Over the past year I've seen a handful of posts about the topic of starting a game over from the beginning before you finish it for the first time. Usually, the discussion is asking whether it's a good idea to restart a game or lamenting that they lost interest in a game after restarting. After selling my PS4 in 2018, I finally bought a gaming PC last year and ended up replaying a few games from the beginning. This has helped me come to an understanding about restarting games and why it can make or break a run.
- Breath of the Wild
I know, it's not a PS4 game, but I'm starting with this one because I bought it on Wii U, played 90 hours, and then played it again on Switch. I didn't buy it for Switch initially, but I felt like the Switch release was the "definitive edition" of the game and abandoned my Wii U save file for the better-optimized version. In my first playthrough, I followed the main story for the first 30 hours or so and then branched out to really explore the world. On my second playthrough, I spent 30 hours exploring after the tutorial before starting the main campaign. I'd say that overall, the second playthrough went pretty well. There's enough interesting locations in the game that just exploring the world was a blast and I was seeing plenty of things I hadn't seen before even, after 90 hours. As a pure exploration game BOTW is unmatched, but if you need story and power upgrades to keep you invested, you're going to be disappointed. Aside from the 4 power-ups you get and stat boosts on your gear, this game mostly feels the same at 40 hours as it does at 5. However, there's a lot of room for player expression and you can take some truly wacky approaches to the games challenges (or make up your own challenges), so it remains engaging for a long time. I ended up playing another 70 hours before beating it.
Conclusion: A good exploration game, but I don't recommend for people looking for a deep story or rich character progression. Good for multiple playthroughs since you'll likely still discover new areas or new approaches to challenges.
- The Witcher 3
I got this game back in 2015. I played it as my main game for probably 30 hours straight, finishing up the Novigrad section and arriving in Skellige before burning out and putting the game down for a few months. The Witcher 3 is a densely packed game full of rich stories, but the actual pacing of this story can be quite slow. To keep things short, the story is structured in a way where you do a lot of running around and playing for 3-5 hours might only progress the story an inch. I put the game down for a few months and tried to start again, but got bored quickly. I finally started a run on my laptop in 2019 and thank god for cloud saves cause I was able to finish the run near the end of 2020 on my desktop. I tried to play my second run like Breath of the Wild at first, doing sidequests and getting all the treasure/monster nest locations on the map, but I found this got old and quit after maybe 10 hours to focus on the main story. The treasure/monster nest were basically all the same thing and weren't that interesting. The sidequests and monster hunts were a mixed bag. The hunts were usually pretty repetitive and the sidequests often ended with some plot twist where it turns out your questgiver are assholes who want to kill you, kill eachother, or want you to kill some undeserving sap. I get that moral ambiguity is the name of the game here, but it got tiring after the first few and I ended up only doing the sidequests involving main characters as they actually come back to help you in the ending. I noticed the game was a bit too easy and, at the recommendation of an old Kirk Hamiltion podcast episode, I bumped the difficulty up to Blood and Broken Bones (Hard) after the first few hours. It definitely made the game more challenging, but the combat still lost its shine after a while. Every once in a while I'd unlock an interesting combat upgrade, but most of them are stat boosts and not new abilities. I ended up taking multiple months-long breaks from this final run of the game and it took me over a year to finish because of how draining it was to play at times. I had to just hunker down and push myself through the last 15 hours or so. I think this game is great, but it probably should've been a lot shorter. This game is praised for having a ton of content, but not all of it is good or interesting. There's a good 40 hour game in there and then another 60 hours or so of side-content with wildly varying levels of quality. I always ask myself, if a game has 40 hours of perfect content and 60 of middling content, is it still a perfect game? Perhaps another discussion for another time.
Conclusion: Witcher 3 is a great game, but the slow pacing of the story and the lackluster side-content make this one not worth playing again. If you're considering starting this game over, I'd recommend watching the cutscenes on YouTube or just hopping back in.
- Watch Dogs 2
Another game I bought for PS4 and ended up buying again on PC. I was really excited for this one when it was announced. I never played WD1, but I'm a techy guy and seeing a game about some dorky millennial hackers wreaking havoc was right up my alley. I got maybe 15-20 hours in on PS4. The story is a lot of fun, but it ultimately doesn't matter to the gameplay so you can skip it if you don't like it. The gameplay is phenomenal and highly replayable. The best part about this game is the sheer variety of gadgets you can unlock on the skill tree. Once you're several hours in you'll have a ton of tools in your arsenal and you can approach the missions in a lot of different ways. This is great because on my second playthrough I did some of the missions using different gadgets than before and even did some of them in different orders. My only gripe would be that you have to find collectibles on the map to unlock most of the high-level upgrades. You'll be spending hours exploring the map and doing missions before you have a decent set of tools. This might kill a run for some, but I think there's enough variety in gameplay that it stays interesting. I didn't end up finishing this game, but I want to return to it soon.
Conclusion: A good, very replayable 3rd person shooter game. However, it takes some hours before you start unlocking gadgets and the gameplay starts to get really good.
- Batman Arkham Knight
This one is similar to Watch Dogs. It's a great action game and you can kick some serious ass from the very start, but things get really fun once you start upgrading your abilities. In this game you have to do sidequests to unlock upgrade points. However, many of the sidequests become easier once you figure out which combat and stealth upgrades to use on certain enemy types. The result is a really satisfying game that rewards you for being clever and beating sidequests by giving you more tools to do so. I beat this game on PS4 and ended up playing it again on PC for about 15 hours. The game starts you off with all your abilities from the last game, so you don't really have to worry about being weak or only having a few moves at the beginning. By the end of the game you feel like this absolute powerhouse and that's one of the best feelings in a game imo.
Conclusion: A good game that starts you off with enough tools that combat is interesting and only expands on those tools to make things even more engaging as you progress.
Overall, whether a game is good to restart or not comes down to how interesting the gameplay is at the beginning. Breath of the Wild lays most of its cards out at the start. Its many beautiful locales are enough to keep gameplay varied even when you're starting over. The Witcher 3 tells a great story, but both the story and gameplay are very slow until a significant number of hours, making replaying the beginning sections a drag. Watch Dogs 2 and Batman: Arkham Knight have enough gameplay and ability/upgrade variety to keep things interesting from start to finish.
I'm noticing a lot of games hold you back before getting to the good part. Even on a first playthrough this can be to a game's detriment. I think a lot of players end up bouncing off games they want to return to because they play the opening hours 2 or 3 times without really seeing the game for what it is.
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