Content of the article: "Is a hard single player experience even possible?"
Tldr: All gaming is pattern recognition, so if your good at that…most games, even very "difficult" ones, get rather tedious quickly
I will preface by saying a lot of more casual gamers will not see the issues I'm talking about in most games, and that's great. I am thankful
I love games, especially RPGs, anything with stats and builds. I'm in my mid twenties and I've played everything from tons of tabletop RPGs like dnd and shadowrun, to old roguelikes, the original text based and the classic JRPGs. More recently, I've played tons of darkest dungeon, beat all the dark souls and put tons of hours into xcom and mordheim. I also work for a board game design studio and write content for tons of tabletop RPG and war games.
My issue is that I want a hard game, one that makes me use all my consumables, build specific builds with synergy and better than linear stat growth. And I'm starting to think it can only be done PVP.
Simply put…all the "hard" games I'm suggested or try, never seem difficult, they seem difficult to learn.
Dark souls was hard the first hour, when I had no quest markers and it seemed aimless. A 5 minute read of how weapon builds and dodging works later and the game wasn't too much different from any other 3rd person hack and slash like horizon z dawn or God of War. It took me maybe 2 or 3 hours to get the hang of longer than other games but still…one "the hang of it" was found…it became undynamic.
Turn based ones aren't immune either. Most simply have a "right answer build". Usually the most Damage per round possible, add initiative to make sure your damage hits first. I don't want to call it bad balance, usually its just the variety of fights/enemies aren't big enough so the right answer is alwaaaays the right answer.
Divinity 1 and 2, xcom, mordheim and others all fell victim to the "right answer build"
But the biggest thing that makes difficult RPGs impossible for me is AI. There are what I call "rules regardless of game system" that are somewhat true of all games…and the AI of all games is bad at them. A few examples
1.Target priority-kill the squishy high damage guy before the tough low damage tank
2.Focus damage-everyone attack one guy until he dies or is stunned..5 half health enemies attack 5 times, kill 2 instead and only take 3 attacks back
3.Narrow builds- one dps and one tank will perform better than 2 guys built to be half dps half tank each. Games like xcom and mordheim fall apart bcuz enemies are built with no goal or plan in mind.
At current tech levels, AI simply can't play well in most games. To make it hard they give the AI more stats or numerical advantage…but that doesn't change the fact that the pattern is still easy to see and the right answer will always be right answer.
Until AI can adapt and change an enemies behavior patterns based on what I do…i don't see any tactical game keeping my attention for long
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