Let’s Talk About Rats (or, Trying To Add Different Game Mechanics)

LoS2 rats

The one thing that I heard was a detriment to Lords of Shadow 2’s overall reviews was the stealth and ‘rat’ segments of the game. They were these awkwardly out-of-place parts of the game where you had to sneak around and transform into rats to do a mini-game, just to advance to the next part of the game.

It’s not as bad as people made it sound, but I fully understand the issue with it. I suppose the core of the problem is that it’s shoehorned pacing into an action game which, in all honesty, would have been just fine without it. LoS2 (my abbreviation for Lords of Shadow 2) is an amazing action game despite not being on the same caliber of the first game. But I agree that the game didn’t need the rat segments, at all. It was cool during some parts of exploration though.

I’m sure someone somewhere thought this was a good idea. Someone probably thought it would actually be fun, and I don’t blame them for thinking that. Realistically, tons of games have segments in them that stick out like a sore thumb. That is, aspects of the game that have absolutely nothing to do with the core gameplay yet you’re forced to endure minutes to (in worst cases) hours of it.

In some games, this is a minor annoyance or deviation that is easily forgotten. In other games, it’s an entirely problematic feature in a game that hinders the replay value. For as creative or relevant as some mini-games may be, it actually prevents me from playing games again because of it.

I will say that the rats segments of LoS2 won’t deter me from playing the game again though. The game is much bigger than those parts, and really it’s more like the puzzle segments of LoS1. When I looked at it that way, I felt like if I solved the puzzle and moved on, I’d be fine. I mentioned in my LoS2 semi-review that it wasn’t a big deal, and I still stand by that now.

I get why developers do this though. When you have a game with a particular core focus, you want to mix it up by adding elements that stray from the formula to keep things fresh. Call of Duty in particular is known for this; giving you fun gadgets and cool tech to use for a brief part of the campaign. A lot of games are successful in this, and it actually adds to the replay value. You want to replay these games because of those segments, hence why game devs are fond of these additions.

Obviously, there’s the chance that it was created as filler/padding, to make a game feel longer or have some kind of variety. As boring as they are to have, consider the alternative. Imagine a game that has the exact same gameplay, in every single level, with only slight increases in complexity but nothing new or different. As much as it may be a game design trope, it’s one we’re particularly reliant on due to how it makes even the dullest games feel somewhat interesting.

It’s a delicate balance, I admit. Adding different mechanics that divert from core gameplay work sometimes; and when they work, they work well. However, when it’s badly executed it just makes the game look worse as a result. I feel LoS2 got the bad end of the stick, when the rats segment weren’t nearly as bad as some games. I will fully admit that I am severely biased and I love that game series enough to justify a crappy mechanic like that in an action game. It’s a mixed feeling regardless.

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One thought on “Let’s Talk About Rats (or, Trying To Add Different Game Mechanics)

  1. Pingback: Entertainment Isn’t Safe | JusticeSoulTuna

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