When Did Linearity Become a Bad Thing?
It’s time to fight a new campaign. Linear games are a thing, they’re here to stay, and I love every minute of them. The word linear has become a taboo in our fragile and oversensitive industry, it’s become a bad word; cursed with laziness and unwarranted criticism. There’s a fine line between using the word linear to describe a narrative-focused game and using it to degrade or devalue the merits of a game. Not every game has to be open world; it’s time to embrace the closed world.
Let’s talk about Final Fantasy 13.
It is game that was met with mostly praise but left a polarizing impression on many gamers when it debuted back in 2010. There were no towns to speak of, hardly any exploration, and most of the times all you had to was walk in a straight line and you’ll more often than not reach your destination rather easily. Many gamers were not impressed by the linearity of the gameplay, especially since this has been a franchise long adored for its exploration and little towns and shops cornering every nook and cranny.
Was it a bad game because of this? I don’t believe so, in fact, I enjoyed Final Fantasy 13 quite a bit. I liked how my objective was very clear and focused, never worrying what I missed or where I had to go, which resulted in focusing more on my character’s stats and attributes. And there were shops, just not the kind we’re used to, but they were functional and very convenient. The story was incomprehensible and laughably bad but the directness of gameplay really helped amplify my experience with it
The Order: 1886
A game that has not yet been released has already come under fire by many who believe it’s just a long, interactive cut-scene. It’s unfair to label the game as such since we haven’t even seen much gameplay, let alone play it ourselves, but the response is understandable since Ready At Dawn hasn’t really done a good job of showcasing their game. They’ve chosen rather questionable segments of gameplay to show and it doesn’t help their cause any better when they consistently say the game is a linear game first and foremost. But is there anything wrong with that? Absolutely not. It amazes me how down people are on this game because of how straight-forward it is. There is a story to be told here folks, why can’t we enjoy it on those merits alone?
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
This is a game that felt like a roller-coaster from start to finish and some may even dawn it, the best entry in the series. But what did it do so well that we remember it for, besides its multiplayer? Linearity. As unglamorous as that sounds, it was truly the on-rails experience that made you feel like you were on a big-budget action film. This is another case in which linearity helped increase and amplify the enjoyment of a game. You had clear objectives, you had a clear path, and you went along for the ride. There is nothing wrong with a game being this linear and there are even more games that express this even more than Modern Warfare did.
Most of our favorite games are linear like Half-Life 2, Uncharted 2 and the list goes on. You can try and fight it but it’s true. There’s a place for linear games in this industry. Not every game has to be open world or have branching paths, not every game has to have 20 different endings or drop-in co-op; video games can thrive in this sub-genre and don’t deserve to be knocked down whenever the word Linear gets thrown around. It has gotten to the point where some developers are even warned not to use the word linear by public relations just so they won’t risk losing potential sales. It’s ridiculous to not think linear-based games can’t co-exist with the rest. It is time to embrace the closed world and the great stories that come with them.