[Feature] Replay: Didn’t I do this Already??

Published on March 2nd, 2014

Just the other day, I downloaded the Orange Box off of Xbox Live, and started playing Valves amazing game, Half-Life 2!  Why though?  I already played the game before, beaten it, and completed the additional two episodes, so why return to a game that I already know the ending to?

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This perplexed me and got me to thinking about a games replay value.  I personally started to think about how essential replay value is to getting games off store shelves.  In Half-Life 2’s case; amazing story, combat, and physics, as well as the desire to get all the achievements, led me to return to a game that is close to ten years old.

What does replay value even mean though for a gamer? These days, replay value means that there is an additional incentive for a player to come back to the game even after the main story is completed. For me, this means that the game has a game plus mode, and by that I mean, once I beat the game for the first time, can I restart the game with every skill and weapon I unlocked from my first play through and play it again on a higher difficulty?  Will I be able to put on a new costume for my character that makes the character stronger or unique?  Will I be able to continue to raise my levels until I reach the level cap and fully augment my skills?

Some games might even bury secrets or collectibles inside their game that can only be found by having all the additional skills unlocked, and returning or backtracking in the story to reach those secret areas.  The LEGO game series in particular does a great job of this, requiring you to unlock or use additional characters or skills to find all of the red studs or bricks in order to achieve 100% completion of a level.

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Sometimes, though, replay value just means being able to keep playing the game, even after all the story, even DLC, is completed.  Other times, game replay means changing up your choices in the story.  Many games today have multiple dialogue options to choose from in order to complete a storyline, and those choices then dictate the outcome at the end of the game. Well, for many gamers, the ability to choose your outcome and knowing that there are multiple endings, means that we’ll go back to the beginning of the game and change our choices to see where the alternate option leads us.

While I was not a big fan of the overall ending of the game, I must admit that the Mass Effect Series, by BioWare, did a wonderful job of providing replay value and a sense of choice for the player.  Certain choices made in the first games dictated what scenarios you would encounter later in the series and whether certain characters would live or die as you progressed.  Some characters wouldn’t live through to the end, and even others would refuse to join your team on the Normandy due to your actions.  This, in my mind, enticed me to return to the very first game, and choose a different path, just to see how things could have been different if I choose to keep Talia in my squad instead of Kaidan, or if I decide to sacrifice one character over the other.

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Replay could also mean your style of play.  Many, many games cater to different gamer play styles. Maybe on once play through, you were fully stealthy, silently taking down your enemy and never alerting security to your presence.  You remained in the shadows, never detected, yet achieved all your goals and completed the mission.  However, you know the game offers a more violent and direct solution, to confront the enemy head on, guns blasting, and due to your skills and augments, you’re able to keep firing and soak up massive damage before you would have to duck for cover.  Dishonored did a great job of providing this exact scenario I just mentioned, allowing gamers choice in how to approach any given situation.

I mentioned earlier DLC, and for me, that’s a hostile issue when it comes to game replay.  Mainly, I do not agree with the practice of releasing a seasonal pass for a game I just paid $60 for and then have to pay an additional $25 just to have the guarantee that I’ll have enough money in my account to purchase more of the story at a later date.  Sure, DLC adds additional story, weapons, costumes, and perks to a game and makes it more enjoyable, and is an incentive to return to the game. Sometimes, DLC hurts a game, as the quality of the DLC does not meet or quantify the asking monetary price.  The other problem with DLC is, not everyone chooses to purchase it.  Those who do, however, might have better weapons than you, or additional costumes and customization that make them stronger than your character, and thus, you are at a disadvantage for not having picked up that DLC.

But that’s the risk you take in returning to a game that’s more than a year old.  Sometimes you just want to have more of something you generally enjoyed.

I so far, I have just touched on characteristics that would make a game worth replaying, such as story choices and game plus mode, and additional DLC.  However, you’re probably thinking, “Well wait a minute, what about expansion packs?”  Why, I am so glad you asked!

Expansion packs are the flip side of the same coin as DLC.  Expansion packs, as the name suggests, expands everything in the game!  From character level cap, to story, to weapons, armor, and even bug fixes in the game!  I never got into World of Warcraft, but I lost count at how many expansions that game has released over the years.  Technically, StarCraft 2: Heart of the Storm COULD be considered an expansion pack.

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But if you really wanted my opinion on expansion packs, my feelings are that they are great incentive to keep playing.  Perfect example of one that I recently picked up and have not put down, is XCOM: Enemy Within.  This expansion of the original core game provides players with new mechanics in the form of Meld, allowing you to spend it on physical upgrades for your soldiers or to create mechanized units capable of laying waste to the battlefield.  New enemies, including a sympathetic faction of humans called EXALT, are out to discredit XCOM and sabotage your operations.  It is a fully fleshed out, well worth your money expansion, that provides all the core elements that additional game play is supposed to provide.

So what does replay value really mean?  It means enticing a gamer to keep playing.  It means giving the players who bought your game additional content that’s worth their time and investment in the game, expanding their character and their story while providing something worth of value to be used in the game.  It’s expanding on the core mechanics of the game to make it more challenging by adding new enemies to combat.  It’s providing the player with choice, do I play this one way, or another.  Mainly, it is full filling the desire of the gamers’ question of “Do I really feel like playing this again?”

 

A feature by Charles Fuchsel, ally of the Imperial forces and American correspondent for RP2.

Like his word-smithing? Let him know at : https://www.facebook.com/charles.fuchsel.5

Images used under creative commons, rights to respective publishers/ manufacturers.

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