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Thread: More Than an Adventure (An Adventure Games Thread)

  1. #1
    Chakat sex pillow
    Registered: Sep 2006
    Location: not here

    More Than an Adventure (An Adventure Games Thread)

    I'm making this because, as far as I'm concerned, it's better we have a thread dedicated to adventure/puzzle/exploration/narrative games than have people's thoughts buried in some random thread lost to time and entropy.

    I suppose it's helpful to define what an adventure game is. Unfortunately, the definitions on the internet are pretty wide-ranging, and the name itself isn't particularly helpful. What constitutes an adventure game, and what doesn't? Is it just someone (or something) going on an adventure? In that case, pretty much any game that has any kind of focus on exploration and/or mystery is one, from Uncharted to Dark Souls to Minecraft. Clearly, that's not going to suffice. So let's put some guardrails down: usually, when we say 'adventure game', what we mean is something that's engineered to focus on narrative in concert with thoughtful, even cerebral challenges (to wit: puzzles) while de-emphasising the need for twitch reflexes and action. Sometimes you may have more narrative and less figuring things out, sometimes it's the other way around, but usually ginormous action sequences aren't the main draw of such games. I think that helps circumscribe everything from Zork to Monkey Island to The Witness and Fez.

    So where, then, does something like Zelda fit? Metroidvanias? Is Ocarina of Time an adventure game? Well, not really, because the balance of its experience is on action, which makes it more of an action-adventure. Does that mean you can't talk about it here? Of course not. The nature of a genre term isn't to confine or prescribe, in my opinion, but to describe; and single-word descriptors can only do so much to encompass the nature of an experience. I think the Zelda games balance out their action with puzzling fairly well; and even if it's not an exact 50-50 split between action and exploration, then at least there's large chunks of Zeldas that require you to use your noggin. And what we want to do here when we talk about an Adventure Game, I feel, is discuss how that experience felt, how the game's thoughtfulness spoke to you.

    Now I know the objection here already will be 'well shit, that makes Thief and Deus Ex adventure games, dunnit?', and sure, they could fit in here too if you really wanted to monkeywrench them in. But, clearly, immersive sims have their own philosophy, of which brainwork is possible a side-product, so you'd perhaps be best served talking about it in its own sub-forum or an ImSim thread.

    With that preamble out of the way, I hope this thread serves as a repository for your thoughts and musings on adventure-y stuff you've been playing. Fuck knows it'll be easier to find them at least if you post in here.

  2. #2
    Chakat sex pillow
    Registered: Sep 2006
    Location: not here
    So let's talk about Tunic. And yes, in my very first entry here I'm already contradicting the definition I just made. Or am I? Anyway, there are spoilers here. I won't spoil most of the big surprises, but frankly, if you intend to play Tunic, do not spoil yourself even on the small things, just go and play it first. Okay?

    Okay.

    On the face of it, Tunic is a Zelda-Dark Souls game. A Zouls-like. You hit stuff with sticks. Then you hit them with a sword. Then you throw bombs at them, and then you redacted and ♑︎□︎■︎♏︎ and ↑ ↑ ↓ ↓↔↔↗ ↖�� and then you beat the bosses, and you finish the game. End of story, good game, it doesn't fit in this thread, my dude would you kindly do me a favour, etc.

    Except, since I posted about it last, I've thought more about it. How does a game that looks like this:



    take seven years to make? Answer: because it's more than it seems.

    At first blush, you're a fox who's dressed like Link, which is clearly a statement of intent. You go through the Zelda motions, find out that the combat has a stamina gauge, and is sort of punishing, and there's shrines that reup your health but also respawn the things that caused you to lose it to begin with. Ugh, Miyazaki-san claims another victim. So anyway, there's still something compelling about this game - it feels sort of, maybe, tactile. There's an enjoyable palpableness to dodge-rolling, to the way a stick glances off a shield, the way sunlight sinks into grass and stone. Clearly, the creators of the game were in love with both craft and craftwork, as evidenced by its angular painted cardboard world and its penchant for diorama.

    But even here, you get the feeling there's something more to what you're seeing. Why is everything a foreign language in this place? Why is the in-game manual itself in this foreign language? What am I supposed to even do? And then you find a manual page that is, thankfully, written at least partially in English; and then you roll your eyes, because you're playing Dark Souls again. Ring this bell, and that one. And then what? Find out!

    It's a solution to a self-inflicted problem: what if everyone's hostile and there's no one to guide you? Well, give the player breadcrumbs to find. At this point, though, even if it seems uninspired, you're starting to see where this game's real priorities are - in forcing you to scour the environments and find things to help, it helps you to find a reason to even keep playing, because there's these small things that register off the side of your vision that you might keep in an index of Things that Made Me Go 'Hmm!' in your brain. Doors that won't open, hidden rooms with things you don't understand, dialogue boxes you can't grok, places you know will be reachable at some point, just not this minute.

    So far, so Zelda. You ring the bells. And then... well, it's a McGuffin hunt. Your toolset expands, the challenge does too, and you have bosses to fight. You find out how to be better at combat, and upgrade your little fox's abilities. You suss out what the manual's saying in some places which helps you negotiate the challenges better. More odd things in the world show up. Tuning forks? Hooks? When do I get to use them? Meanwhile, the game shows you its tricksy nature by hiding shortcuts in plain sight - or just beyond your sight, behind a wall, or obstructed by a building, say. You take notes, you note landmarks, you note those things that remain unexplained. You now have a map, thankfully, for some of these places at least. And the manual hints at a narrative and some more odd things; there's notations in there? Someone made notes?

    You press on, and you finish the bosses, and then... you die. At this point, I feel, most people would give up on Tunic, because the game continues, but it's inordinately punishing because all the upgrades you scoured the world for and fought so hard for are now gone, and you have to fight again at square one. But this is also where you finally get to see what the game's about - using the information you've gained to progress. Because at this point, you're still equipped with the thing the game can't take away from you: knowledge.

    And because of this, I've never been so impelled to just figure out a game like this in a good, long while. It teases you with mysteries just out of reach, then looks you in the eye and says, 'Okay, boss. Now what are you going to do about them?'

    One of the coolest things about Tunic is that if you started it with the complete manual, and could read its language, you're equipped to end the game in a fraction of the time a full playthrough would have taken. But since you don't know any of that at the start, you have to earn it, and when you do it literally changes how you play the game. Tunic's genius is in knowing that information is its most valuable currency. At the start, you stumble and falter around, threading your way through its innocuous landscape. At the end, you're criss-crossing the place at speed, aware of what almost every feature of it really does, and how you can use it. The game world has reconfigured itself in your mind from simple craftwork cardboard and mowable shrubbery into interconnected layers of meaning and secret pathways. Secrets being hidden in plain sight and how the process of discovering them reframes what you knew about the world: this is the game's strength, and also its biggest weakness.

    You see, I've never found a game that's also so in love with making you figure it out, and I've fucking played Riven. The difference is in Riven you usually know something's a puzzle that you need to come back to when you know more. In Tunic, if you want its good ending, you need to go on a scavenger hunt, which involves some observation and cogitation. This is fine, nominally, but some of its puzzles are incredibly arch and the solutions easy to miss. This is complicated by the fact that there's almost always something hidden around the corner, or next to the corner, or sometimes the corner is a misdirection, but sometimes you need to step back and take a look at all the corners, while sometimes the corners need to be lined up so you can solve something else. And then, just maybe, all the corners come together to answer something grander that's only hinted at elsewhere. So the problem is you're bumping into secrets next to secrets at such a pace that it's sort of ridiculous at times. You get the sense that if you asked Tunic's architects to design a castle, they'd lace the thing with hidden passages and fake walls and rooms within rooms until getting yourself a sandwich meant you'd have to travel through the underworld and back out the other side before you got to the kitchen, but then the sandwich was locked under a glass case that you had to dance a three-step jig in front of before it lifted off and allowed you to touch it. It's a bit much, in other words. And then, after you've finished the game, you can take a stab at translating the rest of its manual from the hints strewn within it (if you want). This is why it took seven years to make. Starts to make a lot more sense now, doesn't it?

    Thankfully, despite all of that, it's more enjoyable an experience than it is frustrating, most of the time. There are some questionable design bits (did you really need to have enemy attacks that reduced my life bar, Andrew Shouldice?), but in the end I loved my time with it. Most of all, because the empowerment it brings to the player isn't from having shinier armour or a superior sword, but from the sense of having learned things that refract your understanding of how the world works, then using that knowledge to forge your way through it.

    In short, Tunic's a great adventure. The world needs more games like it.
    Last edited by Sulphur; 16th Feb 2024 at 02:11.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Sulphur View Post
    One of the coolest things about Tunic is that if you started it with the complete manual, and could read its language, you're equipped to end the game in a fraction of the time a full playthrough would have taken. But since you don't know any of that at the start, you have to earn it, and when you do it literally changes how you play the game. Tunic's genius is in knowing that information is its most valuable currency. At the start, you stumble and falter around, threading your way through its innocuous landscape. At the end, you're criss-crossing the place at speed, aware of what almost every feature of it really does, and how you can use it. The game world has reconfigured itself in your mind from simple craftwork cardboard and mowable shrubbery into interconnected layers of meaning and secret pathways. Secrets being hidden in plain sight and how the process of discovering them reframes what you knew about the world: this is the game's strength, and also its biggest weakness.
    This point is very evident in the various speedrun categories, Restricted 100% (ie. get all items, but basically no glitches allowed) is under 1 1/2 hour long. And No Major Glitches (most unintended warps not allowed) True Ending is around 27 minutes. HowLongToBeat lists Tunic as 12 hours average for the Bad Ending and 17-21 for the True Ending.

  4. #4
    Chakat sex pillow
    Registered: Sep 2006
    Location: not here
    Ah, I didn't look those speedrun times up. Makes a lot of sense, and I think I already clipped into some unintentionally non-solid geometry in the late game, so there's definitely glitches that can make it even quicker to get to the end. Speedrunning Tunic makes a whole bunch of sense, even if it wasn't purpose-built for it, so much respect to those guys.

  5. #5
    Member
    Registered: Jul 2002
    Location: Edmonton
    The way you're describing it, particularly this sentence,

    Most of all, because the empowerment it brings to the player isn't from having shinier armour or a superior sword, but from the sense of having learned things that refract your understanding of how the world works, then using that knowledge to forge your way through it.
    makes it sound like Outer Wilds, which I suppose is also an adventure-adjacent game and is also possibly the best game ever made, so if you haven't played that I wholly recommend it. It's not for everyone, but the things you're saying about Tunic are exactly what captivated me about Outer Wilds, with a nice dose of the sublime for good measure. And then play the expansion, which itself has some of the most goosebumpy discovery moments I've ever experienced in a game.

  6. #6
    Chakat sex pillow
    Registered: Sep 2006
    Location: not here
    That's just about what another person on Ars just told me, and yes, Outer Wilds is next up on my list of things to finally, for real, get to stat.

  7. #7
    Member
    Registered: Jul 2002
    Location: Edmonton
    Outer Wilds fans are weird about telling other people they have to play it because the only way we can experience that wonder again is vicariously. It would really be the one upside to having a massive stroke; that I could play it again for the first time.

  8. #8
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2005
    Location: Netherlands
    Outer Wilds is high on my wishlist. Would you recommend getting it on PC or PS4, Aja? I like the comfort of my couch over sitting at my desk but Iím better with mouse and keyboard than I am with a controller.

  9. #9
    Moderator
    Registered: Jan 2003
    Location: NeoTokyo
    The game is made for a controller, and it makes some parts easier to have it.
    Even if you were playing it on PC you'd probably want to use a controller. IIRC I did that.
    That's unless you're just really better with the mouse & kb even with controller-type games too.

    The game deserves the hype, but I think everybody has heard that by now. And I think it's fair to categorize it as a classical adventure game. It has puzzles, tells a story, you meet characters and learn things about the worlds and the situation, and you actually go on an adventure and make progress towards the thing, and then it throws in some light platforming and spaceflight for good times.

  10. #10
    Member
    Registered: Jul 2002
    Location: Edmonton
    Quote Originally Posted by Harvester View Post
    Outer Wilds is high on my wishlist. Would you recommend getting it on PC or PS4, Aja? I like the comfort of my couch over sitting at my desk but I’m better with mouse and keyboard than I am with a controller.
    I'd recommend PC with a controller, as demagogue said. The PS4 version is capped at 30 FPS, and the spaceflight feels a lot better at 60. For a graphically simple game, it's doing a lot of calculation under the hood, keeping track of orbits and the location of your probes and stuff like that.

  11. #11
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2005
    Location: Netherlands

    More Than an Adventure (An Adventure Games Thread)

    Thanks demagogue and Aja. Iím playing my current game, The Last Of Us Part 2, on Light difficulty because Light has aim assist, I canít aim very well without it with a controller like I can on KB&M. But Outer Wilds doesnít seem like a game where such fast, precise aiming is required so a controller will probably be fine. For the PC I have a wired Xbox One controller. But I only have an early generation i7 and a 1060, so I doubt Iíd hit 60FPS on PC. And I very much like my couch and my 55 inch OLED TV with soundbar and subwoofer. Iíll think about it.

  12. #12
    Member
    Registered: Jul 2002
    Location: Edmonton
    I have a 1060 and I was able to hit 60 consistently. But it’s true, the game doesn’t require much precise movement. A giant OLED would actually probably be better because of all the blackness in space. I vote for OLED.

  13. #13
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2001
    Location: Switzerland
    Just wanted to say that I really enjoyed your posts here, Sulphur. They very nicely highlight why Tunic gave me a lot of those old-school feels, even though I wasn't a console kid and don't have any nostalgia specifically for the games that Tunic riffs on.

  14. #14
    Thing What Kicks
    Registered: Apr 2004
    Location: London
    This got me thinking of Phil Fish and Fez.
    I only ever played a little of it, but I seem to remember that it similarly had hidden depths and a whole world behind the one initially presented on screen.
    I still think he copped a lot of unfair flak, but the social media campaign against him at the time seems positively quaint in these post-Gamergate/MAGA times.

    While this specific sub-genre isn't necessarily my thing, I still enjoy reading people's thoughts on the games!

  15. #15
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2005
    Location: Netherlands
    Quote Originally Posted by Aja View Post
    I have a 1060 and I was able to hit 60 consistently. But it’s true, the game doesn’t require much precise movement. A giant OLED would actually probably be better because of all the blackness in space. I vote for OLED.
    Thanks Aja, I think the black levels of my screen will look good on a space game. I'll get it for the PS4 then and play it from my comfy couch.

  16. #16
    Chakat sex pillow
    Registered: Sep 2006
    Location: not here
    Thanks, Thirith! That's part of the reason why I didn't focus too much on that area, because the game works perfectly even if you didn't relate to its (laser-targeted) evocation of that feeling for the demographic of players who had knew what it was doing. The childhood nostalgia it evokes is a singular feeling, halfway between trepidation at being lost and joy at pushing through, but it's very much additive to the core experience. I also didn't focus on the story because, well, it's evocative enough when you get to the translation, but also somehow a bit slight despite clearly having a good amount of thought put into it; it's ultimately not going to reveal a new emotional core to what you experienced, but what you experienced was very fine anyway.

    Malf: that's exactly it, really. Fez and Tunic are very much in the same school of thought. And while being a person on social media isn't the best experience, I think Phil Fish took it a bit too far when he renounced gamedev entirely. It's a shame that it went down that way.

  17. #17
    Moderator
    Registered: Jan 2003
    Location: NeoTokyo
    I think part of that is GenX & the first half of Millennials grew up on games that were made under increasingly strict memory constraints as you go back in time. The first Legend of Zelda might be a case in point, but especially some of those RPGs like Bard's Tale, Wasteland, and of course Ultima. They packed a lot of lore in a seemingly modest package at first. In the very early days, they'd actually put it in an accompanying manual. Then later they'd put hidden things into the game itself, interactive things, to hint at a much larger working world, and to give the player secrets or things to look for.

    I think that fostered the spirit that later went into immersive sims, but also a game like Fez once the indie game scene became a thing, and it looks like Tunic is tapping into that. Well I think I'm saying things that were already said or implied. I'll have to play Tunic to say anything about it specifically.

  18. #18
    Member
    Registered: Aug 2002
    Location: Maupertuis
    This thread got me to stop waiting and play Tunic. I had been waiting for the right mood to strike, but that mood might no longer be part of my repertoire. Thankfully, the game is as good as Sulphur says, and can establish its own mood.

    I'm currently progressing through the "golden path," and I feel the comparison to Fez is greatly in Tunic's favor. In Fez, the lategame puzzles required an order of magnitude more effort than the main game, and while observation played a large role in solving them, intuition helped little. Tunic's lategame puzzles take a more reasonable amount of effort, and reward both observation and intuition, as a puzzle game (which it kinda turns into) should.

  19. #19
    Member
    Registered: Aug 2002
    Location: Maupertuis
    Another thought: this is definitely an auteur's game, but unlike most such ones (like Fez and The Witness) it respects the player's time. Even my beloved Rain World can't claim that.

  20. #20
    Member
    Registered: Aug 2002
    Location: Maupertuis
    Okay, so what do you do when you're smart enough to avoid Tunic spoilers, wise enough to realize what's going down with the basic ending, and not clever enough to figure out the "golden" ending?

    ...If you're me, you order the game on Switch to start from scratch. Apparently it comes with a physical manual!
    Last edited by Anarchic Fox; 22nd Mar 2024 at 13:40.

  21. #21
    Chakat sex pillow
    Registered: Sep 2006
    Location: not here
    I wouldn't blame you for finding the Golden Path a less than scintillating endeavour, I pretty much said 'nope' after I got the first ending and did the walkthrough instead. There's going to be a lot of trial and error if you intend to do it by yourself, but if you crack it, I think it'd be a moment in your gaming life to be well proud of.

    And that manual is gorgeous, so if you get a physical version, consider me more than a little jealous.

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Sulphur View Post
    I wouldn't blame you for finding the Golden Path a less than scintillating endeavour, I pretty much said 'nope' after I got the first ending and did the walkthrough instead. There's going to be a lot of trial and error if you intend to do it by yourself, but if you crack it, I think it'd be a moment in your gaming life to be well proud of.

    And that manual is gorgeous, so if you get a physical version, consider me more than a little jealous.
    I took the same path, except when I saw the actual ingame steps needed, my poor manual dexterity said "Nope, you'll throw a fit ifwhen it fails because you fumbled one step. Just go look up the ending on Youtube". I'm sure it would feel like an accomplishment to figure out the puzzle and pull it off without outside assistance.

  23. #23
    Member
    Registered: Aug 2002
    Location: Maupertuis
    Quote Originally Posted by Sulphur View Post
    I wouldn't blame you for finding the Golden Path a less than scintillating endeavour, I pretty much said 'nope' after I got the first ending and did the walkthrough instead. There's going to be a lot of trial and error if you intend to do it by yourself, but if you crack it, I think it'd be a moment in your gaming life to be well proud of.

    And that manual is gorgeous, so if you get a physical version, consider me more than a little jealous.
    The manual is included, and it is glorious. There are also a fold-out map and some stickers.

    As for the "golden path," I found all but two golden treasures, including all the fairies, and all but one manual page. However, I came to suspect that there exists a third layer of secrets, so I restarted to investigate that.
    Last edited by Anarchic Fox; 27th Mar 2024 at 16:27.

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Anarchic Fox View Post
    The manual is included, and it is glorious. There are also a fold-out map and some stickers.

    As for the "golden path," I found all but two golden treasures, including all the fairies, and all but one manual page. However, I came to suspect that there exists a third layer of secrets, so I restarted to investigate that.
    The last manual page is the reward for finishing the golden path, you have everything the game gives you in the way of clues. Or at least you have access to everything.

    And yes, if you study what you have, there are clues as to how you get the last page.

    But don't feel down if you can't figure it out on your own, it did require the combined effort of the community at the time to solve.

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