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Old 21-07-19, 22:44   #1
moodydog
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Default So many beautiful places, so little exploration... style over substance.

I feel like the style of the levels are spot on, some of the most intricate detail has been put into these seemingly vast locations.

The beginning of Cenote is one of them, the first drop into the water felt like Ghana's opening section on steroids. I was just itching to explore the ship in the challenge tomb; one of the most mesmerising places you can explore. The jungle sections are... beautiful. There's certainly no denying that the game is... visually stunning from an artistic and technical level.

Yet, whilst traversing through some of these awe inspiring locations, I completely can't help but feel... "so what?". Every location feels completely downplayed. Almost as if the words "Look, but don't touch" has been plastered everywhere.

There is this notion when writing essays in English exams... "Write a little about a lot"... i.e, quantity of quality, and we're advised to not do this. I feel as though the Shadow/ Rise/ 2013 (and even to some extent post Legend) follow this notion. There is a LOT to explore, a lot to see, so many beautiful places. But actually, due to the complexity of the game structure, each area feels quite vague, linear and uninteresting beyond the visual perspective, and not very interactive. The game as a whole is open, but the constituent parts (the bits that you actually "play"/ run around in), feel quite limited by what you can do and are actually quite shallow. Really it should be "Write a lot about a little".

I actually feel like there's far too many extremely beautiful set pieces. I know that sounds counter intuitive. You may be wondering, how can there be too much of something that is beautiful?? Well... after a while, once you're aware of what the engine/ game is capable of, you begin to simply expect them, and you start to take for granted that the game is just simply beautiful location after beautiful location after beautiful location... all of which are fairly shallow. You get accustomed to them, you don't expect anything more, they become part of the norm and hence they loose their "WOW" factor. Coupled with that fact that these places are JUST simply beautiful places, and not that immersive from a game play perspective, it feels a little underwhelming to play.
What it really does is push your imagination out, make you wonder what the game could/ should have been had you been in charge.

So how can we fix this for the next game? I would give you an example of what I would do:

Quote:
Firstly, I would move the focus away from having these universal hubs, where the focus seems to be a large city/ urban playgrounds for Lara to run around aimlessly in. I do like the idea of hubs, but the style of Paititi is as boring as you can get. Instead, have a few smaller but more densely populated interconnected hub spaces containing multiple pathways and puzzle elements. This hub spaces will resemble the more traditional tombs and ruins we expect from a Tomb Raider game. Take the opening to Cenote when you jump in the water, that could simply act as a hub. (I want you to try and visualise how this works with what's already in the game).
From the Cenote opening section, have 4 or 5 different pathways (bi-directional), a large puzzle mechanism that isn't solvable yet (perhaps underwater, perhaps blocking one of the pathways, and requires two puzzle items before you can begin to solve it), and maybe have 2 or 3 of the 5 pathways immediately open to explore. Along the existing route (towards the Ship challange tomb and the puzzle where you first meet the Crimson lady/ feral minions), I would make the ship area a second hub (well maybe just an extended portion of the Cenote hub). Perhaps the ship area could be locked by a door, the key is found after completing the waterwheel puzzle immediately after. Brings me onto my "Secondly"...

Secondly, I would do away with the set pieces that serve as a uni-directional push to progress the story. E.g, running away from all the minions/ Crimson lady as the ground is crumbling, serving as a gameplay barrier between Cenote and Paititi. Uni-directional paths aren't bad, as long as they don't take you to entirely different parts of the game.
Back to the ship/ puzzle area, I would modify the puzzle a little bit, to incorporate a few more side rooms, widern the puzzle a little bit, perhaps swap it out for the waterwheel challange tomb, which was slightly more interesting, or even couple it with the light challange. I never though I would say this, but the puzzles could definitely use a bit more padding. Anyway, after solving the puzzle, you obtain a key and take a unidirectional path back to the Cenote hub. You can either traverse back to the (now openable) ship section, OR you can take one of the other paths in the hub.

Going onto the ship, make it a hub with 3 branches off (like I said, small interconnected hubs), 1) A direct path back to Cenote, (perhaps one of the locked routes from Cenote), 2) The river, and a small boat. Perhaps you need to find a key to use the boat. 3) A path leading off to another puzzle area and . Also, make the ship FULLY explorable TR2 style, not hopping over the outline of the ship like the Challange Tomb. I want to feel like I am exploring the decks, opening doors on the ship, seeing the crew quarters etc. Anyway, after exploring the ship within the Ship hub, amongst other things, you find one of the main puzzle pieces for the Cenote puzzle (another being hidden somewhere else within the Cenote)... So you can either make your way back to the Cenote and fill in the first puzzle piece, OR you can explore the other open route off the Ship hub, OR you can find the key to the small boat. They key to the boat can be near by, in the water/ next to the ship.

The boat takes you through the amazon if you choose to take it, and depending on what path you take, it can take you back to an earlier section of the game e.g Kuwaq Yaku (which was also a really boring section in the core game, but less so than Paititi), or the Peruvian Jungle, or perhaps a new section (that could be currently blocked off). Anyway the boat acts as primary transport/ fast travel to different hub spaces.
Anyway, if you took the third path from the Ship hub, this takes you on a round trip, full traditional TR level sized, where you find either a puzzle item or a useful piece of gear that can be used to ehance exploration further/ find new places, and lands you back at the ship hub. Once you've solved all the puzzles around the The Ship hub, perhaps you have found some items that you can use on an earlier section, so you could take the boat back to either Kuwak Yaku or the Jungle, OR you could make your way back to Cenote, find another piece of the Cenote puzzle...
Anyway, that's a slice of what I have in mind for a more immersive, more puzzle/ exploration centric TR game. Apologies if it's all a mess, perhaps I will upload some diagrams to make my points better. Sorry if all this is TLDR. I've sectioned it so you know what to skip over.

EDIT

I agree, this may be overly complex, but this is literally from my imagination to paper, of course it's not going to be completely realistic...

Last edited by moodydog; 22-07-19 at 14:54.
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Old 22-07-19, 08:25   #2
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Hmm I feel like we already discussed something similar in future of the TR section with open world TR threads etc but:

I don't see how the boat as a hub idea could effectively apply to TR. New TR games are much more narrative driven and it is next to impossible to have a good story with an open world game where every new detail and exploration opportunity threatens to ruin the pacing. Too much of a beautiful thing IS a thing, just look at AC Odyssey, I have no idea what I'm doing there anymore, the story progression is tied to character levels instead of just story chapters (ie complete a to get to b to get to c etc), which requires grinding, everything is so beautiful vast and rich and there is always TOO MUCH to do and explore that it completely ruins the story and pacing of the game, the idea with the boat as a fast traveling hub is precisely the system in that game and it's still not enough, other fast traveling points are again not enough bc there is so much ground to cover literally and figuratively. And the grinding part is there to MAKE YOU explore bc without it you would give up pretty soon and to make you WANT to grind they had to tie the story to the level progression (so idk you finish chapter x on level 10 and next chapter can only be played on level 13) without any good story-related reason. It's a mess imo no matter how much fun I am having at the moment, it works for now bc I am barely keeping up with levels required for story progression and I see I am gonna get stuck soon.. ANYWAY:

TR is about that first experience, the discovery, locations are beautiful because they are meant to take your breath away on the first playthrough more than anything else but they also have to serve a story. And I feel like you are judging these locations by second or third playthrough when you already get to know the areas etc. Every area in Shadow has documents, relics, murals which reveal parts of mythology of the place etc, crypts and beautiful tombs with a puzzle and a reward. Yes, they can have more of this I guess to keep it interesting (but at one point you have to 100% a location still) BUT that's where pacing comes in, Paititi (and all the DLCs added later!) severely threatens the story pacing already and you have to find a balance between the 2. Imo first playthrough of Shadow should be ONLY story missions bc than the story is engaging, fun, well paced (especially since we have a pending apocalypse in the story this time). I don't know if you compared it to some other game to come to the conclusion that it's style over substance (like I compared it here to Odyssey) but I feel like you are way off the point, and especially if you talk only about Shadow.

My point with Odyssey is devs had to force the contents of that beautiful world onto players because even though we are amazed at first you know where the beauty of that world has any real effect? Exactly that first time we see it - first time you leave Kephallonia island for open seas, first time you see Athens etc. But by nature our attention span doesn't last for long so devs had to find a way to force us to stay in those beautiful locations after that first amazing feeling instead of running to reach the next beautiful part of the world they created. They had to put restrictions to the boat idea as well: areas are also locked to your level so even though you are sailing and passing by beautiful locations seen from a distance you can't go there. Actually technically you can but for no reason other than forcing you to stay longer in game those regions are 20-30 levels higher and you have nothing to do there/will get killed imediately. And that is just frustrating above everything else.

TR would run into a similar problem (the witcher 3 has smth similar as well and it doesnt work in the long run), if we have shadow type linear beautiful worlds some players will say it's not enough, but if we had much much more we would need imposing and non logical restrictions in order for the game to have any storytelling logic and that would probably become frustrating sooner than later.

I prefer the current situation with visually stunning locations, filled with tombs and other content (but I agree that it can get even richer) but it supports the story and characters as well and it never gets boring. AC Odyssey with all it's style AND substance now feels frustrating af because all the extra substance part had to be forced on me.
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Old 22-07-19, 10:34   #3
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I've not played any Assassins Creed game since the very original, but I literally just bought both Origins and Odyssey in the Amazon sales because they look quite intriguing, I've yet to start them, so literally know nothing of the Assassins Creed series after AS1. Don't get me wrong... I do NOT wish for TR to be open world. I think that would be spreading the content too thinly about the game, and it's kind of thin enough as it is. What I'm asking for is having a LOT of exploration in a much smaller space. I think story and progression could still work, but tbh, I'd be quite happy if cinematic set pieces also takes a bit of a backseat in the next game too. I felt like in shadow, yes it was cinematic... but realistically, it was nowhere near on par with actual cinematography (even if it gets close at points), and it kind of hits an "uncanny valley" because it's so damn close... but if that's the route they're going, that's how it wishes to be judged. There were times when the story arcs and dialogue were laughable... I.e let the children distract the guard so that you could free the captured child, hear the peoples stories so that you can win a dice back from a "ghost", distract some guards by making people play music so that you can sneak through a door and save a guy from being slaughtered? Everything about these interactions felt so off. But in such a cinematic game... I would expect the standard to be so much higher. Look at uncharted for instance...
The truth is, yes Shadow IS a very cinematic heavy game... but for me, the reality is, it's just not that interesting. Yet, the game play actually shows so much potential, but again, hits the "uncanny valley" of gameplay, it just feels like you should be able to do more, but it's just been completely sacrificed for seemingly average narrative.

I agree that I think Shadow feels like it was designed to be played 1st time for story, second time for exploration... but in my mind that does kind of ruin the playthrough, for the reasons you stated, when in reality you kind of just want to explore. They ARE designed to be sped through to keep up the story pacing, hence beauty after beauty... you're 100% correct, but in my opinion, I'm looking for a more gameplay-centric first experience. I believe that the "cinematic experience" can completely work as a compliment to the game-play, rather than at the forefront.

I don't think I'm off point, I think I'm probably on point for people who share similar feelings, probably off point if you prefer the more cinematic heavy experience.

In regards to games that inspired me this way... primarily Metroid Prime... and then hints of games Resident Evil 4/2, Banjo Tooie (the overworld), SoulsBorne etc (you know, the usual suspects).

In regards to the boat idea... as stated above.

Quote:
I agree, this may be overly complex, but this is literally from my imagination to paper, of course it's not going to be completely realistic...

Last edited by moodydog; 22-07-19 at 10:44.
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Old 22-07-19, 13:54   #4
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I agree with the idea but even making thw tombs interconnected level design like bloodborne would help a lot with exploration. We have big area to explore with no real reason to explore. The tombs and levels branching off the hubs are more or less pretty hallways with nothing of note to explore. You are led to a puzzle room and funneled through the steps in a linear order. It's a shame as the level design in the main hubs of the Reboot teilogy is quite good at times but it is never utilized in any meaningful way.

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Old 22-07-19, 14:20   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by moodydog
Really it should be "Write a lot about a little".
Great post, I liked this part especially. I often found myself, despite loving the DLC and tombs, wishing they were more dense, had more chambers and elements to the puzzle, and were at least 20 minutes longer.

It’s like they have these ideas that are great on their own and don’t need anything “other”, just more of what they’ve already got. More interactivity could be a good way to stretch out a level satisfyingly; adding keys, combinable items, more traps, etc. gives us more to work with.
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Old 24-07-19, 12:10   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grimaldi View Post
Great post, I liked this part especially. I often found myself, despite loving the DLC and tombs, wishing they were more dense, had more chambers and elements to the puzzle, and were at least 20 minutes longer.

It’s like they have these ideas that are great on their own and don’t need anything “other”, just more of what they’ve already got. More interactivity could be a good way to stretch out a level satisfyingly; adding keys, combinable items, more traps, etc. gives us more to work with.
I've not actually played the DLC yet, but I do plan to in the future. Perhaps when the last one is released (if it hasn't been already). But from what you describe, it sounds like it basically follows the same format as the main game, which is probably to be expected.

I just completed the main game again (to about 94%), and don't get me wrong, really enjoyed it. The overall density of the exploration wasn't too bad, however I felt like paths didn't really lead very far before you needed to turn around.
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Old 25-07-19, 19:09   #7
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I admit I haven't read it all because /lazy but I think I can say I agree.


Often in those beautiful locations I felt like they were a tad underused and platforming especially could have been better. There were also a lot of locations that had buildings and constructions just for scenario and we couldn't reach them and all I could think about was how that they felt a bit like wasted opportunity. A few examples:

The sidetomb with the tower of spinning blades
The area after reaching the point of no return when you speak to Etzli (though I have to admit the platforming we did have was excellent)
The place Unuratu gets captured and generally the entire part of upper Paititi


This is what I have to take my hat to TR2013, if you could see it, you could reach it (only a handful of times this doesn't apply)
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