Choose Your Weapon…

A first-person screenshot from the game, demon...

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I went on something of a demo spree this weekend, playing a whole two demos from beginning to boredom. Actually, to be fair, only Infamous 2 felt like a minimum wage job; Arkham Asylum (the original [I know it’s been out forever (and a sequel is coming soonish)]) was as good as advertised. Unfortunately, these posts don’t blog themselves – yes yes, I hear your jokes about the writing quality, ha ha – so I had to cut my Batman adventuring short.

Both games feature similar third person, free camera perspectives, and both games feature similar “punch in that direction I’m facing” (TM) combat.

I am not a fan of “punch in that direction I’m facing” (TM) combat.

Let’s take a look at the alternatives, though. We have the World of Warcraft/Most MMO’s lock on and auto attack style. Then there’s the Diablo rapid-fire-carpal-tunnel-mouse-click system. And the Morrowind and Oblivion block and parry/mash the attack button technique. And let’s not forget the Legend of Zelda lock on, roll around, then hit things in the back a lot combat.

I reckon most combat systems are relatively similar to the one’s described above, although I’m sure I left out some incredible innovative system that blows all of the previously mentioned out of the water. Just for funsies, I’ll also mention first person shooters like Call of Duty Doom, FPS-hybrids like Mass Effect 1 and 2, whatever the Assassin’s Creed games are, and the never imitated, never duplicated Vagrant Story wire mesh dome targeting extravaganza. Also, Devil May Cry.

There. That’s got to be everything (that matters, ha ha ha ha so funny ha).

For myself, as more of a thinking man, one of the Literati, so to speak, I prefer to use my brains over my hand-eye coordination and quick twitch reflexes. This is definitely not because my underdeveloped physical abilities. Certainly not. I simply prefer to approach my games from a calmer, more thoughtful perspective, as opposed to wearing out my controllers and my oh so delicate fingers.

This means that, in theory, I favor the MMO style of combat: target an enemy, auto attack without further input, and go through your most efficient combat rotation. Let’s be honest here, though: in the more challenging fights, or even in the not so challenging but oh so serious because my guild is terrible encounters, those rotations do require more than a little dextrous finger manipulation, a.k.a. keyboard pounding.

What I certainly do not enjoy is, a) the somewhat sad combat of the recent Elder Scrolls games, which, while not particularly horrible, does tend towards being rather brainless and completely non-Thinking Man. Or the much, much worse alternative b) the Cthulhu-summoning frustration-a-whirl of the 3D, non-targeted, free camera, third person, enemies all around you, This is Sparta!, why am I swinging in that direction oh now I’m dead I hate this game that is most definitely not but perhaps is called Infamous 2.

I love the idea of a “realistic” combat system. In a real life fight, I’ve heard that you can do anything you want: left jab, right jab, uppercut, hook, front kick, pick up a rock, Three Stooges eye gouge, literally anything. So it’s nice when games attempt to simulate this freedom of choice in bludgeoning one’s enemies (I think it’s in the First Amendment). The problem is that not only do keyboards – forget controllers – have a limited number of keys, but we players have a limited number of appendages – forget amputees – and some of us have an even more limited amount of dexterity with which to punch those limited keys with our limited appendages.

So, sometimes, it just makes more sense to limit the realism of combat, and take advantage of what the platform and the players can actually do. Which is why I like the MMO combat system: blocking, dodging, parrying, and other miscellaneae are pushed into a passive roll system, while your nifty abilities (like STRIKE, lulz) are usable on cooldown and the like.

Can we do better? Certainly. Will we? Most likely. Do other, less magnificent folks prefer to mash buttons like neanderthals? Apparently. So yes, I do want a combat system that allows me to instantly choose between an infinite amount of martial techniques and execute them in real time, but since no mere computer can keep up with my kung fu skills, I’ll just go back to grinding dailies.

PS: No, I will not go back to grinding dailies – 187 days WoW sober.

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