“Backtracking is often a derogatory term used to describe a situation in a game where the player must return to previously encountered locations in order to continue advancing the game”
Most of the time, backtracking is annoying, even when realism-wise it’s a little dubious how the game’s hero is able to make it all the way out of perilous situation X while off camera. But as is usually the case, the real answer on backtracking is “it depends”. Sometimes, in small doses, it can be very effective.
Hotline Miami (Steam link) is a super-violent action game that has earned a lot of attention as an indie PC title released in October 2012. It uses backtracking in a brilliant fashion – to really hammer home the game’s own meta-commentary on violence in games.
I like the Paradigm system in Final Fantasy XIII. It’s taken me a while to get used to it, but I’ve finally decided that Paradigms are a good thing. It’s similar to the Dresspheres from Final Fantasy X-2 though you’re controlling all of your characters at once, as opposed to just one at a time.
Setting up your Paradigms effectively is an important part of the game. If you’re in the middle of a big battle and discover you don’t have the right combination of roles, it might be a long and painful fight. Despite there being only six slots for Paradigms, it’s still a minor pain to get everything setup correctly. And – here’s my primary issue with the system – every time characters are switched in and out of your party, all your Paradigms are reset, and they all have to be configured again.
In comparison with the original, Borderlands 2 hasn’t changed all that much. Gameplay-wise it’s more of the same, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There are definitely a few tweaks in the game’s framework – obviously new classes and skills, 87 bazillion guns, at least one new currency, and a lot more shininess in the UI.
And speaking of the UI – there was one relatively minor change that caught my attention. The Fast Travel Network screen shows players where the missions are that they need to complete right where they need to see it. I really appreciate tiny changes that make big improvements from game to game, and this definitely falls into that category. It’s not a new concept for sure, and it’s even been featured on That Game’s UX before from another game, but it’s still worth celebrating. Read on to find out more!
In last week’s article, I talked about how the crazy amount of loot and the lack of a good, simple method to compare items can make an otherwise great Borderlands 2 a sluggish inventory-management fest. After a little bit more playtime, I’ve come up with a few more usability related thoughts on this game including:
Various methods of picking up loot
How much I love the world map in Borderlands 2
Scroll bars are your friend
The skill tree is more focused, but probably less useful
Some unnecessarily sexy visual effects in the menu screen
World maps are a standard-issue feature in games of all kinds of genres, and have been for a long time. In many games the map is a critical feature, and gamers are constantly flipping to it in order to avoid getting lost. For PC gamers, this is usually straightforward – there are a lot of keyboard keys available to enable direct access to the map.
Gamers playing on a console don’t have it quite as easy. In fact, sometimes it’s downright hard to figure out where you’re going. Let’s talk about three different patterns console games have used for getting players to the map screen:
Directly access the map
Use a status menu
Use the pause menu
Of course, not that we needed to ask for directions…