Bitpicking: Let's discuss the pros and cons of repetition
Gameplay is meant to be repetitive to a degree. After all, most games have a core that remains solid throughout their entirety. Take, for instance, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. The game is about fighting in a particular area and completing objectives so you can go to another area to fight and clear more objectives. After a while, you get to fight a boss fight, and then the cycle repeats.
There is a certain amount of structure that must be adhered to when creating a video game. It's too long a form of media for there to be no repetitive structure within a gameplay. As a result, repetition is a pivotal aspect of video games.
But not all repetitive ideas are good. This week we’ll go over some of the most boring and annoying instances.
Virtue’s Last Reward is a game built on repetition. In it, the idea of varying paths is a necessary and essential part of the game’s story. Needless to say, the structure of the game gets tiresome if the player chooses to discover the 10+ endings.
The structure of Virtue’s Last Reward is simple: Watch characters interact, make a pivotal choice, complete a puzzle, and the cycle repeats. The kicker is that this must be done for every choice that branches off into multiple paths, and, trust me, there are several of these. The puzzles themselves are interesting, though the interactions can get a bit tedious. While there is a skip function for many of the already-seen scenes, this isn’t true all the time. Sometimes you just have to trudge through all of dialogue again, and for the most part it’s largely the same.
The process of implementing it isn’t very good, but this is a necessary evil in this situation. The game must take measures to show continuity and sameness, thus repetition has an important and inescapable role. The game even explicitly states this.
Is the structure of the game too repetitive for you? How about completing the puzzles or reading through dialogue again? It’s all a matter of perspective in this situation.
Tales of Xillia 2 is another game with a lot of repetition, though it isn’t game-breakingly bad or anything. In fact, I’m quite enamored by the premise. Then again, the premise is the game's undoing in several places.
See, the game is broken up into numerous chapters. Ludger, the main character, owes quite the debt to a certain company. To proceed from chapter to chapter, Ludger must accrue a certain sum and pay it to his debtor. While in the beginning this isn’t much of a hassle, as the game goes on you have to either farm, grind, or complete extra quests to make enough cash. It can be annoying especially if you want to just see what happens in the next chapter. While the breakup of the game’s narrative into chapters is a smart idea, it’s somewhat poorly implemented due to the game’s inability to move the player on from one place to the next at will. Instead, it’s dictated by some pointless monetary system.
Both of these games contain a good deal of repetition. While in one, that repetition is absolutely essential (Virtue’s Last Reward), this isn't really true of the other. (Tales of Xillia 2). It’s not all bad, though. Perhaps some measure of appreciation can be born out of doing the same thing over and over again. Who knows?
Simon Chun is GameZone’s freelance writer and RPG buff for all things new and old. Check out his twitter @kayos90.