mass effect 2 that I cant stand games that make me talk to other people. You know the stupid conversation wheel that you keep going around until you run out of stupid things to ask. Its so tedious to me.

I realize I tried to play the old Knights of the old Republic game and just got so drained after a little ways through that game with all the stupid talking boring me to death.

Its funny I couldnt even get to far in FF7 because of all the long winded text I was forced to suffer through.

I imagine im in the minority on this subject, but Ill tell you I love games like Dark Souls that are just cool and fun and interesting without forcing me to read and over think the stories.

But if a game is going to skimp on a story or id say plotline then they better have great gameplay to keep me interested and immersed.

I think Nier was a game with a strange story but they way it was told and the music made it very memorable to me.

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Temjin001
Thursday, December 29, 2011 @ 9:55:48 AM
Reply

http://ps3.ign.com/articles/121/1215527p1.html
Here's an interesting opinion piece by IGN that caught my eye. Worth the read.

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