So, I just finished inFamous 2 not too long ago. It was fantastic! I loved it even more than the first, and I have no idea why it took this long for me to actually play and complete it. Maybe it was because things really start picking up only after you combine powers with Nix or Kuo? Or at least it felt that way, because using the same old electric powers felt so, so, so much like a grind...
That’s it. It was a long, ridiculously drawn-out grind. A grind that would be even more ruthless had Cole been any less of a superhuman, or if his powers were any less satisfying. A grind that I really, really hope is addressed in Second Son.
See, in the first game you had many missions that were so damn repetitive that you wondered if everything was structured around a more complex horde mode, and every sewer tutorial was a long, narrow slog through things that really only need nothing more than an on-screen prompt. Side missions were more or less as varied as the missions in the first AC game and you really only looked forward to the karma quests. You knew when you would open up a new area, and you knew when you were getting a new power.
It was very predictable. That’s okay though! It was a new IP, and controlling Cole was insanely fun. His ability to climb anywhere and his powers combined to make one of the best superhuman games at the time, I felt the same kind of joy I felt when I played Spider Man on the N64 – which was great, so shush. So how did they spice things up for their next game? Well...
It’s a mixed bag. Side quests, collectibles, and karma actions all combine to give a sense of variety that’s initially great, but it’s only a matter of time before things wear thin. Admittedly they did add some of that variety to the kinds of side quests that are there, though the various karma actions are almost laughable in how mechanical they feel. Seriously, you can see the screws popping out of each person and their gears slowly turning in place. Drummer boy that you can shock to make people fear you? Okay... oh, wait, here’s another drum guy... but wait! I found some guy on the roof playing Jazz too! Why? I have absolutely no idea, he’s playing for the birds, but oh well. The issue is that just about every person playing music is either using a drum or a saxophone, and they aren't always playing for the people. Nor do they ever change their tune.
Then there’s the side quests and, to a lesser extent, some of the main quests and/or karma quests. Things too often slip into a horde mode on steroids, or something along the lines of “defeat all enemies”, which is both a boon and an issue. These arenas filled with enemies makes for a wonderful playground with which to use your powers in; however they’re about as interesting as four different flavors of punching bags. I can see where Sucker Punch tried to stir things up and add in enemy variety, but they all still pale in comparison to Cole McGrath. The player’s powers end up carrying most of the fights along and – without the story providing some kind of goal – I really don’t see myself playing it much more. It’s just not interesting enough.
It’s odd honestly. These things really started to hit me as I started cleaning up the map of yellow markers and when I started thinking of comparisons, I thought instantly of Ubisoft’s games. They have charged head-first into a mountain of game design that’s all about populating an open world with as much busywork as possible, so much so that many complain Assassin’s Creed has lost it’s focus because of it. They’re scratching their heads over making busywork fun and they’ll keep at it until the very end with most of their games now. They did okay with Far Cry 3, as the mundane act of survival fits well with the tone of that game, and Sucker Punch has managed to dodge a bullet twice because their superhuman is so damn fun to play with.
I just really hope they improve things even more.