Stealth Mechanics

I’ve had a lazy day.

First thing on the to-do list was record the latest episode of Couch Podtatoes. This week we did something a little different because I was afk all weekend (and most of Monday) so we didn’t have time to properly plan our notes. After that was done, it was on to doing my rounds of the blogosphere. Usually when I have trouble thinking of something to write I cruise the net and inspiration will strike. Today that didn’t happen. I made some comments sure, but didn’t have anything strike me as worthy of a full-post response.

My usual blogging schedule is several times a week, with only a couple of those days having a dedicated idea (CP posts, game round-ups) and I used to take a day or two off here and there. Blaugust changes things. It’s a good change, and I like thinking about new topics and coming up with great posts (or lackluster ones, you be the judge). Still, I’ve never adhered to a blog-post-a-day schedule before, and that gives me little time to save up ideas for future posts. Sometimes the web helps with inspiration, other times I just have to sit alone and ponder what sounds like a good topic.

This is one of those types of posts.

I started thinking about the duality of my personality. The fact is, I’ve always been drawn to “thief” classes in RPGs. For those of you newer gamers, thieves have become known as rogues, and only semi-resemble their D&D roots. Give me a dual-wielding walker-of-shadows in an MMO and I’m all about it. The duality comes in when I think about games like Thief, Dishonored, Metal Gear Solid and other games that utilize stealth mechanics to add depth. I cannot stand playing these games in that fashion.

When the first Thief game released in the late 1990’s, I loved it. I don’t think it was the hiding in shadows bit that pulled me in, rather the slew of cool tools and abilities that you could use. That was a stealth game where fighting was completely discouraged, and sneaking around carried with it the risk of being spotted. It was immersive and rather fun. As long as you did things just right, killing a random guard was possible, but it was always harder than avoiding combat altogether (also, don’t forget to hide the body!).

When I first saw Dishonored, it instantly appealed to me. I remember thinking that it was a spiritual successor to Thief, and I thought I would enjoy it as well. I was wrong. It too had the ideal that you should avoid combat at all costs — it encouraged this by using the trophies (or achievements) as a motivator, with some leaning towards no combat for the whole game. But then the game gave you all of the cool gadgets and stuff I wanted to use, so I ended up killing everything that got in my way. Somehow a similar idea didn’t work the same way. I never felt the threat of almost guaranteed death from combat. I never felt like it was to my advantage to sneak around. That’s the problem with the stealth mechanic in most action games.

I haven’t played the new Thief title, but I’d give it a whirl despite my reservations. Graphically it looks amazing, but so did Dishonored. I just feel like I’d end up being disappointed because it wouldn’t capture the feelings I had while playing the original title. In most action-oriented games, I expect to fully use my tool set, and if stealth is part of that, it’s fine. Metro: Last Light did this pretty well. There were parts of the game that were clearly meant to be a shooter, and others where stealth was to your advantage. The same goes for The Last of Us. It can be done well, and it can fall flat.

Why is it that it doesn’t feel right in some of these examples, but feels absolutely amazing in an MMO or RPG? Maybe it’s because those genres are less focused on action? Maybe it’s just because of the nature of random mobs spawns and wanting to get from point A to point B without having to stop for combat? I’m not really sure. Maybe I’m just an overly analytical nutjob.

Have you felt the same? Or am I just weird?