Sunday, July 10, 2016

Verdun - 5/20 hours

I'm going to be blunt - this game is making me miserable. I'm rubbish at it and almost every minute of my time with it is spent reminding me of this fact. Oh, I'll creep up to that hill and scan the horizon for enemies. BAM! I'm shot dead as soon as I put my head up. Wow, I beat the odds and actually made it to the enemy trench. Now's the time to discover that I can miss at point-blank range. I have actually made the occasional kill, but I couldn't tell you what I was doing differently at theses times. I suspect it's mostly luck.

The randomness and suddenness of death in Verdun is probably (my own suckitude notwithstanding) a deliberate design choice, meant to recreate the experience of being on the front lines of WWI. I can respect that. Or, at least, I try to. What Verdun is really teaching me is that I genuinely, emphatically don't want to be on the front lines of WWI. I get the sense that the real war was like a sieve - surviving it was an experience of being sorted, of seeing the people around you swept away for no reason you could comprehend and living with the dread knowledge that each battle you survived made your continued survival all the more improbable.

Because Verdun allows you to respawn, you don't quite get all of that in the game. You don't have a stable of comrades that you watch die one by one. You get to see all your friends again after only a few seconds. You never experience the horror of quantum immortality, because you are actually, truly immortal. It's still pretty horrifying, because your new lives can start at any moment without warning, but it's not the sort of thing that will break your soul and make you move to Paris for twenty years. It just kind of sucks to be reminded that you're not very good at video games.

But I think the biggest issue for me is the game's chat. I've not been using it myself, but from the bits I've seen, I feel really out of place in this game's community. It's not just the fact that there's almost always one or two players who use the chat to be mean to each other. It's also that many of the other players seem to thrive under Verdun's high-pressure, unforgiving atmosphere. They like the fact that the game can take their lives so suddenly and that slow reactions and imprecise aim are sure-fire ways to hasten your demise. It's like I'm an alien visiting another world, given the gaps between our expectations and preferences.

I also suspect that the game's haphazard matchmaking means I'm playing with and against people who are impossibly skilled by comparison. Which is another thing I don't like about online-multiplayer-only games. You never know when they're going to toss you into Hard Mode, and there's absolutely nothing you can do about it when they do.

I still find the WWI-era setting of Verdun to be intriguing, but I have a burning wish for a game with a story mode and an adjustable difficulty. Trying to tell the story of WWI through the emergent properties of throwing unprepared ingenues into a brutal world of unpredictable and inescapable violence is certainly one (admittedly clever) way of doing it, but I may well be too fragile for such treatment. I'd like to experience the war with at least one more remove.

1 comment:

  1. Mm. I love this project, but I don't love misery. I endorse you not being miserable.