In this text for horror games I'll refer to horror games with little input from the player and where most of the gameplay is running from enemies (SOMA, Observer, Layers of Fear, Outlast). Games like Dead Space, Resident Evil, etc, have action at its core, and would lose a lot if a safe mode was inserted.
In my experience, I've come to play a lot of horror games because of the story or aesthetics, only to find that I can't appreciate neither of these because I constantly have to be hiding from something. I was replaying Observer the other day, and I was loving it: the ambience, the music, the little stories, the plot, everything was great. Until I had to hide and wait for an enemy to roam past me so I can continue with the story. 5 times. I get it that, in most instances, these games want to make you feel vulnerable as part of the story, which is fine as long as narrative goes. However, when you are not there for that kind of experience, it just becomes a chore to play.
I did beat SOMA when it came out in its normal mode. I thought it was amazing. However, upon replaying it some months ago, I turned on the "safe mode" so I could play with a friend and enjoy the story together. We became very invested, exploring the levels and piecing together what happened and whatnot in the game through environmental storytelling and other stuff like notes and logs. It was a phenomenal experience. The thing is, the developers added this feature because the most downloaded mod for the game was the wuss mode, that disabled encounters, so developers know there is a big portion of people who don't want to play hide and seek.
Then, as I said earlier, upon replaying Observer, everything was alright until those bits where you need to hide. They just become an obstacle in the way of the story in my opinion, and could very well be bypassed and replaced by some other script to tell the player "you are in danger", and not much would be lost in the translation.
Because most horror games rely on a heavy narrative and often don't ask the player to learn complex mechanics, why don't have a mode that ditches these segments and fail states all together and let the player enjoy only the stuff they like, which usually is the story and aesthetics? I don't think it would be a difficult feat (just disable AI or stop enemies from targeting the player) and it would open these games to people who just want to experience a story and not be actively hunted down.
Do you agree? Do you think something would be lost on translation or that the problem is the implementation of these segments? Or do you not see any problem at all and horror games should stay as they are?
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