Unfair Leveling RPGs: Addendum
It seems like I really ruffled some feathers with that whole unfair RPGs post, so I feel I should make something clear: I don’t think any of the games I mentioned suck, much less suck exclusively because of their balance issues. In fact, every single one of those games is awesome in its own way.
System Shock 2 was an intense and daunting adventure through the bowels of a malevolent AI and a viral hivemind. Fallout: New Vegas was an atmospheric trudge through an old Western themed wasteland. Mass Effect 2 was an epic space opera filled with ethical dilemmas and intriguing lore. And Alpha Protocol was a morally ambiguous spy story spiced with conspiracies, interrogations, casual sex, and all the other features commonly associated with good old-fashioned spy movies.
I still rate Alpha Protocol as one of my favorite games despite its horrendous balance issues, because I just loved its approach to storytelling. What you have to understand is that while I do tend to criticize games pretty heavily, that doesn’t mean I think they’re crap. No game is perfect. And I still think every game I mentioned has some serious balance issues that should be addressed.
And I just feel like clarifying that I don’t get angry whenever I’m not using the best build possible. I only get angry when I see a build which there is no logical reason to use. This doesn’t apply to games where the “weaker” build also has drastically changed gameplay that might be more fun to some people.
For example, in System Shock 2 there isn’t really any difference in gameplay between using a laser gun and a regular gun, except for the fact that with a laser gun you’re doing less damage. So System Shock 2 fails the leveling system.
The statement I made about some of Mass Effect 2’s classes being nonviable really only applies to Insanity mode. Which is why it made sense to me, because I played the game on Insanity. That was just my second playthrough, though. My first was on Normal mode, and I was a vanguard. And I enjoyed it. Vanguard might technically be the worst class, but it’s also a lot of fun if you ask me, since there’s much more emphasis on movement.
So I guess the bottom line with Mass Effect 2 is that if you’re not going to play on the hardest difficulty setting, then the balance issues won’t really be a problem for you. It’s still a flaw, but it’s not nearly as terrible as I made it sound in my previous post.
As for New Vegas, it should also get a pass because using guns feels very, very different from using melee. I actually consider using guns or energy weapons to be the “proper” way of playing New Vegas, since that’s ultimately the only way you’ll get a decent challenge, and it fits best with the whole Western vibe the game exudes.
I’m just bothered by how ridiculously overpowered the melee is. I understand that it’s virtually impossible to perfectly balance melee and ranged combat, but surely they could have done better than this. I’m not kidding when I say that using a melee or unarmed build feels like playing with the cheats turned on. It’s absurd. Maybe if they’d done just a bit more QA testing they could have noticed and tweaked the stats just a bit.
Using a Guns or Energy Weapons build is not impossible, it’s not excruciatingly hard, and it’s not unfun. I used guns on my first playthrough and I got a kick out of them. But it’s ludicrously less effective than punching everyone to death. I’m not saying playing with guns is too hard — I’m saying that playing with melee is too easy.
I’m sure I’ll be told that I’m not allowed to complain about a game being too easy. There seems to be a prevailing notion among gamers these days that balance only matters in PvP. I think that notion is completely false. Gameplay matters. Challenge matters. Balance matters.