Gods Have Stopped Watching, thanks to a bunch of whiners
Gods Will Be Watching is a point-and-click strategy puzzle game that revolves around tough decisions and moral dilemmas. In order to survive each scenario presented the gods have to be on your side (so to speak). The game is based on chance in addition to the choices you make. You could make all of the “right” decisions in a situation, but a random variable can come and destroy your progress in an instant.
Recently Gods Will Be Watching developer Deconstructeam announced that a “Mercy Update” was released for the game. The update adds new difficulty levels. For example, “Puzzle Mode,” which removes all elements of chance, and “Narrative Mode” which is just the story with little challenge. The update was created after hearing feedback from critics and gamers about the chance aspect making the game too hard or unplayable. While I understand the reason behind it, I couldn’t be more disappointed in the release of this update.
By eliminating the element of chance from the game the experience one has with it is fundamentally changed. Choices have less weight, and the realistic feel the game has is nulled. What was once a stressful mission to survive the desert, avoid enemy bases, and find a friendly base within a certain amount of time now becomes a matter of trial and error and remembering how many times you go north or west. What was so unique about the original mode of the game is that you never know if you’ll truly survive -- everything can go to shit in a heartbeat.
What also bothers me is that in the game under “Original Mode” it is referred to as “their original vision.” If the “Original Mode” of the game is how they intended it to be played, why create the other versions? All other modes besides original feel like a cop-out just to appease the players who thought the game was too hard. I can understand that they are trying to provide a way for those players to enjoy the game, but it really weakens the original vision when it can be changed so easily. These modes feel like an entirely different game.
We’ve seen other companies listen to their fan base: Bioware with the Mass Effect 3 ending and Microsoft with the Xbox One. These companies, however, have massive profit-margins to maintain and longtime fanbases to appeal to. Deconstructeam is an indie developer only just establishing themselves, so seeing them back down on their game’s true vision is disappointing, to say the least. Indie developers tend to take more risks in their games, and Gods Will Be Watching seemed like a game that was taking more risks than most.
If Deconstructeam wanted to keep their vision for the game without alienating too many players, they should have made tweaks to the “Original Mode” of the game rather than introducing more modes. After all, is it really a solution to offer other modes when the game still pleads to the player to select the more brutal mode?
Without entirely eliminating the risk of sudden and unexpected deaths, they could have prevented scenarios where players play the same chapter a dozen times without any luck. A player could still have the stress of hoping that they got it all right, without having that complete feeling of hopelessness. Or perhaps after a few failures the game could make it a touch easier to get through the scenario. That way, the player still has to experience the true vision of the game at least once before making it easier. The vision of the game can then at least be glimpsed at by those who don’t have the god’s favor.
Gods Will Be Watching didn’t appeal to everyone and it probably never should. No truly strong statement is going to make everyone happy. It may have had some flaws in the execution, but offering modes that remove what seems to be the whole point of the game isn’t a good solution. Deconstructeam is setting a potentially bad precedent here -- they’re saying that even in an indie, crowdfunded environment, the artistic vision of a game can be changed by outside forces.