Games are a series of meaningful choices. Meaningful.
Snakes and Ladders, Candyland, games of that type have no choices. It’s entirely random. Something like Yahtzee has choices based on statistical chance, so the odds certainly favor someone strong in math than just a random roll. The rolls in one turn have minimal impact on the next turn, just the overall score. Compare that to say, Risk, where early decisions (and random luck) will impact nearly every other turn that follows. The complete other side of that is Chess or Go, with no randomness with players who understand the mechanics.
Then we look at replay value, which is often predicated on the number of choices present. 7th Continent is a really good example of a game with a solid set of meaningful choices, but a limited supply. Once you know that A does B – every time – then you can choose to pick or skip A. The choice is effectively removed.
I’ve been thinking a lot about meaningful choices lately. MMOs seem to be going more towards the removal of choice, and focus on randomness. Single player games are all about choices. Spider-Man, God of War, Horizon, Zelda… all games where the player is in control of their choices, and there’s a clear line between their actions and the consequences. In the GoW Valkyrie fights, I never once felt cheated by some random event. They were extremely hard, and each death was painful, but they were all based on clear choices I made.
Running through MHW anew really brings that point home. I can remember the large scale items of the game, the systems, the layouts of the maps, the types of enemies, and their general habits. I know that if I need Ancient Bones… well, I’m only going to find them in one place. Same with Mosswine. But the specifics, I don’t remember that part. For example, I know there’s a campsite in the northern Wastes if you drop down a small cubby hole. I have no idea what materials are required to actually unlock access to it. I know that Barroth has a tough armor to crack, but there was a way to get around that without Mind’s Eye that eludes me.
It’s a bit like having a lot of puzzle pieces and the picture on the box is fuzzy. Knowing something but not quite remembering what it is. It’s both frustrating since you feel like you should know, and fulfilling when you do get it and get a really solid ahhhhhhh.
Long story short, MHW is more fun now since the frustrations of obtuse mechanics isn’t there anymore. I can focus on executing my strategy, and then the moment to moment events. Like having to collect 20 mushrooms and ending up killing a Great Jagras and Pukei-Pukei in the same run. That just doesn’t seem to get old. Next up is my previous nemesis, Anjanath. The fire breathing T-Rex.