The God of War vs. Elden Ring styles of game design

CriticalGaming

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So I have been seeing a lot of arguments and videos like this


Where basically people are shitting on God of War and other narrative-driven games (usually Sony) in comparison from apparently gamings gift from GOD himself aka Elden Ring. And it's a point of view that really annoys me mostly because many of the arguments don't make any sense. So here's what I'm going to do, I'm going to reference the points in the video above and explain why they are either wrong or just misguided.

Keep in mind though, I'm not trying to shit on Elden Ring for the sake of it (ok maybe a little) nor am I trying to imply that people not liking God of War 2018 or Rag are wrong for not liking it. It's one thing to not like the game, it not being your style, or whatever, that's fine. It's another thing to say it's bad for reasons that don't make sense, or at least falsely comparing your reasons for not liking a game, to a game that literally does the same shit and possibly does it worse.

Let's begin. I will include time stamps for the point the person in the video is making so you can compare what I'm saying to the point they're making.

Starting with 1:15. Saying the AAA-gaming sphere plays it safe is like complaining about McDonalds always tasting the same. AAA games aren't so much playing it safe as they are using tried and true game elements that have been shown to exhibit a level of quality and enjoyment from 30-years of built up game design. They feed off gameplay systems that work well together because the purpose is to make something that will be enjoyable from a playable standpoint. Even in that there are a variety of elements that may or maybe appear in a AAA game depending on the type of game it is. Plus saying that this is a Western problem is simply not true, especially since the big comparison in this video is Elden Ring in which simply builds off the same formula that From has been doing for over ten years now.

2:20 here is complains about not being able to explore the world the way he wants, due to either not having the equipment to progress, or enemies having too big of a level to overcome. Which if you "Get Gud" you can overcome them regardless of level so that's not really valid especially considering the game he compares GoW too. And secondly God of War isn't an open world game, it's a narrative based game with open levels in it. So you are comparing two completely different game styles and are basically complaining about why Beef doesn't taste like Chicken. The design he is talking about is Metroidvania design, where you explore or progress in the game to find new tools which you can use to unlock new areas and secrets in older areas. Metroidvania, you know the game design that heavily inspired the Souls series.

Also he mentions icons all over the map....which...God of War doesn't have. The only icons are for boat docks, or fast travel points, it doesn't tell you where activities are....so...

3:00 He talks about being blocked off from certain areas because of the lack of a piece of equipment, due to the developers only giving the player certain pieces of equipment at whatever point of their choosing. But the thing about that is that God of War doesn't really lock you out of locations based of equipment, it locks you out of puzzles. Again Elden Ring gives the player full freedom, because there is nothing in the game to do except it's base combat. Elden Ring never tests you for puzzle solving whatsoever, the only barrier to getting a piece of gear is your skill in the combat. So one could argue that ER is one-dimentional game design psuhed to it's limit.

3:30 Frankly i dont know what he means by surprising the player. He says you always know when combat will happen, or when you're safe due to level design...which is....good game design. Also you can apply that to ER too, like I always know when I'm gonna fight a boss because there's a fog wall or a huge open arena. Like ER does the exact some shit what is he talking about?

5:30 Yes you have complete explorative freedom in ER, the only bar to entry in the game is your skill capability of handling the enemies in a given area, with the exception of some areas you'll not be possibly able to explore without leveling enough health or farming enough curing items to get through the posion, rot, etc. That's because ER is an open world game, NOT a story driven action game. What's the logic here? How are you going to say God of War has tired game ideas, when ER is using the same ten year old idea that Demon's Souls used? If you want to have a bias have a bias, but at least think about what you are writing in your script.

6:30 You can fight Thor but get two shot by a random enemy later in the game because it's a VIDEO GAME! It doesn't make sense that your corpse can run around and slay the more powerful elden lords in existence either, but here we are. In GoW you can't progress past an area without being able to kill the enemies in your way...just like in ER if you want the good shit you gotta defeat the boss that's guarding it.

7:10 "My smarts and skills don't matter much" Uhh....yes they do. You can beat higher level enemies by being good, and using your skills and equipment in a smart way. See this is just bias, he didn't like GoW and greatly prefers ER so he'll say one is better than the other when the capability for the same thing is present in both games. So it's just a bad faith argument designed to prove that ER is the better game.

7:45 He want's to be able to do what he wants in the game's world. Ok go grow carrots in ER then. This is another bad point because you are always limited on what you can do within the game, because the point of the game is to play by the rules of that game. You cannot play Magic the Gathering in Tetris because they are different games with different rules and mechanics. The only freedom ER gives you is the freedom to run around where ever. He even says in ER you can just go the caelid right away if you want, sure you'll die but at least you are free to do so. Isn't this the same complaint of, "I can't fight this thing because it's too high a rank?" You can go places in GoW and die too, what's the difference?

9:00 Story based games not being replayable is a personal problem, not a problem with the industry. I've played FF games shitloads of times, and to imply you can't replay a story game because you already know what's going to happen is a fucking ignorant point to make. I'm sure everyone on this forum, everyone who plays video games in general can think of several games with story that they've replayed. Sometimes you play for the mechanics, or the combat or to challenge yourself on a harder difficulty like Devil May Cry, resident evils, Bayonetta, countless other games.

10:20 There is combat during the Ironwood section of the game, but he ignores that and says you just collect fruit to prove a point. I don't think player agency means what he thinks it means.

11:00 If you're friend was on a 3rd playthrough of elden ring, and didn't know where two big bosses were then maybe they didn't have the agency to find stuff they missed. GoW let's you miss a lot of bosses, in that there are several bosses the game doesn't tell you where they are and doesn't even hint at it. You either explore and stumble into them, or you don't. Yes you have to fight every boss in the story, but there are lots of bosses that you can never encounter if you don't go looking for them. Again, this point is just a bad faith argument.

11:30 Okay this is fair, the characters in GoW talk too much about puzzles. ALoy however...Aloy NEEDS to talk because you are alone with her for the whole game and they need to both drive home that she's a real character with a personality (a bad one but still) and help the player not feel alone while going around the world. Now ER the character never says anything because the player isn't a really character, they've never been. You control an avatar and nothing more, NPC's talk at you but never with you, you are given objectives but never required to do anything except the main quest which you do automatically no matter what else you do in the game. Still it's a fair complaint to be made against GoW and even Horizon. In addition to this though, ER can gift the player silence because there is nothing to figure out, again there is no puzzles, no traversal challenge other than "Will i die if I fall here". Because the gameplay loop is one note, ER doesn't have to tell the player anything, because if you can swing a sword you can get through the game eventually.

15:15 Can't fathom ER winning any awards? Dude people only had a problem with the best narrative nomination. Nobody has any issues with it winning literally anything else.


A saw another video that complained about how limiting GoW's combat was because you only get three weapons versus an endless amount of weapons in ER. And that's another point that is senseless because is ER you only use one weapon at a time, where in GoW you can swap to all three weapons immediately and string combo's and attacks together through all of them. GoW combat is fair and away more complex than ER's dude to ER's stat weight system and use of one weapon at a time. So while there are more options in ER, the combat is more limited to whatever option you currently have chosen. Not to mention your choices are limited to your current stat layout and you might even be gated on some weapons until you level a given stat enough to use it.

Both games have merits and GoDRag is great. ER is ok. But they are both completely different styles of games that I don't think can be compared directly because any comparison don't fit each game the same way so they don't have equal weights.

I believe that the intended way GodRag was supposed to go, was that players get through the story first. This means you unlock every weapon for unlimited traversal and puzzle solving, then once you beat the story and the freeroam map opens to you, that's where you go finish up side quests, collectibles, puzzles, and bosses, because all the tools will be there for you to handle anything thrown your way. I believe the metroidvania style of gating is meant to give players a reason to come back, as well as a reason to keep playing the story. The intension is to motivate the player to keep going or come back and see what lies behind a spot later on.

In ER there is nothing holding you back except bosses. Beat bosses unlock more places to go, that's basically it. And the freedom comes from being able to do the bosses whenever you want, however that's also not really realistic to most people who play the game. Area's like Caelid will absolutely fuck people up if they aren't ready for it and the fact that the game tells them nothing, is just potentially frustrating.

That's the thing with most AAA games. They want to be played, they want you to get through the game and see it to the end, because they are expensive to make and if a player drops the game because they couldn't figure out where to go, or couldn't get over a skill block, then that's wasted development, and wasted investment. Think about how many people might have played the original Demon's Souls, only to get fucked up and not only never finish the game, but also never touch another Souls game again. It doesn't just hurt the player in wasting money on one game, but it hurt companies because now that player wont touch future games, which means it's a lost sale. And it's a lot of work and effort to get that lost player to try the next game.
 

hanselthecaretaker

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The video comes off as a mix of frustration over legit criticism of design trends and also butthurt over something that’s been steeling a bit of thunder (no pun!). It amounts to little more than bickering over popularity contest bs.

It really can be distilled down to the philosophies of gameplay-driven vs story-driven design. There is merit and he’s not alone in the thought of western devs being “scared” or whatever of players missing out on a game’s content, and providing more “guided” as well as accessible experiences. The topic cropped up at the beginning of the year with Forbidden West and ER.

The rest though…basically amounts to just dealing with it and enjoying what these games excel at or play something else if it’s too much to bear (since, like, both these games also have killer bears that will fuck you up). The industry is better off with some variety, and you can damn well be certain if that disappeared then people would be bitching as much if not more-so about the alternative instead.

As an aside, FROM has been doing pretty well with the “Oh well” mantra to players possibly missing content or never finishing one of their games, but have still made ER to be more approachable than any of their past games. They’ve certainly grown out of a niche market but there seems to still be a high completion/platinum percentage overall.
 
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BrawlMan

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Videos like that I tend to ignore on the spot. I don't even give them the time of day. These are people that are either dead set against God of War to begin with, hate it because it's not like the older games, or just want to shit on anything that's not by From Software. While the newer games take some inspiration from Dark Souls, they still do their own thing. Not to mention, if you don't want to use the trigger buttons, you can either switch to the classical control styles, or customize the controls into the classic style in the sequel.
 

Casual Shinji

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Don't know if the video mentions this (I'm in no real mood to watch it what with the thumbnail giving off "those" vibes), but I do feel Ragnarok doesn't make weapon switching as fast as it should. That combat animations playing themselves out can often take precedent to the switch command. Especially on the way harder optional Boss fights this has been a thorn in my side. I know there's ways to switch super fast (I've seen some combo videos), but the game really doesn't make clear if the input went through and you just have to wait for Kratos to play out his last animation, or if it didn't. I wish this game had the GoW3 insta-switch combat move.

Also, considering what happens to Down on the D-pad later, making the quick-turn L1+Down was not ideal, since I often found myself guarding (with L1) and then pressing Down so "that thing" happens, only to do a quick-turn and bare my ass to the still attacking enemy. I know you can change the quick-turn input, but that option is even less efficient. But then quick-turn in this game is kinda useless anyway, so I guess it doesn't matter too much. Still, weird oversight.

Don't know how much Souls fans get to poo-poo this game though since their franchise of choice still can't get even a decent camera or lock-on going seven games in. Gesamptkunstwerk my ass.
 

Dalisclock

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Don't know how much Souls fans get to poo-poo this game though since their franchise of choice still can't get even a decent camera or lock-on going seven games in. Gesamptkunstwerk my ass.
Don't you know? The true enemy in a Souls game is THE CAMERA.

And I say that as someone whose liked/loved pretty much all of them.

Except Demons Souls. Still trying to love that one and it keeps trying to smash my head through a brick wall.
 
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FakeSympathy

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Yeah, I really don't get why someone would make a video like this, except for click-bait. Can't really say it is a click-bait either, because the dude sounds so sure about everything he says without a hint of irony.

I also feel like he's missing a few points here;
  • What about the fact that both games achieved success, despite NOT being live-service online games designed for twitch streamers , and how the industry seems to be sacrificing quality for the sake of relevancy? In this regard, aren't they breaking the AAA standards?
  • (Arguable) What about the fact that GOWR seems more approachable in terms of difficulty? Not gonna argue that ER or any souls games need a easy mode, but If I had to introduce someone new to the gaming world and had to pick between GOWR and ER, I'd go with GOWR. The game just feels designed to be more accessible with the difficulty settings and more of the "standard" mechanics
  • The traversal in GOWR feels more varied, making exploration exciting. The horseback in ER was nice at first, but goddamn does it get really repetitive. I thought the wolf sled and boat ride were rather nice in GOWR, as well as quick travel. The in-between zone (I think it's supposed to be roots of Yggdrasil?) always feels mysterious while you wait for the gate to open.
  • Having briefly studied UX Design, I was taught that having a lesser choice is always better. having tons to choose from may sound good idea on paper, but in practice, it can only stress out the user; ER may feature hundreds of weapons and spells, but everyone's gonna eventually end up with only a handful of them that are useful to their playstyles. GOWR's choice of three weapons is actually quite nice, despite the weapon switch being rather cumbersome. I also think they chain better compared to ER.
    • For better understanding, pretend you are at a restaurant, and you are really hungry and don't want to spend too much time looking through the menu. Which would you rather prefer; Menu with selected number of dishes distinct from one another, or a menu with 20+ different options with minor differences?
  • Finally, how about the fact that there's a difference between story and lore? I know we have been having a discussion over at other thread on whether ER should be nominated for best narrative, but this guy doesn't seem to address the difference. While I appreciate both ways of narrative structure, I certainly prefer having an actual story to follow rather than collecting clues via item description and NPC dialogs. I just feel it's the better way to develop the interest of the main characters and NPCs alike, because they are actively involved in the narrative. ER and other souls games does give interesting backstory with the said item descriptions and dialogs, but for every answers it leaves 10 more mysteries to be solved.
 

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So I have been seeing a lot of arguments and videos like this
The video comes off as a mix of frustration over legit criticism of design trends and also butthurt over something that’s been steeling a bit of thunder (no pun!). It amounts to little more than bickering over popularity contest bs.
I recognize this guy. @hanselthecaretaker, I showed you that Metroidvania video of his. That one is actually good, and none of that raging griff BS. I've seen some more of his content, and I'd be weary of EndymionTv. When you have videos like these:


It's sets off tons of red flags for me. Welp, he can fuck off completely now.
 

Worgen

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Whatever, just wash your hands.
Everyone knows that both games would be better if they were first person and had colorful demons you were shooting and a double barrel shotgun.

All games should be Doom 2, you know it in your heart.
 

Hawki

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This seems like a molehill being made out to be a mountain. Someone complained about stuff on YouTube, so you've made a thread to complain about someone else complaining?

Oh look at me, now I'm complaining that you're complaining about someone else complaining!
 

CriticalGaming

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This seems like a molehill being made out to be a mountain. Someone complained about stuff on YouTube, so you've made a thread to complain about someone else complaining?

Oh look at me, now I'm complaining that you're complaining about someone else complaining!
That's how i get you. You trapped now birdo, start complaining about how the McRib is never coming back!
 
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Dalisclock

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THIS NEW THING ISN'T IDENTICAL TO MY FAVOURITE THING AND NOW I MUST SHOUT ABOUT IT!!!
LOUD NOISES!

Everyone knows that both games would be better if they were first person and had colorful demons you were shooting and a double barrel shotgun.

All games should be Doom 2, you know it in your heart.
You make a compelling argument and I wish to subscribe to your youtube channel.
 
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hanselthecaretaker

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Don't know if the video mentions this (I'm in no real mood to watch it what with the thumbnail giving off "those" vibes), but I do feel Ragnarok doesn't make weapon switching as fast as it should. That combat animations playing themselves out can often take precedent to the switch command. Especially on the way harder optional Boss fights this has been a thorn in my side. I know there's ways to switch super fast (I've seen some combo videos), but the game really doesn't make clear if the input went through and you just have to wait for Kratos to play out his last animation, or if it didn't. I wish this game had the GoW3 insta-switch combat move.

Also, considering what happens to Down on the D-pad later, making the quick-turn L1+Down was not ideal, since I often found myself guarding (with L1) and then pressing Down so "that thing" happens, only to do a quick-turn and bare my ass to the still attacking enemy. I know you can change the quick-turn input, but that option is even less efficient. But then quick-turn in this game is kinda useless anyway, so I guess it doesn't matter too much. Still, weird oversight.

Don't know how much Souls fans get to poo-poo this game though since their franchise of choice still can't get even a decent camera or lock-on going seven games in. Gesamptkunstwerk my ass.
It is definitely an animation thing, as in it doesn’t seem to have canceling in that regard and/or input buffering of some sort. I think it was already pretty easy to just tap right an extra time for fists, but it’s possible they did a bunch of testing on this and people thought quicker access to fists took precedence over quicker access to quick turns.

Curious as to how one would implement a more efficient/effective lock-on within the SoulsBorne design framework though. Usually people will say just use a shoulder button for soft locking or something, but that wouldn’t work here without sacrificing a more vital combat function. The games also use full 360 degree character movement independently of camera function due to the environments often being hazardous, often compounded by enemy attacks from any angle.

So for instance if you know someone is firing arrows from behind you while you’re say, walking away on a narrow plank in Blighttown or something, it’s easily remedied by quickly turning your character with shield raised to block it vs having to swing the camera around every time they fire.