Bitpicking: Time is Bittersweet
Perhaps one of the greatest blessings of modern day video games is that they provide quality experiences over long periods of time. You can pay full price for a game and enjoy the heck out of it for hours on end. It’s pretty amazing. Take into consideration the price of movies and music, and video games simply give you a better value for your money. Granted, you have to pay for a console or a decent PC rig, but that’s no different from buying a DVD player or some sort of audio player. Video games have reached a point where they can deliver dozens of hours on a small disc.
Still, there are many games out there that are fairly short, and I sometimes wish they were longer.
I love long video games, and it’s great that I can have a lengthy journey with some epic quest. At the same time, I think games that are short are good for different reasons. Shorter games tend to be more cohesive, lack fluff, and generally get straight to the point. However, short games often make you wish the ride was a bit longer. It’s like riding a super fun roller coaster only to come to an abrupt end. You wish the ride as a tad lengthier. Then again, I understand that this is by no means a major criticism of the short length of video games; it’s just a personal problem that I have concerning them.
One game that pops into my mind immediately is God of War III. God of War III is by no means a long game; in fact it’s one of the shortest games I’ve ever played. Clocking in around six or so hours, the game definitely doesn’t try to give you more than think you would get. It’s a rather short experience as you travel up Mount Olympus to slay the remaining Olympian deities. One of the best things about God of War as a series is its satisfying and vicious combat, and there is a ton of fun to be had with God of War III. While there isn’t much depth, it’s enjoyable to rip through the various mythological creatures that roam the lands.
Your journey is short. There are only a handful of bosses and a handful of enemies. If the game were longer, there could have been much more diversity in enemies and more time to destroy things. There are several opportunities for dungeons and puzzles that simply go unused. A longer game could have given Kratos the opportunity to explore other mythological locations or speak with other people. The series is known for its calls to the Roman/Greek mythology, and it’d be amazing if the game was filled with more of the lore we love. In addition, this could have given players the opportunity to fight other mythological creatures, set in stone how Kratos establishes himself in the pantheon (he killed Ares already), and more. What it opts for instead is a well-paced and enjoyable experience. "Short, sweet, and simple," is probably the best way to describe God of War III.
Moving on, Vanquish is perhaps one of the greatest action games this generation. It's one heck of a ride, but, if you can believe it, it’s even shorter than God of War III. The game can easily be finished in four or five hours. The game explodes right out of the gate into a crazy ride that never stops, and even the cutscenes are bombastic and insane. This third-person action shooter takes you to crazy locations within a space colony and puts its protagonist Sam in various situations as he advances on the opponent that is holding Earth hostage. Sam will be stuck in cover by all sides, fight multiple bosses at the same time, go on a covert sniping mission, and so much more. Each mission feels like a fresh approach, even though the combat remains the same.
Disappointingly, the game’s length is a massive detriment. Vanquish simply ends before it can actually feel like a game. Rather, the short length makes it feel as if it’s a ride at an amusement park; it’s a series of encounters that are loosely tied together for the player’s enjoyment. If the game were longer, perhaps it could’ve had a more fleshed-out narrative, set more encounters up, prepared for some interesting side missions, and introduced more weapons for players to mess with.
On that last bit, there are actually tons of weapons for players to use. The problem is that the game is so short that it will take multiple playthroughs to put them all to good use. I’m all for starting a New Game +, but I think that if a game is this short, it doesn’t really accommodate the numerous features that are typically housed in a game. In Vanquish’s case, there is far too much content for the length, and it can create a stifling game as a result.
I think short games are a necessary evil. They bring something entirely different to the table than what a long game should. They sacrifice length for more meaningful packages. They're much more concentrated, like a juice that can be diluted with a lot of water to increase the quantity. Sometimes, it’s best when kept in small doses.
Sequels, sequels, more sequels! The world needs more of them, but there are some that are simply terrible. Join me next time as I delve into some sequels I consider to be not so great.
Simon Chun is GameZone’s freelance writer and RPG buff for all things new and old. Check out his twitter @kayos90.