Ev­ery­thing is just bor­rowed


It’s one thing to have con­fi­dence in your work, but it’s an­other en­tirely to think that oth­ers should be fol­low­ing your lead. Yet dur­ing our lat­est look at

Prey (p36), we hear how Arkane Stu­dios is so en­am­oured with the im­mer­sive sim – the la­bel for a loose col­lec­tion of games that lets the player put a com­plex web of sys­tems to work in the man­ner of their choos­ing, seam­lessly com­bin­ing a host of gen­res and game­play styles into a co­her­ent whole – that it doesn’t un­der­stand why every game isn’t built to the same set of prin­ci­ples. Prey, on lat­est in­spec­tion, cer­tainly seems to back that up.

We had a sim­i­lar feel­ing af­ter play­ing Mid­dle-earth: Shadow Of Mor­dor, the 2014 ad­ven­ture that sub­tly re­de­fined our ex­pec­ta­tions of the open videogame world. Its Neme­sis sys­tem saw en­e­mies move around the land as you did, lev­el­ling up and chang­ing af­ter win­ning or los­ing to you in bat­tle. It gave Mono­lith’s vi­sion of Mor­dor a level of dy­namism and in­trigue that per­sisted long af­ter the cred­its had rolled, and felt like one of those me­chan­ics that would spread around the in­dus­try, aped far and wide: the fu­ture, per­haps, of the open-world genre. But it hasn’t worked out like that. As such, the se­quel, Shadow Of War (p42), feels like every bit the breath of fresh air its pre­de­ces­sor was.

Else­where this month, how­ever, we find ev­i­dence that some bor­rowed ideas might be bet­ter left where you find them. For In­jus­tice 2 (p50), de­vel­oper Nether Realm is bor­row­ing – from World Of War­craft, Des­tiny, Di­ablo and their ilk – a ran­domised loot sys­tem. Tweak­ing your char­ac­ter’s look and playstyle with stat-buff­ing weapons and gear pieces is all very well when you’re shoot­ing wizards on the moon, killing rats in a fan­tasy land or slay­ing demons in the pits of hell. But fight­ing games live and die on their bal­ance; for a game with as­pi­ra­tions of be­com­ing a fix­ture on the tour­na­ment scene, ran­dom­ness is a dan­ger­ous thing in­deed. They say great artists steal – but the best know when to leave well alone, too.

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