Why we’re tired of waiting for episodic games
With the latest Hitman game breaking from tradition by being carved up chapters for release over a series of months, has the trend for episodic games outstayed its welcome?
Episodic media isn’t a new invention. Some of the greatest stories of our time, from Dickens to Dallas, have been chopped up and served to us in serial fashion. For gaming though, it’s still a fairly novel concept, with most games traditionally being delivered as a complete package.
QorC podcast: Tired of waiting for episodic games
Hitman hit store shelves last week – or rather, episode one did. Split up into monthly installments, the latest iteration of the popular assassin series is being metered out one stage at a time. But even though I love the franchise (Blood Money being a particular high), and though I was really impressed by the recent beta, I didn’t rush out and buy it.
Why? Because when I play a game I tend to consume it all in one go, and I find the idea of slowly working through a title in tiny installments really frustrating – especially if it turns out to be great game, as the reviews suggest. In the words of the late, great Freddie Mercury, I want it all, and I want it now!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against episodic games per se, indeed the Quit or Continue crew played through Resident Evil Revelations 2 (and podcasted our thoughts). The game was structured like a TV show, and split up into very abrupt episodes. These were released weekly, which again, follows a more traditional TV model.
I didn’t actually mind Capcom’s approach (though it was a shame about the game) and found that the regular releases were a lot more palatable than with something like Life is Strange, or the Telltale games, which can have a ridiculous number of months between episodes. Leave me without an update to your story-centric game for a few weeks, and I will have forgotten almost everything when I come back to it.
One of the most interesting games I’ve played in the last decade is The Dream Machine. A claymation point-and-click game that was released in five installments. It’s a cracking adventure with a truly weird and intriguing story. The problem is that I’ve never finished it.
The gaps between episodes dragged on for months, and by the time episode four rolled around, I had no idea where I was, or what to do, so I left it. To be fair to its developers, Cockroach Inc., the studio’s on the small side, it was being constructed an episode at a time and I’ve no doubt that clay animation takes take a while.
But, while I can sympathise in this case, there’s no doubt in my mind that had it all been released in one go The Dream Machine could well have been my favourite game of all time. One day I’ll go back to it for the full experience (I swear), but as it stands this is yet another game in my unfinished pile that ran out of momentum.
The cynic in me is cautious about the quality of episodic content too. The first episode of Hitman seems to be chock full of detail and opportunities for creative killing. The thing is you either pay £12 for just that chunk, or take the gamble on the entirety of Hitman being of the same quality by shelling out £45 right now.
But what if the first episode is the best of the bunch and not indicative of the dross served up by the rest of the game? After all, you would imagine that Square Enix would want to put its most honed and crafted content front and centre.
If you’ve paid the full price then you’re putting your trust in a publisher that blows hot and cold (have you played Final Fantasy XIII?). But, if you elected to pay £12, then you’ve potentially paid twelve quid for a demo. Either way it would seem we, the plucky gamers of the world, could be stuffed.
It’s not even like you can rely on reviews either, because right now nobody knows what future Hitman content looks like. There’s a place for episodic gaming, just not in triple-A titles like Hitman. Leave it for the likes of Telltale where it’s a better fit, because I refuse to play the waiting game.
About Quit or Continue
Want to know more about Quit or Continue? Well, the short version is that we’re four 30-something blokes who love games, don’t have the time we used to and want to guide people like us to make the right choice when they buy games.
We review games in the book club style to tell you if a game is a waste of time. And, even better, we’re here to make your voice heard, so please let us know your thoughts on this or any game we’ve covered.
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