In spite of the major advances in the graphics and gameplay of modern video games, opening sequences have remained relatively static. Modern titles have added a few narrative elements to the beginning of their game, but for the most part, the “story” part of the game seems to end with the beginning. This is a shame, as the opening of a game can actually make a big difference in a player’s opinion of the game as a whole. We know that, as audiences, we are more likely to enjoy a movie or TV show if the opening scene is a well-executed one. We know that, as audiences, we are more likely to enjoy a movie or TV show if the opening scene is a well-executed one.
Outriders begins with a few quick words rolling across the screen. The country was dead, they say, we destroyed it. It is quickly followed by several brief scenes in which the player is informed of a dying Earth and a colony ship with hundreds of thousands of lives settling on a potential new home. A fascinating beginning, you might think, until the first capsules land on the unknown world below.
This is where things start to get a little confusing. Eventually, you take control of a character of your choice whose mission is to help the first people land, set up camp and explore the area. What could have been a moment of wonder as your character explores the landscape around them instead becomes a slow-motion passage where you talk to this NPC and that NPC before finally arriving for a second. Honestly, and this is a bit of a spoiler for those who haven’t played the game yet, when you climb a small hill at the end to see the world beyond and catch a glimpse of a mighty storm on the horizon, it really is a rewarding, if brief, moment.
This is the main benefit of the first hour of the Outriders campaign, short timelines that attempt to create a world outside the game, with a final twist where your character is frozen in time before being released into a war-torn society several years later. This could have been an exciting story about what if. Instead, Amidst the Unknown sticks to classic sci-fi tropes, self-righteous scientists who make obvious mistakes, and clumsy introduction of the player to third-person combat.
Let’s face it. Outriders can in no way be described as a polite game: The aforementioned action scenes suffer from screen tearing and low frame rates, combined with poorly timed fades between real interactions and cutscenes, and a general dullness of the NPCs that feels like an afterthought. That’s not to say the rest of the game is bad; many reviews (including ours at this link) praise the co-op combat mechanics and unique special abilities as strengths. In fact, the story itself grows as it progresses; it’s a competent portrait of the anomaly that turns your character into an alien, and the people who now live in Enoch. It’s intriguing, but it doesn’t change the fact that these first moments are rough at best.
Let’s use a few other games that didn’t try to get their message across from the start as a comparison. The obvious first game is the foundation on which Outriders is largely based: Gears of War. From the first bars of the dark and brutal opening sequence, we quickly learn about the once-peaceful world of Sera and the moment known as Emergence Day – the day the alien horde invaded. We see the destruction up close, the billions of deaths as the remaining people destroy their homes to prevent the enemy from taking control of them. In less than a minute, we, the audience, find out what is at stake, what cruel enemy we are facing, and what desperate last step we must take before a grim and uncompromising prison cell awaits us and we find ourselves in the middle of the action, with many unanswered questions.
Gears of War brought a new level of depth and attitude to the game with its uncompromising brutality and grim atmosphere, but the opening sequence didn’t leave us waiting to get under the skin of our would-be heroes, effectively revealing a backstory that left new players eager for more. This is a perfect example of an exciting introduction that isn’t drawn out, but it’s not the only one. Mass Effect 2 took a bold risk by killing off the main character early in the game. This is done to allow players to bring Commander Shepard back to life in his own way in the sequel, but it’s a no less powerful scene that delves deeper into your hero’s psyche over time. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild quickly reinforced the idea that it was different from any previous game in the popular series, and set one of the finest zooms in modern video game history. And speaking of creating a new and mysterious world, who can forget the journey to the world of Rapture that first took place in Bioshock.
The list of good opening episodes is long, and no doubt you remember a few, too, because at their core they’re all connected by one word: memorable. Even if you’ve never played many of these games, like Final Fantasy 7 or Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, you’ve no doubt heard or seen someone say how epic they can be for them. Maybe Outriders will get more attention over time, maybe People Can Fly can fix some of its technical limitations with a few patches and updates, but it makes sense that the game’s first moments don’t do justice to the rest. It’s a shame, because with a little tweaking, Outriders could have attracted a lot more fans and created a memorable video game moment.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What makes a video game great?
The gaming industry is a tricky one. A huge chunk of the population absolutely loves video games, but the people who run the industry, the game developers, often seem to think we’re only interested in a small handful of games. But the problem is that most of those games are the same ones we’ve been playing for years, simply with slightly better graphics and a new name. Don’t get us wrong, these games are fun, but they don’t make us forget about all the other games we’ve loved that are now behind us. The ones with the characters, storylines, and mechanics that we can’t stop thinking about. The gaming world is a multi-billion dollar industry, with a wide range of products to choose from. But what makes a game great? There are a few things that have to be in place for a game to be successful, and hopefully we can shed some light on the subject. First of all, a good story can draw people in and help them become emotionally invested in the characters. By creating a real connection to the characters, gamers will have a more intense experience. Another important part is the style of gameplay. The game needs to be fun! It must be easy for the player to learn and control, and fun to do, or they’ll lose interest quickly. Finally, the game needs to be
What makes a game engaging?
The driving force behind the video game industry is a simple one: it is trying to match players with engaging, fun experiences. Sure, many companies are also trying to turn a profit, but if sales are down, the industry will not last long. Because of this focus on the player, many game developers are leaning towards multiplayer experiences, which can be played repeatedly over a long period of time, but can be satisfying in a single sitting. The most important element of any game is… the player. Only when you combine the two can you have a successful game. It sounds like a simple equation, but by focusing on the player you can create an engaging experience that will make it enjoyable for the player to play for hours, and possibly return again and again. This means making your game intuitive: create a game that anyone can pick up and play. Also, make your game challenging, but not so hard that a beginner can’t get a leg up. Add time limits, and even incentives to play. If you want your game to be successful, you have to make it fun for everyone.
Is being good at video games a skill?
Video games have evolved a lot over the years, and are continuing to do so. Gamers have seen leaps and bounds in graphics, sound, and game play. But, is being good at video games a skill? That’s what the debate has been about for years, and there are still many people who disagree. The way I see it, being good at video games is a skill; just like any other sport. Playing sports gives you physical skill, and playing video games gives you skill in the virtual world. In both cases, you are getting better through practice and perseverance. First, let’s start with the definitions that are often used in the gaming industry: a game is a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome. (That’s a very basic definition, but it’ll do for now.) This generally agrees with Merriam-Webster’s take on the term: a rule-governed system of competitive amusement that is conducted according to a set of regulations (as in a sport) and that usually involves opposing players or teams competing for a prize.
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