Thursday, 15 July 2010

Torchlight - Game usability quick review

I’m playing Torchlight. I’m stuck.

Not because it’s too difficult, quite the opposite, it’s too damn easy.

Right at the start of the game I was asked to select a difficulty. I didn’t want to be taxed too much – this was to be my “switch off in the evening after a hard days work” game so I decided to select ‘Easy’. I now regret the choice.

About 3 hours in, the game is literally a breeze. I heal faster then the bad guys can damage me. The only way I realise I’m in a boss battle is that they take more than one hit, and can cause me more than 1 point of damage. After realising the game wasn’t even a small challenge any more, I decided to ramp up the difficulty – only to find I couldn’t. The difficulty I selected at the start – before playing any of the game – was final.

Why? Why force the player to decide the difficulty at all, especially before play?  And then – why not allow them to change it later? That’s poor design.

There are many excellent examples of game difficulty adjusting to player skill/level (a la Oblivion), or perhaps Torchlight could take a leaf from Call of Duty 4’s book (A mini level to assess the player’s skill level). This could also allow players to try out the different character types before making a commitment.

Giving game difficulty control to players is rather dull, it’s not sexy or glamorous, but it does need to be implemented well, or it can ruin a play experience.