When returning to a game, it’s usually done so in the hopes of getting to enjoy an old favorite again. This was the case for the first game I got back to this year: Ratchet: Deadlocked. Going back to that game felt like rediscovering an old classic. It had all the Ratchet & Clank charm I remembered from my time with the PS2-era games, and it was just as much fun this year as it was almost a decade ago. After having so much fun with this year’s first game in the series, I returned to Assassin’s Creed II with barely contained anticipation. It should have been great, even better than Ratchet: Deadlocked, but, oddly enough, my return to an old favorite did not go as well as I thought it would.
Assassin’s Creed II has been my absolute favorite in the series ever since it was released back in 2009. The whole game made for a fascinating experience thanks to its historical setting and plethora of secrets to find scattered throughout the renaissance era countryside. It really did seem to have it all: a big world to explore, secret histories, sneaking, platforming, puzzle-solving, you name it! It was everything I could have wanted from a game in 2009. However, upon returning to it this month I found that what was great in 2009 might not necessarily be great in 2015.
It hit me as soon as I gained the ability to freely move about Florence and Monterrigioni. Instead taking my time to seek out all of the extras the locations had to offer before proceeding through the story missions, I just did the missions themselves. It’s not that I remembered where everything was and how to complete the tasks, but instead it was an attitude of simply not wanting to bother with any of it. I made myself seek out a few puzzle and platforming sections and did indeed enjoy them, but I never did gain a desire to seek out and complete the others. Even though I had begun this game with a sense of excitement, I was nevertheless approaching it with a completely different mindset from the one I had played with originally.
I’m not ashamed to admit that nostalgia usually has a great degree of influence over how I perceive a game I played in the past. If I liked it then, I’ll probably like it even more in the future. It’s probably why I’ve only ever traded in a handful of games, and why I still spend time with the likes of Sonic 3D Blast (I should think it’s awful, but I just can’t!). So as I said earlier, it came as surprise when I found myself wholly underwhelmed with Ezio’s first adventure. The game certainly hadn’t changed, so shouldn’t I have been enjoying it at least as much as an admittedly bad Sonic game? I suppose the answer was, in fact, “no”.
I think encountering evidence of the changes we go through as gamers and indeed people is a rare thing at the very least. Tastes and preferences often change so gradually over time that unless we stop to think about it, I’d say most of us would never really notice. I started Assassin’s Creed II thinking it would be just as much fun as before because somehow I thought I was the same kind of gamer in 2015 that I was in 2009, and it would seem that I’m really not.
Six years ago I loved what open-world games like Assassin’s Creed II had to offer. They were worlds to explore, to get lost in; worlds that one could sink hours into as they ferreted out its secrets and treasures. It didn’t matter how long it took to find a secret or solve a puzzle, the experience was fun and that’s all that really mattered. It really was fun, and I still think those games sound fun. So what changed? Circumstance.
This experience has got me thinking that what we enjoy in and look for in our games and even other entertainment is at the very lest influenced by our circumstances at the time. Six years ago I had more free time on my hands than I do now, so it kind of makes sense that I would be more inclined to play games that involved a lot of exploration without necessarily progressing through the game. Comparing that with 2015, where game time is limited to a handful of hours per week and the games I play are all either shorter or have a very steady sense of progression, and it’s actually not all that surprising that Assassin’s Creed II wouldn’t play as well as it did in the past. I’m simply not the same kind of gamer I used to be.
Suffice it to say that I did not succeed in finishing Assassin’s Creed II this month. It’s kind of difficult when you wind up feeling like you’re dragging yourself through the game rather than enjoying it. Still, if my theory is correct than perhaps this simply wasn’t the right time to play Assassin’s Creed II and I’ll be able to return to it again once there’s more time to play.
For now though, I think it’s time to further flesh out and test this theory. Is length the prime deterrent when game time is limited or is it a lack of progression? This month’s game is an RPG I’ve been meaning to get back to, one that at the very least has a strong sense of progression, and that game is: Final Fantasy XIII.
Wish me luck!