Kathy Rain, video game, box art, title, rain, night, sky, buildings, dark

Open-world fatigue: indies to the rescue

During my monthly editorial posts, I’ve often mentioned how it’s been difficult to find time for gaming so far this year. My other-half and I have been undertaking some massive renovation work on our house at the same time as working longer hours in our jobs; and our weekends are spent chasing around after my ten-year old stepson and invariably getting up to some sort of mischief together.

It can therefore be a bit of an effort to work up the motivation to turn on the PlayStation or PC when we do have a spare hour in the evenings. We usually have good intentions but after being stuck at a desk or in meetings all day, it’s hard not to resist the call of a bowl of ice-cream on the sofa in front of some trashy television. However, there are only so many episodes of MasterChef or Dinner Date you can stomach (pun intended).

Last week I came across a post by Dylan over on PlayingWithThoughts entitled What Are Your Thoughts on Grinding? I started to leave a comment about how I’m ‘one of those old-schoolers who doesn’t mind the grind’ but it got me thinking: is there more to it than that? I realised then that the smaller battles or quests which make up grinding suit my current play-style, offering a short section of game that can fill an hour or so but still leave me feeling as if I’m making progress towards an end goal.

Horizon Zero Dawn, video game, female, woman, character, warrior, mountain, view

That being said though, starting up a large RPG when you’re short on spare time can be an incredibly daunting experience. Take Horizon Zero Dawn for example; I thoroughly enjoyed it and fell in love with Aloy, but I’m tired after completing 21 main quests and numerous side missions. I think I’m suffering from a case of open-world fatigue and the thought of going into another title that’s going to take over 100 hours to complete isn’t entirely appealing right now.

That doesn’t mean I’m taking a break from gaming however. In fact, I’ve probably played more video games during the past month than I have done for a while – which may sound strange when you consider how busy life is right now. The answer came in the form of the Steam summer sale at the end of June, like a shining hero stepping out of the open-world fog and handing me the controller in my hour of need.

I’ve already made a start on the 13 games I purchased and so far, these smaller indie titles are fitting in well with our current routine. My other-half and I can get home from our respective offices after a long day at work knowing that even just sixty minutes of gaming will see us make good progress on a title. Although huge RPGs do have a certain appeal, there’s also something nice about being able to complete a game within several sittings and move onto the next one.

Here’s what we’ve managed to finish so far:

  • A Normal Lost Phone – We played a demo at last year’s EGX so I thought I’d give the full game a go. I wouldn’t have said it was anything particularly special, but it was ok; I think it struggles from trying to fit its subject matter into a title that lasts little more than an hour.
  • Mainlining – Another one we played a demo for, at the PC Gamer Weekender a couple of years ago. This one is worth a go if you’re into detective or hacking titles or just want to feel as if you’re a complete cyber-badass at taking down criminals while working for MI7.
  • The Dream Machine – I bought the first two episodes of this point-and-click on a whim because it had received positive reviews. While the puzzles weren’t overly challenging, the storyline was pretty good so I’ll probably buy the rest of the game at some point.
  • Human Resource Machine – I’d wanted this programming simulation for a while because I really enjoyed Little Inferno, one of the developer’s other releases. It’s a good one for anyone who’s interested in coding and likes puzzle games with plenty of challenge.
  • Yesterday – I never like to be completely negative but it was hard to find anything good here. Some of the puzzles are nonsensical, the storyline jumps about all over the place, and is so underwritten in areas that it’s completely unbelievable. I doubt I’ll play the rest of the series.
  • Kathy Rain – I loved the atmosphere in this adventure: it started off as a straight-forward detective story and then got all Twin Peaks. I’ll admit I didn’t entirely understand the plot towards the end but I thoroughly enjoyed it, and hope the developer will make a sequel at some point in the future.
  • Next up is Orwell. It’s an entry that had been sitting in my Steam wishlist for ages and after reading Tabitha’s thoughts on the game over on The Gaming Teacher last month, I finally decided to pick it up in the sale. Then after that I’ll probably tackle Virginia, a title that has been recommended to me by several bloggers I follow here on WordPress. Oh, and I’ve still got to make a start on Life is Strange too because I’m so late to the party.

    So if you’ve been suffering from open-world fatigue too: put down the controller, step away from the RPGs, and pull out that indie gem which has been sitting overlooked in your game library for way too long. You may not find yourself in a world so large or with so many quests to tackle; but you might find an experience which is still as fulfilling.

    19 thoughts on “Open-world fatigue: indies to the rescue

    1. I’m currently playing Life Is Strange myself as it was free on PS Plus a couple of months back. I like it a lot, some elements are a bit of a grind and there seems to be a couple of rough edges my the rather fantastic characters make up for that. It’s the only game in which I was nearly late for class because I was in bed listening to Alt-J.

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      1. Snap: I’ve had it downloaded and ready to go since the PS Plus thing but just haven’t got around to playing it yet. I think I’ll finish up Orwell (started that last week) and then move on to Life is Strange. Let me know what you think once you’ve finished it!

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      1. Yeah, I’m a bit like that myself! Kathy Rain isn’t the best adventure I’ve ever played but it was still pretty good – if the developers make a sequel that answers some of the questions, I’d definitely give it a go.

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    2. I’m still crazy addicted to Fallout 4, which I started in earnest recently after giving up the GTA grindfest. I’ve just replaced one massive game with another…

      Horizon Zero Dawn has become this weekend romp on a Saturday when the wife is at work, but even then it’s going to take months to finish.

      I don’t have any kids, but I’m already finding it more difficult to find the time or energy to play video games, mostly because they’re just getting bigger and longer all the time. It’s a huge commitment.

      Something I remember fondly was Firewatch, which I finished in one sitting of about 3 hours, I don’t mind these shorter experiences these days. Variety is not something I’ve typically embraced, being an FPS player exclusively for years. I’m finding myself drifting off in all sorts of directions now, simply to suit the bite size chunks of time I have available to play games.

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      1. Firewatch was excellent (and beautiful to look at)! It’s that sort of game which seems to fit in with my lifestyle at the moment – something I can finish in a few evenings at the most and not have to remember what I was doing at the last save point. 😉

        I guess that’s the one good thing about not having so much time to play video games as you get older: it forces you to seek out other experiences and titles you might not have considered previously.

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    3. Nice choices! I’ve been trying to make time to finish Human Resource Machine, but as I’m already a software engineer by day, it’s hard to get into the mindset to _write more code_ once I’m done with it.

      Indie games in general are great to have as side-pieces when taking on larger games, as sometimes seeing yourself beat a smaller games gives you the feeling of progress, whereas playing only one game for three months can seem like you’re just spinning your wheels on a single title that’s going nowhere.

      A few months ago I played a cool indie game called Hue – worth checking out if you’re looking to add more short titles to your collection. I beat it 100% in about 2.5 hours 🙂 Played 2-3 levels per night in about a half hour and it was a fun week-long game!

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      1. I do like getting lost in a big game, seeking out the side quests and talking to all the NPCs, but they’re better suited for when I’ve got a period of time off of work and can just become absorbed in them for hours. Indie titles seem to be fitting in better with our lifestyle at the moment – and like you say, it’s nice to feel as if you’re making progress.

        I’ve seen Hue at the past couple of expos I’ve been to but not actually tried it! But on that recommendation, I’ll give it a go. 🙂

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        1. Ah yes, it’s great to plan ahead for a night like that! I haven’t had one of those in a while but when the stars align and you are able to get immersed, it makes it that much better than trying to force it in small chunks.

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    4. I love having a palette cleanser from some of these longer more trying games. Small, bite sized indies are perfect for that.

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      1. I started it last week and have completed the first two ‘cases’ so far. I’ve not yet had to make any really tough decisions so I’m still waiting for the game to ramp up… I have a feeling it’s going to get more challenging!

        If you get a chance to play Orwell for yourself, let us know what you think. 🙂

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