You can never go home again…unless you reload.
I am about to complete my second run through of Persona 3. Staring down the barrel of a stupid final boss fight (it violates just about all of these rules), I’d like to look back at why I started on this path in the first place. After all, the Persona 3 is a ridiculously long game and I’ve already beaten it once before. The broad answer is that the game still gives me something that I want to experience. The more specific answer is as follows.
Persona 3 has nothing to offer that it didn’t have the last time around. The game is still very linear with the same enjoyable cast and collection of stories drawing from all walks of Japanese life. As someone who tires quickly of the same experience, I usually find it difficult to go back to RPGs and relive the old storylines that I often remember. Persona 3 gets around this by being big. The huge narrative draw, the vignettes surrounding the main NPCs, are difficult to do in a single run through and therefore represent new content to explore. The size of a game allows it to include content that most players will need to revisit if they hope to see it all. Coupled with the high quality of the content I have seen, Persona 3 makes a compelling case to return to the game and see what I missed.
JRPGs is one of the worst genre subtypes for replayability, but there are some that specialize in it. Strategy games, be they turn-based or real-time, are excellent at providing long term replayability. They do this by eschewing linear, static content in favor of static gameplay elements that can be recombined in a plethora of ways. Consider a game like Civilization V. The civilizations, technology, terrain types and much more are carried across games unchanged, yet the game is infinitely replayable. This is because it mixes its elements up to produce drastically different results in each playthrough. A player may be a strong maritime power in one game and engage in cultural domination in the next. They may rush towards economic techs to shore up a weak economy or ignore them in another game thanks to abundant gold resources. The options are limitless. Of course, this only works if powerful game elements are randomized. If one method of success dominates the game, regardless of the situation, then it’s effectively a linear game. This concept hurt Beyond Earth as the player just turtled to victory in every game.
A heavy skill game can also keep things fresh. For a certain type of player, the ability to learn a game inside out and see that knowledge make them a better player provides plenty of reason to continue on. The new part of the game comes from the player’s continual striving to master every aspect of the game. While some players need only the basic game to continue on, many prefer to match themselves up against human opponents. With the inclusions of leaderboards or match play, the player now has a metric by which they can measure themselves against. Unless they’re in first place, there is always someone who’s better and represents another level of unattained success. Furthermore, human opponents are more likely to craft new strategies that were not conceived of by the player or the developer. Introducing competition provides a continual stream of new content.
The above tend to be the major motivators for me. What drives you to play a game again? What is your favorite game to replay?