Okay, so I’ve been playing Battlefield Bad Company 2 and Alan Wake lately, and both are good games. BC2 is great first person combat with the same kind of excitement as playing paintball. Alan Wake has a great story to it on par with anything the networks have put out.
But those traditionally aren’t my favorite games. My favorite games are all about freedom. The ability to play the way you want, unfettered by linear story structure or individual scenarios. The kind of game where you end up making the story up in your head as you go along.
The first of these games to grab my attention was Elite for the Commodore 64
The graphics may not look like much, but she’s got them where it counts, kid.
Elite was the first open universe space sim game. You were given a medium sized cargo ship with only base armaments and told “have fun.” The universe was yours to explore and do as you will. You could go from planet to planet selling goods – buy low, sell high. You could be a pirate and hunt down cargo ships to take their goods. You could be a bounty hunter saving people from pirates. You could be a miner blasting asteroids for minerals. It was all up to you.
These to me are the best games. And the closest I’ve come to finding another game as good as Elite is X3.
As you can see, slightly better graphics, but the concept behind the gameplay is the same, and vastly expanded. I can lose myself in this game for days playing a “dead is dead” method. That is, if I die in the game, it’s over. I have to restart. Believe me, that causes for very cautious gameplay and added excitement.
But that’s not my newest addiction. My newest addiction is Red Dead Redemption, which takes the open world game concept and applies it to the old west.
There is a storyline to follow in it (so did X3) but it’s one you can ignore as long as you like, do it in spurts when you feel like it, but the key behind this is playing the main character as you see fit.
Want to be a do-gooder protecting the weak and innocent? Go for it. Want to be evil as hell, tying up prostitutes to railroad tracks and watch the 5:15 from Armadillo roll over her? You can do that, too. Er… so I hear. I haven’t checked. It’s not like there is a hidden achievment for it, right? (there is? Oh dammit)
The point is that aside from having a story based game you can follow, they did their best to make the wide open world full of random events and make as many options available to you as possible.
Settle down at a poker table for some Texas Hold’ Em, throw some horseshoes, accept a duel, get drunk, save a farmer’s daughter, get attacked by highwaymen, lasso a wild horse and break it in, herd cattle, go on nightwatch patrols around a town, take a bounty hunting job, buy a fancy suit… I’ve barely touched on all the non-storyline driven events you can do.
Naturally I tend to be the do-gooder type in games, but never a saint. I don’t abide shooting civilians, but I’m seriously considering sneaking into a bank to rob it for shits and giggles. In games with morality options I tend to make my guy have a gruff side, but always doing the right thing. Knowing when to use the carrot and when the stick.
That’s what I like about these games, the fact you aren’t locked into doing things the game’s way. You can be a hero or an anti-hero or just a desperado, and when you play it that way you come up with your own reasons why.
In X3, I even wrote a full novel based on my “dead is dead” campaign, which I thought turned out rather well for a simple piece of fanfic. But that just shows how much I love these kinds of games.
God knows when I’ll get this one out of my system.