Monday, December 31, 2012

Doing it again isn't fun.

One of 2012's most critically-acclaimed games is The Walking Dead, an adventure game (which is to say, a game about clicking on everything) with some action elements. The major point leading to its acclaim is the strength of its character interactions. I bought it on sale, and unfortunately I'm now regretting that; not because of the story, but because of the saved game system.

Naturally, a game which forces you to make decisions needs to make those decisions count; so the game only has one save file for a playthrough. That, unfortunately, is where the problem lies; there's no explicit saving allowed, in a bid to avoid save-scumming. That puts the player at the mercy of the developer's autosaves, and they have scant mercy. They're infrequent; it's perfectly possible to go half an hour of solving puzzles, talking to people, and generally moving things on with no autosave happening. They're hidden; I don't actually know if there's any way to tell when they happen. I certainly haven't seen a way, and I haven't seen any kind of tooltip suggesting it. I found out the hard way about the half-hour; I started playing again, and found myself not having solved a puzzle I know for a fact I'd solved half an hour before I quit the game. At which point I promptly quit again, and am now considering getting rid of the game; because the developers do not have the decency to respect my investment of time.

Shamus Young has decried the idiocy of "Do It Again, Stupid" gameplay, but I feel that this is worse. DIAS merely wipes some of your progress in a predictable manner; this frankly broken save system wipes progress in an UNpredictable manner that doesn't even show up until one re-starts the game; at which point, with the vagaries of human memory being what they are, it is nigh-impossible to recall what is or isn't actually done, particularly given the lack of indication attached to saving. The entire point of saving the game is to ensure that what the player has done in the game remains done; that's why the save system of The Walking Dead cannot be described as other than broken. It doesn't perform its most basic function reliably.

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