Gameplay In TEW2 is Simplistic Compared to TEW1

(Discuss the game)

Gameplay In TEW2 is Simplistic Compared to TEW1

Postby SutterCane » Jan 05, 2018 2:25 pm

I treasure the original Evil Within as a game that is holistically designed around resource management and player decision making that would usually involve some sort of trade off. The Evil Within 2 has a very different design philosophy where resource management is treated as a largely irrelevent side game and the idea of a player's decision having any kind of downside has been removed everywhere it could be. The reason for the changes is obvious, they wanted to remove as much stress as they could from the game so as to provide an experience that will never frustrate someone. Of course any amount of difficulty and complexity will always frustrate someone so the end result is TEW2 being a very simple and inoffensive game. I don't see much that's been added to the table with TEW2's gameplay but I see a whole lot that's been taken away in terms of my tool set and in the amount of forces I have to react to or play around.

I started writing this because I was playing through TEW2 using only the pistol and I was struck by how that playthrough wasn't feeling significantly different from the ones I had been through before despite the seemingly harsh limitations. It was a disappointing playthrough because I did the same thing with TEW1 and was impressed by how different the pistol only playthrough was from what I had tried before. I would play TEW2 for a little while, get tired or annoyed by something and then add to this as therapy, the whole thing is coloured by that pistol only playthrough. I wasn't going to post this because I'm aware how long it is but I need to vent. I wrote this as one long thing but I've split it into spoilered sections to make it easier to read and so it doesn't take a half hour to scroll down to the bottom.


Matches


Before I get into talking about larger gameplay elements of the Evil Within series I want to focus on the burning issue of matches and just how much they added to the game. Without even going into their primary use, combat, matches could affect various objects in the game world such as haystacks which could then be used in combat. You could kill a sleeping Haunted by burning them, I'm very much against getting a free kill off these guys so I view using a resource to kill them a good thing. They could also remove obstructions such as bodies or haystacks... again, to provide access to an area or supplies. It's not much but it was something that could have been expanded in the sequel, electric bolts promised to fill that void somewhat with fuse box locked doors but they never properly implemented that feature beyond using them to open shortcuts back to old areas one room away. A minor facet of their more tame uses but one I found quite sweet and humanizing was that they averted a gory finisher opting instead for something that felt more like a mercy or exorcism. I'm willing to bet you cremated the journalist as an act of respect but you probably didn't want to stomp your wife's head in and not just because she's inexplicably full of white chewing gum. You might stomp her head in for a Seb is a gumshoe visual pun, puns can be a powerful motivator for stomping a person to death.

When it does come to more direct uses matches offered up a wide variety of strategic decision making. First off and simplest of things to consider is whether you actually have matches, when you tie the act to a limited resource it starts to not always seem worth burning just one lone Haunted and if you do use matches frivolously then you will lose access to a powerful combat tool. When you knock an enemy to the ground you don't necessarily run up and burn the poor sod right off, you might want to wait for more of his friends to show up to get caught in the explosion all the while risking either him getting back up or messing up the timing altogether. If you've caught an enemy alone you might want to kill them without matches and then use their corpse as part of a trap using matches to instant kill a tough enemy or group of enemies, beyond being a coup de grâce they were a weapon in their own right. During the whole animation of lighting a match you are vulnerable to being hit, it adds significantly to the risk factor of using a match and stresses timing and spacial awareness in a way that would have been largely voided had they used i-frames.

Stomping replaced matches. What is the right time to stomp an enemy? Right away. I have fully covered stomping, didn't take as long. I will go a bit further and say that I would rather stomping not exist, that nothing replace matches. When you ran out of matches grounding an enemy still had value in TEW1. You were given an easier headshot which against a masked enemy would allow for a headshot that bypasses the mask. You also immobilized the enemy which is worthwhile in and of itself. With a stomp being invincible and unlimited in use there is no reason to headshot a grounded enemy or otherwise utilize its vulnerable state. It's also worth noting that they balanced leg shots around stomp's inclusion in a way that negatively affects hit reactions but I'll go into that later. A minor but regular annoyance is being unable to stomp sleeping enemies, I'm against killing a sleeping enemy for free so I agree with it not being possible to stomp them but there aren't any good alternatives. Glassing a grounded enemy won't work sometimes and by sometimes I mean every other Lost is immune.

I know people would argue story based reasons for matches not returning but I figure if Tatiana and the upgrade chair could return as some sort of empowerment for Seb from his experiences in TEW1 then matches could likewise. Also wasn't Anima the cause of the Lost and wasn't she Laura? So they should be vulnerable to fire anyway. Alternatively they could've replicated their effect with another item. We're in the mind of a little girl after all, they could even tie the replacement for matches into Lily and Myra/Seb's relationship, mix gameplay and story together like the the original did.

After TEW2's release I had the disconcerting realization that a large amount of people had no idea what matches were for. Many, including professional reviewers, thought that they were for burning every dead body they found for no reason and not much else. Viewed that way it's a repetitive mechanic that they are glad to be rid of. I'm paranoid so obviously I think that's the real reason matches were replaced with stomp. It is consistently frustrating with TEW to see how poorly understood it's mechanics are, anytime someone refers to forced stealth sections in TEW outside of chapter 1 and 11 I'm baffled as to what they are talking about. With matches the lack of understanding is particularly frustrating when the first few levels include a number of truly dead bodies that don't react to teach you that it isn't worthwhile to burn the dead.



Movement

Movement is a core gameplay element of TEW1. The whole thing is obsessed with presenting you with new ways to force you to consider the way you move, typically through traps. In TEW1 the game had three main speeds at your character could move at, each having unique benefits and drawbacks, with a major consideration being that the faster you moved the more difficult it was to halt movement or turn sharply. Sprinting was primarily used for dodging attacks, without using the sprint button many attacks such as grabs are unavoidable, as well as for putting space between you and your pursuers who simply can't move as fast. Sprinting is balanced by a stamina bar that prevents you from simply running away forever, you have to turn and face your foes eventually, if you run out of stamina you are left winded and immobile allowing enemies to close in. Normal movement allows you to recover stamina and to move at a more measured pace. Crouching forces you to move slowly but is necessary to avoid a wide variety of traps that are placed throughout Ruvik's sadistic mindscape, it also allows for more fine tuned movement that the faster, jerky speeds aren't capable of.

Taking too much damage results in much slower movement and an inabilty to sprint. With that in mind it becomes more important to heal and that's where I think things get a little bit more controversial. To use a syringe you have to stand fully still which obviously leaves you more vulnerable, to use a medkit you have to remain immobile even longer and if you want to regen naturally you have to stand still for a very long time. This is major source of frustration for many I know but having to create space to heal adds an element of strategy to the game that wouldn't exist without these deliberate limitations. Weapons that help you clear space like the shotgun or flash bolt have greater necessity when you have more situations that require their use, it feeds back into that resource management gameplay. If you are damaged and need to heal you might opt to end the fight quicker as another way of dealing with the problem, again likely using more valuable resources.

Switching weapons itself becomes a consideration when the game only slows down time a little. Enemies still encroaching during your selection puts you under greater pressure to decide what to use and it helps the flow of combat to not have gameplay pause every time you need to make a decision. Where this gets to be even more crafty is when it comes to the agony of picking a bolt, you choose bolts by pressing square to cycle through each type one at a time. Selecting bolts that way results in a player often panicking and likely pushing the button too many times, skipping the choice they wanted and having to go back around the whole selection again, the solution being to slow down button presses taking even longer to select a weapon. It's a mechanic lifted from Godhand which had the main character select his moves via a roulette wheel which controlled similarly. On top of that if a player wants to craft a bolt they have to quickly do the math on the spot and decide whether the bolts they want are worth the price. The weapon wheel in TEW1 adds an additional aspect of time management to the gameplay which increases tension and gives the player something to plan around. The quick select function then had greater value since mapping a weapon you were likely to use would save you time, another element to plan around.

Given the advantages and disadvantage of all the movement styles the level designers played about with forcing the player into one or the other. Chapter six's setpiece with the gatling harpoons arena fight is a perfect example of what I'm talking of where the raining harpoons force you to sprint for cover while in the same area countless wall bombs will force you to crouch allowing enemies to close in while you are deprived of stamina. There were a lot of silly little animation quirks in the original but at times they would work them into gameplay, Seb would stand after disarming a bear trap for example and that works its way into gameplay as something you have to time during chapter ten's spinning blade segment. I'm not saying that those quirks should remain but that they did force you to make certain considerations and that those considerations are worth replacating. As well as playing with forcing you into an existing movement styles with the environment they also had deep water slow your movement and even a short swimming section that had some minor platforming.

When it comes to TEW2 I found movement to be less well defined between the three styles. Sprinting wasn't necessary for dodging and it wasn't good for creating space between me and an enemy because most enemies out pace Seb, it felt like it existed for traversing the large world and not much else. When you run out of stamina you still sprint at a fair clip too so you aren't penalized very much for messing up. Regular walking controlled more like crouch did in the original TEW which allows for fine movement during exploration, I personally found this irritating and pointless since that's what crouch should be for. Regular movement I feel should be focused on combat situations and not exploration ones, the way it works in TEW2 means that Seb's sprint controls and his regular movement clash even though both are the primary combat movement. Seb faces the direction of the analogue stick with sprint but his back faces the camera and he strafes with regular movement, it's jarring. Crouch is now only for stealth, since regular walking does everything crouch does and traps don't exist it isn't worked into gameplay much outside of stealth.

Healing was removed as a movement consideration, low health isn't as debilitating either.

TEW2's version of crossbow bolt selection fits it's gameplay better, there's no point including the square button roulette wheel in a game that pauses time. Of course I'd rather time didn't stop.

Level designers no longer force you into one movement style or the other. Even simple things like water slowing movement wasn't incorporated into the gameplay. While I wasn't that interested in what they did with swimming in the original I thought it had potential for some interesting applications, particularly in an open world where a water monster section you have to traverse more than once could have added some tension and variety.

You were probably annoyed by the over long collection animations in TEW2, I like them because they force you to time your pick ups during stealth segments which prevents you sprinting through an area unhindered. They aren't utilized to their full effect however as after enemies are alerted they become greatly shortened, more or less defeating their positive aspect, and they also have i-frames I believe. There are lots of animations that complete much quicker in TEW2. Something simple like charging through doors in a smooth motion or rolling over a car, the less weight you give an action like that the less you have to consider it during gameplay and the easier it is to blitz through an area. It's hard to convince people that it's better to open a door slowly rather than barge right through but opening a door slow adds something you have to plan around to gameplay while barging right through adds nothing to consider. It's nice to have things complete quickly for convenience but when convenience strips away at strategy I don't think it's worth the trade off.


Crafting

Crafting is a complicated issue. To start with it lost a key facet of the decision making involved in the original. Originally you were faced with a choice of either using a trap as is or dismantling it for trap parts. Either choice could be completely valid but it also meant that if you decided to play without the crossbow/crafting you still had traps to have fun with. So when it comes to how crafting parts are obtained there has been significant removal of the decision making involved there, there isn't any at all really.

Weapon balance for guns has been knocked off kilter in TEW2. Not only is the pistol a good bit weaker in terms of what it can do, more coming up later, but due to level design no longer having a focus on traps the gun loses much of it's value as a utility weapon. Enemy heads move around a good deal more so the sniper isn't as effective as it could be, what's more the power difference between it and the shotgun is less of a stark contrast. There aren't many ranged enemies to deal with either and enemies move into melee distance very quickly. All of that pushes the shotgun as the solution to any problem TEW2 throws at you.

Making ammo for guns sounded great in my head leading up to release, the big feature for me was the promise of being able to run through the game using any gun I wanted, which to be fair it does let you do. The problem being that running through the game with whatever I want isn't all that interesting, also I did it in TEW1 anyway. A glaring flaw in the system of crafting any ammo you like is that all the guns do roughly the same job, cause damage, and that pushes you into a very easy decision of picking the most efficient option. There's no downside to making only shotgun ammo, it's mathematically superior to the pistol in all circumstances, if you aren't upgrading it's probably what you did.

Crafting becomes your main source of ammo pretty damn quick. What that means is I use my shotgun a lot. When you are given ammo in it's raw form you are forced to make do with whatever you have, you have to use each bullet type to it's greatest effect. You may not want to ever use the pistol but when ammo is tight you find yourself using it in situations you'd rather not just to conserve ammo in more powerful weapons. You no longer have to decide what weapon to use in which situation only what to make ammo for, which is a decision easily made.

It's a new game plus item but I think the TEW2 magnum demonstrates my point very clearly. It deals more damage than the rifle, it costs near the same and it's easier to use. After getting the magnum the sniper rifle is made fully obselete, it's likely why it's a NG+ item since it's a slap in the face to anyone that upgrades the rifle. In a game where both depended on found ammo both could coexist simply because ammo could balance them.

The bow has almost the opposite problem. In TEW2 you now pick up ammo for the bow like you did for guns in TEW1. You still craft for it but only if you have an item that corresponds to the bolt type. The thing is that deciding what to craft for the bow isn't clear cut like with the guns, the bolts all fulfil a unique role and they aren't interchangeable or always focused on raw damage dealing. TEW1 chapter 6 burning house will have you wanting to use flash bolts, a clone Ruvik a freeze bolt, a boss a bomb, and so on.

When all the things you can craft have diverse applications it makes the decision of what to craft and when much more difficult when they all share a common resource. You don't want to deprive yourself of boss killing power later on in chapter 6 because you used your parts for crowd control. Unfortunately in TEW2 bolts don't compete for a common resource, their gunpowder use is negligible, so you wind up crafting whatever your supplies allow without putting much thought into it.

I do like the flash bolt's rebalancing into smoke bolts, great choice there. Flash bolt allowing stealth kills was a poor choice but I love that if people want they can upgrade smoke bolts to have that function.

There isn't a magnum style item in TEW2, a rare and precious resource that you have to think extra carefully about using. By being as powerful as it was it was sort of universally useful in any kind of eventuality, it was as useful during the chapter 11 gondola as it was during the chapter 14 boss for me. That makes for a tough decision to weigh up. Grenades were a similarly limited item, there's possibly a dozen or so in the game, and they were a unique weapon in that they needed an enemy to be stationary to score a good hit. They were also probably the strongest weapon in an unupgraded game so they existed in this role as a supreme boss killer that required set up to effectively use and had a competing use as a divine crowd clearing device. Not in TEW2.

On the opposite end of the spectrum there's now no low value ammo to be found either. The original having the pistol obtain regular ammo gave you a weapon that while weak was almost sort of throwaway in terms of its resource value. That allowed them to design low value encounters where the shotgun wouldn't seem worth the expense but the pistol is just right. That allows those encounters to still retain a bit of a challenge too since you fight them with your weakest weapon. At the same time there's less danger of over shooting how much pistol ammo they give out because when shit hits the fan you aren't going to be reaching for your pistol first, unless upgraded of course. When I complain of not getting enough resources during stealth segments I'm talking primarily about the right kind of resources for such low tier, undemanding combat. I'm well aware I can kill everything using combat in TEW2 but it's usually with overpowered weapons for what the situation needs and leaves me feeling dirty.



Upgrades

Upgrades were not handled as well as I'd hoped in TEW2. To start with upgrades not sharing a single common resource was a big mistake. Storywise it was interesting that Sebastian gained all his power via green gel. Seb didn't increase his revolver's ammo capacity by giving it more holes in its circular bullet holder but by jamming jam into his brain. It added to the dreamlike quality of the STEM world, it opens up questions about the upgrade chair and just what exactly the nature is of the substance Seb is shooting into his brain to gain power. When Seb's power no longer comes from one universal source it diminishes the significance of that power source and it's meaning.

Upgrades not sharing a common resource streamlines the process of weighing up your options. When I play through TEW1 with upgrades I have to make genuinely tough choices between upgrading a character trait like stamina and the amount of ammo I can hold or a weapon trait that will help me deal better damage. That choice is gone now and you instead pick both character and weapon traits simultaneously without any trade off or decision required. Decision making is further hampered by how upgrades are tiered more dramatically for weapons in TEW2, costs for upgrading a weapon get exponentially higher as you go up the upgrade tiers. TEW1 did something similar, the difference was that TEW had gel drop rates are roughly similar throughout the game while in TEW2 weapon parts drop in much higher quantities later on. It's not a huge deal that weapon parts only drop in higher quantities after the mid game but it does make earlier specialization down one path harder.

Ah but there's still the choice of what weapon to upgrade in TEW2! No, not really. It comes back to ammo being craftable and how it's not really worth crafting for more than one weapon. If ammo were out of your control there would be a more valid reason to upgrade all weapons so that you could make best use of every type of ammo. This decision making gets even more streamlined once you start to weigh your options and crafting costs. The shotgun starts off twice as good as the pistol in terms of crafting efficiency, the best the pistol can ever be is par with the shotgun after upgrades. So upgrading the pistol isn't so smart. The shotgun can only be upgraded a little, you don't see much return on your investment. That leaves the sniper but in my eyes the sniper's extra damage is overkill and when it isn't, well that's usually against a boss which spews out free pistol ammo making the sniper's main selling point of it's extra crafting efficiency versus bosses moot. Bolts is what I'm getting at here, better to upgrade them over anything else because they work off ammo and they get really good really quick. A part of my issue with what to upgrade is that the shotgun starts off good and does it's job perfectly fine, upgrading other things feels like gravy on top rather than a necessity.

You could make similar argument that choosing what weapon to upgrade in TEW1 wasn't always so difficult when the bow was strong there too but then that's all the more reason to not boil the upgrades down to that choice alone. Of course I disagree and say having to factor in ammo adds a great deal to that process.

If you are playing a weapon restricted or no crafting run then upgrades for less valuable weapons can then become more relevant except for the sniper or assault rifle in a no crafting run because the game drops all of 10 rifle rounds. I'm not going to diminish the value of upgrades supporting those runs, I'm still very much happy that upgrades are a part of TEW2 and still think they add a lot to the game. Also yeah you could make an argument that upgrading a pistol's capacity to 12 allows you to enter a boss fight with no ammo and leave with 60 pistol rounds, so maybe the pistol is a weapon worth upgrading but I consider that exploiting a badly thought out mechanic.

The pistol is an odd case in TEW2 when it comes to upgrades. In TEW1 the pistol was rigourously balanced, especially the hit reactions and the choice between making a head shot or leg shot. Even without upgrading the headshot and leg shot were still effective with three shots to the head to kill or two to the leg to set up a match kill, one if they were sprinting. In TEW2 the pistol is worthless unupgraded because it no longer triggers hit reactions against enemies as easily. You need to shoot a Lost four times in the leg to cause it to fall down, that takes far too long to be worth it even if you make every shot. Upgraded however it's too damn good, fully upgraded being able to kill every Lost in a mere two hits to either the leg or head. The problem is that stomp messes up the balance. When you make the leg shot as easy as it was originally you have pretty much given the player an easier headshot alternative yet when you make a leg shot too hard it leaves combat feeling dull and slow.

I did play through both Evil Within games with only the pistol and it shows up a problem with how the poor weapon balancing in TEW2 affects your upgrade choice. In TEW1 they didn't tie headshots or leg shots to damage dealt, what that means is that fire rate and accuracy become more valuable for making those critical shots. You have a choice there of making your pistol more powerful against bosses(damage) or better at skill shots(fire rate, accuracy) or better at making headshots(critical). In TEW2 damage increases cause enemies to take better hit reactions, it causes head and leg shots to happen quicker. It makes damage the more obvious choice for upgrading since it will both save you ammo and take an enemy down easier, fire rate lost it's niche and the critical was devalued against Lost because they don't take many headshots when damage is upgraded. Stockpiling ammo early on was important in my TEW1 pistol run so upgrading stock was important early, that's obviously not something I had to factor in to my TEW2 pistol run.

So even when it comes to deciding what to upgrade on a weapon specific basis the decision making has been simplified. The shotgun has similar issues but going into it would be repetitive and I'm aware I've been unavoidably repetitive when talking about upgrades, especially considering I care far less about upgrades to begin with and only see them as a source of unbalancing the game I normally avoid.

No the pistol becoming good in TEW2 after upgrades doesn't contradict what I've said about the pistol not being worth upgrading, it makes it almost on par with the shotgun but not quite. I don't need two shotguns except the actual shotgun is better, didn't need upgrading and can hit crowds. In TEW1 the pistol getting a frequent supply of ammo gave you a very good reason to upgrade it over other more powerful options.

I had hoped upgrades for Seb in TEW2 would have been used as a means of making the original game's more patience testing aspects more palatable to people that couldn't handle them. I-frames on match use, ability to safely walk over bear traps and through trip wires, undetectable by wall bombs, unhindered by water, avoid one hit kills, that could've all been cheaply available in the upgrade tree. Of course none of that returned in TEW2 to get upgraded away. Alternatively they could've brought back RE4 features to help immigrants feel more comfortable or a dodge for people that can't manuever around attacks, I dislike both those things but as upgrades I don't have to bother with I don't care about their inclusion. Instead the game's upgrades for Seb focused in on this moronic "choose your Seb" nonsense where you primarily choose between combat or stealth.

That's an easy choice for me to make, I consider stealth in TEW2 to be a completely broken, unbalanced mess and that the upgrades for stealth make it even worse. There aren't however that many combat upgrades to choose from before you get to either the ones that are useless, melee, or gamebreaking like synaptic focus. The end result is that after buying steady hands I feel like I have nothing left to go for. A part of that is down to removing stock as an upgrade consideration, another is melee being made even worse, another is stamina starting off completely fine, health doesn't seem to last as long in TEW2 but low health isn't as dangerous so upgrading it isn't as worthwhile, recovery doesn't get boosted as much either. I'm left feeling like upgrading Seb isn't so worthwhile in TEW2, even steady hands only really matters if I care to use the pistol.

A big problem with the Seb upgrades however is that stealth became an upgrade path. Now people that followed down the stealth path will expect to have their choice validated by the game constantly providing stealth oppurtunities.



Stealth

Stealth was a major complaint against TEW1 for a surprisingly large amount of people. I say surprising because a lot of those complaints were to the effect that it wasn't good enough and that it wasn't always available, like the developers forgot they had it as a mechanic. The developers didn't forget about stealth, they used it sparingly because they knew if it was always an option it would completely undercut any resource management gameplay which it does totally in TEW2. Likewise I have no idea why anybody would want a gameplay style that uses zero resources to be also very easy to use and strong in a survival horror game.

Stealth in a survival horror game is often criticized for the wrong reasons. People will make direct comparisons to Metal Gear, Splinter Cell or Thief and complain that the survival horror game should try to have stealth like those. However those mainstream stealth games don't have any aspirations to force the player to conserve resources at any point, they aren't designed around disempowering the player in any way at all either so directly emulating those games would be to miss the point of the genre. Now I don't think any survival horror game has implemented stealth perfectly even if some have come close, they usually try to do some disempowerment (no weapons, limited moveset) but that kind of disempowerment is ultimately what a Metal Gear player is aiming for anyway and I'd say the ability to pass undetected is actually empowering. Survival horror stealth games then completely forget to tie the systems to resource management (no guns=no ammo to conserve) which botches any long term dread. Stealth in survival horror winds up dull, limited and self defeating.

Alternatively there's the mistaken assumption that game's like TEW1 are in the same genre as something like Deus Ex or System Shock, adventure RPGs/immersive sims. They aren't. In Deus Ex the game revolves around player choice and freedom, in a game like that it's forbidden to lock the player down in a room with a boss and force them into combat. What if the player didn't upgrade their combat stat? It unfairly punishes a stealth player. Yet that circumstance is vital to a game like RE and it's entirely fair to punish a player for fecklessly being without resources. In Deus Ex the level design should be open and allow for a variety of ways around an obstacle but in something like RE it's perfectly appropriate to block a hall with enemies and have no way around them. It's a contrast between a game centered around freedom, making choices that can only be successful and role playing(Deus Ex) and a game centered around restriction and decision making that almost always has a negative outcome (TEW).

TEW1 stealth was too good, you could clear out an area easily without firing a bullet using it. That's not as big an issue as it could be though because in TEW1 they restricted stealth to low resource use areas. I'll demonstrate what I mean by talking about Chapter 2, if you chose to avoid stealth then you still have a large amount of hay bales, axes, bear traps etc to use to defeat your enemies, those enemies also are alone which makes them easy targets. Using stealth or not I can kill everything in chapter 2 and 3 without firing a round, at the same time those areas don't even ask for that and provide ample pistol ammo, stealth doesn't undercut anything there too badly.

I want to get it out of the way that stealth gameplay in TEW2 is awful. Enemies lose track of you very easily and the areas are too open to allow enemies to trap you after they spot you. It's too easy to manipulate enemies and their search patterns aren't complex or coordinated enough to provide a challenge. The game has enemies that take multiple hits to stealth kill, a great idea, but that only results in a brief period of running away to reset their ai. There are also things like giant bushes that render you invisible and enemies being unable to pursue you beyond a certain range that further trivialize stealth gameplay.

TEW2 switched genres, it jumped ship to the immersive sim genre in it's expansion of it's RPG elements, unwillingness to punish bad decision making and endless freedom but it left a foot ever so slightly in survival horror by pointlessly keeping limited resources. Having stealth available all the time in a game with limited resources is a really bad idea. There's no difficult choice to make when faced with a cicumstance of stealthing past enemies easily and painlessly or using combat wasting a bunch of resources and risking death. I can stealth kill a Harbinger effortlessly in 6 stabs or I can unload 100 rounds of pistol ammo into him, not exactly a difficult choice when I have to kill three of them and ammo is limited.

Stealth sections don't accomodate combat in the same way they did in TEW1, too often it's the choice of stealth or use significant resources. A part of that comes back to the omission of matches, it always seems to come back to matches, you could kill Haunted with a bullet and a match easily regardless of level design. Another factor is enemy health being very high in combat considering how easy it is to stealth kill. The biggest and most disappointing thing is the crummy level design that doesn't offer much in the way of a means to take out your enemies using environmental objects.

There's a myth that total freedom and choice leads to greater variety in gameplay. When one of those choices is a much superior option there's no choice to be had, no variety, the player will always choose the most efficient option. In a game without any limitations there's no reason to not take advantage of possibilities to have fun, if you haven't played Vanquish without ever using cover you haven't played Vanquish. On the other hand when a game limits resources you are forced into making all your choices around that fact, in TEW2 this leads to repetitive and stale gameplay because stealth uses the least resources.

RE1 had a choice between avoiding an enemy or fighting it. The right answer was not always to avoid an enemy to conserve resources, if an enemy was hard to avoid it would hurt you wasting health resources. That is not the same choice as fight or stealth, stealth is an extra step that exists before you get to the dilemma of fight or flight that detracts from that more interesting layer of decision making by making it a fail state for a botched stealth attempt. Stealth forces a style of level design that is more open with more cover to hide behind, you can't for example have a narrow hallway blocked by an enemy facing the player if you want stealth to remain an option. It makes it so when you are spotted avoiding the enemy isn't as hard as it could be had the level been designed around making it hard to dodge an enemy. High pressure situations where the enemy is always aware of your presence also aren't possible so the Chapter 6 set piece with the raining harpoons can't happen in a game that wants stealth to always be an option.

I can't escape stealth in TEW2 either, I've tried to use only combat but the weak stealth ai messes up fun aspects of combat that I enjoyed in the original of constantly repositioning to a strategically strong part of the level. There's a combat scenerio in chapter 4 where alarms go off and enemies pour into the room to fight you, I ran into one of those rooms and stood with my gun pointed at the door waiting for the Lost. No Lost came, they forgot I existed. I've a sneaking suspicion that element of pervasively bad ai is why there aren't any large combat arena's, they are all really small areas because anything too large causes the enemies to get bored with TEW2's terrible combat. I went to test if I could dodge a large group of enemies on the open world with just regular walking to make sure I wasn't misremembering. I found that not only could I dodge hits indefinitely but about a minute in enemies would lose interest and start to wander off despite still being in their point of origin, two minutes in I lost the whole group.

When it came to playing through TEW2 with just a pistol a big reason that choice didn't matter was that during stealth it doesn't matter what weapons you do or don't have. Stealth is the majority of TEW2 so my limitation on using only the pistol didn't come up very often as a matter of consequence. There's a forced FPS stealth section in TEW2 where you can't even use any weapons. It's similar to the gas warehouse in TEW1 except that warehouse still let a few weapons be useful while gas was around, if you had a crossbow you didn't need to switch off the gas in order to defeat or stun the group blocking the exit. With just a pistol that group blocking the exit requires me to switch off the gas so that I can use my weapon and then they are much harder to get by because the pistol isn't quite so good against groups. That's just one instance in the original where being reduced to a pistol mattered but moments like that would constantly crop up in TEW1 while TEW2 seemed contrived to have your available resources be unnecessary.

I'm not against stealth in principle and it has some strong additions to the gameplay. It gives the gameplay an organic feeling when enemies only become aware of you after physically spotting you and it helps segment the game room by room in the same way RE1's doors do, it also allows you to survey a situation before getting stuck in. Had they tied stealth back into resource management and had enemies be much harder, even impossible, to avoid without dipping into resources then the gameplay shift to a large stealth focus could have potentially worked. With stealth itself using resources maybe they wouldn't have forgot to provide resources to the player during those segments and there could be some tough decision making involved on the player's end of whether to use their stealth or combat resources to overcome an obstacle. By being a game about resource management TEW2 had a remit to make it's stealth gameplay harder and more unfair than any standard stealth game has any right to be as a means of putting pressure on resource use but instead it went in the opposite direction of being possibly one of the easiest stealth games I've ever played.

The DLC for TEW1 introduced an number of worthwhile stealth additions. Axes were needed for stealth kills, that brings the notion of resources back into stealth gameplay. There were enemies like the Lamp Head Woman that would vaguely know where you were forcing you to move and act fast to avoid being spotted. Invisible enemies were hard to keep track of and required more of your attention to avoid. Crawling Bombs would react to sound and block off access to certain areas, the designers would then force you into making noise opening doors or whatever in order to proceed. There were environmental elements you could use to defeat or distract lookouts, locking a Haunted in a room was very clever. I don't think the DLC went far enough but all those things I would consider meaningful advancements to TEW's stealth gameplay. I suspect they didn't return in TEW2 because those features are largely debilitating and would conflict with the empowering nature of TEW2's stealth gameplay, people are more comfortable and less frustrated being a Batman type.
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Re: Gameplay In TEW2 is Simplistic Compared to TEW1

Postby SutterCane » Jan 05, 2018 2:42 pm

Enemy Visual/Story

Enemies in general are a huge downgrade from TEW1 not just on an individual level but in how they function in groups. I'm going to go into discussing the Haunted of TEW1 so that you can understand just how much depth they had in TEW1 and how well thought out they were as the primary enemy. You'll appreciate then how much was lost.

Before I get into talking about Haunted from a mechanical perspective I want to talk about how visually they are superior to what's offered in TEW2. There are around 50 unique Haunted faces each with their own before and after headshots heads, no generic white goo for Haunted, in TEW1 and then they also have a variety of clothing they can wear to further differentiate. Each Haunted is a person that has been killed in STEM and they carry the wounds of whatever killed them on their body, it fleshes out their character and adds a little backstory to each zombie to ponder about. They all wear clothes which again further adds to the story of each character, where they are from, what their job was, who they were related to, it grounds them to their location in STEM creating a more fleshed out locale. The main consideration with the design of the Haunted as far as I can see it was to create a living breathing person and then kill them. They aren't really scary monsters and in between the snarls you can catch a face that wears a troubled and sad expression or occasionally a bittersweet smile as they die. They are the victims of TEW.

Haunted have a variety of animations for being shot in TEW1 not just a single reaction being shot in a specific area either but multiple reactions for each area. Some of these reactions can be very human like the way after being shot in the arm they not only grab their arm in pain but shake their arms after to get the blood flowing again. When you shoot a Fat Haunted while it's sprinting it will prat fall as if it slipped on a banana for a touch of comedy that really warms your heart to their goofy antics. Again it's another element of gameplay that was used to build upon how you might view a Haunted as more than just a monster.

The areas they inhabit are better tailored to telling a story about the inhabitants. There are a huge variety of photos covering the walls of all the homes in chapter 3 that feature happy villagers that look an awful lot like the very people you are happily slaughtering, there are dead strewn about the level with details of how they died smeared all over the local area and of course they have a lunatic locked up in a barn. It emphasises that the Haunted were once a tight knit community, they had friends and family, and it then tells a story of how they potentially fought together for some time before eventually succumbing to the effects of STEM. Houses could be tailored to a specific character like Valerio, his house is covered in medical paraphernalia, books, patient rooms and so on. Valerio's house isn't the most detailed house in all of video games but it does fit his profile uniquely and you can believe that specifically he lives in that house.

On a personal preference note I want to bring up chubby zombies. TEW1 zombies are chubby, they have enough meat on their bones that they could give you the sort of warm, memory foam hug that only a person with some meat on their bones can give. It's something most western developers don't have as a zombie, they like to make a scrawny skeletal thing that screeches and I can't relate to that thing let alone hug it. What's frightening about a zombie is that they used to be human, the less human you make a zombie the worse the design is. It's better to make a zombie relatable and tragic than to go all out on making them seem dangerous and scary. Something pitiable trying to eat you is unsettling because you sympathise with your murderer, a scary thing trying to do the same is not very scary at all.

TEW2 zombies are generic, they are naked, covered in goo and we can't really tell anything about who they were by looking at them because they don't have much that identify's who they were or how they wound up being a Lost. I don't know an exact number for how many Lost there are but there are far fewer unique Lost compared to Haunted, I imagine it's under 10. Honestly I can't tell the difference between each Lost conversely it's hard to not notice whether or not a Haunted has a harpoon in it's face. Their homes don't have much in the way of personality that reflects onto the occupants, it would make sense to have photo's of Lost in the homes to tie them together as a community since that's the goal of Union but the photos are few and of nothing in particular. One of the first houses you enter features a cutscene of a boy being force fed food by presumably his mother, I was eager to explore the house and find evidence of their lifestyle and how it deteriorated but it's the same generic house that could belong to any of the residents. There are random blood stains on the walls that don't relate to each other in a logical way, there's a blood glob for example above the sink but not in the sink or the surrounding area. The random and generic nature of the houses prevents you from building a clear picture of life in Union and it also fails to enhance the character of the Lost in the same way the village does in TEW. Incidentally the boy with his face smashed in is the kind of zombie I like to be chased by, his mother is not.

Don't give me any the houses are generic by design talk either, if they are then that's a bad story decision but I'm pretty sure Union is trying to create a community, there should be stronger evidence of that community even if it's a false implanted memory. Also the houses were supposed to be dilapidated so that Lost would have something to do but I don't see much in the way of DIY supplies in the houses.

Early on in TEW2 it seems like enemies have some narrative significance with the Giggling Guardian resembling both Laura and a possible creation of Stephano, Obscura similarly relates to Stephano's obsession with capturing death with his camera. That dies out along with Stephano and I can't for the life of me figure out why Myra turns into a Giant Fish Troll. That's really under my skin that. Seb never shuts up in TEW2, he should have spent a good fifteen minutes going over why his wife turned into a Fish Troll and then returned to the Fish Troll incident again 5 minutes later so that Kidman could explain it to him while drying his tears.

Lost aren't chubby, no chubby for me. They are that standard skeletal, inhuman, boring zombie type I don't much care for.


Enemy Mechanics TEW1

Now on to the mechanics of how enemies in TEW1 had much greater depth than TEW2.

Before, even more before than the last before, I get into the nitty gritty of The Evil Withins I need to quickly establish why RE4's enemy reactions are so well made. It is not because the game has you shoot somewhere other than the head, that's not very worthwhile. It is because it gives you various areas to shoot and then a wide variety of reasons to shoot each area, each of which might be more or less valid depending on the circumstances. It opens up strategic options which then forces you to make difficult decisions of where to target. If shooting a leg did the same thing as shooting a head then there would be no reason to choose one over the other and strategy wouldn't be involved. TEW2 completely fucks this balance up, TEW1 nails it perfectly but it's different from RE4.

There is so much to talk about with Haunted, hands down the best enemy type in the original game, the best enemy in all of survival horror in my opinion. So versatile and varied, there's a tendancy for humble workhorses like them to go underappreciated compared to something flashy like a Licker or something that looks like a penis or vagina. There are a few types of Haunted, they aren't interchangeable and the game will always spawn a specific type, then there are variations within those types. It's a lot to consider.

Men. Men are all over the place, they are the first fellas you'll meet and pretty much exclusively so for the first two chapters. The most standard of the standard enemy they move and react to everything in a standard fashion. You've seen them, the way they plod towards you in no particular hurry, you can totally out run them. If they manage to get close they attack which increases their speed to the point where you have to sprint to dodge the hit effectively. Let Haunted get too close too often and you'll run out of stamina. If you shoot them twice in the leg they fall over, once if they are sprinting, three shots to the head to kill and a charging Haunted can be briefly stopped by shooting it in the chest three times. They don't freeze in place after taking a shot like in RE4 but they do react to every single shot with a wide variety of body movements. You can see there's good balance there in the strategy involved where each body part has a valid reason to be shot, even ignoring the whole match factor you might not want to aim for the head if you aren't capable of making your three shots before a Haunted reaches you. Their movement is quite varied and they don't always sprint right up to you, often they plod towards at a measured pace, they can even stand still and side dodge to mess up your aim. Depending on what a Haunted is doing they can be more or less vulnerable to different shots, a Haunted standing still will react to body shots dramatically and a sprinting Haunted is vulnerable to being tripped so what a Haunted is engaged with will affect your decision of where to shoot. Using melee on a Haunted knocks them back setting up an easy head shot and of course clears room.

We've been over hit reactions before because it was relevant to upgrades, a little bit on matches too, and I've ended up going over the same points more than once because mechanics don't exist in a vacuum. Changing one thing can affect another, it's why I opened with matches because I've often seen it painted as a simple issue of an act that takes place in one moment and has no knock on effect to the overall game structure when really it ties into so many things. More importantly I'm going over hit reactions again because they vary between Haunted types and I need to establish a base.

Women. Women first turn up in chapter 3 and they differ from Men in a few key ways. They take hits in a much more exaggerated manner whirling backward wildly but they also recover much more quickly. Women are faster in general and they dodge more too but their hits are a bit weaker. The idea behind this variety is to be a harder to shoot zombie that requires a bit more attention than the average Haunted, even the way they react to being shot requires you to readjust your aim more dramatically.

Fat Men. Fat Men were first established by Valerio Jimenez in chapter 4. Fat Men don't trip from leg shots unless they are sprinting first, what this does is emphasise head shots but they also have the unique ability to cover their heads. It also emphasises either proper shot timing or alternatively you could shotgun them to the ground or you could use melee to set up an easy head shot or you could take advantage of their slow speed in some fashion by using traps or matches. They are slow moving but hit hard and they have way more health than other Haunted, Fat Men are the complete opposite of Women. As a quick aside typically these guys are the most detailed of all the Haunted with some of the best faces and head shot details of any of the Haunted, that one guy who's just a tongue is beautiful.

TEW1 trivia time. Valerio will never leave his lab, he stops at the threshold and returns to his patient even if you are standing right in his face. It's a bit like how every Lost carries on in TEW2 except when it's used in an exceptional way like this it gives the impression that Valerio is more obsessed with his patient than attacking you. It colours him in a more caring light, the things he's doing to the patient are horrible but he's probably unaware of the damage he's doing. You shoved your whole hand inside that same man so you can't judge Valerio.

Those are the three main types of Haunted but within those types you also have...

Pistol using Haunted. Now these people do react more like in RE4, every shot you make will briefly stun a Pistol Haunted preventing them from taking their own shot, how they react will depend on their gender with women reeling back as usual while men stand in place. Haunted with pistols are more dangerous than your average Haunted, you can't dodge a bullet so you have to keep them at a distance or prevent them from shooting by focusing your attention on them. When you have a dangerous target like that even though it has the same health as a regular Haunted you are tempted into using your more valuable weaponry, especially on Akumu where one hit means death. Crossbow Haunted are a little subset of this group, they are pretty much the same deal except their bolts are more deadly yet can be used to your advantage to deal damage to surrounding Haunted or frozen and collected.

Dynamite Haunted. Pretty simple concept, they light a stick of dynamite and then they throw it, there's so much you can do with that as a player though and it gives you something new to consider when it comes to manuevering the battlefield. The dynamite they throw blocks you off from the area it lands in so it restricts your movement or forces you to move, at the same time the dynamite is deadly to Haunted as well so you can use it to your advantage. Beyond that you have a number of ways to approach Dynamite Haunted, who by the way take reactions similarly to Pistol Haunted. You can even leave them alive to cause havoc while risking being blown up yourself. When taking them out you can factor in the fact that their death will kill other nearby Haunted, shooting them in the leg to help corral other Haunted into the blast zone or shooting the dynamite to detonate them immediately when necessary. Like gun Haunted you don't want them anywhere near you, so they are another enemy that can put you on the back foot. If you melee these guys they blow up a few moments later, though it is risky. Molotov Haunted are a lesser version of this enemy that are usually used in areas where other Haunted aren't in danger of being burned. Molotovs are more dangerous to you as a player because they are more accurate and explode instantly but in a group battle it would have the opposite effect of quickly killing any melee Haunted near you.

Sniper Haunted. They are positioned up high, they periodically pop up from behind cover to shoot at you with their rifles. They are used as a means of area denial, if you don't kill them they will constantly prevent you from moving freely. By locking you down to cover they allow more vulnerable melee Haunted to approach unmolested and if you don't remove Sniper Haunted you will have limited time to act between their shots. Machine gun Haunted are the same basic type but more difficult, they fire for much longer periods of time and they also have metal masks which prevent you from easily sniping their heads off.

There's a stigma around gun zombies and I admit the machine gun jerks are a bit too boisterous for me but they added a lot to consider and created some interesting encounters. One of my favourites is in chapter 3 where they used a Sniper Haunted to control access to the main central area of the village, you don't have any good ranged weapons so he's an issue until you can close in on him, after he's dead you've effectively opened up a short cut. It's a great bit of level design that isn't possible in the sequel because enemies like that don't exist.

Masked Haunted. A Haunted, with a mask, I'm going to spend a while on these guys because I think they are genius and the visual design doesn't get enough credit. It's another simple concept but again it adds another dimension to an enemy that causes you to think up new approaches and to rethink old ones. Masks prevent Headshots, sort of. Shooting the mask causes the first pistol bullet to bounce off, any further shots will destroy a section of the mask and that's where it gets a bit more interesting because aiming at that maskless section counts as a regular headshot. It's worth pointing out that the hitbox on the masks is really good. Removing a mask entirely reveals a Haunted with missing forehead and this is a little visual cue that these people are actually able to withstand less shots to the head than your average Haunted, two headshots will kill. It doesn't devalue headshots in any way, what it does is it gives greater value to methods that reveal an unmasked section of the head and there are loads of those. You can melee to reveal the back of their head, you can dodge, you can trip them up, you can stun, you can shoot them in the shoulder and then shoot the side of the head as it's revealed and so on. It also helps balance critical upgrades a bit more without removing their usefulness, by requiring an action to reveal the head it prevents a fully upgraded critical player from solely going for headshots and sinking into repetition. Furthermore stronger weapons like the shotgun and sniper will shoot right through the mask, so they give added purpose to other weapons in your arsenal. Of course once again by making a headshot trickier matches come back into focus.

Masked Haunted and Fat Haunted perfectly display a kind of confidence with the enemy design in TEW1 compared to TEW2. They are in a sense much weaker and less dangerous than their average counterparts. A Fat Haunted's slow speed makes him an easy target and while he's resistant to leg shots normally he's more vulnerable than any other when he sprints. A Mask Haunted has extra protection against headshots but paradoxically is especially weak to being shot in the head. They are technically weaker but only if you have the skill and time needed to exploit the weakness. If a player doesn't have time but has instead an excess of ammo then they may find it more beneficial to brute force a solution. That's the case with a lot of enemies in TEW1 where if one has a unique strength it tends to be counterbalanced with a unique weakness to be exploited. A weakness like that can add as much if not more to gameplay variety, and even difficulty as using a vulnerability takes skill, than simply making a monster tougher or immune to certain weapons.

Ruvik Clones. I only wanted to talk about Haunted when it comes to TEW1 but these guys need a mention. Their whole deal is to scream to summon Laura's arms which instant kill you and those arms are why I'm bringing them up here. Laura's arms travel very quickly for a very long time, if you simply let them chase you you will run out of stamina and die. You can prevent that from happening by killing Ruvik which stops the arms or by damaging the arms themselves which will make them go away temporarily. Depending on the situation it may be better to do one or the other, if you don't have enough time to kill Ruvik you may find you have to target the arms to buy time. It's yet another thing which forces you to consider your movement and area control or dip into your resources to survive. It's also another thing taken from Vanquish which had a similar enemy fire an instant kill nuke that would follow you around. Ruvik Clones can't be headshot so they pretty much require stronger weaponry to get rid of quickly, I'm not against that being the case for more elite enemies and I think it's important to have enemies that require powerful items to destroy. That large health pool does make it incredibly satisfying to burn them with a match, setting that up could take time which is why you might want to shoot the arms instead of the Clone. The arm summoning takes a long time too so it works to hold a Clone in place as well. It's not a huge thing but you can smash a bottle against the arms to make them go away, little things like that are very satisfying to see in a game.

You may be wondering why I had to write about every Haunted type in TEW1 and of course when I start writing about Lost and that ends up being very brief it'll look like I did it to be snarky again contrasting how much there is to write about an aspect of TEW1 vs TEW2's counterpart. I did it to stress how the different types of Haunted require different approaches or bring something new for you to react to, how they all move differently or even not at all and engage at different ranges. I also wanted to show how even one single type of Haunted could be approached with a variety of options with each option being valid depending on the circumstance. A far away enemy isn't as worth leg shooting, a very close enemy isn't as worth headshotting being a very basic example. I wanted to mention all the Haunted types as a way of smuggling in melee too. Melee isn't powerful on it's own but it did have a purpose of knocking back enemies and setting up a few combos against certain Haunted that were useful.

Really I covered every Haunted because TEW1 time and time again will put you into a fight with every kind of Haunted there is. There are fights in the game where you have to dodge bombs, take cover from sniper fire and prevent melee enemies from getting close all at the same time. By arranging these enemies in a variety of ways the developers could create unique encounters with unique problems to solve. You are probably giving me a big "no duh" to how obvious that sounds, well lets talk about enemies in TEW2. I will not stick to just discussing just Lost both because that would be very brief and because TEW2 isn't as focused on one main enemy type, which works out badly.


Enemy Mechanics TEW2

Lost are a pale imitation of Haunted. Rather than come in a variety of types they all scream and bolt up to you as quick as possible, that's the default for almost every single enemy in TEW2, they actually move faster than you can sprint only slowing down to attack. That sounds like the sort of thing that would result in a very high difficulty but that isn't the case, they are good at getting and staying close but very bad at landing a hit. It's the opposite of how Haunted functioned in TEW1 where they were bad at getting close but good at landing a hit, that allowed enemies to drain you of stamina so the whole core concept of combat could function. Lost in TEW2 aren't vulnerable when they sprint like Haunted were in TEW1 so it's not a moment of weakness for you to exploit like it was in TEW1. There is no reason for a Lost to approach slowly like a Haunted would to prevent becoming exposed and as a player you don't vary your shots depending on a Lost's current state of movement. TEW series having limited resources means that lining up a shot isn't as important as lining up the right shot. Enemies sprinting as quick as they can to get in your face results in enemies bunching up and being more susceptible to crowd clearing weapons. It's easy to gather a large group of a dozen Lost in an open world section into one big lump and then turn around and blow them up with a single explosive bolt, once again that's doubly strong because stomping them on the ground is too easy. Bunching up like that makes enemies easy to control in general, easier to avoid without killing. By varying the speed and reactions of the Haunted in the original as well as not having them be so fast to begin with prevented Haunted from clotting up quite as easily.

That also brings up an issue with the explosive bolt. That bolt was never meant to be used in that way, it was meant to be your raw damage bolt that would heavily damage enemies. The way it would knock Haunted every which way meant it wasn't too strong to combo with matches, burning several damaged Haunted with several separate matches is wasteful and even unnecessary. With stomp it doesn't matter if people don't land next to each other because you can just run up and stomp at them without any drawbacks. Explosive bolt then winds up encroaching on the job of the electric bolt in TEW2 where it does both it's job and the job of the electric bolt. That also causes the explosive bolt to lose synergy with other damage dealing weapons like the pistol which you would've used to finish off a low health enemy if stomp wasn't such a terrible mechanic.

I've written the word decide, decision or consideration or what have you quite a bit at this point, I wish I had more euphemisms and synonyms, you've probably gathered that's a big part of TEW for me. When enemies move slowly then you are given time to sweat over your decision. I've mentioned before that it's not about making a shot as much as it is about making the right shot, well you need time to assess the situation, see if new opportunities present themselves as time passes, finally decide on a course of action and then second guess yourself. Having people bum-rush right into your face not only deprives you of precious moments of worry but it also narrows your options down to those that are effective at close range because that's where enemies will be. One thing that stuck in my mind watching interviews on TEW1 years ago was Mikami stating how he repeatedly had to tell his team to stop making enemies that move very quickly, that the enemy's slow approach would instil a greater degree of dread and I was never fully behind that idea until after I played TEW2. Looking back the danger in TEW1 wasn't necessarily from enemies rushing up to your face but you becoming trapped with no way to avoid an incoming enemy no matter how slowly it moves, with that in mind very fast enemies can only detract from the feeling of impending doom without adding much in the way of danger.

In TEW1 a Haunted being in range of hitting you in melee was either a result of your poor spacing or a result of tightly packed level design. There was a game of keep away to be played with Haunted where you would use your weapons and movement to keep an enemy from ever getting close. That little game is destroyed when every enemy is capable of outrunning you. In TEW2 an enemy being in your face stopped being a result of your actions and started to be an unavoidable function of the enemy design. That puts focus on the act of dodging enemy attacks like in Devil May Cry rather than avoiding that situation in the first place. It's a gameplay shift from being about planning and tactics in TEW1 to TEW2 being about simply reacting.

I have a minor point to make on the rare occurrence of the Molotov Lost. They are roughly similar to the Molotov Haunted in TEW1 but they run into that problem I brought up with Molotov Haunted in TEW1 where they too easily kill other Haunted and then themselves. It's funny to watch and it's a rare time where an enemy type brings something truly new to the table but the enemy is used rarely and sort of inappropriately. There's a reason they were paired with ranged Haunted in TEW1 while Dynamite Haunted were paired with melee Haunted.

I've come back to it a few times but they messed up the balancing between headshots and leg shots, they both do the same thing in that they result in an instant kill so logically you should just go for whichever you find easiest. I brought up before how leg shots are better at close range, well that's where most combat takes place in TEW2. In my pistol only run this led to shooting Lost in the leg over and over and over, it got very repetitive but because it was always the best option that used the least ammo and gave me i-frames I kept doing it. In TEW1 during my pistol playthrough I shot people in the leg to set up match kills or when they were sprinting to make the next shot easier, I headshot when I had either no matches or a high crit rate, I waited for groups to approach wallbombs and finished off survivors with a final ground headshot, I killed people and then used their bodies as match traps. I had so much more variety to my pistol only gameplay back in TEW1. Aside from that Lost don't take a variety of reactions like Haunted do, when you shoot a Lost in the chest they completely no sell it. That creates a disconnect that leaves you feeling like your shot didn't hit but it's a bigger issue for me because chest shots stalling gun/bomb wielding Haunted in the original was legitimately a worthwhile strategic choice that is no longer present here.

Blasting a Lost with a shotgun in TEW2 immediately feels good because they had the shotgun start out much stronger than in TEW1, though they both wind up as strong as each other. The shotgun is capable of taking off a Lost's head in one shot the moment you get it. That's good but it's surplus to requirements because a much easier shot to the chest will knock a Lost down for an instant kill stomp. Again it's another case where replacing matches with stomp makes one option vastly superior to another to the point where there's little reason to aim for the head. That problem wouldn't be as bad if they made the shotgun knock down an enemy no matter where it hit as it did in the original, you would then choose between an easier shot that is better against crowds(chest) and one that results in an instant kill(head) so you can get to stomping the next guy. The way hit reactions work in TEW2 with only shotgun chest shots knocking down an enemy results in shotgun leg shots not having any effect whatsoever, it's not like it added huge tactical detail to have a leg shot knock someone down it just looks and feels so bad when it's gone that I had to mention it.

In TEW1 a fully upgraded shotgun would kill in one headshot right up until the end game where it is just shy of being able to, I think an extra punch is needed post chapter 11. There was a choice to be made there still because aiming for the head would take a bit more effort and also potentially mess up crowd clearing shots but it also saved you from having to use a match which was a resource consideration as well as something you didn't always have time for.

Lost limbs exploding into gore and littering the floor with crumbs is a great effect and I appreciate how much it adds to the impact of a shot. It doesn't add anything to the mechanics.

Late game Lava Men replace Lost. Initially they seemed to be analogous to Alter Ego's because of the dungeon where they first appear and how they seemed slow moving at first but that's not the case. I was excited to finally face a slow enemy but they gave Lava Men a charge attack that they use to close distance faster than you can sprint, it defeats the point of their slow regular movement and makes them feel like more of the same. They react to less shots than Lost with the leg shot no longer having an effect as well as the shotgun not knocking them down, that prioritises head shots or stronger weaponry to knock them down. I find that a bit more interesting than what the Lost offer but too often I slipped into using electric bolts or harpoon bolts to take them down in a similar way to how I used leg shots against regular Lost. Stomp is still a terrible mechanic, it created that rote gameplay. That wouldn't be as big of a deal if when fighting Lava Men you fought other enemies at the same time but you don't, TEW2 doesn't want to mix enemy types for some reason and it leads to the repetitive means of defeating a specific enemy being more pronounced. Ultimately Lava Men are more similar to Fat Haunted but Fat Haunted were never meant to stand on their own, they were meant to work in conjunction with other Haunted. Had you been forced to fight nothing but Fat Haunted for a section of the game maybe they would've had similar issues. Fat Men were better designed though with more options for taking them out being available and they stressed having greater skills to use old techniques as opposed to simply taking options away.

There were moments in TEW1 where one enemy type was the focus of gameplay but they kept that fresh by designing a bespoke area for that unique enemy. Invisible Haunted will only appear in an area where there are a large amount of objects to knock about or water to splash in. Alter Ego's moved incredibly slowly, they vomited acid, they were a shout out to the kind of zombie design you would see in RE1 and the areas they appeared in were centered around extra tight corridors where a slow enemy like them could still be deadly. It was almost like a total gameplay shift that changed how you approached an encounter with an enemy. A fight with an Alter Ego or Invisible Haunted is a much slower and more deliberate fight compared to your average Haunted fight and that's useful for varying pacing. Lava Men not only behave similar to Lost but they appear in the same sort of area design as Lost, often literally the same area as a Lost used to occupy.

It's odd that during their main forced encounter of the fire walk Lava Men are given far less health, roughly four or five pistol rounds worth. That encounter winds up being a case of shooting Lava Men anywhere as quickly as possible without much strategy being involved. Speaking of the pistol, in a pistol run you would normally be limited to shooting a Lava Man in the head over and over in the same way you would shoot a Lost in the leg over and over, it's still a bit more interesting since they cover their heads but not by much.

At times a Lava Man catches fire and can't be stealth killed or stomped, it's unpredictable but it doesn't stop a stomp or stealth kill in the long term. I don't get the point of Lava Men catching fire, it feels like a random and ineffective punishment the player didn't earn. It's another example of TEW2 being unable to think of a way to introduce something new to a fight without taking away the players options.

Even later game Ash Men replace Lost/Lava Men. I'm not going to say much on these people other than that they react even less to shots than regular Lost but are otherwise the same thing as a normal Lost. Removing hit reactions from an enemy is rarely a good idea, it just makes an enemy less responsive and limits the player's options. With this enemy type the shotgun still does it's job of knocking them down for a stomp, I've already said before how that being too strong leads to repetitive gameplay so further limiting pistol rounds but not the shotgun's effectiveness against Ash Men was a mistake.

I was excited by Masked Haunted so much because design like that is rare. When most games want to add difficulty to an existing enemy they limit what works against them but that just creates an enemy like the Ash Men where swathes of your tool set become redundant and gameplay gets repetitive, there's not much added difficulty either. Think like the hard colour coded enemies in DmC which restricted weapon use. The mask doesn't restrict any of your options it only adds an extra step to gain access to them, that extra step of course has it's own diverse range of gameplay approaches. Had shotgun ammo been limited you could argue Ash Men add to long term planning by giving you a reason to save shotgun ammo. Had Ash Men been mixed in with regular Lost having to use the shotgun against the Ash Man could've affected how you defeat the Lost by trying to work them into the blast radius, of course you'd have to imagine that TEW2 isn't a game where you are using the shotgun against Lost all the time anyway.

Hysterics are one of the most recurring mini boss enemies. They sprint up to you very fast and their attacks are very nearly unavoidable if you don't put an obstacle between you and it or shoot it at the right time with a shotgun. I wouldn't have a problem with a mini boss being very fast if it was a contrast against the rest of the enemies being very slow but the way things are in TEW2 leaves the Hysteric feeling like just a stronger Lost that takes more bullets. It isn't thrown in amongst other enemy types very often either and when it is it's right at the end of an fight where it's left on it's own.

Crocodile Men are one of my favourites from TEW2 but they have some issues. I like them because they are one of the few enemies that don't always simply rush right up to you, they have some very interesting movement patterns where they will dodge backwards, retreat or try to circle around you. When you shoot them they flip over backwards landing helpless on the floor for a while before they again change their movement style and rush towards you. They can climb up walls and stick to a ceiling as well which adds to their movement options. I think something went wrong with the ai with these guys though because all that varied movement I mentioned didn't happen very often in my game and they tended to rush toward me like every other enemy. You don't encounter them indoors much either which leads me to believe they never got the wall crawling/roof sticking to work properly, that's a shame because an enemy that approached you from up above would've added a lot of variety to the gameplay. Still it's one of the better monsters in TEW2 but again you don't tend to encounter it mixed in with regular Lost very often, it only shows up toward the end of a fight when everything else is dead. I would've liked to have seen more of this enemy and for it to be treated as being on the same enemy rank as Lost with less health because it could've added variety to the one note encounters. I said before that I don't mind a mini boss being given more health but the amount of health these guys had was inappropriate for what they are, of course I think their role as a mini boss was wrong too when the game desperately needs more regular enemy variety. I do like that one hit with an axe kills them outright, it gives you incentive to save your axe for them.

There's a Walking Bomb enemy towards the end of the game in TEW2. There's not much to say about it, it walks up to you and explodes. It's the same idea as the Haunted covered in bolts in chapter 13 of the original, though those had more depth when you consider they could be frozen and their payload collected. Still had they worked the Walking Bombs into a fight they could've added variety to an encounter, they don't of course because they only show up in open world segments together with other bombs where they can be easily avoided or destroyed.

Lament is that very gassy lady that only appears in stealth sections or in the open world, they see you and they scream to alert nearby Lost. That's about the only thing they do that's worth talking about with them because as a stealth enemy you just stab it twice and move on with you life or don't bother with it.

Melee is worthless without an axe. At first I thought it worked if you first dodged a hit and then countered, that was consistent up until it wasn't. I don't know what it's for, I'd rather they make it worthless than too good but it's still another option taken from you in the sequel. Melee one on one in TEW1 could be too easy at times to kill an enemy but that occurance was rare or unnecessary to exploit, meanwhile in group fights it was only ever a useful utility move. If the goal in TEW2 was to prevent melee being exploited in one on one fights then not only did they fail because coffee makes damage sustained negligible but it was also pointless because stealth is so broken and difficulty in TEW1 was never derived from one on one fights. Melee does work against Stephano if you ever want to have a boring, very long and easy knife fight with him that plays exactly like when you fought him with your gun but slightly closer.

I don't know why TEW2 doesn't mix enemy types together. They did design enemies in a way where they could be seemingly more effective alone without needing help from level design or other enemy types that tie you up in some way but that also made each enemy very samey. As a possible explanation I've assumed it was a way to make the game feel like it had more variety than it did by splitting the game up into parts dominated by a specific enemy type. I could believe that but it seems misguided to me when they would've been better off with one fully fleshed out enemy type like the Haunted that they then varied the gameplay of with level design and enemy composition. Then again it could be an economical thing where quality level design that accommodates more nuanced monsters was too expensive so they opted for more brute enemies that could work in any old box.



Encounter Design

Encounter design in TEW2, all of it with just a few exceptions, can be described as a room filled with a series of waist high walls. That's a stealth focused encounter, sometimes there's a barrel, sometimes the barrel is blue and thin. Chapter 9 bucks the trend by being quite good using flaming chandeliers to offer up something for combat players to use in lieu of stealth. If it's not a stealth encounter then it's one of the very few combat encounters. A combat encounter is a square, enemies flood the square slowly in groups of two or three at a time and you have to kill them all. Before the enemies flooded the square you were given 50 handgun rounds or shotgun rounds or the enemies flooding the square are dropping more ammo than you've seen in hours.

A small note on red barrels. You can kick a red barrel over to spill oil for you to light, the oil will lightly damage enemies. If you don't kick the barrel over but instead stand next to it and gather enemies near it you can then blow it up to instant kill everything with stomps. It's one of those times where one option totally outclasses another to the point where you would only ever use the superior choice, it's also another thing matches would've fixed. It's wierd though because kicking the barrel over to make a leak takes more effort which should've been enough to allow it to instant kill and keep it well balanced since it requires set up.

Enemy types during combat encounters are usually one type until the end of a combat encounter when a Hysteric or Crocodile will appear. Lament's never show up to a combat centered encounter, neither do axe throwing Lost or molotov Lost. All stealth encounters play exactly the same regardless of enemy type anyway so there's no variety there. Well there's one good stealth encounter before the O'Neal fight where they placed Lost next to a door that slowly opens, if you don't use a smoke bolt or something to kill them then you'll alert the room, more moments like that would've been nice.

That's it. You are never given any new factors to deal with or utilise, gameplay from one encounter to the next is largely the same. (This is a long list, skip to next paragraph) There's no giant blade to duck, no Blood Man to circumvent, no Haunted activating a spike trap, no team mate to protect (Torres doesn't matter), no raining harpoons to dodge and disable, no water to wade through, no acid traps restricting movement, no Doom Roombas, no lifts made for crushing, no poison gas, no mutually dangerous electrified water, no warping walls, no red hot pressers, no whirring blades, no need to time shooting valves, no having to pay attention to the movement of debris, no dangerous enemies with a higher vantage point, no hanging bodies slowing movement, no retractable spike walls, no Ruvik, no bushes blocking your vision, no pipes for a boss to Mario into, no flame spouts, no wall bombs forcing you to crouch, bear traps or tripwires.

Mentioning the giant blade sequence in chapter 10 of TEW1 has me thinking how it wouldn't really be able to work as well in TEW2. Traps aren't in TEW2, neither are sniper users, Lost can't duck, enemies would lose track of you, but mostly I think it would be quite badly ruined by your ability to shoot while crouched undercutting a key vulnerability of the blade forcing you to be crouched. Crocodile Men could've made it fun but using Crocodile Men in an interesting way is beyond TEW2.

Along with the removal of ranged enemies from TEW2 you no longer have height being a consideration where you would have to divide attention between up high and down below. Everything feels very flat in TEW2 with verticality not being a big consideration, it devalues your weapons that perform well at range and makes arenas feel very uncomplicated. When height is a thing in TEW2, and I believe it's only once, you can jump down to ground level at any time so your decision to stand your ground up high has less consequence than it did in say chapter 6 of TEW1 where you had to find a pathway down.

Almost every major battle in TEW1 had some new objective or feature. I've always thought after the start of chapter 11 TEW1's arena fights were never on par with what came before but Chapter 11 still varied encounters up with having you approach fights with new elements to work around. Something like the shutter door that forces you to return to a starting position before a new wave of enemies will attack is something you've never encountered before or will again. You have to strategize around being left out in the open and the wait for the door to open is like a jack in the box style suspense. The enemy composition when the door opens is designed with an interesting conceit in that the enemies are made up of a melee and a sniper. The melee is a problem right away but the sniper won't be an issue until he's set up in his nest, on the other hand the sniper is vulnerable out of his nest. It's a choice between eliminating an immediate lesser danger or taking advantage of a more dangerous enemy's moment of weakness. I'm not sure if that would be as easy to set up without the door feature and it's an example of the sort of decision making quality enemy composition and level design could include in gameplay that's missing from TEW2.

I missed moments like that when playing TEW2, I don't believe there was ever a moment where the arena you were fighting in introduces a new gameplay feature to keep things fresh. When I played RE6 years ago I was quickly annoyed with Leon's campaign early on having so many of it's horde fighting moments being just a simple square that's flooded with enemies to fight. While the fights aren't as numerous in TEW2 I was just as annoyed with how similar the level design was to RE6 during TEW2's own horde fight scenes. You might want to bring up the fire walk scene as a moment where something new was introduced but I didn't find moving the square enemies flooded added anything to the encounter. If the square had moved over varied terrain that changed your movement, imagine if you moved through a series of homes, or either moved away from or towards something dangerous that added an element of time pressure then you could have an argument. I'm talking about something large and deadly that you have to slow down if it's chasing you or defeat before you reach it, a bit like the truck ride in RE4. As it is the fire walk is just a square, that is technically a circle, that moves and offers nothing different from the cabin scene with Torres.

It's a pet peeve for me when a game gives you an npc to superficially protect and work with but then they make that npc invincible. It's a disconnect between story and gameplay done in service of avoiding any possible frustration on the players behalf and it is a quick way of telling me the game designers don't give a toss about linking the two. I also believe giving you something to protect other than yourself can vary gameplay in a positive way by having you divide attention between your friend and your current preoccupation. Torres is immortal but what's more she sets up an instant kill if you let enemies attack her, so I do do that and that's a heartless thing for Seb to be doing.

There were more arena battles in TEW1 on the whole but that wasn't the only kind of combat encounter the game would throw at you. I've already brought up Alter Ego and Invisible enemy encounters before so I won't go back over them. They show how TEW 1 could offer up combat that wasn't always you facing waves of enemies but progressing through an area in a slow and methodical fashion. You could also be faced with encounters where you can leave right away with there still being a challenge of having to get past whatever's blocking your path, you would still have to fight and use ammo but killing wasn't necessary. Something like the gas warehouse I brought up earlier is an example of that. Combat in TEW2 is treated as a means of introducing something fast paced to TEW2 and it has lost the ability to provide combat with a more restrained delivery. It makes TEW2 more predictable when it only offers up the one mode of conflict.

Environmental threats that did return were significantly toned down. Shooting valves to turn off fire was changed from a high pressure situation where you had to do it quick or die into a slow paced stealth encounter where you have all the time in the world. In the original a high fence could block your movement but a Haunted could climb right over, it was just a minor three minute long sequence in chapter 11 but it showed a possibility for limiting player movement that they chose not to capitalise on in TEW2 despite having the means.

Puzzles back in TEW1 were not exactly the most difficult and you could clearly see how they were dumbed down through playtesting. I'm not bothered by a puzzle being easy to solve mentally because a difficult puzzle doesn't hold up on repeat playthroughs. What I do like is when a puzzle involves the level design in a significant way, there are multiple ways to traverse a level and the resources you have can have an effect as well so it adds variety on a replay. There wasn't much of that in TEW1 but there was a puzzle in chapter 9 that had you search Ruvik's mansion for two safe dials. With Ruvik's random appearances encouraging you to speed through the mansion you might not necessarily have enough time to grab the dials in one trip through the mansion. Try to do too much in one trip and risk Ruvik or make two trips and risk more enemy spawns, there's a choice to be made there beyond the puzzle making better use of the area. I wouldn't put it up there with some of the better RE puzzles but it's something.

I'm mainly bringing up the safe dial puzzle to contrast with the puzzle in TEW2 where you have to photograph a mannequin with two props to open a door. The props you need to place on the mannequin aren't hidden in the museum they are just there next to the mannequin, you don't even have to place them personally. It's not just that the mannequin puzzle is dumb and a waste of time it's that the museum is very large and has nothing happen in it. Placing the props about the museum and having you search through the building could've made better use of what is a large and interesting area. They could've even expanded the puzzle concept to allow you to find incorrect props but had Seb refuse to hold more than two so that memorising the correct props could be a part of gameplay. There were quite a few very large areas in TEW2 where nothing much happened. Stephano's galleries, like the one in the opening, stand out to me because they had a great deal of effort put into them but on a second playthrough you sprint through them thoughtlessly. We have large set pieces in those galleries like the room with all the statues that I couldn't help but think would've been great to have some enemies roaming around in. Statues blocking my movement and camouflaging enemies would've created a memorable combat encounter different from anything else in the game but as it is they are just there not doing anything like the entirety of those gallery levels.

Pacing is a damn mess in TEW2. In the early Resident Evil games the pace of the game starts off slow and methodical with you being disarmed and enclosed but the pace quickens as the game progresses until you are terminating monster after monster like Robocop with excessive, gory, explosive violence. TEW1 and 2 are more than double the length of a classic Resident Evil game, near three times the length in my experience. I don't think RE's pacing is at all a good fit for them as stretched over a greater length of time too much exploration feels comfortable and boring while too much high intensity combat would feel like too much of a departure from how the game started. I'm bringing this up because I've always looked at TEW1's pacing as the perfect response to this issue. TEW2 most often attempts to contrast it's slow methodical open world stealth gameplay with slow methodical linear stealth gameplay. TEW2's solution to me seems like it never wants to leave the exploration phase, it's too worried about being called an action game or not offering players freedom. The original Evil Within was always building up momentum from a relatively slow exploration focused start to eventually putting you through a series of gauntlets that push you to your limits, and then it stops and starts all over again. TEW1's solution to working RE1's pacing into a longer game was to use RE1's pacing in it's entirety three times over the course of the game. TEW1's pacing leads to more complex decision making than TEW2. When you have a series of gauntlets coming up on the horizon, you have something to prepare for and you have something to spend all you hard earned ammo on. I was perplexed during TEW2 when after 6 hours of gathering resources and having nothing to use them on in chapter 3 the next 3 linear chapters likewise had nothing to use resources on, except one short fight, and in fact reduced tension down to a walking sim for a good 15 minutes.
Last edited by SutterCane on Jan 07, 2018 8:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Gameplay In TEW2 is Simplistic Compared to TEW1

Postby SutterCane » Jan 05, 2018 2:52 pm

Bosses

Bosses in TEW2 carry on the same lack of consideration for creating a threatening and abusive pressure cooker to fight in that normal fights also don't bother to provide. I'm not going to go over every boss fight in both games I don't think that's necessary but I do want to cover Laura and the Keeper to highlight a few key issues.

Laura in TEW1 was a recurring boss with each confrontation establishing a new aspect you would have to deal with until the final encounter that has you use knowledge and skills learned from all of your previous meetings. She puts a large focus on using matches. The first time you are forced to kill her using matches takes advantage of her weakness to fire and you will likely camp a corpse she spawns out of to score an easy kill. In her final battle there aren't enough corpses to kill her and you wind up using matches in a new way as a means of stunning Laura to create time to shoot levers, with bodies being in short supply you have to take full advantage of your limited opportunities. It's interesting and rare for a TPS to focus in on one base mechanic for the entirety of a boss fight and while there are other ways of dealing with Laura the spotlight thrown on matches shows the original Evil Within's willingness to ask its players for a greater understanding and execution of it's base mechanics.

That's something I love about a returning boss fight when it's done well. A good returning boss lays out a solid foundation to start with and then constantly ups the ante and retests your understanding of the boss or an existing mechanic. It allows a game to delve deeper into the mechanics than it would be able to if something like Laura was a one off. Also on a replay you can use the same knowledge and skills you've accrued over the course of the last playthrough to kill Laura during her debut, it's a nice pay off to realise you never had to run from her in the first place. Being able to kill Laura in all her incarnations is satisfying in general and it's another choice you are faced with as a player whether or not to spend resources on killing her for upgrade gel.

You can circumvent all that match stuff if you like with the crossbow. The crossbow is a crutch that lets you pass by an area if you don't get what the game expects from you and I mean that in the best possible way. If you don't get that invisible enemies expect you to discern their position based off their footprints then fire a flash bolt to reveal them. Can't slow down Laura with matches, then use an electric bolt to do the same thing with less effort. It's a great piece of kit and while it allows for an easy way out I don't think it outclasses playing through a challenge like Laura using matches since they are more efficient and effective.

Laura returned in TEW2 alongside the Keeper introduced with some very slick transitions that set you up for a wonderful disappointment. Laura does not recur in TEW2 and as a result they expect you know nothing about her mechanically. The arena she appears in is so obviously designed with a fire pit in the centre that you can't fail to understand what to do, twist valves and pull a lever. To further beat the player over the head with hints they placed electric bolts next to the valves you should turn so that people remember that electric bolts can slow an enemy while they turn the valves. There's no testing of an existing mechanic here, you just solve a very simple puzzle to burn Laura twice in the centre of the room.

Laura in the original game had a one hit kill attack and moved very fast, given that you weren't supposed to fight her but focus your attention on the level design to progress she acted as a sort of timer to hurry your actions. She made shooting helpless levers that can't go anywhere stressful and difficult. TEW2 Laura moves at a snails pace and is insanely easy to dodge. Something I like to do in games like TEW2 is to let the boss kill me so I can see the death animations but I couldn't manage to get a one hit kill off of her, I can't believe they would remove it and I mean that literally I think it's in the game but I couldn't get it to happen. She's so heavily neutered from her TEW1 counterpart and her drunken behaviour manages to make even turning valves boring.

Matches aren't in TEW2 but Laura is, the mechanic the boss is designed around isn't in the game anymore but they brought the boss back anyway. That is crazy to me and it gets even crazier when you see that they kept bodies for her to spawn from, every now and then Laura will take a very long time to spawn from a corpse for no reason. It's irritating to me because they kept it to maintain imagery from the original game but lost the reason she did it in the first place. It's so hollow, the whole boss feels hollow. She may not have been a recurring boss in TEW2 but I fought her in TEW1 so many times that as a returning player I needed her to again build upon established behaviour to provide a worthwhile challenge not toss it all out for a lazy set piece puzzle. It's a bizarre piece of fanservice for people that hated the original game and everything it was doing with it's mechanics, they stripped everything from that character that gave her meaning and purpose.

I do have a bias against puzzle bosses that are just the puzzle and nothing else. I like resource management, I don't need to be left with nothing but I need to at least have to consider carefully using what I do have. When your means of defeating a boss circumvents those resources, which is what a puzzle based boss does, it detracts from the long term resource management gameplay. I'm fine with a boss not using resources once in a while, especially during segments where the focus is on having you restock, but the last major boss before Laura was O'Neal the stealth boss. Aside from that making the means of defeating the boss a set of predefined actions results in dull replays with little scope for approaching the fight from a new angle. A puzzle boss like Laura in TEW2 also doesn't test or capitalise on any existing mechanics. If the oven in the centre of the room was single use and only a part of the fight or if Laura had forced your hand more to stop her before dealing with the puzzle it would've helped.

Her fight in TEW2 is also a blatant knock off of her first arena in TEW1 where you have to kill her. There are differences though in that the arena in TEW2 is more basic and the ovens in TEW1 were harder to utilise, I usually had to get Laura to spawn from a corpse in the oven to use it effectively, they weren't the be all end all of the fight originally either. It's a smaller arena in TEW2 but it's more open so it's all the easier to dodge Laura as well as see her coming, she used to block an entire path with her body. It's also a flatter arena in TEW2 so you don't have to make space for climbing a ladder or worry about how ascending steps would slow you down, you don't have to duck underneath anything like the half closed doors TEW1 used to let Laura catch up. It did make me think about how rubbish Laura would be in TEW1 if you only had to lead her into an oven and burn her, what a short and lame fight that would be. I mean I don't really have to think about how lame it would be I guess since TEW2 did it.

The Keeper is the other returning boss from the original game and while it may seem like I picked these two bosses because they are in both games I picked them because they show off what the original game was doing with it's boss fights the best. With the Keeper I consider his fights in TEW1 to perfectly demonstrate how the focus was rarely on the enemy as much as it was on the level you fought them in. The only reason the Keeper has any challenge is because you fight him in challenging areas.

His debut area is an area filled with gas that forces you to act fast to turn various levers to progress through the level. On the face of it that's similar to the TEW2 Laura fight but there's a key difference in that the Keeper fight has you on a time limit which forces you to create space to turn the valve, you can't waste precious time waiting for a perfect moment. The Keeper is a rather slow, mundane enemy and he doesn't really work without the addition of the time limit on his gassy escapade forcing you to interact with him. You have to kill him twice too so it's not as simple as only turning and pulling levers.

You face him for a second time in a confined meat freezer. The Keeper's big meat prevents you from moving around freely and trying to slide down the middle is a painfully slow process giving the Keeper ample time to bop you over the head. The Keeper is benefited by the meat even more because moving through it provides him cover from your gunshots. To further complicate things the Keeper drops traps on the floor and all of a sudden the forest of meat starts seeming more inviting. After killing a Keeper a deadly Roomba starts to patrol the floor giving you another threat to consider. Everything about the Freezer is designed to give the slow, lumbering Keeper the advantage over you while your advantages of speed and range are rendered impotent. Like the gas did before the tight quarters and ever increasing trap numbers persuades you to engage the Keeper and kill him quickly before becoming overwhelmed. Killing an enemy quickly means using your more powerful weapons.

You get the picture the Keeper needs a little bit of a leg up but he also has arena's that don't offer you anything other than negatives that you have to work around. It was a regular thing in TEW1 to walk into a boss arena that offered you nothing but a new danger. Sentinel has his bushes and bear traps, the Twins have a tight maze that they fill completely with their large forms, the Octopus loves it's holes and slither creatures and a later Sadist fight locks you into a very tight space yourself. It was expected that you wouldn't just be faced with a boss, you would be faced with a boss in an arena that is also trying to kill you.

In the sequel the Keeper was neutered as badly as Laura was. His arena isn't designed to help him kill you in any way, it's massively open and most resembles his debut gas hole but there's no timer to stress you out or valves to tie you down. Aside from that the Keeper has a reduced move set compared to what he was given originally, he's missing a few hammer and sack swings that made him less predictable and more mobile but mainly he's missing his unholy traps. Removing the Keeper's traps is up there with removing matches from Laura's fight, it was a huge part of his identity but it also gave him a way of shrinking your area of control down so that he could catch you. As a result his fight is almost as dull as the Laura fight, there's not much to consider other than shooting the Keeper himself and without receiving a hand from level design he's used to the Keeper can't keep up.

That's indicative of a trend in TEW2, there weren't any boss arena's designed to give you any serious trouble or hazards. The worst I can think of is possibly O'Neal's fight which starts with fire blocking your way but you pull a lever five seconds into the fight to make it disappear. Imagine if the room filled with suffocating smoke like the Keeper fight did and you had to chase him down quickly as well as putting out fires to stop smoke build up, that fight would be much harder and varied instead of the dull cake walk it ends up being in TEW2. I'm against the idea of a stealth boss for the same reason I hate the puzzle boss, no resource use and very samey.

There is a huge difference between the Keeper and Laura in TEW1, Laura is fast and relentless while the Keeper mills about dropping junk on the floor. There was much more variety to the bosses in TEW1, I don't think there are as many in TEW2 but even still they are more similar to each other than the bosses in TEW1 were. All the bosses in TEW2 tend to make a straight beeline for you, they don't take time out to set traps or run away to set up an ambush and even when it introduces a stealth boss it feels like more of the same because you could hide from most bosses. TEW2 Laura and Keeper behave almost the same as each other too once Laura is slowed down and the Keeper loses his traps.

TEW1 would at times establish a concept in the level preceding a boss or just before it and then incorporate that concept into the boss fight. The Keeper's poison gas, Roomba, bear traps or Laura's levers all appeared in a level before the boss did. It's part of why I like the Giggling Guardian fight because it does involve the cameras. It's why it was so off to me that the level preceding Laura in TEW2 would feature her fire traps, I thought at the time that it was ok that they were dumb and easy because I was only being prepared for a Laura return where they'll be used to their fullest. Nope, they don't turn up in her fight. Even old, everyday traps like wall bombs and bear traps could gain a boost to their effectiveness when they were thrown into the Laura fights and again were a part of how a boss fight would put extra stress on understanding a mechanic. That's not a big part of TEW2.

The emphasis with bosses similar to regular enemies stopped being about strategy and became more about simply dodging the boss's hits like in say Dark Souls or any standard action game. There's nothing like placing a shock trap between you and Sentinel to prevent his charge attack against you, if you want to avoid a knife slash from Stephano you just move slightly to the right. I fight bosses with a lackadaisical style where I take my time, dodging is easy, I'm not under any time constraints so I have no need to rush things and that puts less pressure on using your more powerful weapons to end a fight quickly. Easy, uncomplicated boss fights have a knock on effect of sidelining resource management, these should be the big event you've been saving powerful ammo for but they are all so dreary and undemanding the unlimited pistol ammo feels adequate.

I don't see a reason for Laura, Keeper and Sadist to be used at that point in the game either. Theodore has been harping on and on about how Seb should be guilty about leaving his daughter and you play through a level that is created from the fractured remains of Seb's burning home but when you finally come face to face with Ted his boss fight has nothing to do with any of that and instead goes back to the Beacon well. It's bad fanservice that adds nothing to the plot of TEW2 and as a returning fan it's soul crushing the way TEW2 holds Laura's hands behind her back, pinned to floor goading you to kick her while she's helpless.

One boss I do like in TEW2 is the first major boss fight with the Giggling Guardian. It's not an arena that adds to the difficulty of the fight but it has loads of things to interact with that keeps the fight feeling exciting, it might be the best thing in TEW2. It's good when an early boss fight leans a little on the easy side so that you have time to get to grips with the combat system. I thought it would be like the original Laura where the first time you escape her nothing is blocking you but then in the finale you have more to work around but Giggles never gets a worthy arena that shows her off properly. I kept waiting for a proper fight with Obscura too since it was only briefly teased.

My least favourite boss in TEW2 is a hotly contested spot and I don't know which I really think is worst. I'm going to say it's Stephano just so I can talk about how off his fight is, it's one of the worst designed things I've ever played because he keeps doing weird things that add nothing to the fight and don't accomplish anything. The way you fight Stephano is to stand in place, Steph will throw a knife or run up and slash, you move to the right as he attacks and then shoot as he is open. That's it for the entire fight. Stephano has two moves I can't figure out the point of, one he drops mines in certain parts of the arena and the other he calls down tentacles to slam down. Given I don't move about the arena to fight Steph those kind of area denial moves don't serve any purpose, he won't ever chase me into them. I don't get either why the tentacles start to slam down more times in a row as the fight goes on, that doesn't increase the danger in any way. I guess I hate him so much because they spent time giving him traps that don't work for him in any way.





It's hard not to look at enemy design, encounter design and boss design as simply a scene from TEW1 but more simple and easier with less decision making required from the player. Make Lost like Haunted but less varied types, less varied movement, less hit reactions and no difference between shooting one area or another, no vulnerable state to take advantage of, make it so you don't have to sprint to avoid their attacks. Make Laura but slow and with nothing blocking your path. Do the burning house with Joseph again but have less enemies come in and give Joseph unlimited health, a machine gun and make protecting him unnecessary for progress. O'Neal's levers you have to shoot to open paths are similar to Laura's boss fight where you had to shoot levers to progress but in her case shooting a lever resulted in shrinking the arena rather than expanding it. Chapter 4 in TEW2 with the alarms bringing in enemies has a similar but more basic design to Chapter 5 prison fight with less enemy variety, no protecting Joseph and less intensity. Anima encounters are a lot like Ruvik except you face her on her own and I don't know what she's doing or where she's going, oh she's gone. I could go on, the sequel offers something different from TEW1 in that it gives more of what I already had but less of it.

At times I find myself using a weapon like the shotgun/explosive bolt/harpoon/electric bolt and I feel as though I'm exploiting the game even though those are my basic guns. When I mention using the explosive bolt to round up and kill a dozen Lost it doesn't feel earned to do that, it feels like cheating and the electric bolt on water or even against Lava Men feels the same way. Then I remember I'm basically playing TEW1 with cheat codes on, those things feel broken because the matches that used to balance those things are gone and I was never supposed to have powerful ammo in such great quantities. All combat in TEW2 feels sloppy and unbalanced like that, like there's a choice between using something that feels very broken and overpowered or using something laughably terrible like the unupgraded pistol with not much in between.

I couldn't figure out what to call that bit so I didn't spoiler it. I should've figured out a way to split the enemy section. I am not concise.

Story

Story is something I wasn't sure whether or not I'd make a part of this topic but I'm replaying the original and I still notice small details that flesh out the world. It's not something I typically care about in a game so it's always been odd to me that it held the kind of interest for me that it does. I think it's largely down to how the game leaves it up to you as a player to figure what happened but also how to interpret certain information and characters.

There's not much wiggle room in the sequel for interpretation or in figuring out what happened. STEM is fully explained before you enter it but also Kidman acts as a contact in the real world that separates one world distinctly from the other, as the game continues each and every little aspect of the plot and setting is clearly and definitively explained by someone. Right away that annoys me because it closes off so much of what I enjoyed about STEM in the original. I loved how disorientating an experience it was, events playing out of order forced you to figure out how they fit together. It also kills the mystery and supernatural air the STEM machine originally had when you present it as just the Matrix. Visually the STEM machine is much more bland, it no longer has any organic elements that helped define it as a sort of living organism. They could have had the game start in STEM once again and there would have been a mystery to unravel as to either how you ended up in STEM again or whether it was Seb losing his mind, losing his mind. Leaving Kidman as just a voice and not a fully shot cutscene would've made you question her existence, little things that even if they were only maintained for the early game would've piqued my interest.

Little narrative puzzles to solve or theorise about were nice to play about with when you wander around in TEW1. Something like finding Leslie in a photographer's studio in chapter 4 seems random but then you read a paper explaining how he had escaped his captors and was found there. It makes sense that he would find his way there again after escaping Beacon in STEM. Finding a missing poster for Ivan Diaz the freelance reporter who went missing with his camera later in the game had me fantasising about how he might have been the photojournalist that helped Leslie escape only to wind up trapped in STEM himself. It's even interesting that after reading that Leslie escaped Beacon you figure out that Jimenez is trying to cover up that fact by saying Leslie found his way there due to being treated by his brother. It's just an interpretation, I'm sure someone will prove me wrong or have their own view and that's fine because that's what I like and miss. Constructing a series of events from interpreting evidence can only ever give you a plausible story and rarely something concrete even if a series of events solidifies in your own mind, it was enjoyable reading other people's conclusions. There aren't so many little puzzles like that in TEW2, everything is explained and concluded thoroughly.

I miss the way STEM was used as a means of exploring the villain's motivations and his past. I know virtually nothing about Theodore or Stephano, I don't know how Theodore became a cult leader or what kind of leader he was and I don't know what led Stephano to start murdering people. Building up to TEW2 release there were articles that described Stephano as a war photographer, I expected that part of his past to be explorable as an in game level and that maybe it would explain how he became warped. It's weird with Theodore that his levels are an industrial hell when they should have been one of his Mu Centers so that we could understand who he was outside of STEM, we can't glean anything about Ted from his dungeon. The original TEW did have hellish levels but they were usually based off something real that had been twisted, Chapter 10 is likely a warped version of Ruvik's basement home and the spinning blade is both sketched in earlier chapters and has a real world equivelant of the merry go round. Yes TEW1 had Cerberus guarding the gates to the church but that and the tortures inside were a deliberate mockery of religion on Ruvik's part, it doesn't make sense for Ted to mock the thing he's trying to sell Seb on.

If TEW2 was meant more as an exploration of Sebastian then they could have made the police station, a wedding venue or Lily's school a level instead of Theodore's dungeon and Stephano's galleries. We could have played through the Castellanos house in an expanded fashion similar to chapter 9 in the original TEW where we could have learnt how they behaved as a family and who they were as people. There are elements of the Castellanos house recreated in the homes of the inhabitants of Union and whether that's simply a means of saving production costs or not it's still a nice touch but I wish they'd expanded on that and had Seb reflect on his old life instead of the Anima encounters in Beacon. The Anima encounters aren't worth much when you think about, the take away from them is that Seb is tormented by his past STEM experience and through the Anima encounters he overcomes it but that's also the plot of Theodore's section. Why go over the same plot point twice?

On Seb's house, it's weird Myra doesn't get an office but Seb does. They do more or less the same job and if anything she seemed a little bit more busy than him at that point in their lives. They could've shared it and contrasted Myra owned parts with Seb owned parts, little invasions of each others space going on but the game paints it as more of a Seb area.

I'm not sure that the end of TEW's DLC with the scar appearing on Kidman's hand was meant to convey that Kidman and Seb had STEM PTSD. It seemed to me that it was meant to signal that Ruvik would always be with Kidman like a voice in her ear or influencing her actions in some way. There are files in the DLC that imply Jimenez had used STEM a few times without remembering, he said he dreamed he had activated STEM. Even some of Ruvik's dialogue to Seb "Will you be able to live with with yourself knowing what I'm going to make you do?" ominously hints that he might have plans for Seb outside of killing him. Maybe Ruvik has less influence than I thought, he was all talk and STEM has no long term effect I guess. After TEW2 that plot can't go anywhere, none of it can. I'm disappointed personally though because I thought that concept opened up some interesting possibilities, particularly about free will and whether Seb's actions are fully his. Without even involving another STEM machine they could've had a sequel take place purely in Seb's head as he deals with STEM's continued effects.

There are a few things with TEW2's plot that don't make much sense when considered alongside the story of TEW1. I'm not going to go into detail with that because there's already a good topic on the issues and promise of TEW2's story, that topic made me think about cutting all this to be honest. I do want to say that when details don't line up between the two games it puts me off trying to pursue story threads in TEW2 because it gives me the impression they didn't care about following through with concepts established in TEW1.







Non-Linearity

[spoiler]Non-Linear gameplay was something I'd always wanted back on the landscape for survival horror games and that includes TEW series.

In RE1 I've mentioned how avoiding a zombie and leaving it alive wasn't the right thing to every time, well a major factor in that decision making process was the game's non-linearity. Backtracking becomes an important part of the equation of whether to kill an enemy or not because if you left something alive and then had to return to the area again you would have to reckon with your sloppy actions. When I mention moments in TEW1 where you could avoid rather than kill your enemies I had always been a little sad that TEW1's linear gameplay meant that consequences of that choice to flee would never catch up with me. It's a layer of gameplay that when it's removed greatly streamlines the decision making process. If you only meet a zombie once then it's effectively dead the moment you move past it, even if that monster is guaranteed to hit you you probably won't care or might consider it a worthwhile trade.

TEW1 was aware of losing that element from it's gameplay and it took steps to rectify the change linearity brought to the equation. What TEW1 did was it made escaping without facing the enemy at some point very hard. Early on in chapter 2 you are faced with that big gate you slowly have to winch up, that moment in chapter 11 where I talk about not killing anyone in the warehouse still requires a bolt or bullet, all the countless traps that prevent you from running straight to the exit of a level. They couldn't contrive a means of forcing you back into conflict so they instead had to up the difficulty of escape. It still can create an interesting choice to make though since the escape can require a different resource from killing everything in the room or have you forgo gel or other valuables in the room. It's not perfect but it's interesting to view how TEW1 would take steps to balance itself around the loss of a feature by providing something near to equivelant.

TEW2 is not fully linear and it does contrive reasons during the open world segments to have you run back and forth. There's a moment early on where the game has you traipse back to O'Neal for a gas mask from one half of the overworld and then all the way back again. So you backtrack. That should recreate the kind of set up in RE1 where temporarily dealing(running away) with a permanent problem is not ideal long term. It doesn't work out that way however because it's so very easy to avoid everything in the open world segments that it doesn't matter if they are dead or not. It's also very easy to stealth kill everything but that's a separate issue. It's sort of on the opposite end of the spectrum from the original game where the original made escape very difficult the sequel makes escape so easy it's hard to picture combat ever being a good idea. It's like they looked at the issue of running into old Lost as a problem caused by backtracking as opposed to being the entire point of backtracking. I do want to give TEW2 kudos all the same for not removing Lost from the game world, at least not for a good long while.

Another major gameplay addition non-linearity adds is a large degree of variance in each playthrough. Back in RE1 when you find a key and that key can open between 2-4 doors you are faced with branching paths and a choice to make. By making different choices each playthrough you can vary your experience, a beautiful thing about RE1 at this point is that there are quite a few remixes where they offer you keys earlier or put weapons in different areas. With RE1 it's more than just variance though because the house is the entire thing. Everything is so tightly packed and knitted together that what routes you've opened up and cleared out at the beginning of the game can have a continued impact on how you traverse through the house for the rest of the game. There aren't many dead ends and there aren't many parts of the residence that become inconsequential to travel later. People talk about puzzles being missing from survival horror these days but they never seem to acknowledge or fully appreciate that the best puzzle in survival horror is the house in RE. What to kill, when to kill, what weapon to use, when to heal, what door to open first, what to leave last, where to use your small keys, ink ribbons etc. It's far more complex a puzzle than being tested on knowledge of English literature or your ability to read a sign on the wall that tells you how to easily treat water. It's the only puzzle that I personally care about being present.

I wrote in a different topic that I felt the spirit of that RE1 puzzle was kept alive in TEW1's approach to combat and level design. I'm not going to go back over that but given I've spent a long time going over how TEW2 stripped the complexity and decision making out of the combat and level design, you can imagine I don't feel the same way about TEW2.

The ability to do things in a different order is fully alive in TEW2. Unlike RE1 however TEW2 does not take place in one house with newly open pathways connecting back to old explored rooms. Once you've been through the Marrow to collect your shotgun, or explored the train to find your ammo pouch those locations are done and you never have to worry about them again. This entire thing I've been writing exists because of how I grew to notice how little what weapons you have matters in TEW2, that makes doing things in a different order have much less meaning. It doesn't matter if you have a shotgun or not during the Anima encounter, it doesn't matter if you've seen Anima when you go to find your shotgun. It makes these findings feel transient and throwaway.

I've looked on chapter 3 in TEW1 as being the perfect implementation of what RE1 style non-linear level design in a modern survival horror should look like, of course you'd have to slap a few keys in there to achieve the full effect. The way everything connects in that small village, kicking down the ladder to connect the barn to the main house, killing the sniper to open up the square, not only do you get something for exploring those locations but they have the added depth of offering you new routes through the village. They built an upper layer into the level that stretches across the majority of the village and offers pathways down to several sections of the ground level village. That upper level not only adds a new way to travel across the village but by expanding up instead of out they prevented you from ever having to travel for a very long time to get to any location. I would have expected TEW2 to use the Marrow to a similar effect to the upper teir of TEW1's village with it allowing travel to multiple different parts of Union as an alternative to overworld travel but that wasn't the case. It takes a long time to get from one end of Union to the other.

If TEW2 non-linear level design isn't in the same structure as RE1 or attempting the same goals, it certainly isn't achieving them, then what is it doing? My best guess is it's attempting something similar to Super Mario Odyssey where the overworld doesn't really matter, it's just there to look pretty and act as a glorified level selector. That's pretty novel for horror and I wouldn't say it isn't worth pursuing. A promise though was that this overworld would offer up breathing space between tense situations. In TEW1 you would be locked into a mode of intensity so long that it became either normal or overwhelming. Offering respite from that doesn't seem like a bad idea, Mario's overworld does the same thing very well. It falls apart with TEW2 though because you are never put into any sufficiently intense situations to begin with and often you are locked into a linear environment which defeats the point of non-linearity offering reprieve. I got my hopes up with non-linearity in TEW2 when they talked about that optional breathing space because it seemed like a non-intrusive solution to an issue people had with sections of TEW1 being too much to cope with. I thought that those sections were then guaranteed to be in the game with this pressure valve in place.

There's an intrinsically satisfying aspect of exploring a map and systematically clearing out enemies and picking up materials, it's like cleaning or popping bubble wrap. When that act doesn't provide any challenge or require strategy in any way you settle into a sleepy, comfortable boredom and that's what happens in TEW2. I don't always mind if a game sets out to offer comfortable boredom but I don't want that from a horror game. I still enjoy this aspect of TEW2, I'm not sure I would call it depth but it is engaging in an OCD exploiting way.

Having to return to a bench to craft items works it's way into backtracking in a nice way, it's not a huge deal but it is something I liked and felt added depth. It does devalue how a high pressure situation would previously tempt you to craft but it's a trade off I'm comfortable with because it potentially exploits the non-linear design better as a trade off. Infinite coffee restoring health I shouldn't have to go into as to why that's a terrible idea for a survival horror. You could have found a limited amount of coffee grounds on the map and had to return to a machine to use them, that could've been interesting. It is easy to ignore coffee in the game at least.

Limited saves becomes a thing in classic mode. In RE1 I think ink ribbons are very important. In RE1 you could potentially knife a zombie to death without being hit but knifing multiple zombies to death in a row is pretty tricky. If a player had unlimited saves they might be tempted to save after every perfect kill and circumvent the whole finding ammo for guns gameplay loop. In TEW2 clearing enemies in the open world without ammo isn't tricky, it's very easy so rather than discourage harmful behaviour limited saves have the effect of punishing a death with potentially a very long period of very boring gameplay. That punishment dissuades you from high risk, high reward gameplay that would have a low success rate but there isn't much of that in TEW2, there is a lot of low risk, high reward gameplay in the open world stealth so the limited saves have kind of a negative effect of pushing you down a safe and uninteresting path. In combat the limited saves can push you toward taking less risks and trying to end fights quickly with your more dangerous weapons but there isn't much combat in TEW2 and the same effect could have been achieved by limiting you to save points and then spacing save points out.

I view limited saves in the same way I do Akumu in that really if you wanted you could apply that challenge yourself if you wanted to without it being an official mode.

I like non-linear gameplay, I prefer it, but at the end of the day it's just a means of presenting gameplay scenarios and if the scenarios presented aren't up to scratch then it doesn't matter whether the game is linear or non linear. I think non linearity could've added a new dynamic to encounters but I don't think TEW2 took advantage of the unique aspects of its non-linear structure.



Conclusion

This wasn't about lining up all the things I thought were bad in TEW2 vs all the things that were good in TEW1. I was trying to figure out why my gameplay felt so similar between playthroughs in TEW2 so I started tallying up all the things which added variety to my choices in TEW1. When it came to TEW2 I found mechanics that added to the variety to be missing without being adequately replaced with an equivalent. It's about depth and whether you think TEW2 is better or worse I don't think it's arguable that it is anything but less and in this case less is less and when they added more like the stomp it resulted in even more less. I may really like a lot of the music but that has nothing to do with depth so I didn't talk about it, the only reason I talked story and visual design in the end was that I consider piecing things together gameplay.

What's worrying for me is when people call this removal of gameplay an improvement, straight up don't notice or even prefer it because simple things never pose a challenge. I said at the start that the goal in designing TEW2 was likely to remove as much stress as possible but isn't stress essentially tension and isn't that the entire point of a game like The Evil Within? I started to get worried early on with TEW2 and notice red flags when the developers said they split upgrading into two resources to remove decision making from the game because it was stressful, I'm paraphrasing. Looking at the game with the view of if something was stressful in TEW1 they would take it out explains a lot of TEW2 to me but TEW1 without stress is pretty much nothing. Another way of looking at it would be to view TEW2 as trying to address literally every complaint thrown at TEW1 but there wasn't anything of value in the original game that wasn't complained about and in addition TEW1 received some of the most bizarre complaints I've ever seen.

There's a time in game's where feeling something negative like stress is entirely appropriate, in a horror game that time should be all the time. I can understand why they might want to remove stress from TEW to attract the sort of people that only like "fun" things but stress was also part of a deeper layer of mechanics in TEW that added greater strategic depth and variety to the gameplay. It's stressful to decide what to spend resources on but compelling and worthwhile decision making gameplay is stressful, if it wasn't then the choice probably didn't matter. When you remove all the stress from TEW you lose everything that stress was intertwined with, all that depth and variety preventing the game from becoming simply shoot thing dead. There's an aspect to survival horror games where they are deliberately subverting standard genre conventions in order to provide greater tension and strategy, like the matches(finishing moves) lacking in i-frames or needing resources to attack are big fopa for typical action games, there's a tendency for that to be misunderstood as incompetence at making an action game rather than the choice to eschew what's normally done to create a new gameplay style. TEW2 seems desperate to remove anything that was unconventional from the original formula, playing it's action, stealth and immersive sim elements as safe and straight as it can but it only removed without adding anything substantial back into the pot to fully flesh out and take advantage of the merits of those genres.

It's not common now for a TPS to limit ammo and still push you into combat, prior to TEW1 I'm having a hard time thinking of the last time a game really gave it a go and can't believe it was RE0. I think that was a shock to the system for a lot of people with TEW1, it released around the same time as TLOU which superficially limits ammo but then offers up stealth and a strong melee as the main means of overcoming obstacles so resources don't matter. There's an expectation now that a game with resource management should offer an equally powerful, usually more powerful like stealth in TLOU/TEW2, non resource using alternative and to not do so is a game design flaw. There's the level design too which was blatantly antagonistic in TEW1 is something that rarely occurs in a TPS, it's more common in melee action games where it's still maligned, I don't think people are used to dealing with more than just the monster in front of them. Things like that maybe feel more like external factors beyond the players control even when really they can be planned for and for someone like me are exciting to play around. TEW1 was a game that tied your success to strategy and planning as opposed to just the ability to react in the moment, usually to dodge then return fire, like a normal action game like TEW2. Rather than learn the mechanics and look inward it's easier for most people to blame the game and call for the removal of mechanics giving them trouble. It's easier for a developer too to remove than it is to add.

It's a quagmire where the presence of balance and challenge in survival horror is viewed as an unfair design flaw while an unbalanced mess is considered preferable so long as it's easy and familiar because it allows everyone to play however they want and never be penalised or get stuck. The way difficulty in games that involve strategy beyond shooting and dodging is viewed has made an enemy out of thinking.

Consent is so important for a survival horror to work but it's hard to gauge what an individual person is willing to put up with, if you go too far with player limitations people will call bullshit. These days it seems like placing any limitations on the player at all is too far for most people. I think it was easier when RE1 was made to get away with designing a game in a way that could be obtrusive. It's harder now when most games are being designed around making actions as simple to perform as possible to get away with something like turning slowly like a tank in RE1 or having a limited ability to sprint in TEW1. Making something intentionally difficult can add tension and strategy but it's at odds with modern game design's convenience at all costs credo. It paints a dark future for survival horror and going forward at best I can only see elements from old survival horror being paid lip service. You'll have limited resources but you won't need any, you'll find keys but they'll only open one door(two at most), boss fights will be centered around a set piece that kills the boss and you won't use resources, you'll have an inventory to arrange but it's big enough to hold everything, you'll have an open world but it won't all be connected like in RE1 but self contained areas, you might backtrack but enemies you faced originally either won't be there or the area will be so open avoiding them is easy, slow enemies in corridors but they are wiiiide corridors, stealth sections aplenty because survival horror means avoiding enemies and that means stealth, ink ribbons as an unlock. You get the picture, elements will be there but the function and purpose of those elements which were often inconvenient, difficult or involved too much thinking will be diluted or removed. Imagery maintained, intent lost, Laura rising from a corpse.


Both Evil Withins open with a fairly lame stealth encounter where an enemy blocks your path, the Sadist in TEW1 and Stephano in TEW2. In TEW1 you have to do something to make the Sadist move in order to get by, you aren't told what that thing is and you can mess it up. In TEW2 Stephano walks right past you and out the door. TEW2 is so smooth and modern.
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Re: Gameplay In TEW2 is Simplistic Compared to TEW1

Postby Stadose » Jan 06, 2018 8:56 pm

Very well written post. I really hope Johannas, Pete Hines and/or anyone else from Tango and Bethesda read this and some of the other posts and threads on here.

TEW 2 had such potential, and they turned it into mainstream garbage just to appeal to the casuals complaining about the first game, casuals that don't even stick with a game or franchise and just move on to the next new and shiny thing, instead of appealing to your hardcore fans who stick around. Now, most of the casuals have gone and left as they usually do and the hardcore fans who have stuck with this franchise for 3 years are disappointed and feel like they were shoved aside in favor of the child crying the loudest about a toy they won't even play with or care for in the long term. And I'm pretty sure this is mostly Bethesda's doing since they love appealing to casuals. Just look at Fallout 4 compared to previous Fallouts. I'm pretty sure that if Tango was 100% in charge of TEW 2, we'd have a pretty different game right now.

And now with the rumor of Bethesda and Tango possibly pulling the plug on this franchise after a possible third game, this is really infuriating. I hope Bethesda realizes that survival-horror is a niche genre and so a game like TEW 1 or 2 is not gonna rake in Elder Scrolls sales numbers, so they shouldn't expect it to or try to change the game to do so. Also, TEW is the only 3rd-Person Survival-Horror franchise out there right now so they have that market all to themselves for the time being. Yeah, the second game didn't do as hot as the first game, but the first game had the benefit of no one knowing what to fully expect from it to help it's sales. Now that people know what to expect, a lot of them didn't invest in the sequel, and that's okay. As I said, this type of game is niche in a niche genre, there's going to be people that don't like it, and those that do will stick around. And that's who you appeal to, that's your target audience. I hate repeating the quote since it gets repeated so often, but it applies to this situation all too well - it's the one about not changing your vision to attract people, but to go through with your vision and those that share your vision will come to you. Now? If a 3rd game were to be made? The fans who originally shared Tango's vision and stayed, only to get snubbed with the sequel probably won't stick around anymore since it was made pretty clear that Bethesda doesn't care for them and would much rather attract other people.

The only way to possibly save TEW 2 and keep those hardcore fans at this point is to provide pretty often updates that address some of the things those fans were disappointed with similar to what Square Enix is doing with Final Fantasy 15.

(TEW 1 AND 2 SPOILERS BELOW)

Such as, for starters, add a new difficulty mode that's you know, actually difficult and does things like add traps to the game world like the first game had, upgrade the enemy AI so they're not dumb as hell and lose sight of you even though you're only 5 feet away from them in front of their face, change enemy and item locations like the Nightmare difficulty in the first game did compared to it's Survival difficulty (which was such an awesome feature that added so much replayability), make stomping heads cost stamina and/or make enemies flail while grounded in an attempt to prevent you from stomping them like they did in the first game to try and stop you from dropping matches on them, etc.

I'd also like for them to change Classic mode's name to something like "Traditional" mode and add an actual Classic mode that replaces some or all of the enemies and bosses in the game with enemies and bosses from the first game or just adds classic enemies and bosses from the first game without removing any current enemies and bosses so as to increase the overall enemy count of the game by tenfold (that's what I originally thought classic mode was gonna be when I first saw the name), and makes the magnum actually obtainable in the game world and a not just a NG+ unlockable (who thought omitting such a classic survival-horror weapon from a fresh playthrough in a survival-horror game was a good idea??).

As for the abysmal story, the only way I could think of to save the amazing story and lore brought forth by the first game at this this point is to add a couple of different endings to the sequel, only one of which is cannon like old-school survival-horror games used to have. And the point where the different endings should start is right after the final boss, because I'm absolutely pissed about what they did with The Administrator. Such a great a villain, and put to absolute waste in the sequel. I would really appreciate it if they retconned that. What should have happened with him is that in an attempt to stop Seb and Kid from overthrowing him, he should have entered STEM and tried to stop Sebastian himself, after which Kidman goes in after him and then it's Seb and Kid vs The Administator, or any other scenario that didn't involve him freakin' dying.

Given that the first game's DLCs established in the hidden collectable notes that The Administrator had actually entered STEM long before the events of the first game looking for some power, and before he left STEM to go back to the real world, Ruvik left his mark on The Administrator, there was a lot to explore with the character and his possible interactions with Ruvik in a third game. But now we'll never see that because they wrote him off for some crazy reason. Or maybe they didn't. People keep thinking the STEM screen turning on at the end of the game was an indication of Myra being alive, but the fact that Myra surviving would be a good thing and the end-scene is shot in a way that seems like it's supposed to be a bad thing makes me feel like it's supposed to mean something more sinister, like The Administrator having survived by transferring some of his conscious into STEM so that he'd have multiple lives, and now that he knows it's possible to transfer your conscious into another host body since Ruvik did it, he's gonna try and do the same. That sounds really convoluted though, and I would much rather they just retconn him to be alive in a different and cannon ending. His death and the suppposed end of Mobius is the thing that pissed me off the most about the story.

Another story related update I'd like to see is now that the voice actor strike is over, bring back all of the previous voice actors for the returning characters and have them re-record the lines for their respective characters and then give us an option in the settings menu to switch between the old VA's and new VA's. The VA's for the newly introduced characters can stay, expect for Yukiko Hoffman's VA. Please recast her, no offense to her.

I fully expect to NOT see any of the story updates requested above be done as they would require a lot of money and time to do and Bethesda seems adamant on not spending anymore money or time on this game, seeing as how we haven't gotten any word from Tango or Bethesda on the future of this game or franchise, and the game itself has barely gotten any updates. But I'm just throwing those story update requests out there on the off-chance that they're actually open to fixing some of the gripes people have with the story.

That's really all I have to say for now. I just really hope this game can receive the kind of post-launch support a lot of other games have been seeing as of late to fix things like the watered down difficulty, even it's only gameplay updates and not story related updates. If Bethesda is really serious about their #SavePlayer1 campaign, then they would support Tango in addressing some of the gameplay issues a lot of people have been discussing about this game. I've been browsing other TEW forums and it's pretty much universally felt that the second game is just too easy to be a survival-horror game, even on it's highest difficulty. I've even seen people that vastly prefer the sequel over the first game and/or absolutely hate the first game share this sentiment, as well as the sentiment of the story being bad. To my surspise, a lot of those people feel that the first game's story is much better than the sequel's, even though I remembered people trashing the first game's story a lot before the sequel released. Go figure.

I also want to say that I actually prefer the crafting system in this game over the first. I generally prefer complex crafting systems in games over simple ones, and I'd argue that this game's crafting system actually adds more difficulty to a game more than the first game's crafting system did. In the first game, every craftable item shared the same single resource, thus you could craft anything you want at any given time provided you had 5 or less crafting parts. This made the crossbow a very powerful tool. Conversely, in the sequel, every craftable bolt had it's own separate resource that needed to be combined with a common resource to be made, which meant that you couldn't craft anything you wanted at any given time even if you had an abundance of the common resource and other specific resources but lacked the resource specific to that one item you wanted/needed to craft. Thus, you had to think more about what bolts to craft and what bolts to use since you didn't have access to all of them at once through the use of a single common resource.

Example: there were times in the sequel where I really wanted some harpoon bolts to snipe an enemy's head off clean without making any noise, but didn't have any pipes to craft harpoon bolts. But I did have a lot of the other resources to craft a lot of the other bolts, so my options became limited to using other means to get by a group of enemies all because I got a little too care free with using my harpoon bolts. After experiencing that, I started treasuring my pipes and harpoon bolts and only used them when I really needed to. Whereas if this was the first game, harpoon bolts only needed 2 weapon parts, so I would have been able to easily craft them or any other bolt needed for the situation. In short, the first game's crafting system allowed you to be more flexable with your resource management as well as improvise more easily, whereas the second game's crafting system punished you for not managing your resources wisely.

I also very much liked how crating in the field cost you more resources than if you were to craft on a workbench. This made me never craft in the field unless I really needed to and only craft at a workbench, as well as make sure that I was well prepared before heading out whenever I came across a workbench because I didn't want to spend extra resources crafting in the field. That kind of resource management and planning is partly what makes a survival-horror game what it is. The crafting system in TEW 2 is one of the few things the sequel did better than the first.
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Re: Gameplay In TEW2 is Simplistic Compared to TEW1

Postby SutterCane » Jan 07, 2018 8:04 pm

Thanks for reading and offering up your own take.

Trying to fix TEW2 in a way that would appeal to me with updates would require a great deal of effort and at best would create a half hearted mess. It would also turn off or not be well received by the new audience brought in by TEW2's changes. It's not going to happen. I think the future for Tango is probably in chasing a more readily accepted gameplay style, whether that's with TEW or not I hope they can be free from the shackles of maintaining any pretences and take full advantage of new avenues for fun.

With crafting I would say firstly that harpoon bolts weren't meant to be as good as they were in TEW2 and that they were poorly balanced due to the removal of features present in TEW1. Secondly your overuse of harpoons would've resulted in a lack of commonly shared resources in the same way it resulted in a lack of uncommon resources. After badly managing your harpoons you were still left with many other effective bolts while had the resources been commonly shared your item overuse would've resulted in longer term consequence of missing out on those other bolt types. Common shared resources for bolts played into the way you gained those resources from disabling traps better, that was a whole layer of gameplay in itself.

I admit I originally had a much larger crossbow section I cut where I said the same sort of ammo game that works for guns also works for the crossbow, there's nothing wrong with it and I don't entirely disagree with you. It's a different way of doing it with it's own strengths and weaknesses. I cut it because the point I was making was that the crossbow can benefit from sharing a common resource while guns do not. If one was to be made from ammo and one wasn't it should've been the case that guns used ammo and the bow did not. I would prefer that because it is interesting to have two different types of resource managing games going on at once having you consider item use in two different ways.
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