This past week I took the time to play through the PlayStation 3 launch title Resistance: Fall of Man. While I've had the game for a few months I didn't play it that much once I realized it came out before Sony added Trophies (Achievements) to their games.
For some reason the lack of a constant stream of gratifying trophies held me back from enjoying this game. In some ways I find the lack of achievements is what keeps me away from my Wii (can't be the game selection, right?) Resistance: Fall of Man does have an in-game award system that is like a trophy system but it is hidden in the extra content area of the game and the points awarded are used to unlock bonus content such as concept drawings.
The awards are standard FPS style awards; Kill Y enemies within X seconds, Kill Y enemies with one grenade blast, etc... As you play the game a small line of text will pop-up on screen to let you know you completed one of these challenges but none of the challenges are story-based.
What I found, as I played through the game, is that a part of me had been using story-based awards to gauge how far into the game I had progressed. As I would see the number of unearned story awards dwindle I would feel closer to the end of the game. In a way I was ignoring the pacing of the game itself and using meta knowledge to track my progress.
Because this game lacked story-based awards I found myself constantly wondering if the next chapter would be the last. Couple this with the way the game adds opening and closing monologues to each chapter I never knew the game was over until the final credits ran. Not knowing what else might happen I watched all of those credits roll by and was rewarded with a final scene from the game. A final scene that had me thinking that there might be another chapter!
After playing through the game and taking some time to digest the experience I have to say that while achievements and trophies can prolong the game play of a game, story-based awards can ruin a game.
Some developers try to alleviate this problem by making story-based awards secret in nature but it only takes a few minutes of looking online to find out what those secret awards are and now all of your dramatic pacing elements have become redundant for a large swath of the gaming public. These awards act as built-in spoilers for your creation.
If it were up to me I would see story-based awards sent to the great round file in the corner office. The only ones I would like to see remain are those based on difficulty and game completion. Give me an award for beating the game and give me another for beating it based on a difficulty setting or only using a limited selection of gear (Dead Space is known for this with one award for only using the Plasma Cutter and another for beating the game on the hardest difficulty setting.)
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