We’re starting to miss cartridges. The current generation of console hardware may offer the sort of visuals we’d have thought impossible 20 years ago, but they sure come at a cost. This month a disc arrived with a covering letter explaining that a minute-long hang on the splash screen was a known bug. In the context of this generation’s loading times, we might never have noticed.
Thankfully, games themselves are getting better at delivering players into the action in timely fashion. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (p108) is the latest in a series that once seemed to delight in making you wait. Now, you’re part of a travelling caravan, moving about the map to cut travel times, while new pets speed up the resource-gathering grind. It can still take half an hour to send one of the bigger monsters to the afterlife, and we wouldn’t have it any other way, but the thrill of putting a beast to the sword is undimmed by the prep time being pared back.
Meanwhile, Life Is Strange (p102) sees French developer Dontnod take the rewind mechanic it devised for Remember
Me and apply it to the adventure game. It’s a powerful storytelling concept, but presents a pacing problem – one that’s deftly sidestepped by allowing the player to blurt out new information earlier in a conversation to save them sitting through the same exchange all over again.
In the era of F2P, time, not money, is a player’s most valuable commodity, and it’s heartening to see developers of full-priced games having more respect for busy schedules. Where appropriate, anyway. Elite: Dangerous (p98) may have three different travel speeds, but few journeys are quick – the thematically consistent cost of having a galaxy of 400 billion stars to tool around in. Progression may be slow, but as a measure of progress, it’s almost without equal. You couldn’t fit that lot on a cartridge, after all.