Library, brevity and replayability (Heavenly Sword)
Heavenly Sword is getting criticized for its short length. Many reviewers are being considerate, but the public isn’t quite so understanding, as seen in this Ars Technica comments section. The game’s length has been said to be in the 5-6 hour range, which does sound short. When younger, game length mattered to me, too. These days, I’m mostly interested in whether I can experience the game fully, which usually means completing it.
Let’s take Far Cry for instance. I’ve played it a lot, yet it doesn’t feel like it’s ending anytime soon. The game hasn’t really been giving me new stuff to go through, it’s been more of the same. I like the game and I would like to complete it, but I can’t be bothered to be going through the same things over and over again. Had the game ended by now, I think I would be more satisfied with it. I would get closure. All of the uncompleted games on my shelves (maybe some 90% of them) are dead weight – they feel like something I want to put a lid on, yet I can’t, because I haven’t completed them.
And the goddamn designers keep making the games appear longer by making the endings more difficult. This is just wrong. I loved Dead Rising, all the way up to the final fight, which is just stupidly hard compared to everything that’s gone down before. Now it keeps sitting there, uncompleted.
So when games are criticized for being (say) 10 hours long or shorter, I immediately take note. “This is a game I can complete”, “this is something I can do”, “this won’t leave me frustrated”.
Heavenly Sword’s been class A entertainment up to where I’m currently at. I’ve been playing it for three nights, I think, and I’m about three quarters in. Supposing that it would end with my next gaming session, that would be a good thing. It’s repetitive to the degree that I wouldn’t want it to stretch further, yet right now, I’m in a good place. The story moves on, I care about what’s happening. Now, if the experience leaves me wanting more, I can just go back to it, as it lets me play each scene independently, giving my performance a rank. This is just the way I want my games.
Lengthy games are all fine when the content actually warrants it, but this is very rare indeed. Most long games simply dilute the experience to the point that it destroys itself. Who in their right mind would prefer that? Add to this the fact that playtime is so limited when you’ve got a job, a family, friends and other media to consume. A “five-hour” game will probably last me a week or two, because I rarely have the time to sit down with it.
Another thing I need to bring up is the recommendation of renting Heavenly Sword due to its length. I don’t know about that. The game is beautiful enough to keep around in order to wow your gamer friends with the power of the PS3 and I feel that it has considerable replay value. But even if this wasn’t so, I would definitely buy the title, for the same reason I buy movies: I need to have the quality titles in my library in order to keep the experience intact. They’re not dealt with once the credits roll. The same with books and comics… I never could understand people who sold their books and movies once they’d consumed them.