Wednesday, July 29

Way of the Samurai 3 - Historical Sunglasses

          Japanese culture is very interesting to me.  Not so interesting that I’ve ever really sat down and studied it, more through the occasional glimpses into attitudes an perceptions.  I wasn’t sure what kind of accuracy I would find in Way of the Samurai 3, but I was excited to see what the designers and developers decided was important about experiencing Japanese history.
          Way of the Samurai 3 is the tale of you as a samurai who has just been through a violent and horrific battle, trying to discover what your place in the world was, and what you want it to be now.  It seems to be set pretty concretely within the Warring States period, with that kind of historical chaos reflected in the game.
          Here’s what I did in my playtime: Picked radishes, slept in a shack, defeated a bandit on the road, joined the local regent to shore up castle defenses, fetched supplies, wandered for a while, joined a bandit clan, took over the bandit clan, and made war on the local regent.
          In 3 in-game days.  In Skyrim I’d still have been learning to smith iron.
          Permadeath is a weird concept to me, just because it seems so antithetical to games.  But then, it’s strange that we ever came up with anything else.  Games needed to keep you playing, keep you pumping in quarters or hours of your life.  There was a system representing the number of attempts you had to play, which became lives, which became save points, which has become autosaving.  And now iterative death is back in a big way.
          Way of the Samurai 3 comes off like it’s a Japanese Skyrim experience, promising a growing character and changing open world, but it doesn’t deliver in an accessible way.  When I spend hours building my character, acquiring weapons and slick sunglasses, I want that character to stick around; I’m invested in him.  When he dies and is effectively gone forever, that’s running seriously counter to that desire.
The game has save points but no autosaves.  And I’ve been spoiled by autosaving.  Many of us have died nine or more hours into a play session without saving, and losing all that time is immensely frustrating.  Way of the Samurai just sees that moment as the end of my story.  I can choose to ignore that and go back to my save point, but then I find the whole treatment incongruous.
          Is this a Binding of Isaac style iterative attack on a varied and practicable gamespace, or is it a Skyrim style empowerment fantasy where I, a lowly wounded warrior, grow to be the greatest Samurai in the land, on the backs of my power and servants?  Way of the Samurai 3 balances precariously somewhere between, in a way that I don’t think is meant for me.  I would like to delve into this kind of world, but preferably with options beyond “fight” or “grovel.”

          Extra note, while searching for an image to accompany this post, I saw some nutty things.  I don't think there's really supposed to be any historical accuracy here.

          And while that's silly and neat, it'd be nice if the game would've led me to it and not to the boring fetch quests and characters that I found.

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