Back to basics
Given the rate at which technology improves, a layman might expect that videogames would only ever get bigger and busier. You’ve got all this new processing power – surely that just means you can stuff more things into the mix than you would have otherwise? “Well, yes… perhaps,” you’d say, your eyes scanning the room in search of someone – anyone – else to talk to. The reality is that, yes, technology improves as time passes, and to creators that extra processing headroom is extremely handy. But as videogames mature, so too does their creators’ understanding of effective design – and in games, as elsewhere, less can definitely be more.
It’s a common refrain among this month’s Hype crop. Striking indie adventure Lost Ember (p38) had environmental puzzles and a combat system at one point in its development, until its makers realised that a little restraint can go a long way – even after the Kickstarter money came flowing in – and began to pare the game back to its bare essentials. Battlerite (p50) blends core elements of MOBAs and fighting games, but thumbs its nose at the expectation that games in either of those genres should have dozensstrong character rosters, and is all the better for its austerity. Nioh (p46) was once a JRPG, until one day Koei Tecmo realised that the best thing to do in a game about samurai is chop up bad guys with some really nice swords. It is now the spiritual Ninja Gaiden successor we’ve wanted Team Ninja to make for years.
Sometimes, then, you just have to focus on what you do best. Which is why, seven games and countless spinoffs and remasters later, Resident Evil 7 (p34) is going back to its roots, feeling in tone, content and spirit like a return to the values of the genre-defining 1996 original. Our layman friend might well see that as a retrograde step, despite the use of modern console power and inclusion of game-wide PSVR support. Clearly, he never played Resident Evil 6.