When First Impressions Don’t Last
It doesn’t happen incredibly frequently, but it’s happened often enough that I’m absolutely convinced that it’s a ‘thing’. Over the last few days I’ve had it happen with two games in quick succession which has got me thinking about it. ‘It’ being: When for whatever reason you bounce off a game fairly well convinced it isn’t for you — but then later return to it and find that, you know what? Actually… It very much is your thing.
Sometimes It’s Easy to Know Why…
My go to example here is Dark Souls II. I very excitedly picked up the PC release, having previously looked on enviously at the PS3 crowd with their Dark Souls and Demon Souls before that.
Day 1 I didn’t even get through the tutorial. I remember distinctly thinking the controls were shite while trying to learn controlling the direction of the character, in a run, to jump over a little tiny gap to get an item on the far side.
I put it down in disgust after trying the jump a few times. The next day I did return though, and made it through the tutorial… But then quickly became demotivated again. After having made it through the tutorial area, but before reaching Majula… I hung a left into the area that would ultimately lead to the Shaded Woods later in the game.
You couldn’t get that far yet, but that hardly mattered. The little bastards that hide out in the stone enclosure there were enough for me. I again threw up my hands and put the game down for quite some time.
In my mind, I had no problem with the concept of challenging combat. It was a large part of what I was there for. But I wasn’t prepared to accept that the game was challenging because the controls were also fighting against you.
Of course, the problem wasn’t really the controls. It was just my familiarity with them. I’d been a pretty die-hard Mouse + Keyboard player for anything character driven to that point. My console controller gaming was limited almost exclusively to JRPGs or racing type things.
But I didn’t even think about picking up Dark Souls II again until about 6 months later when I happened across a Let’s Play. It was set near the beginning of the game, and I could see that more precise control of direction and the like was certainly possible. I had a near jaw drop moment when I saw that I should have carried on down to Majula proper and then around into the Forest of the Fallen Giants as the first area.
I’m incredibly thankful for having seen that and becoming motivated again, otherwise I would have continued to miss out on a fantastic game series and never learnt the necessary controller skills.
…And Sometimes it Isn’t
Moonlighter is one such. I bought the July humble monthly early to gain access primarily to Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, but have ended up not touching that one and playing Moonlighter instead.
Which in and of itself is not too unusual — I don’t generally understand even my own gaming whims. But in this case I’d played Moonlighter before and decided very much that this was not a PC game for me. It sat firmly in the category of games that I’d rather play on the Switch. I put it down on the PC after about 45-50 minutes of play.
But this time I’ve gone in deep. I’m about to defeat the Golem King at the end of the first dungeon-set, I’ve invested heavily in both the town and my shop. Constructed a full set of the base armor and non-trainer weapon and enchanted them up the wazoo.
Nothing significant about the game has changed since I last picked it up. I just didn’t really appreciate it last time around. And now I do.
It’s also happened with a markedly different game — DoTA Underlords. After playing through the tutorial round I gave it a hard pass. Next day — a weekend — I played it in basically all my available gaming time.
I’ve become a pretty savvy early- and mid- game player, but my late game play is certainly lacking right now. If the game starts dragging out too long past the mid-20 round mark, I find myself falling off in power relative to the other strong players something fierce. That screenshot above as fourth place was after leading the pack for the entirety of that game… Until all of a sudden I wasn’t any more. ;)
One thing I should call out too, because I know the DoTA branding will alone strike fear into the hearts of many — don’t worry. If you’re keen in giving it a go, just do it. And jump straight into the multiplayer.
While yes, it’s a competitive game — you play entirely within your own playfield, with your opponents assembled team (and yours) being AI controlled. Even if you do really poorly in executing your strategies to start out, you’re a) not disadvantaging anyone else, there is no team mates to be worried about, b) not subject to the opinions or heckling of any other player.
Those points aren’t what flipped me exactly, but I feel they’re worth calling out anyway.
I don’t actually know what it is that flipped me. As noted with Moonlighter, certainly it wasn’t anything to do with the game itself. In this instance I literally came back the next day and simply had a different opinion of it.
The second day when I was playing and asked myself, ‘Am I having fun?’ the answer had switched to ‘Yes’.
So if it isn’t the GAME that’s changing…
I can only conclude that there is a strong mindset, or contextual element.
For Dark Souls it was being about being in a headspace where I was willing to learn a new basic, fundamental skill (e.g., using a controller instead of M+KB).
For Moonlighter I’m less certain. I had been playing a lot of Stardew Valley on my Switch the first time around, and had recently discovered that Hollow Knight was indeed a thing I loved on the Switch.
So it’s entirely possible my thinking more generally was coloured by that, and I was looking for other things ‘better on a Switch’. And for what it’s worth, I still think that Moonlighter would be a great experience on Switch. It’s available there now I think, but haven’t as yet tried it.
DoTA Underlords though? That one I’m not even sure I have any sort of solid theory on. The ‘Am I having fun with this?’ question simply had a different answer from one day to the next.
And these are just three examples from a fairly lengthy history of this happening for me. Way back in the day — EVE was another. I bounced off EVE three or four separate times before I really got into it. But that one I can answer. The successful attempt was with a group of friends — and co-op can make pretty much any experience better. ;)