I’ve always been a sucker for customization, and making the gameplay feel like something specifically for me. This usually comes from making a custom character in games like Fallout, Shadowrun, and Saint’s Row, or the weapon tweaks in Payday 2 and Dark souls. But I’m not quite talking about those games today. No, I’m talking games more like Warship Gunner or the much maligned Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts. The ones that put up a certain task, set down a box of parts in front of you, and leave you to tackle it however you please.
On the subject of Banjo-Kazooie, while I do agree with the people who feel the bird and bear were shoe-horned in, I loved the concept (not a surprise, given my recent FTD coverage). Sometimes I’d tweak one of my older designs to win the race, defend the statue, or whatever was asked. If I was feeling extra creative, I could create a new design from the ground up, custom made to solve the problem. To call such an experience “empowering” is putting it mildly.
My least favorite challenges in that were the ones that forced me to use a preset vehicle, because I would always look at the design and think “there’s a better way to do this”. I remember having to restart a race on the “inside a console” stage, because my vehicle caught on a obstacle on the last lap, letting all the racers pass me. At this point, I had a leaner, faster, motorcycle that could float on water and had a pair of fold-out wings, so being limited to this crappy car stung a bit. Way to throw all my efforts out the window, game!
Warship Gunner, at least the entry I played, had none of that nonsense. For everything but the tutorials and first mission, you have control over what ship you use, and what is on it. The ship building system has only a few limitations, such as no more than 100 parts on a hull, and a maximum of 8 weapon slots, up to half of which can be set to fire automatically on threats such as aircraft and incoming missiles.
Just as I enjoy action-RTS games, for allowing you to use your skills as a pilot AND a commander, I love games that let you build your gear to be better, or just more suited for the challenge at hand. It’s also a good thing for the game developers, as they can have a wider variety of challenges in their game, knowing the player can adapt accordingly*. The answer is not always more firepower, as escort and defense missions require a ship that is fast, or able to hit targets across the map from a central location.
I’m hoping we see more games like this in the future. Sure, they’re harder to make, harder to balance, and few other things. But I’m willing to pay and willing to wait, if it means I less corridors full of bad guys I need to shoot.
* It’s also more expensive, admittedly. But if we’re going to live in an age with multi-million dollar game budgets, I’d rather they be used on something besides the latest graphics, myself.