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April 23rd, 2009, 14:42
A few more thoughts about the first vs third-person thing: if we leave out pure action/shooter/beat-em-up games and games abstracted-out combat (turn-based, probability-based RTwP), and look at action RPG's only, the field is actually a bit thin.

Here are some off the top of my head, ranked in order of preference:

Jade Empire.
Deus Ex.
The Witcher.
Mass Effect.
VtM: Bloodlines.
Gothic 3 (w. CP 1.7.)
Gothic 2.
Gothic 3 (pre-CP 1.7.)

I've drawn two semi-arbitrary lines in there.

For the games in the top category, I found myself enjoying the combat for its own sake -- experimenting with various tactics and/or weapons, enjoying the "feel" of character progression, and generally sort of looking forward to good fights. That doesn't mean they're perfect; in fact, I could easily point to a number of fairly glaring flaws in any of them. But IMO they still struck a nice balance between player skill and character skill, and combat was varied, complex, and "fair" enough to be enjoyable for its own sake despite them.

In the second category are games where the combat neither helped nor hindered. It didn't generally get in the way of enjoying the rest of the game, and even supported it to some minor degree. Irritations were relatively fleeting. However, the combat didn't really add much to the game either, and certainly didn't constitute a major attraction for me.

And in the third category are games that I enjoyed (to a degree at least) *despite* the combat. Alongside beautiful memories of Daedric quests, Ashlander customs, and encounters with mutated monsters and ancient gods lies the soul-choking tedium of hacking at cliff racers or click-spamming through hordes and hordes and hordes of cookie-cutter filler monsters; next to the marvelous feeling of discovery, choice, and consequence lies the memory of combat controls that feel about as balletic and fluid as trying to fence with an excavator.

Interestingly, there's virtually no correlation between the perspective and my subjective enjoyment of the system. I liked Deus Ex's and Oblivion's first-person combat almost as much as Jade Empire's and The Witcher's third-person combat; I hated Gothic's third-person excavator fencing almost as much as Morrowind's first-person click-spamming.

But: I think that it's a lot less work to get first-person combat to feel "right" than third-person combat, simply because the animations, impact detection, and so on are way easier. Given limited resources, I'd prefer that they do it this way. Look at Elveon -- they went for unbelievably good-looking cinematic third-person combat, and ended up canceled -- even though, from all accounts, the actual game would've been pretty much filler for the combat. (They are canceled, right?)
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Prime Junta

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